Spring 2021 Composition Faculty Conference Presentations

by Emily R C Staudt

Composition faculty continued to carry out and present their research this Spring, at a variety of national and local conferences. Read on to hear about Joan Hwang, Jenny Goransson, and Dr. Courtney Adams Wooten’s virtual presentations from Spring 2021.

Hwang headshot Goransson headshot Adams Wooten headshot
Hwang Goransson Adams Wooten

On January 30th, Joan Hwang presented at the UC Writing Programs Conference organized by UC Berkely this year. Her presentation, “McCarthy’s A stranger in strange lands: graduate student writers in virtual discourse community during the pandemic era,” explored how graduate student writers feel again like “a stranger in a strange land” (McCarthy, 1987) in the new writing space COVID-19 affords. In this new context, graduate students’ writing space has transitioned entirely to a virtual platform; virtual sites become the dominant space of apprenticeship, with physical sites becoming off limits.

In a mixed method research project Hwang conducted in collaboration with others in ENGH 702, graduate student writers reported the biggest adjustments in the change of the materiality of their writing spaces. Most of all, the merging of their work site into shared places at home has caused several troubles to their writing life. To the question that asked graduate students to rate the impact of the pandemic on their writing life, they rated mental health, professional expectations and work/life balance as most severely affected. Hwang’s presentation at the UC Writing Programs Conference shared these initial research results.

Photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels

In March, Jenny Goransson co-chaired the Secondary School Writing Centers Association (SSWCA) national conference, "From Crisis to Creation," for which she created many resources for both presenters and attendees as well as made critical decisions regarding conference logistics. Among the resources, Goransson created video tutorials and hosted live Zoom tutorials for presenters on how to create an engaging virtual presentation. This year’s national conference, an 8-day virtual event, welcomed 671 attendees from 60 schools and 19 states.

In addition to these central roles, Goransson presented her own pedagogy and research with two peer tutoring colleagues at this year’s conference: “Creativity in Times of Crisis: A Roundtable for Learning Centers & Peer Tutoring Programs” with Hannah Baran and Susan Frenck. Her portion of the presentation aimed to offer tutor training tools for centers that have shifted from the writing center model to an all-subjects peer tutoring model.

Goransson was a founding member of the Capital Area Peer Tutoring Association (CAPTA), which has since rebranded as SSWCA when it grew into a national non-profit, and she now serves on the SSWCA’s Board. Goransson is also currently serving as the research article editor of SSWCA’s scholarly publication The Journal of Peer Tutoring in Secondary Schools, which is set to publish its first edition by early summer.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

In early April, Joan Hwang presented again on her collaborative mixed methods research project—this time at GMU’s own Graduate and Professional Student Association conference! Hwang’s presentation, “Opportunity space for writing as a critical constituent of the social practice of discourse communities,” focused on graduate writing as social practice—one that helps them enter and participate in academic discourse communities. The presentation centered on Prior’s use of the term “opportunity space” to emphasize the importance of the communicative interactions among the members of discourse communities as a space of “temporal, spatial, and social moment which provides for the possibility of joint activity” (1994, p. 515).

This presentation introduced the collaborative research conducted by a group of Writing and Rhetoric PhD students in ENGH 702, a graduate research methodology course, which reaffirmed the crucial roles opportunity spaces play in graduate student writers’ writing life even during the pandemic outbreak. Despite disruptions in their writing life caused by the transition to the socially distanced work environment, graduate student respondents reported that their existing relationship with cohort groups, writers’ groups, peers, and faculty advisors transferred to virtual spaces and provided ongoing support for their writing life emotionally and professionally.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

In mid-April, Composition Director Dr. Courtney Adams Wooten presented on a panel online at CCCC 2021: “Professional Status in the Institution: Working Conditions for WPAs.” This panel took up contemporary challenges related to WPA institutional status and conditions including tenure, workload, and collaboration. The pre-recorded session also included a live Q&A.

Dr. Adams Wooten comments that as a panel, they

were able to share information about working as WPAs at different types of institutions (two-year institutions, large institutions, small institutions) that I think provides a useful portrait of how different administrative work can be in different places but also of how common questions and issues do tend to arise...we also had a really good discussion in the live Q&A about potential overlaps between the presentations and the kinds of questions they brought up for WPAs in general.

These presentations are remarkable for their variety and for the persistence they show on the part of Composition faculty. We look forward to the continued research and scholarship displayed by faculty in the coming semesters!