MAWCA

The Mid-Atlantic Writing Centers Association

 Call for Proposals

MAWCA 2021

Access & Equity: Writing Centers in Times of Disruption

The year 2020 has undoubtedly been one of great disruption and turmoil for Writing Centers around the globe. It is perhaps not an overstatement to say that each of our Centers has faced issues of equitable access in this time, and for many of us, this was our first confrontation of these issues on such a widespread scale. How would we continue to serve our mission while also adhering to safety standards? How would we continue to serve students, all with different resources and needs, no longer partially equalized by access to a physical campus? Bound by the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, how would we reach students, especially those most at risk?

COVID disabled our typical, very comfortable, systems. What was easy became difficult, and we were forced to navigate barriers and learn how to adapt-- something that many of our students have long had to do on a daily basis. While they may have felt new to us, such barriers have been persistent for the students we serve (Hitt; Keidaisch and Dinitz): whether that means finding technology/internet access, trying to view a recording with no closed captions, or wrestling with the choice of foregrounding wealth inequity by leaving their camera on. Such decisions are reminiscent of how the field of disability studies queries the concept of disclosure (Kerschbaum). The choice to disclose — socioeconomic status, disability status, COVID status — is a concept that has taken a central stage in the lives of students, administrators, and tutors.

The MAWCA 2021 Conference explores how the disruption of COVID-19 has shaped our ideas of access and equity in the Writing Center. The context of our current world raises important questions of how we address accessibility in a time of great disruption— and beyond. 

The theme also invites us to ask who bears the responsibility and labor of creating and maintaining equitable access, especially when there are multiple stakeholders (executive administration, students, faculty, tutors), all with different priorities. We have had to wrestle the desire to protect ourselves and our staff against pressure (from our selves, our upper administration, our students), all while under intense stress from the disruption of the pandemic itself. The concept of bodymind frequently drawn upon in disability seems especially relevant at this moment, where each decision we make is a carefully calculated, risk-dependent balance of mental and physical health— the desire for physical embodiment and presence, weighed against anxiety and safety (Bukowski and Brueggemann). These issues of access and equity extend beyond disability, especially as we ask ourselves how we can create an equitable space for writers and staff of marginalized populations.

We would like to use this moment, one marked by division and distance, to create a conference that adheres to this spirit of equitable access. The free, virtual format capitalizes on this opportunity to forge an accessible space for scholarship, especially for administrators, tutors, and scholars in our region who typically might not be able to participate in conferences due to financial, travel, and time constraints. 

We invite proposals that interrogate the role access and equity play in our Writing Centers, especially in such a time of great disruption. We welcome presentations that center on issues of disability, as well as the wider context of tutoring writing during a pandemic and equitable access for all students. Further, we are interested in how what we’ve taken away from our efforts to foreground access, safety, health, and myriad student needs in this chaotic moment can be extended to the post-COVID world. 

Questions to explore:

  • How does disruption force us to reconsider issues of access and equity in the Writing Center? 
  • How has your Center struggled with, navigated, or heeded the call for equitable access during the pandemic?
  • Drawing from the functional solutions model of disability, how have we innovated our approach to offering sessions in a way that reduces the functional limitations of our current context?
  • How have we navigated the concept of disclosure in our Writing Centers, whether that be related to disability, socioeconomic status, COVID, etc.?
  • How does the concept of bodymind help us to better meet the needs of our writers and staff, both during the pandemic and beyond?
  • In what ways can we capitalize on what we have learned about access and equity from this moment that we can take with us into the future, post-pandemic?
  • How has the pandemic disrupted our idea of space and how it functions in and benefits the tutor/writer relationship? What notions have we shed or ideas have we clung to when close, face-to-face sessions are impossible?
  • What is the writing center’s role in enacting and creating new accommodations and means of access?
  • How do writing center staff engage in meaningful professional development that speaks to how times of great disruption play out in our writerly, scholarly, and human lives? 
  • How can we continue to reach new students without traditional outreach avenues? How can we strengthen relationships with faculty and staff for institutional support and outreach? 
  • How have we created and shared easily accessible writing resources for students and faculty? In what ways have these been successful or unsuccessful?
  • How can confronting accessibility--even if it’s because we are forced to--ultimately improve the way Writing Centers deliver services in the future?


Session Formats

Asynchronous Sessions

Individual Scholarly Presentation: Individual presenters share their original work as a 15 minute pre-recorded PPT or Prezi presentation (with either voiceover or video).

Panel: Three or more presenters will present together to share their original work as a 45-50 minute pre-recorded PPT or Prezi presentation (with either voiceover or video).

Podcast: Presenters will share their work via a prerecorded audio podcast (with accompanying transcripts). Podcasts may range from 15-50 minutes in length.

E-Poster Presentations: Presenters share their work via a PDF poster.

Data Dash: Presenters share their work in a brief, 5-7 minute presentation format. Pre-recorded presentations may accompany a short PPT, Prezi, or PDF poster.

Synchronous Sessions

Roundtable / Workshop: A limited number of synchronous sessions will follow the keynote. Facilitators will lead discussion of a specific issue related to the conference theme.


Works Cited and Recommended Reading List

Bukowski, Noah, and Brenda Jo Brueggemann. "Writing Center Research and Disability Theory." Theories and Methods of Writing Center Studies: A Practical Guide (2019).

Daniels, Sharifa, Rebecca Day Babcock, and Doria Daniels. "Writing centers and disability: Enabling writers through an inclusive philosophy." Praxis: A Writing Center Journal (2016).

Hitt, Allison. "Access for all: The role of dis/ability in multiliteracy centers." Praxis: A Writing Center Journal (2012).

Keidaisch, Jean, and Sue Dinitz. "Changing Notions of Difference in the Writing Center: The Possibilities of Universal Design." Writing Center Journal 27.2 (2007): 39-59.

Kerschbaum, Stephanie L. "On Rhetorical Agency and Disclosing Disability in Academic Writing." Rhetoric Review 33.1 (2014): 55-71.


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