Drexel University is hosting the Mid-Atlantic Writing Centers Association 2016 Conference, with events scheduled to take place March 18 and 19.
The MAWCA is a regional affiliate of the International Writing Center Association, with membership extended to colleges and universities in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and the District of Columbia metropolitan area. MAWCA fosters networking between the development of writing center professionals, including student tutors, with small events and workshops throughout the year as well as a larger, annual spring conference.
This spring Drexel was asked to host the annual conference as a member of MAWCA, and also as an institution that exemplifies the mission of MAWCA.
“The way it was explained to me is that they [MAWCA] choose writing centers and writing center directors that they feel are a sort of model for the region, or are doing new things and exciting things,” Janel McCloskey, the assistant director at the Drexel Writing Center, said.
McCloskey is responsible for organizing the conference on the university’s behalf, and has been involved in the planning for the past two years.
“The Mid-Atlantic Writing Centers Association approached me in the fall of 2014 and asked me if I would host the conference, and then I went about getting the proper permissions from the university last year, which actually took quite a while,” McCloskey explained. “We developed a theme for the conference, but it’s a little bit of a nontraditional conference in that we’re not having one keynote speaker; we’re having a keynote panel and they’re not people in the field of writing centers, which is very strange for a conference, and instead of giving a speech they’re going to have a conversation with the audience.”
This panel will include three speakers: Jessica Weber, Alex Hillman and Jimi Davies. Weber is a writing consultant for the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, where she established a workplace writing center in November 2013. Hillman, meanwhile, is best known for co-founding Indy Hall, one of the first co-working communities in the world. Lastly, Davies is the lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter for the post-grunge band Jimmie’s Chicken Shack.
The panel, in addition to a more standard Question and Answer session, will involve each of the panelists introducing a problem in their respective fields and asking the audience to respond with potential solutions. The hope is to create an atmosphere of communication and synergy not unlike that found in professional world outside of academia.
“The audience is a good mix of students, administrators, and faculty. I’d say it’s about 60 percent students,” McCloskey estimated. “It’s mostly writing center tutors that go, and they are going to both present their own research and are going to learn about other people’s research and how to improve what they’re doing.”
One such presentation is to be helmed by a duo of Drexel students, junior Lauren Lowe and first-year graduate student Jen Jolles. According to the conference program, their presentation, “Stop, Collaborate, and Listen,” revolves around asking the question, “What happens when we situate our pedagogies in public sites beyond the classroom?”
“We’re writing about our experience at the writing center at Dornsife,” Lowe said. “Jen’s going to talk more about her duties as a graduate assistant. She’s been helping Rachel [Wenrick, an associate English professor and associate director of the DWC] more, in terms of teaching and also helping with the nonfiction class, and doing more of the behind the scenes work with the anthology that will be released later,” Lowe explained.
“I’ll be talking about how I’ve been doing independent study with Rachel out of Writer’s Room for independent studio credit… So we’ll be talking about how the three communities, Drexel faculty, Drexel students, and then Mantua and Powelton community members come together and create that kind of culture in the workshop,” Lowe continued.
Running through each presentation of the conference is a common theme: the importance of collaborative work.
“The theme is dealing with collaboration, which is really central to working in writing centers, and the idea that the kind of collaboration that people do in writing centers is a very transferable skill in the world outside the university, in industry and business and the arts,” McCloskey said. “That kind of collaboration is what leads to innovation and synergistic relationships that push fields forward.”
The 2016 MAWCA conference will be held in MacAlister Hall and the Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. March 18 and 7 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. March 19.