Meet the Writing Coaches

Avni Shah

Avni Shah, Writing Coach

I’m a second-year student at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University. Previously, I graduated from South Brunswick High School with overall honors and recognition from the Science, Math, Spanish and English departments. For the past six years, helping others succeed academically has been one of my top priorities. I’ve volunteered at a mentoring organization, worked at Mathnasium, and privately tutored various test-prep courses. Education is a critical aspect of present and future success. I find great humility and contentment in guiding others to realize that with just a little extra encouragement, they, too, can prosper academically.

Aside from school, I’m passionate about learning and teaching dance. My training in Kathak, the Indian classical dance form, has brought out my confidence and strength in countless forms. On any given day, you can find me in the dance studio or biking on any trail I can find on a beautiful day. Just as I am dedicated to education, dance, and experiencing nature, I hope to show other students that academic success is achievable with dedication and persistence.


Deirdre Hansalik

Deirdre Hansalik, Writing Coach

Hi! I'm Deirdre Hansalik and I'm a current sophomore in SAS and the Honors College. I'm majoring in Political Science with a minor in French, and hope to go to law school in the future. I've worked as a research assistant for a political science professor in the past semester and I've done a lot of writing in past internships. Some cool things I do on campus are the Rutgers Performing Dance Company, Rutgers Kirkpatrick Choir, and I'm currently a member of the French Living-Learning Community. A fun fact about me is that I'm a coxswain on the Women's Rowing Team! I look forward to brainstorming with my students, putting in a collaborative effort and active problem solving, and breaking down barriers to make writing more fun!"


Sneha Sivaram

Sneha Sivaram, Writing Coach

Hello, my name is Sneha Sivaram. I am a sophomore in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences studying Biochemistry and Evolutionary Anthropology with a minor in music. I am a student in the honors college and a research assistant in the Environmental Biophysics and Molecular Ecology lab in the Marine and Coastal Sciences department. Outside of school, I enjoy volunteering, staying active, being outdoors, traveling, cooking, and reading.

This is my first year as a writing coach in the Learning Center and I am looking forward to meeting students and assisting them with their writing. Personally, I love to write with academic writing being my main focus. As a writing coach, my main goal is to foster an open atmosphere in which communication and collaborative learning can take place. I hope to help all students in the best possible way by inspiring success and confidence.

Michael Rizzo


Hello, I am Michael Rizzo, a senior Computer Science major at the School of Arts and Sciences. I started as a writing coach in the Fall of 2017 and I am glad to be back for my second year. I am interested in just about everything, though specific areas of focus are fashion, philosophy, and music.

Writing is an important skill whether conveying thoughts to another person or organizing thoughts for ourselves. As a writing coach, I intend to help further this skill not only for a class but for life.


Julia Vida


I am a Junior studying Computer Science at Rutgers University. This will be my second year as a Writing Coach, and I am excited for another great semester of writing! Some of my other interests include playing piano, soccer, and cello in the Rutgers Sinfonia orchestra.

I hope to help students produce their best writing on both their school assignments and personal projects. I am looking forward to meeting my students and developing the ability to express with clarity and insight!


Hannah McClain


Hi! My name is Hannah and I am currently a junior in the School of Arts and Sciences. I am an English major and hope to enter the Graduate School of Education this year. Previously, I studied English Education at Utah Valley University before transferring to Rutgers. English Education is what I love and hope to do as a career in the future, so I am super excited to work as a writing coach for the first time this year! Last semester I started writing for the Daily Targum which was a new and interesting experience. I also enjoy tutoring for the Rutgers Learning Centers where I can do what I am passionate about—helping people learn! I am looking forward to working with you and helping you improve this year!


Emma Gifford


Hi, I am a first year student in the Master of Social Work program at Rutgers. After getting my Bachelor's degree in English from Boston University, I worked for five years in the academic publishing industry in Boston. Starting off as an editorial intern and a freelance proofreader, I worked my way through a number of positions at a major publishing company, ending up in a business development role. 

A year ago, I realized that publishing wasn't for me and decided to go back to school to pursue a career in social work! Now I'm on the road to getting my MSW with the plan of becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) after I graduate. My interests are in mental health, global social work, and diversity. I have also been an avid reader from the point I learned to read and hope to incorporate writing skills and narrative therapy into my work as a social worker. In my few spare moments, you can find me reading, playing the violin, exploring outdoors, and watching sci fi/fantasy shows.