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We left Juniata on Friday morning and had a rainy drive to the Mid-Atlantic Writing Center Association (MAWCA) Conference in Reading, PA. Every year, our Writing Center Director (Professor Carol Peters) takes us to a conference for both professional development and group bonding. When I was a sophomore, we went to the National Council for Teachers of English Conference, and my fellow tutors went to the International Writing Centers Association Conference in Pittsburgh while I was abroad for my junior year. Some of us can gain some presentation experience at these conferences, too!
This conference was smaller than the one I went to my sophomore year, and that had its advantages. For one, it was more intimate. Many of the sessions were round table discussions rather than lectures. I had not considered how differently Writing Centers could function based on student demographics, institution size, and mentorship styles. There were many interesting presentations, too. For instance, I attended one that talked about tutoring grammar through games. While I don’t know that their approach would work for Juniata’s Writing Center, it definitely gave me a lot of ideas.
Of course, we had to present as well. This is our table at The Carnival, where Writing Center tutors and directors talked to interested conference-goers about games and bonding activities to implement in Writing Centers.
Juniata’s Writing Center is a really tight-knit group, and the conference only brings us closer together. When prospective students ask me what my favorite thing about Juniata is, I either answer “the people” or “the opportunities.” In the case of the Writing Center, it’s a perfect marriage of the two. I’ve had many opportunities for professional growth and I’ve met some of my best friends.
I hear a lot of Juniata College students mentioning conferences. I assumed they were mostly for different science fields, but I was wrong. From November 20 to November 22, I attended the National Council of Teachers of English conference in National Harbor, Maryland with my fellow Writing Center tutors. Eight other Writing Center tutors and I piled into a van at 8:30 Thursday morning and we set off for the conference with Professor Peters. On Thursday, we registered for the conference and began to attend presentations. On the first day, I attended a panel on linking young adult literature and nonfiction. The panel was all about making connections between books that discuss real issues that young people deal with on a daily basis. One of the coolest aspects of the conference is that the panels were quite often authors who were talking about their own books, not professors or teachers. That night, the entire group went to see Sonia Nazario speak. She was incredible. In order to write her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Enrique’s Journey, she took the same train-hopping route through Central America and Mexico that many young people also traveled. I am excited to read her book when I get some time over break.
Friday was another day full of panels. However, Friday was also the day that the book floor opened. Imagine a large convention center right outside of Washington, D.C. full of English teachers. Now imagine a whole ballroom full of booths run by different publishing companies. Oh, and just a minor detail: most of the books and items were free. People were walking around with rolling luggage in order to hold all the books, bags, pens, posters, and everything else that was given away on the book floor. “Wouldn’t they run out?” you ask. No. The books are refilled every hour because every hour each publishing company has different authors signing books. Not only are many of these books free, but they’re also signed. I’m a huge fan of Cinda Williams Chima, and I was able to meet and get a picture with her on Saturday. On top of that, I took about twenty signed books home with me over Thanksgiving Break. The book floor was pretty awesome.
As I mentioned, I met one of my favorite authors on Saturday. However, I also saw Cory Doctorow speak. I am reading Little Brother in my young adult literature course, so it was great to see him talk about some of the issues that he discusses in his book. Also, after his presentation when he was signing books, we bonded a bit over the struggle of being called the wrong name. As a “Cody,” I often get called “Cory.” He has the opposite problem.
In addition to all the actual conference events, it was also a good time to bond with my colleagues in the Writing Center. Making coffee runs across the city before a panel, playing games in the hotel rooms, and hanging out for three days was a great team-building experience. Plus, a bunch of people wanted our Writing Centaur T-shirts. The conference was an awesome experience and I’m happy to have had the opportunity to go.