CAPA (Academic Publishing Advisory Center, in Portuguese “Centro de Assessoria de Publicação Acadêmica”) is the first true writing center in Brazil, founded in 2016 by Professor Ron Martinez. It is affiliated to the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR), a fully publicly-funded university in the city of Curitiba, state of Paraná, in the south region of Brazil. UFPR has 19 campuses spread over 6 cities in Paraná, with 38,000 enrolled students (30,000 undergraduate students and 8,000 graduate students). All UFPR programs are taught in Portuguese, and there are no degree programs taught in English. As the center is institutionally a part of UFPR’s organizational structure, CAPA is also publicly funded, and its members receive a stipend to work as translators, tutors, and members of the center. Currently, CAPA has 18 stipend holders, around 6 volunteers, the majority of whom are Language and Literature undergraduate and graduate students. The members are chosen through a rigorous selection process, committing to 20 hours a week in the center, and undergo training and theoretical and practical reflections. All CAPA members participate in a mandatory three-hour weekly meeting for continued training purposes and discussion of imminent issues. All CAPA and university activities have been conducted online during the Covid-19 pandemic.
To grasp the main reason for CAPA’s existence, it is also necessary to understand the demand from the Brazilian educational context. It involves addressing the gap in writing education in the Brazilian reality — since, historically, there is not much discussion of writing in the space of Brazilian higher education. There is no consolidated writing program across the curriculum (i.e. WAC) in universities, nor is there any discussion of the academic genres in-depth before the undergraduate level. Thus, there is a need to talk about writing (even in Portuguese) since students feel pressured and have few opportunities to reflect upon their writing processes. Also, scholars and students in Brazil suffer (like scholars the world over) from enormous pressure to publish articles in prestigious, high-impact journals, and this usually entails publishing in English — a phenomenon related to the “internationalization of higher education”. Thus, on top of the already mentioned deficiency regarding writing, relatively few researchers and students possess the level of competence in academic English to deal with these issues. CAPA, the writing center at UFPR, can be considered successful in that it addresses both issues at once: offering clients a space to talk about and tackle writing issues, in the genre that matters to them most, i.e. academic publication in English-medium international journals. It is for this latter reason that students and faculty alike seek out our writing center; if CAPA dealt with only the former, it is unlikely the writing center would reach as many people as it does.
Translation is one aspect that makes CAPA unique as a writing center, but it should be noted that it is an end and not a means for us. Due to massive demand, translation open spots are limited (though tutoring per se is not). When a manuscript is accepted for a translation spot, the client must also consent to an initial consultation. Hence, to some extent, one could say that the writing center consultation is used as a kind of “currency” to oblige clients to engage in critical awareness about their writing. It is a transactional process, yes, but also a formative one. The articles are translated by a group of CAPA members, through a collaborative and interactive process, and these same group members are also the coaches that meet with the authors for each consultation.
The consultation process is also a critical one at CAPA. Since writing for international scholarly publication tends to reproduce models pre-established by epistemic powers, privileging Western traditions, the translation process within CAPA members tends to discuss and question these models, sometimes adapting them to our local demands. When coaches dialogue with clients about their writing and offer suggestions, they are careful not to approach the authors’ drafts as “wrong” simply because they may not conform to the preferred genre expectations most typically encountered in international English-medium journals. For example, Brazilian academic discourse tends to be circuitous, and in Portuguese this more oblique style is seen favorably. Yet that same style can often cause a less favorable impression when read by speakers of other languages. It does not mean that the Brazilian style is deficient, but simply that one should try to optimize their chances for success in this high-stakes publishing game, and the consultants at CAPA are mindful of this.
Local and International Growth
People have begun to take notice of the successes achieved at CAPA. In just the last two years, at least four other centers around Brazil have arisen, directly inspired by our UFPR writing center. Indeed, the recent challenging reality brought about by Covid-19 also helped consolidate a virtual local community of practice regarding the Brazilian reality of writing center scholarship. In September, Dr. Martinez created a Facebook group named “Writing Centers of Brazil,” which currently has more than 300 members. It is a place to share ideas, research, and experiences. We would like to invite people who are interested to join this group. It is open to everyone who would like to collaborate.
In fact, our aim to help foster a writing center community — both locally and internationally — has strengthened considerably in recent years. Since 2017, people from our center have had the opportunity to be present at events such as the IWCA, NCPTW, PRISEAL (Publishing Research Internationally: Issues for speakers of English as an additional language), and Brazilian seminars in the areas of linguistics and translation. And the pandemic of 2020, which forced so many in the writing center community to go virtual, also helped expand our horizons. We saw opportunities for dialogue expand through online interactions. In November 2020, for example, we participated in the first Latin American writing center online event, “1er Encuentro de Tutores de la Red Latinoamericana de Centros y Programas de Escritura”, and in December, we held our first international staff meeting on Zoom, with the writing center consultants from UPAEP (in Puebla, Mexico).
There are two other relevant initiatives underway at CAPA, which are the AWARD program and the NWCC.
CAPA and Dr. Martinez, in partnership with the U.S. Department of State and the Superintendência de Tecnologia e Ensino Superior (SETI) of Paraná state, in Brazil, are responsible for the Academic Writing and Research Development” (AWARD) program, in which eight member universities (all public, in Paraná) are pooling resources to develop writing centers at each institution. We would also like to invite members of the global writing center community to participate in the AWARD webinar series, a collection of live webinars (later available on YouTube) that discuss writing-center-relevant issues aiming to build a community of practice in Brazil around writing centers.
Furthermore, we see this internationally-oriented momentum carrying over now in 2021, and hopefully beyond. Last year, Dr. Martinez was selected by the U.S. Department of State to design and run a special course for writing center directors in Russia. This course, organized by the Russian National Writing Centers Consortium (NWCC), began in September 2020 and will continue through May 2021 — a substantial period of time that has allowed for an international relationship to grow and flourish. It is expected that the ties between CAPA and NWCC, as well as the other Brazilian writing centers inspired by CAPA (and now networked with it) will continue to strengthen and bear fruits for years to come.
We are proud and excited to be a member of and contributor to this community of practice.
About the authors
Thais Rodrigues Cons
Thais Rodrigues Cons received a Master of Science in Linguistics from the Federal University of Paraná (2020). Thais also holds a teacher degree Portuguese and English Language and Literature from the same university (2017). She received the “Emerging Scholar” award from NCPTW (2019) and was the first CAPA member to develop graduate research on the center. In her master’s research, she investigated the tutoring sessions that took place in the context of CAPA, seeking to understand the impacts of this process on the identities and practices of both tutors and tutees. She is interested in the area of Applied Linguistics, more specifically in the subjects of Academic Writing Literacy, and Teaching and Learning English. Thais plans on pursuing a Ph.D. in Rhetoric or Writing Center Studies.
Ron Martinez received his PhD from the University of Nottingham (UK), where he studied corpus approaches to applied linguistics, and his Master of Science from the University of Oxford, where he studied Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition. He also holds a DELTA (Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults) from Cambridge University (ESOL). He has published his research in a number of international scholarly journals, including TESOL Quarterly, ELT Journal, and Applied Linguistics. Dr. Martinez is a U.S. Department of State English Language Specialist with expertise in areas concerning the internationalization of higher education. He is currently especially interested in supporting international research publication, and also faculty development for English Medium Instruction within universities around the world. He is advisor to the President on internationalization and language policy at the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR), where he also founded and currently directs the Academic Publishing Advisory Center (CAPA), a unique writing center that supports scholarly research publication. In addition, Dr. Martinez is an adjunct lecturer for the Summer English Language Studies program at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), within the College Writing Program.