IWCA 2016 Reflection
This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the International Writing Centers Association conference, which was held this year in gorgeous Denver, Colorado. In addition to the clear skies and cool temperatures (relative to Texas, anyway, where 90 degrees means things are starting to cool down), the conference was, as always, positively replete with forward-thinking and exciting ideas about the future of writing centers. Keynote speaker Paula Gillespie emphasized this idea by asking us to think about writing centers especially as frontiers to traverse, while being mindful of our history.
This idea of the writing center as a “frontier” certainly shaped many of the talks I got to attend as I met new faces (and got to put faces to names I’ve only seen in my inbox and on wcenter!). With every panel I attended, I learned something new or was asked to reflect on something in a new way that I hadn’t thought about. On Friday, I was particularly taken with the excellent panel in which Chris Giroux and Helen Raica-Klotz talked about training their tutors in grammar instruction. In the same session, Rachael Dansby presented on how the self-care of the tutor is crucial for ensuring tutor efficacy, which, as the exhaustion of the fall semester rolls around, is important to keep in mind. On Saturday, I especially enjoyed the University of Denver’s panel Working with Graduate Student Writers: What, How, and Why? on attracting graduate students to the writing center on Saturday. The energy at this conference was particularly high, as was the level of engagement, as I’ve come to expect from writing center conferences.
I also wish to draw special attention to the Anti-Racism Special Interest Group that I attended. Managed by Richard Severe, Katie Levin, and Clint Gardner, the SIG brainstormed ways to encourage diversity in IWCA and in writing center studies at large. In small groups, we talked about the possibilities and logistics of getting more people of color to join IWCA, as well as encouraging panels by people of color. In the future, I personally would love to see Praxis publish another issue themed around the topic of diversity (unfortunately, this will have to happen after my tenure is up!). In 2012, we dedicated an issue to this topic, but with everything that has happened on the world stage in the intervening years, I think it’s time for us to begin thinking about revisiting this subject. With the influence of our previous two managing editors, Sarah Orem and Thomas Spitzer-Hanks, Praxis began to take a notably more social justice oriented path, and I think now could be an even more crucial time for Praxis to be involved in that conversation. We’re always accepting proposals for special issues…
This was my second year attending IWCA, and just as with last year, I’m awed by the writing center community and our dedication to the field. More importantly, I’m grateful for the dedication that writing centers studies demonstrates toward its students. The emphasis in all of our panels was always on doing what we can to help our students (and our student consultants) always remained at the fore of our conversations. This is what I love so much about writing center work. Unfortunately, I had to fly back to Austin early on Sunday morning, so I didn’t get to attend every panel I wanted or meet everyone that I wanted. If our paths didn’t cross but you wanted to chat about Praxis, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next year.