Maybe it was the beauty of the Hudson Valley.

Perhaps it was the mess hall that served 4,500 people in 30 minutes.

It could have been three simple, yet powerful words: Duty. Honor. Country.

This trip felt different. The two students accompanying Wabash Writing Center Director Dr. Zachery Koppelman, Erich Lange ’19 and Kolby Myer ’18, were going to be leading discussions with U.S. Military Academy cadets.

Welcome to West Point.

“It was a great honor,” Myer says. “I haven’t been on an immersion trip or studied abroad, so having this experience was the icing on the cake in my senior year.”

Koppelmann was invited by the West Point Center for Enhanced Performance to visit in early March and share best practices with the staff and cadets. With invite in hand, he selected two of his writing consultants to help with the presentation.

While on post, Lange and Myer sat in on three classes – American Political Thought, Math for the Social Sciences, and American Politics – and discovered there were plenty of academic similarities to their Wabash experience.

“The rigor, the vested interest their professors take to help them, to see those similarities was reassuring,” Lange says. “At the core, the academic sides are very similar.”

While in the West Point writing center, the student duo guided discussions that mirrored peer-to-peer sessions at Wabash. Aside from being a bit nervous himself, Lange appreciated the professional courtesy afforded him.

“When you are introduced as a writing center consultant who is here to collaborate and teach,” he begins,” the amount of respect they give is very genuine. Even though I wanted to say, ‘Look, I’m your age, I’m not an expert,’ I appreciated being viewed as an authority.”

Lange did have reason to be nervous, as Koppelmann slated him to lead a session on technical writing, and area Lange has little experience. Koppelmann knew Lange could pull it off. So with a 10-minute refresher and the handouts to go with it, Lange led a discussion in a room filled with a West Point senior about to graduate, a few mechanical engineers, and a combat engineer, and he nailed it.

“Eric never flinched in the role of the leader,” Koppelamnn says. “He adjusted perfectly, he knew how to lead without being overbearing, and he answered their questions. It was impressive.”

Myer noticed that the cadets in his session were struggling with some of the same things he sees in the Lilly Library…the why.

“It’s easy to state what’s going on,” says Myer, an economics major from Delphi, Indiana. “Getting to the why of that statement is very critical. That kind of why – why is that important – they were struggling with it, too.

“Our goal here is to make better writers, not write better papers. Focusing on those conversations allows them to open up and think about ways that they can become better along their process.”

Koppelmann believed his student consultants do well. Looking back, he says their professionalism and dedication paid off handsomely.

“When we have a student here who excels, they have learned how to push and to prioritize their time,” says Koppelmann. “They understand how their education actually works, and on top of that, they’ve begun to realize that I know this and this is something I can share. And we saw that at West Point.”

For Lange, it was a weekend he won’t soon forget.

“I will always remember West Point. This is why you come to Wabash—to get those once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Who else gets to go on a military post like West point and actually interact like we did? You can’t pass that up.”

—Richard Paige