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The small conference & IWCA

English Department colleague Jason Pickavance recently had an article published on where he explores the benefits of smaller conferences:

Here’s what you won’t find at TYCA-West or most other smaller, regional conferences. You won’t be subjected to the name-badge-glance-and-turn, a move I’ve always for some reason viewed as akin to a basketball player’s expert pivot. (If only the Utah Jazz center could pivot like that.) Instead, you will encounter colleagues at peer institutions genuinely interested to meet you and hear what you have to say.

I've found that this is true of the International Writing Centers Association Conference as well (to an extent.) When I first stated attending IWCA, I was pleased that there were folks there whom I had known online or (and this increased the gulp factor) people I admired for their published work. I had the opportunity to become a part of a community (or to use more academic parliance--a discourse community.) By allowing for such access, I believe we make our field stronger and more diverse, with scholars exploring a variety of matters from differeing perspectives.

Of course one must be careful not to confuse building a community with molly-coddling. Ideas must be callenged and tested in order to bear out. We must challenge each other in a community in order to grow (to use a over-used analogy.) Of course we also must consider old paradigms and how the dialectical model of confrontation might not necessarily be the best method for a field to grow. What I'm getting at, I guess, is that while we don't have to always just affirm each other's ideas (that can be damaging in the long run) I also don't think we need to be constantly tearing each other's ideas apart at the seams. Is there a third path?

In any case, I certainly hope that as IWCA grows we maintain the small conference feel that Pickavance mentions above.


  1. Clint,

    I couldn't agree more with your comment about wanting to keep the small conference feel for our IWCA conferences. My experiences at the C's have been similar to your colleagues, especially if people see the secondary school name on my nametag. It's usually new, young PhDs who are trying to figure out who is important and who isn't. Over the first ten years or so, I used to get upset about it, bugging my dear friends with my frustrations about people not even listening to my ideas or wanting to talk with me because I "wasn't important to them." But, I finally "grew up" enough to start laughing at it and finding it insignificant in the big picture. I AM insignificant in the big picture, so just laugh about that reality. However, like you, I found the writing center community open, willing to listen to all voices that brought a variety of ideas and opinions.

    I remember the first time I met you in Park City, after feeling as if I had gotten to know you online as you offered to head up a "live" writing center in the lobby of the hotel. At our conferences, people read nametags to discover the name to match the face and connect to online conversations that you have already had with people. It is a "welcoming" rather than a "pivot" that your colleague mentioned. I, too, hope that never changes, although when we add NCPTW to the mix it becomes another large, overwhelming conference.



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