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Sunday, September 14, 2008

NEOWCA wrap-up

Yesterday was the 2nd annual NEOWCA conference, held at Walsh University.

First, a bit of background: last year, a group of WC directors in North East Ohio formed the NEOWCA (North East Ohio Writing Centers Association), a kind of mini-local. Last year, was their first conference.

I had a great time; the conference ran very smoothly, in Walsh's brand-new conference center. They said about 90 people registered to attend, an increase from last year. For a mini-conference, its getting pretty big!

The goal of NEOWCA is to be very tutor-focused. In keeping with that, most of the conference presenters are tutors themselves, and when directors do present, they focus on tutor-related issues, rather than tackling more administrative subjects. This approach works well, given the smaller size of the conference, and a more salient feeling of community emerges. Since we're all nearby, we know each other's schools, and many faces from last year's conference (as well as Spring's ECWCA) attended this year as well.

The lunch featured a panel discussion in lieu of a keynote. Their subject was how the WC helped them get a job later on. We heard from five speakers, now applying their WC skills in a high school, as campus minister, graduate student, PhD student, and missionary.

Presentations touched on a wide range of subjects, from creative writing tutoring to having a mentally disabled tutor on staff. A large number of tutors attended each session, and as usual, the conversations that were sparked during Q & A were the highlight.

On a personal note, I really think the idea of a mini-local is a good one. Two subjects that were brought up numerous times were WCs ability to create community, and to allow for productive networking. These are two things that conferences like NEOWCA are all about, and keeping it local makes these two points much more noticeable.

3 comments:

  1. Interesting. I like the idea of mini-local groups collaborating; how many schools does the group include? Are they all college level or are some high schools?
    The idea of being very tutor focused makes me scratch my head. Maybe I have just picked my sessions strange, but most conferences I have attended were very tutor driven. Did the presentations focus on more practical applications rather than theory? Or were they more experiential?
    This is really interesting.

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  2. The NEOWCA list includes: Akron U, Youngstown State, Kent State (including it's 7 regional campuses), College of Wooster, Stark Tech, Walsh U, and probably a couple I've missed.

    They are trying to get high schools in as well, but I know they are having trouble. They said the HS WCs open and close too frequently, that getting any kind of list compiled gets outdated by the end of the (fiscal) school year.

    And definitely, conferences do generally keep tutor-focused. NEOWCA tries to do the same, only more so. So in that regard, it is more practical than theoretical. Also, ideally, the directors are not giving any presentations; only tutors. The dress, and attitude, is more relaxed than other conferences I've seen. Maybe its me, but some of the conferences I've seen have given me the feeling that some of the presenters are there specifically to further their careers; not to see/make friends, build community, or simply share ideas. The NEOWCA never has that feeling.

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  3. Sounds like a great idea. Was there a featured speaker or keynote? It sounds like it was more of a giant consultation than a formal conference.

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