Conference Information

Banyan tree graphic with text that reads Critically Imagining writing centers: stories, counterstories, and futures, ECWCA 2022

ECWCA 2022

Critically Imagining Writing Centers: Stories, Counterstories, and Futures

March 31–April 2, 2022 at Michigan State University

We are monitoring the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and will work with people who may need to present remotely. At this point, we intend to have an in-person conference, but we will adapt as needed and will communicate with everyone closer to the conference. We also hope to offer more Travel Scholarships.

[The] concept of critical imagination [is] an inquiry tool, a mechanism for seeing the noticed and the unnoticed, re-thinking what is there and not there, and speculating about what could be there instead. 

Jacqueline Jones Royster & Gesa Kirsch  

Feminist Rhetorical Practices (pp. 20–21)


As writing center communities look to the future, it is time to consider the stories we tell, the stories that confine and constrain us, and the stories we want to tell about the work of writing centers. The pandemic has presented an opportunity for us to (re)imagine our writing centers with their commitments, practices, values, and “grand narratives” (McKinney). Along with this, the pandemic has amplified ongoing racial injustice, violence, and oppression, and we acknowledge that writing centers within predominantly white institutions are complicit in racist social systems. With this in mind, we must critically imagine the stories of writing centers and dream up through story, reflection, and inquiry the kinds of centers that “could be there instead.”

We know from both personal experience and from formal scholarship that storytelling, a shared act between tellers and listeners, has the potential to shape not just what we think, but how we think and make meaning together. As Andrea Riley-Mukavetz says, “story is theory” (110). Stories aren’t just a way to exchange information, but a way to inform cultures, change individual and collective actions, create community, and transform public opinion. Stories are a way of knowing. Stories are also a way into feeling and experiencing alongside others.

Given the backdrop of the pandemic, we must especially think about the stories and possibilities that challenge “returns to normal” and the taken-for-granted stories that constrain what a writing center is and does. Indeed, Laura Greenfield challenges writing centers to write new stories by committing to “new values, articulat[ing] a new reason for being, defin[ing] our work differently” (58). In this vein, Aja Martinez has also challenged writing centers to reconsider their stories around minoritized students and instead “build resistance and space with underserved students through coalitional practices that centralize the narratives of marginalized students as crucial to best serving their needs.” Likewise, Romeo Garcia has argued that writing centers must “be re-made from being a ‘white center’ to being a center in the process of becoming” (49) and imagine consultants as agents committed to enacting justice. These are a few examples of critically imagining writing centers and the complexities of the stories they tell. 

Acknowledging that there are multiple visions and realities of what it means to critically imagine a writing center, we are excited to accept proposals for ECWCA’s 2022 conference at Michigan State University from March 31 to April 2, 2022. We are honored to welcome Aja Martinez as our keynote speaker.

We invite you to think of storytelling broadly and to draw upon different methods of critically imagining and sharing stories--including but not limited to restorying, counter storytelling, queer storytelling, racial storytelling, antenarratives or protostories, and oral histories--to reimagine and realize the work of writing centers but also to celebrate the work already being done: 

    • Considering counterstories: What stories or voices are decentered in your writing center? What stories appear “from the margins”? What do they say about the priorities of writing centers?
    • Celebrating milestones: When did you begin working with writers and what have you learned along the way? Is your center celebrating an anniversary? What are its origin stories, lore, milestones, or “failures” that you have learned from?
    • Listening to each other: How does active listening take place within our centers and our communities? Which clients, consultants, campus administrators, or community partners are we listening to? Who are we not listening to?
    • Drawing on data: How do you or your center gather data? What stories does the data tell? How are you sharing data with each other or with other centers to consider the implications for the region or the field?
    • Observing environments: What are the aesthetics, objects, and artifacts in the center? What stories do they tell? Who is included and/or excluded by them? What are the affordances and constraints of these aesthetics, objects, and artifacts for accessibility?
    • Championing antiracist stories: What are the stories that champion antiracist futures and unsettle white supremacy within writing centers? How does your center engage in racial healing, advocate linguistic justice, and challenge false neutrality?     
    • Acknowledging local ecologies: How do you and the center you’re part of participate in local and natural ecologies? How does your center interact with the land it occupies and the histories, cultures, and people connected to that land?
    • Undertaking strategic planning: What does the writing center you’re part of value and how are these values in your vision, mission, and goals? What stories do you want to be told about your center? Where do you see your center in 3 years? 5 years? 10 years?

We welcome a range of presentation types including workshops, panels, lightning talks, maker activities, interactive art, and participatory activities. Because we do not privilege Standard Written English, we recognize, honor, and value multiple Englishes in proposals. Proposals from people whose voices have historically been left out from academic spaces and conversations are especially welcome.

The deadline for proposal abstracts (250 words) is October 15, 2021. Visit ecwca.org for more information on creating a proposal and how to submit. For questions or concerns, reach out to Dr. Grace Pregent, Conference Chair, at pregentg@msu.edu

Works Cited 

GarcĂ­a, Romeo. “Unmaking Gringo-Centers.” The Writing Center Journal, vol. 36, no. 1, 2017, pp. 29-60.

Greenfield, Laura. Radical Writing Center Praxis: A Paradigm for Ethical Political Engagement. University Press of Colorado, 2019.

Martinez, Aja Y. “Alejandra Writes a Book: A Critical Race Counterstory About Writing, Identity, and Being Chicanx in the Academy.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, vol. 14, no. 1, 2016, pp. 57-61.

McKinney, Jackie Grutsch. Peripheral Visions for Writing Centers. University Press of Colorado, 2013.

Riley-Mukavetz, Andrea. “Towards a Cultural Rhetorics Methodology: Making Research Matter with Multi-Generational Women from the Little Traverse Bay Band.” Rhetoric, Professional Communication and Globalization, vol. 5, no. 1, 2014, pp. 108-25.

Royster, Jacqueline Jones, and Gesa E. Kirsch. Feminist Rhetorical Practices: New Horizons for Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy Studies. SIU Press, 2012.



With Thanks

To Conference Chair, Dr. Grace Pregent, and to the Conference Committee of the Writing Center @ Michigan State University:

    • Sarah Hamilton
    • Savannah Harris
    • Bethany Meadows
    • Nick Sanders
    • Imari Cheyne Tetu
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