Sunday, December 29, 2013

Attending the MWCA Conference

NOTE: This is a previously written post just published a little later. 

It's that wonderful time of year again: the weather is starting to get colder, college students are being driven insane by midterms, and the first writing center conferences are taking place! Just this past week, our own writing center had the privilege of attending the Midwest Writing Centers Association, or MWCA, conference in Skokie, Illinois. The actual event took place from October 17 to the 19, and the topic was all about "writing the L." The "L," which stands for elevated, is the rapid transit system providing transportation to Chicago and some of the surrounding suburbs. Here's my abridged run down of my experiences at the conference.

Being a freshman, I really didn't have any idea what to expect. All I knew was that I had to attend some presentations and give one myself. I was pretty nervous, but once the conference started into full swing, I felt more at home. The first presentation I attended was a three part session focusing on ESL learners and the struggles that both they and writing centers face. The first presentation, which was called "ESL Writers: Listen to Us!" was about a focus group that did research on the struggles, expectations, and emotions of ESL learners. One of the most interesting things I learned from that presentation was that most ESL learners wish to be graded on the same scale that native speakers are. I would have thought the opposite to be true. The second presentation dealt with the rapid expansion of foreign exchange students and the best efforts of a writing center to keep up. It was interesting to hear about how they were adapting to deal with the situation. The last presentation was about a grammar log experiment that identified the grammar issues ESL students struggle with the most.

I also attended an interesting round table session about high school writing centers, hosted by a teacher and students from the University of Illinois Laboratory High School. It was really neat to here how some high schools are already implementing writing centers into their curriculum. Their center has been open for two years, and they are only open for about 40 minutes on Fridays. While they obviously have a different set of parameters to work with, being a high school, the way they go about conferencing is similar to the CWC. Just like us, they have a strict "no writing on the paper" policy, and they sounded more idea based than simply grammar focused. This session was probably one of my favorites.

Attending a conference also means presenting one ourselves! 10 consultants, including myself, and Doctor Bob held a round table session focusing on the hiring process here at the CWC. We spent the first 20 minutes or so explaining the three main ways you can get hired: the first year competition, the phone interviews, and the "everyone who's not a freshman" method. I focused mostly on the competition, being a first year. Specifically, I talked about the writing exercise and mock conference we participated in. I was actually sitting next to the person I conferenced, none other than Anton Jones! After we finished with our section, we opened the floor up for other writing centers to comment on their hiring processes. Instead, we got asked a lot of question about anything and everything CWC. While it didn't go exactly as planned, I feel like it was still a successful presentation, especially for my first one!

Initially, I wasn't sure what to expect from this conference, but I am super glad that I went! I had a lot of fun and I learned a lot about other writing centers. Before this, I had this naive belief that all writing centers worked like ours. Obviously, that's not the case! I also feel that I have a better sense of my job here in the writing center. This was definitely a good decision on my part. Can't wait for the next conference!

Stay classy,


Friday, December 27, 2013

Winter Break Update

So maybe the blog writers here were taking "winter hibernation" kind of literally in terms of updating the blog.


But, in our defense, with the end of the semester, finals, and figuring out the always inconsistent Iowa weather, we seemed to have quite a lot on our plates. So much on those figurative plates, I might add, we resorted to everyone wearing flannel to stay warm...

Okay, you've got me, it was intentional (blame, thank the Phi Taus for their annual Lumberjack Fest). Still made for a neat photo! 

So now we're all on break, enjoying a life without readings, Moodle postings, Orchid forms, and Sunday Meals (wait, I'm definitely missing those Sunday Meals!). Now that our adrenaline from taking finals has settled down, we've decompressed, we are ready to look back on 2013 and prepare for 2014. In that spirit, the blog team has revamped the blog a little. 

If you look across the top of the page, you'll see some tabs. Click on them! Many have been updated. Yeah! They are still in the works, but it's a start. And all you need is a start. 

In terms of posts before classes start up again in January, expect a few older posts recapping first semester events along with a special series starting the beginning of January. Brittney, one of our blog writers, is headed to Tybee Island. I won't give away the trip (she has an excellent post coming up soon), but I will let you in on her providing some live updates. 

Once school is back in session, the blog team hopes to begin posting with some regularity. We will have some weekly features, hoping to bring you readers back to our site at least once a week. We're also in the process of some serious brainstorming to create some neat series about aspects of the Writing Center and us as consultants. 

So stay tuned, you won't want to miss this blog in 2014! 

P.S. For some fun, check out the 12 Weirdest Stories of Christmas over at the Huffington Post. Our own WC consultant, Laura Farmer, is featured (she's number 10).