Pre-conference workshops

You can sign up for a pre-conference workshop when you register for the MWCA 2013 conference.

Title:  Running a High School Writing Center

Leader:  Andrew Jeter (Niles West High School)

Chicagoland is home to over 40 high school and middle school writing, literacy, and learning centers. These centers come in every size and shape and routinely must reinvent themselves to meet federal, state, and local demands. The result is a panoply of programs and a community steeped in a deep understanding of the craft of tutoring and running tutoring centers.

This half- day, pre-conference workshop is designed to be a place where you can ask questions, get answers, and plan for the future of your center and your career. On October 16, we will travel from the conference hotel the short distance to Niles West High School’s Literacy Center. You will be invited to participate in multiple breakout sessions dealing with mission statements and stakeholder relations; tutor recruitment and training; center design, planning, and assessment; advertising and outreach; and professional development. You will have the opportunity to meet people from around the Midwest and share and gather ideas. It is our goal that every participant will leave the workshop with at least one plan of action to take back to their center.

Andrew Jeter is an Instructor and the Literacy Center Coordinator at Niles West High School.  He has been a long-time leader and is the current president of the Chicagoland Organization of Writing, Literacy, and Learning Centers (COWLLC) and co-sponsored the Chicago 2012 NCPTW conference.



Title:  Building, Maintaining, and Surviving an Academic Resource Center

Leader:  Nita Meola (Columbia College)

In January of 2009, Columbia College Chicago moved several academic support units into a newly renovated space called the Learning Studio. The work to bring the different units together took 3 years of planning as there were many aspects of not only “academic support” but also “collaboration” to be studied in order to finely tune best practices in an academic resource center.

This pre-conference workshop will provide a brief history of how the Learning Studio came to be and offer participants an overview of the multiple aspects to be considered when making this kind of institutional move. Participants will then break into sessions to discuss topics such as mission statements, stakeholders, the change process, operational procedures, team maintenance and professional development, marketing, and evaluation and assessment. The goal of the workshop is to have all participants leave with the necessary information to build or continue work on existing academic resources centers at their own institutions.

Nita Meola has been the Director of the Writing Center in the Learning Studio at Columbia College Chicago since June of 2007. In addition to her work as WCD, Nita Co-leads the Peer Academic Coach program. Too, she has taught a variety of first year writing program courses, teaches the Writing Center Theory and Practice course, and has also taught introduction to literature courses.


Title: Multilingual Writers:  Helping New Tutors Negotiate Between Principles and Practices

Leaders:  Jenny Staben (College of Lake County) and D. Susan Dillon (Wheaton College)

Whether the tutees are international students recently arrived to the United States or immigrant students coming from U.S. high schools, multilingual writers can pose a complex challenge for first year tutors.  This difficulty stems, in part, from the developmental process that most tutors go through.  New tutors often begin writing center work with visions of “editing” students’ papers and playing the role of expert.  However, the tutor education they receive typically values being hands-off versus being directive, values conversation over demonstration, as well as suggests that discussions of grammar, vocabulary and word choice are “lower” or “later” concerns.  As a result, inexperienced tutors often swing from editor to the opposite end of the spectrum—feeling like they cannot offer any suggestions or information without appropriating the writer’s work.   This mindset proves particularly problematic when tutors work with multilingual writers—writers who may need both linguistic and rhetorical information in order to effectively write at the college level in English.

In this workshop, we will discuss and model training activities that help new peer and professional tutors negotiate the complexities of working with multilingual writers.  Topics that will be addressed include ways to help tutors

  • Become more aware of the diversity of multilingual writers
  • Move more comfortably along the continuum between direct and indirect
  • Be a rhetorical and linguistic resource
  • Use scaffolding techniques

Participants will not only take part in a variety of training activities but they will have the opportunity to consider how these activities might be adapted to fit their specific writing center contexts.

Jenny Staben is an English Instructor and the Faculty Coordinator of the Writing Center at the College of Lake County.  In addition to working in writing centers in Iowa, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania, she has also taught English as a second language in a variety of contexts—adult education, an intensive language program, and through a center for immigrants and refugees.

D. Susan Dillon is a Writing Consultant for ESL & Graduate Students Wheaton College Writing Center.



Title:  Doing Writing Center Research

Leader:  Rebecca Day Babcock (University of Texas of the Permian Basin)


This workshop on research methods will be divided into three parts.  In the first part, participants will be introduced to a variety of research methods that can be employed to study the work of writing centers.  In part two, participants will work with fellow workshop participants do develop research designs based on their individual research questions.  In part three, road blocks to being productive scholarly writers and ways of overcoming them will be discussed.
Rebecca Babcock is Associate Professor of English at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin where she teaches courses in writing and linguistics. She recently won the President’s Research Award, only the fifth person ever to win this award. She has authored
Tell Me How It Reads: Tutoring Deaf and Hearing Students in the Writing Center; A Synthesis of Qualitative Studies of Writing Center Tutoring, with Kellye Manning, Travis Rogers, Courtney Goff, and Amanda McCain; and Researching the Writing Center: Towards an Evidence-Based Practice,  with Terese Thonus.