Tag: conferences

Amber’s ECWCA Experience

Written By Amber Abboud

The 2018 EWCEA was my first ever writing center, and first university level, academic conference. Going into it, I didn’t know what to expect in terms of what would be presented. Upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised to see the variety of topics that were being discussed at all of the different breakout sessions. I went to presentations that discussed emotional labor in the Writing Center, how to deal with language and identity in writing, and informational guides on how to set up cross-cultural connections in your own center. The experience was overwhelmingly positive, and being surrounded by people sharing their work only inspired me to further my own.

One particular session that stuck with me was “If A Brown Girl Speaks in the Writing Center does She Make a Sound?” by fellow MSU colleagues. Their session was honest, well-crafted, and thought provoking to everyone in the room. They sparked a dynamic discussion regarding POC, more specifically, woman of color in the writing center, and questioned how the writing center functions and whom it benefits. This presentation in particular stuck with me because it asked outside-of-the-box, and hard to answer, questions to consider about writing centers, and required its audience to think critically about the proclaimed inclusivity of writing centers in general. Overall, my experience at this session was great because I had the opportunity to think and discuss with others what we could do to better a writing center space for all of its consultants. This discussion also would have been harder to foster if not for the set space that the ECWCA conference provided.

Jessica’s ECWCA Experience

Written By Jessica Kukla

My experience at ECWCA was a positive one. It was refreshing to be in an environment were people could speak passionately about their work, and share innovative thoughts for others to process and apply to their own practice. As relatively new writing consultant, I had no idea that there was such a wide spread network between writing centers at other universities. It was beneficial for my own consulting to learn about what other centers are doing or what resourced other centers have that my own might not. My biggest takeaway from the center was learning about inclusion initiatives other writing centers have in place to make writing centers a better experience for both clients and consultants. I found it interesting that there were a lot of conversations happening about what could be done for supporting consultants that are minorities or have invisible disabilities.

I am glad I was able to experience the conference as both an audience member and a presenter. My presentation anxiety was subdued once I realized the friendly and productive atmosphere ECWCA has. My session on how consultant bios might effect consultations resulted in an insightful discussion that gave my group a lot to think about after. Post-conference, I feel very confident in the feed my group received and am looking forward to finishing our research.  Overall, I’m happy that I was able to experience ECWCA and do my part in contributing to the growth of my own writing center as well as others.

Becca’s ECWCA Experience

Written by Becca Meyer

Never having been to a conference like this, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect or if I’d even like to present at one but I ended up walking away with some cool ideas to research for next year’s conference. Somewhat unintentionally, each panel I went to had a similar theme: inclusion, identity, and where a writing center fits within each of those. I went into each session with an open mind and took each one I attended as an opportunity to apply new ideas to how I view inclusion and identity from a personal standpoint as well as how I can implement those ideas as a consultant. 

There were two presentations in particular that really got me thinking were Writing Centers and Disclosure: Accommodating Mental Health Characteristics Through Therapeutic Writing by some consultants from Ohio State and if a brown girl speaks in the writing center, does she really make a sound?- on the daily reality of having our authority questioned and how we heal by Raquel, Shana, and Marie from our very own writing center. 

 Something I liked about the former of the presentations was their suggestion to include a therapeutic writing room in the writing center. This would be a space for anyone to come in and journal or draw or just decompress between classes on a long day. I find it important to have a space like this because, for someone like me whose surrounding physical environment has a profound impact on thoughts and feelings, it can be hard to get in the right space to write. The latter of the presentations resonated with me from a personal standpoint. In a round table discussion, we talked about instances of negative interactions simply due to skin color and gender. Being new to The Writing Center this semester, I haven’t yet encountered any discriminatory situations so it hadn’t really occurred to me that some clients might come in with a racist or superior attitude because I look different than them. We ended up having a great dialogue about how to handle clients or really anyone who challenges the spirit of inclusion and community in the writing center and how to be supportive of our colleagues who do face instances of discrimination.


Wonderful’s IWCA Experience – Be an Accomplice, Not an Ally: Reflections on the 2017 IWCA Keynote

The 2017 IWCA Conference was a conference of firsts. For the first time in the history of this conference, the Keynote speaker was and African American woman. Since much of my own research focuses on writing center theory, race, and pedagogy, I center this response to IWCA2017 on the Keynote speech of Neisha Ann-Green. Her speech used personal stories from her time as a writing center director to articulate and nuance the various instances of racism she experienced at the institution where she worked. These instances included rotten bananas being thrown at black students or hung from nooses with the name “Harambe” written on them.

Confederate flags hung around campus with cotton stuck to them while they all sat collectively at a formal townhall to talk about the new antiracist center. The pain of racism and the work of undoing it are commodities for which the institution profits. However, the symbolism of an antiracist institution situated on a campus that allows confederate flags, bananas in nooses, etc. expose the dissonance between seeming antiracist, while ensuring racist iconography remains on campus—a perfect metaphor for neoliberalism (a space to promote freedom of speech, while we “consider” both sides, staking a stance on neither). It is from this point that Neisha asked that we not be allies who set up separate, and at times, segregated spaces where Colored bodies go to express their concerns of racism to Chief Diversity Officers hamstrung by limited resources and institutional policies. Neisha called on us as writing center directors, consultants, staff, etc. to not be allies, but to be an accomplice in undoing both systemic racism in education and individual racism that occurs on college campuses. To be an accomplice is to call out racism or racist acts; it’s to explain to family and friends why racism and racist rhetoric should neither tolerable in private nor public spaces; it’s to do the work and not just creating monuments to those who have done the work.

Her keynote asks questions not only relevant to writing centers, but to institutes of higher education: how do we become accomplices to historically marginalized populations and how do we ensure that the facilities we build for them work towards their intended goals?

Written by Wonderful Faison

Elise’s IWCA Experience: Becoming a Seasoned IWCA Pro

I went to my first IWCA a couple years ago in Pittsburgh. You can read about it here. At that point, it was the largest conference I had ever been to, and my first international conference. Since then, I’ve been to two more IWCAs and I think I’ve reached a point where the conference is just as much a space of learning as it is a space for getting to know colleagues, and myself a little better.

This year, I roomed with Hannah Espinoza (find her post here), and we opted to stay in the conference hotel so we wouldn’t have to take Lyfts everywhere and so we could take naps between sessions. Best idea ever! I learned that recharging is an important part of conferencing, especially when you need to be “on” the whole time. Taking breaks between sessions allowed me to be more social and engaged throughout the conference, which helped me meet some important people and make new friends.

This year, I also gave myself permission to skip sessions in favor of networking and meeting new people. For example, while I love the Queer SIG the most, I opted to miss it this year in order to grab lunch with some people I had only ever met on Twitter to get to know them better. I know I would have gained some valuable insights during the SIG, but I also got a chance to get to know some people on a personal level and plug the special issue I am editing alongside Rachel Robinson for TPR. In fact, a lot of the friends I made and people I met and reconnected with occurred because I gave myself permission to miss some sessions. People always say that networking is the most important part of conferencing, but networking is hard when you go to every session and exhaust yourself!

I guess my point is, the more I attend this conference, the more comfortable I become, the less official “conferencing” I do, and the more I get out of it. I’m sure some years I will attend more sessions than others, but I know now from experience that getting the most out of a conference requires a balance of work and play.

Written by Elise Dixon

Hannah’s IWCA Experience: Studying the Studio


While I have worked in the Writing Center part time for a few years now, this was the first year that I attended a writing center related conference when I went to IWCA in Chicago, IL. I presented some of my thoughts about our Lyman-Briggs Studio program and was impressed by the positive and constructive feedback I received, even from a small crowd on the last morning of the conference! However, the best thing about this conference was what I learned from other writing center directors and staff who are practicing studio sessions in several exciting ways!

In a particularly compelling Sunday session, Michelle Marie from Oregon State talked about her center’s full switch to a studio model in their new library space. She described the way that students come into the center and are encouraged to make their own goals and use the space to actually write while tutors check in and offer feedback where desired. She also talked about the ways that her brave tutors were working to retrain themselves to step back, set short-term writing goals, and allow their clients the space or assistance that they wanted. I see in this practice emphasis on writing practice and the fluidity that comes with the writing process, which I find exciting when thinking about unique ways to use a writing center space. I hope that I can carry some of these ideas with me in our own tutor trainings and practices!

Written by Hannah Espinoza

Writing Centers and Multilingual Learners (A Review of MiWCA)

At the 2017 MiWCA conference, Cristian Lambaren and Kiera Williams presented on the affect and effect of the Writing Center space on multilingual learners seeking assistance from writing center tutors at the MSU Bessey writing center and its 5 subsequent satellite hubs. This panel showed that while clients like the welcoming feel of the Bessey writing center, it seems busy, having a lot of miscellaneous objects around that are not or do not seem conducive to writing or giving one impetus to write. However, clients were similarly critical of the satellites décor, noting they were bare, lacking, and without any accoutrements to help relax writers. While this difference is stark, and in large part due to how the neighborhood satellites are contracted out to the writing center, it is clear that multilingual clients conclude that each writing center space, no matter which one they attend, lacks balance. As such, the MSU writing center should begin to think of ways to balance the look and feel of the writing center across both its main hub and its subsequent satellite locations.

Written by Wonderful Faison, PhD Candidate and Graduate Teaching Assistant in Writing, Rhetoric, & American Cultures (WRAC)

ECWCA Reflection

A couple of weeks ago I had the great pleasure of attending the ECWCA Conference in South Bend, Indiana. For those of you who are not familiar with the ECWCA, the East Central Writing Center Association, is an organization that brings writing centers from across the Midwest together for an annual conference where consultants, directors, and administrators share what they have been working on for the last year.

This is my second time going and presenting at this conference and it is a great chance to see what other folks are working on. This year the theme focused on Ethics in the WC and I would like to take a chance to reflect on one of the keynote speakers’ presentations.

John Duffy is the founder of the Writing Center at Notre Dame and has maintained a working relationship with the WC at Notre Dame. He is now the writing program administrator for the writing program at Notre Dame. Dr. Duffy began his talk outlining what it means to ethically consult with students, describing ways to help students create ethical arguments and fact checking their opinions to provide solid evidence for scholarly research.

As the talk progressed, Dr. Duffy highlighted the responsibilities of writing consultants as a sounding board, bringing the long standing argument against WC work as peer to peer tutoring being one step away from cheating. Dr. Duffy discussed the many ways that this argument is ludicrous (it is rare to have a consultant working on the same assignment, WC’s aren’t copy editing services where students can drop off their papers and pick up polished essays, etc.) and provided context for the potential intervention moments consultants have to help students really engage in their ideas.

At the conclusion of his conversation Dr. Duffy provided some great advice on how to approach these kinds of conversations with clients, such as: ask the client if they have check multiple sources, talk with the client about how they are framing their arguments, try to find out what is the most important part of the argument to the client.

For me as a consultant these kinds of conversations are great, but I often feel that all of the outcomes of these conversations are based on the proverbial “difficult” client who needs to be helped. I also feel that these kinds of discussions start off with the assumption that the consultant is qualified and prepared to ethically engage with clients who have completely different world views and life experience.

During the discussion part of Dr. Duffy’s talk, it was clear to me that those who engaged Dr. Duffy were taking the assumptions as truths by the way that they conversations were framed. “Those students” are our client base and I take issue with placing all of the responsibility for ethical practice on the consultant. Similarly, I fear it is an even bigger issue to assume that our clients are unable to engage in ethical ways themselves.

At this point, I have to provide a disclaimer, I was one person listening and engaging with this conversation. It is totally possible that I heard/understood everything incorrectly during this discussion, but either way I do think that because of what I have been feeling in regards to all of this, it is an appropriate time to talk about it.

It is as much our responsibility to train our consultants in ways of ethical behavior and understandings as it is to work our clients on these ideas. It is not a safe assumption that consultants are prepared for ethical discourse, nor is acceptable to forget that consultants are students as well. We are not knowledge keepers and by putting the focus only on the client base, I believe there is a huge risk of distancing ourselves with the very folks we are claiming to help.

I have written multiple times about meeting students where they are at, but this is a reciprocal process. There are some things that I am great at as a consultant, but to assume that those things don’t need further work is a terrifying idea to me. As a consultant it is my job to continually investigate my position and knowledge base to best help clients, but more importantly it is my job to know that help looks and feels different for each client.

It is as much our responsibility to engage in our own ethical process as writing center communities as it is to work with our clients. I think the ideas that Dr. Duffy discussed are extremely important and are for the most part applicable, so much so that I would like to see conversations of how to make these ideas the focal point of consultant training modules.

At the end of the day, this is one of the reasons why I love being part of this community. My thoughts about the conference didn’t end when I left. I am still thinking about these ideas and still trying to figure out ways to best meet the needs of my clients. The ECWCA community is a great place to explore ideas and to meet like minded people.

ECWCA Newsletter Call for Papers: Extended Deadline!

ECWCA Publication Spring 2015
Call for Papers: Millennium Rhetoric in the Writing Center
Deadline: January 31

What does this mean? We are using millennium to help us think about the different forms of writing that have occurred since the turn of the century. We, as rhetoricians, began to think about other forms of composing with the invention and subsequent dissemination of the personal computer. Before we knew what was happening, a few brave souls were suggesting that writing could be interactive with the inclusion of hyperlinks to other texts, to images, to videos, to audio files. Likewise, new forms of writing have continued to spring up and we would like to challenge you to think about how these new forms have affected the work you do in the writing center.

As writing mediums evolve and transition, the writing center adapts to these changes to provide new consulting experiences and pedagogies for all disciplines. The progression of these new forms of writing and changing technological advancements have furthered the capabilities of millennium rhetoric, for example: digital, visual, multi-modal, queer and cultural. These advancements continue to shape Writing Center pedagogical practices that inform how we consult with and learn from international, ELL, and other historically marginalized people.

We invite you to submit articles that engage in this conversation about Millennium Rhetoric by challenging current theories and pedagogical practices and by thinking outside the box of what Millennium Rhetoric means. Share your experiences, thoughts, and practices, as we continue to transition into the new Millennia and expand the roles that the writing center embodies.

Submission Guidelines

  • Please send your submission in the form of an article (1000-2500 words) or Tutor Voices (500-750 words) with MLA or APA for citations
  • We encourage you to use multimedia formats (3-4 min Podcast, 3-4 min video, etc.) for your submissions. We also highly recommend playing with form
  • Please email your submissions to writing@msu.edu. If the files are too large, link them via dropbox to dbaldwin831@yahoo.com

The Wonderful World of Writing Centers: An International Peer Tutoring Conference at Disney World

Just a month ago, I went to my fourthor is it my fifth now?Writing Center conference. But this one was a little different than ones past. This conference wasn’t just for writing centers in the state of Michigan or the Midwest region. This time, it was international. And instead of running from building to building trying to minimize my time in the cold, brisk, cloudy Midwest weather, I was in the sunny and breezy Orlando, Florida climate at none other than Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. And it was refreshing for body, mind, and soul.

The International Writing Center Association conference provided fascinating perspectives and unique presenting opportunities for Writing Center faculty and peer tutors from around the world. My coworkers and I held a panel about tutoring practices with English Language Learners and the research we’ve done here at MSU’s Writing Center to better understand ELL students’ educational experiences. While that was totally interesting and all, what was really special was presenting alongside a woman from Saudi Arabia, who started one of the first (and few) writing centers in her country just a couple years back with outstanding results. How humbling to be grouped together with someone from across the world, joined together by our shared goal and passion: making better writers.

It reminds me that the work we do here at The Writing Center at MSU is bigger than the 50-minute sessions and 3 cups of coffee a shift.

To connect with others through words is a global mission, a multicultural practice, and one that can unite tutors from around the world by their desire to help others. Maybe the act of writing comes in different languages, but that’s what makes it so powerful. It can transcend borders of nations and the borders between one mind and another.

Maybe the pixie dust just hasn’t worn off, but I’d say the work we doconsultants and clients in tandemreally is something magical.