Middle East and North Africa Writing Center Alliance conference: Transfer and Transform

Elizabeth Whitehouse (Ewhitehouse@uaeu.ac.ae) is the Executive Secretary of the Middle East and North Africa Writing Center Alliance (MENAWCA) and the Supervisor of the Student Academic Success Program (SASP) Writing Centers at United Arab Emirates University.

Following up on our first post about MENAWCA in 2015, Elizabeth Whitehouse provides an update here and talks about their 6th biennial conference in February 2018, Transfer and Transform.

WLN Blog: Tell us about MENAWCA. What does it stand for? How did it begin?  How do you communicate with each other?
Elizabeth: MENAWCA stands for the Middle East and North Africa Writing Center Alliance; we are a regional affiliate of the IWCA. The alliance was established by some teachers at my own institution, UAEU, in 2007. They saw a need for a network to connect writing center directors, tutors and staff in the Middle East and North Africa region. Since then, MENAWCA has worked to foster best practice in MENA writing centers, provide professional development and networking opportunities, raise awareness of the value of writing centers as an educational resource and promote research into MENA writing center activities. We pursue these goals in various ways, such as our website, newsletters, listserve and social media (Facebook; Twitter) but most importantly, we hold biennial conferences for our membership and the wider community.

WLN Blog: You are organizing an upcoming conference. Does the conference have a theme? What do you hope participants will get out of the experience and what do you hope to achieve by organizing this conference?
Elizabeth: Yes, work is underway for our 6th biennial conference, which we are convening in collaboration with the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU). The conference will be held in the beautiful, historic oasis town of Al Ain, in the UAE, in February 2018. Our conference theme is ‘Transfer and Transform,’ which we hope will act as a springboard for engaging discussions and critical reflections on our work with student writers in the Arab world.  Participants will have an opportunity to share insights, raise questions, hopefully get some answers, and leave with refreshing new ideas and perspectives that will help them advance the work of their centers.  We are particularly excited to be welcoming Dr. Chris Anson, Distinguished University Professor and Director of the Campus Writing and Speaking Program at North Carolina State University, as our keynote speaker; his wide-ranging scholarly expertise encompasses areas of key importance to our work with student writers (http://www.ansonica.net/).

WLN Blog: Can you tell us about opportunities and challenges you see for the MENAWCA and for writing centers in the region?
Elizabeth: MENAWCA is in a position to offer professional development opportunities for anyone involved in writing center work in the region. Whether someone attends our conferences, reads our newsletters, uses our website, or seeks advice by posting a question on our listserve, MENAWCA should help them get an answer to a writing center related question. It is not uncommon for teachers in the region (such as myself) to find themselves tasked with starting or managing a writing center, with little or possibly no prior writing center experience. Being able to visit an established center or link up with a more experienced peer can be a great help. I see a lot of potential for MENAWCA to expand its work, particularly in encouraging discussion about the work of writing centers in ESOL academic communities. That brings us directly to the challenges!  While institutions in the region often use higher education models established in the US, the academic support services that go with those models are not always in place, or secure. Center directors can find themselves expending a lot of time and effort explaining and justifying their work, and trying to secure appropriate resources. Of course, this challenge is not unique to our region. Continue reading “Middle East and North Africa Writing Center Alliance conference: Transfer and Transform”

Meet MENAWCA

Editor’s note: I was excited when Kelly Wilson of the Texas A&M University in Qatar agreed to share more with us about the Middle East – North Africa Writing Centers Alliance. Read about their valuable work below!

2014 MENAWCA Conference
2014 MENAWCA Conference

MENAWCA (Middle East – North Africa Writing Centers Alliance) was founded in 2007 to foster communication among existing writing centers in the region and to promote the work/practice/pedagogy of WCs in hopes that other institutions would be interested in starting them. Currently, our board has nine members.

I serve as President. My term began in May 2015 when the president at the time learned that she would be leaving the region. The expat world can be quite transient and some of us come and go without much notice. But, I was happy to take the role on as I love writing center work and I see it as an opportunity not only to serve the field, but to learn and develop new skills. My term will end in March 2017.

I have worked at Texas A&M University at Qatar (TAMUQ) for 5 years, both as a writing consultant and now as the Program Coordinator of Tutorial Services in our Academic Success Center. I oversee the training and supervision of tutors for writing as well as some math and sciene courses. TAMUQ is an engineering college – we offer bachelor’s degrees in mechanical, electrical and computing, petroleum and chemical engineering. We also offer an MEng or MS in chemical engineering.

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The remainder of the members on the MENAWCA Executive Board are as follows:

  • Vice President: Maimoonah Al Khalil (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)
  • Past President: Molly McHarg (Washington DC)
  • Secretary: Elizabeth Whitehouse (Al Ain, UAE)
  • Treasurer/IWCA Representative: Sherry Ward (Doha, Qatar)
  • Public Relations Officer: Paula Habre (Beirut, Lebanon)
  • Conference Co-Chairs: Ryan McDonald and Susan Finlay (Muscat, Oman)
  • Webmaster: Amy Zenger (Beirut, Lebanon)
  • Member at Large: Jodi Lefort (Muscat, Oman)

Continue reading “Meet MENAWCA”

CFP for MENAWCA 2014 Conference

The conference theme is “Sustaining Writing and Writing Centers in the Middle East-North Africa Region.”

As writing centers grow in the MENA region, questions emerge not only about how to sustain and develop them but also about how they can serve as model centers. What strategies can and should regional writing centers adopt in order to establish a solid presence within institutional frameworks? How can peer tutors, international collaborations, local/regional research initiatives drive the momentum? What alliances within or across academic institutions strengthen writing center continuity and support? What technological initiatives, including use of mobile devices, influence our effectiveness with student writers and as we network with other centers? What theories and practices that grow out of local contexts can promote writing center work both within the MENA region and with other local, regional, and international writing forums? This conference aims to identify multi-faceted variables that promote the sustainability of writing programs, writing centers, and most importantly the dialogue between writers.

The MENAWCA invites students, teachers and other professionals who support student writers to its biennial conference, November 7-8, 2014 at the Canadian University in Dubai.

Deadline for Submissions: April 15th, 2014

Continue reading “CFP for MENAWCA 2014 Conference”