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A Weekend at the East Central Writing Centers Association Conference March 8, 2011

On this past Friday, I traveled by Amtrak to Kalamazoo, Michigan. It was early in the morning and the landscape was stark and gray, but due to a sense of expectation, I found it difficult to nap. Lisa, a fellow tutor from DePaul’s UCWbL, was with me on the train. We were both members of the Reseach Team and we were going to be presenting at a conference for the East Central Writing Centers Association (ECWCA) in a matter of hours with several other undergraduate and graduate tutors.The train, while it seemed to be crawling as it left Chicago, finally picked up speed. I had residual fears that we might be late, but as the trees and fields sped by, I was able to relax.

We were just in time for lunch when we reached Western Michigan University. The theme of the conference was “Centering Assessment: Roles, Relationships, Respect, Resistance,” and as we finished eating, we listened to Eileen Evans, former writing center director at Western Michigan and now Vice Provost for Institutional Effectiveness, give the keynote address. One of the final remarks made has lingered with me. At the end of her address, “Lessons Learned:Reflections on the Future,” she stated that “writing is the purest intellectual act.” I have had some time to reflect on  this since Friday, and it seems to me that if we read something or simply hear it, it doesn’t enter us in the same way that it does if we write about it. Even writing this blog post gives me a better understanding of the things I learned in Kalamazoo.

After lunch, the UCWbL’s Research Team presented “A Research Team in the Writing Center: Self-discovery through Self-assessment.” We had an engaged group of listeners, including several from the writing center at Notre Dame. Our team leader, Matthew, began by explaining how the Research Team began and how it has gained in membership.  I discussed program assessment in the context of the writing center and Lisa looked at personal investment. Moving on to the work that we are doing, Laura and Martina talked about our biggest task: the Peer Tutor Alumni Research Project (PWTARP). PWTARP did not originate with us, but we are pleased to be adding to its results. We stopped from time to time for Jenny to ask discussion questions, involving the audience in each part of our presentation. As we finished, Jessica summed up what many members of the audience had said. Many of them had brought up the idea of community in their remarks, and this was especially pertinent.

After the conference, I traveled home again on the Amtrak. Conferences always remind us that we are part of a larger discourse community, and this one was no exception. As I gazed out at the snowy fields and towns, I thought about the many different communities that I have come to belong to since beginning to work in the Writing Center. Not only was I a member of the Research Team, but I was also one of a larger group of peer tutors, both undergraduate and graduate. In addition, I was a part of the UCWbL itself. But being at Western Michigan reminded me that I was also part of the larger writing center world. Contributing to the ungoing conversation about theory and practice, even in a small way, made me feel connected to all of those at the conference and I look forward to further opportunities both to  add my voice and to hear what others have to say.

If you would like to hear more about the Research Team and what we saw at the ECWCA conference in Kalamazoo, keep watching this blog for more posts.


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