“The Art of It All:” Thoughts from 2019 IWCA Conference Chairs

Are you planning to attend this year’s IWCA Conference? Check out these quick thoughts from Mike Mattison and Laura Benton, the conference Co-Chairs. They chatted with us about the relevance of the conference theme for international writing center administrators and tutors. 

WLN Blog: Given that our blog’s goal is to extend writing center conversations across borders, we’ve been reflecting on the implications of the conference and its theme. Among the many engaging ideas and workshops at this year’s conference, what is one thing that excites you the most about what this conference is offering the writing center community?  

Mike & Laura: As usual, we think the conference is a chance to recharge one’s energy and enthusiasm for writing center work—many of us are solitary practitioners on our campuses, and it is always beneficial to be surrounded by others who do the same type of work and understand you in ways that others do not. This is a homecoming for many, and for new attendees, it’s a chance to find a home.

WLN Blog: IWCA provides an international forum for writing centers across the globe. Could you share which international writing center are represented at this year’s conference? Do you know roughly how many writing centers from outside the U.S. are being represented? 

Mike & LauraIn one panel alone, we have representatives from centers in Japan, Colombia, and Brazil, so there is a strong international representation. We also have panels from stateside centers that speak to collaborations with centers in other countries.

WLN Blog: Upon reflecting on the conference theme, “The Art of It All,” we are wondering: if one of our colleagues is working to build or administer a writing center at their institution outside of the U.S., there are many implications to assuming either the “artisan” or the “artist” role (ie. the risk of homogenizing and reducing diverse perspectives and approaches to a Western-centric model or the challenges of charting new territory without a foundation or a map). In your opinion, what is gained and what is lost in each of these roles for international writing center professionals?

Mike & LauraThat’s a big question. More than likely, each center will need to determine what is best for its own context. What are the expectations for the center and the tutors within? What is the mission? What are the goals? From asking those questions, administrators and tutors can begin to determine what will work best for them. There is certainly a danger of lifting one (Western-centric) model of a writing center into all situations, just as there is difficulty in not having a template to work from. This sounds a lot like working with writers—we encourage writers (and tutors) to be BOTH artists and artisans. The choice is not an either/or, but rather a both/and.

WLN Blog: For our international colleagues who are unable to attend, how can they connect and learn about/from the resources and presentations at the conference this year and in the future?

Mike & LauraWe will have the conference program online, and colleagues should feel free to write to any presenters they believe are doing work that connects with their own. Our field is a collaborative one, and we think anyone on the program would be more than willing to share some time and materials. Another resource is www.writingcenters.org, and it is also a good idea to subscribe to the wcenter listserv: http://writingcenters.org/subscribe-to-listserv/.

Mike Mattison is Director of the Wittenberg University Writing Center in Springfield, Ohio, since 2009. His recent publications include “Recalibrating the Hiring Line: One Center’s Changing Practices” published in Southern Discourse in the Center in 2018 and  and “Heading East, Leaving North: Thoughts from the 2016 IWCA Conference” in WLN: A Journal of Writing Center Scholarship, 2017.  

Laura Benton coordinates the Writing Center at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in North Carolina. 

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