By Spencer Duhamel ’18
During its inaugural year, the Norwich University Center for Writing sent four writing coaches—Spencer Duhamel ’18 (English), Dakota Bailey ’18 (Criminal Justice), Anissa Garnsey ’19 (Athletic Training), and Bailey Beltramo ’17 (Communications)—to the annual Northeast Writing Center Association (NEWCA) conference at Pace University in Pleasantville, N.Y., April 1-2. NEWCA is a regional conference at which writing tutors/coaches and directors share research and ideas regarding writing center pedagogy and theory. The conference provided the NU Center for Writing the opportunity to gain more exposure in the writing center community through the presentation of a roundtable discussion titled, “Name, Rank, and Number: Releasing Academic ‘Prisoners’ Through Collaboration in a Military College Writing Center.”
The first day of NEWCA kicked off with check-in and breakfast followed immediately by the keynote address by Dr. Frankie Condon, Associate Professor of English and Literature at the University of Waterloo. Dr. Condon discussed the importance of recognizing dialectical differences in academic writing. Overall, the talk concluded that if the students’ writing maintains functionality, the dialect in which the students write does not matter. In fact, the differences in dialect provides more style and more insight into the background of the writer than if they were to write in the standard academic English.
After the keynote speech, everyone split up and went to specialized panels, roundtables, special interest groups, and workshops. All presentations attempted to tackle a particular issue within the writing center such as writing center design, writing center outreach activities, and how to address the marginalized people within the writing center environment. The two scholarships for the NEWCA conference were announced during lunch. The Robert J. Connors Memorial Scholarship, which is given to first-time NEWCA presenters who are currently working in a writing center, was presented to the Norwich University Center for Writing. The group from Norwich received an ovation and $400 scholarship.
After lunch, the Norwich University Center for Writing presented their roundtable discussion. Each of the Norwich representatives gave a different insight into the issue of name and rank during the roundtable. For example, Bailey Beltramo ’17 (Communications) provided a video presentation on rook week at Norwich in order to show the audience a glimpse of what the culture is like from the Corps angle. Spencer Duhamel ’18 (English) gave insight into his perspective as a civilian student regarding name and rank. Anissa Garnsey ’19 (Athletic Training) and Dakoda Bailey ’18 (Criminal Justice) provided different views on name and rank within the writing center from the Corps perspective. Anissa would rather eliminate the notion of name and rank within the writing center. Dakoda, however, believes that embracing name and rank adds a sense of familiarity between the client and tutor in an environment such as Norwich. The presentation was very productive in brainstorming ideas about how to address the inferiority/superiority dynamic between coaches and clients within the writing center not just in military institutions but in any writing center. Participants from Keene State College and Westfield State University were in attendance during the roundtable.
Overall, the Norwich University Center for Writing learned much about “Writing in the Margins” and the writing center community through the NEWCA conference. The best part of the trip was getting the Norwich University name used in the writing center conversation, something that was not possible just a year ago. The Center for Writing plans on going to many more conferences and workshops in the future in order to become the best writing center possible. When asked about the importance of attending conferences such as NEWCA, Michan Myer, the Assistant Director of the NU Center for Writing, responded, “While research is helpful, there is truly no better place to engage with the best of praxis than at conferences; it is where innovation, pedagogy, and collaboration are at their best.”