Log in


The Mid-Atlantic Writing Centers Association


Writing Centers and Activism


Proposals must be submitted by: Saturday, January 20, 2018

Decision Notification: Mid- February, 2018


Click Here to Submit MAWCA 2018 Conference Proposal
Writing Centers and Activism:
Uncovering Embedded Narratives

MAWCA’s 2018 conference theme explores the connections between narrative and activism as a means to uncover embedded narratives of writing center work. Often, writing center “best practices” find their origins in narratives that reflect and perpetuate dominant cultural values. In Peripheral Visions for Writing Centers, Jackie Grutsch McKinney creates a framework for interrogating “story vision,” a term that can be used to examine both the inclusive and exclusive nature of writing center narratives. Story vision is both a challenge and an asset in the field. It places limitations on understanding the scope of writing center work but it also allows us to interrogate, disrupt, and complicate grand narratives of writing center missions and practice, opening up space for voices to emerge.

Activism in the writing center takes many forms, such as explicit statements of allyship through missions and practice (Inoue), valuing students’ rights to their own language (Bruce and Rafoth) and implementing anti-racist pedagogy (Young and Condon). Centers can provide space for activism through “counternarratives” of marginalized groups (Martinez) and bringing to light the experiences of students across race, ethnicity, class, and gender identities (Denny; Briggs and Woolbright). Activism might address labor practices for administrators and graduate students (Caswell et al.), universal design of physical spaces and collaborative approaches (Hitt; Daniels and Babcock), or capitalize on students’ multiliteracies (Sheridan et al.). Conversations around writing centers and activism lead us to ask: What does it mean to empower writers? Do writing centers work outside of hierarchal institutions of higher education? Or do they reinforce those structures? How has our discipline used narrative to share the experiences of students across multiple identities?

This conference is an opportunity to continue these conversations. 2018 might offer a kairotic moment to ask: How do we define activism in our writing centers? Does activism have a place in the writing center, and if yes, what might that activism look like? We encourage participants to interrogate definitions of activism in their writing centers and to consider such questions as:

●      What roles do writing centers play in providing space for civil discourse? What role do writing center values like collaboration play in maintaining a space for civil discourse on campus? How do tutors navigate difficult or controversial content in the writing center?

●      Can or how do writing centers provide safe zones for LGBTQIA students?  In what ways do centers resist heterosexist or cissexist discourse? How can we be activist allies in our centers?

●      How do tutors and administrators listen to narratives to activate around issues of workplace inequities and divisions of labor?

●      How do tutors and administrators address microaggressions or decenter narratives of privilege in the writing center?

●      How does writing center research access narratives? What methods/methodology have been used to “uncover” writing center narratives?

●      What identities shape the work of tutors and administrators? From your own identity place, what is your role in activism?

●      How do writing center professionals engage in conversations with our tutors that encourage them to view language diversity as an asset and not a narrative of deficit?

●      How do writing center staff enact activism across campus and community? How do we engage in community literacy or service learning opportunities that are respectful, sustainable and beneficial to all stakeholders?

●      How do writing centers provide inclusive practices and environments in our centers to maintain agency for students across dis/abilities?

●      In what ways to do we capitalize on multiliteracies in our centers?

●      For administrators, what is your role in diversifying writing center staff?

●      What does it mean to “empower” writers? How do writing centers remain vigilant in their roles within institutions so as not to be complicit in the gatekeeping process?

●      How might new directors wrangle with the “pragmatic” but also consider activism in their centers? How do we collaborate with others on campus or in the community to shape our narratives and mission? What implications does tutor training have in shaping narratives?

Note: While the conference keynote and workshops will center on the theme, all submissions need not be narrowly tied to the conference theme. We do not expect to see the word “narrative,” or “activism” in the title of every proposal. Any scholarship on writing centers is welcome for review.

Session Formats

Sessions can be proposed in the following formats:

Panel: 3 or more individuals present original work on a common theme.

Individual Scholarly Presentation: Presenters share original work for 15 minutes each and will be grouped with 1-2 additional presenters.

Roundtable: Facilitators lead discussion of a specific issue related to writing center research; this format might include short remarks from between 2–4 presenters followed by active and substantive engagement/collaboration with attendees prompted by guiding questions.

Round Robin Discussion: Facilitators introduce a topic or theme and organize participants into smaller breakout groups to continue the conversation. In the spirit of “round robin” tournaments, participants will change groups after 10-15 minutes to extend and expand their conversations. After at least two rounds of conversation, facilitators will reconvene the full group for a concluding discussion.

Data Dash Presentations: Presenters share their work in a 20x10 format: twenty slides, ten minutes! This innovative alternative to the poster session provides a venue suited for brief, general-audience talks accompanied by visuals.

Lab Time: Presenters can take advantage of having so many writing center professionals and tutors in one place, and draw on these human resources to help with data collection or analysis. Presenters could use lab time to refine an instrument, by piloting and receiving feedback on survey or interview questions on the type of writing center population you intend to study. You could use lab time for data collection–to distribute a survey or run a short focus group. You could use lab time for data analysis, by asking writing center colleagues to test the appropriateness or reliability of your coding. In your proposal, please describe what you want to do, how many and what kind of participants you need (Undergraduate tutors? Writing Center Administrators? etc.), and estimate how much time you would need to complete your task.  If seeking participants among MAWCA attendees for projects resulting in publication or public dissemination, you will need to have institutional IRB approval as well as Informed Consent documentation for them.

Story Sessions: Similar to a storycorp session, tutors, administrators, and student writers share their personal narratives, writing center oral histories, tutoring philosophies, or reflections to highlight their experiences in the center. Story sessions may be presented using print or digital posters, slideshows, videos, short film, or audio clips and will be exhibited throughout the day.


Proposals must be submitted by: Saturday, January 20, 2018

Decision Notification: mid-February, 2018

Works Cited and Recommended Reading List

Babcock, Rebecca Day, and Sharifa Daniels, editors. Writing Centers and Disability. Allison D. Smith and Trixie G. Smith, series eds. Fountainhead Press, 2017.

Briggs, Lynn Craigue, and Meg Woolbright, editors. Stories from the Center: Connecting Narrative and Theory in the Writing Center. NCTE, 2000.

Bruce, Shanti, and Ben Rafoth. ESL Writers: A Guide for Writing Center Tutors.  Utah State UP, 2016. Canagarajah, Suresh, editor. Reclaiming the Local in Policy and Practice. Mahwah: 2005. Routledge, 2008.

Caswell, Nicole, et al. The Working Lives of New Writing Center Directors. UP Colorado, 2016.

Condon, Frankie, and Vershawn Ashanti Young, editors. Performing Antiracist Activism in Writing, Rhetoric, and Communication. Across the Disciplines Books. The WAC Clearinghouse and UP of Colorado, 2016.

Denny, Harry. Facing the Center: Toward an Identity Politics of One-to-One Mentoring. Utah State UP, 2010.

Diab, Rasha, et al. A Multidimensional Pedagogy for Racial Justice in Writing Centers.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal. Diversity in the Writing Center. Vol, 10 no. 1. 2012.

Greenfield, Laura, and Karen Rowan. Writing Centers and the New Racism. Utah State UP, 2011.

Grutsch McKinney, Jackie. Peripheral Visions for Writing Centers. UP Colorado, 2013.

Hitt, Alison. “Access for All: The Role of Dis/Ability in Multiliteracy Centers.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal. vol, 19 no. 2. 2012.

Inoue, Asao. Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing Writing for a Socially Just Future. Perspectives on Writing. The WAC Clearinghouse and Parlor Press, 2015.

Jackson, Karen Keaton, and Sandra Vavra, editors. Closing the Gap. Literacy, Language and Learning. Information Age Publishing, 2007.

Martinez, Aja. “Alejandra Writes a Book: A Critical Race Counterstory about Writing, Identity, and being Chicanx in the Academy.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal. Access and Equity in Graduate Writing Support. Madden and Eodice, guest editors. vol., 14 no. 1. 2016

Sheridan, David, and James Inman. Multiliteracy Centers: Writing Center Work, New Media, and Multimodal Rhetoric. Hampton Press, 2010.

MAWCA is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt public charity. 
Mid-Atlantic Writing Centers Association

Contact Us 

Website designed with help from Cheryl Yang.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software