It has been a big weekend here at Mississippi College as we hosted the 2019 Mississippi Writing Center Association Conference. Mississippi College Writing Center Assistant Director Lingshan Song, assisted by veteran tutor and receptionist Sam Dean, organized and created a great event for writing center tutors and directors across the state to come together and connect at. One hundred attendees from across Mississippi and from a few neighboring states came.
The conference started on Saturday with Provost Ron Howard giving a short speech about the importance of the writing center and the Mississippi College Writing Center in particular. Dr. Howard referred to it as “the jewel of MC” and said that having the writing center was crucial to student success in writing and critical thinking.
After Dr. Howard’s speech, individual presentations began including a presentation about the need for a lending library in the writing center by MC tutors Christine Anderson and Katherine Parker. There was also a presentation on collaborative poetry by Hinds Community College Writing Center Coordinator, Bethany Kinney, and another on diversity in writing centers by Caily Ness and Morgan Moss, who are tutors from Millsaps College.
Next was a very special keynote speech by the Chair of the International Writing Center Association, Dr. Grutsch McKinney from Ball State University.
Dr. Grutsch McKinney addressed the idea of skills learned in the writing center having value outside of the writing center. She specifically talked about how being a writing center tutor enhances communication and people skills along with the ability to work as a team, something that employers in today’s job market value highly. Dr. Grutsch McKinney also discussed the idea of emotional intelligence and how the writing center helps develop it and that writing center tutors should try to be more intentional about it.
After Dr. Grutsch McKinney had fed our minds, we proceeded next door where a Mississippi College favorite waited to fill our bellies: fried chicken.
With full and contented bellies, we went into the next round of individual presentations were MC’s Dr. Steven Price presented on the idea of meta-analysis in writing centers, a topic that has been sadly neglected in writing center literature as a whole. Before Dr. Price’s presentation, there were two presentations, one on building connections between different writing centers by the Millsaps Writing Center consultants and one on working with students with hearing disabilities in the writing center.
From there, the paths of writing center administrators and their tutors diverged as the tutors headed off to bond over fun and games led by MC receptionist Taylor Hathorn, and the administrators went to converse with one another.
The two groups came back to together for a final session of individual presentations. The first presentation given was by MC tutors Sydney Nicholson and Isaac Jackson on the topic of online tutoring and why few tutors are interested in it. A presentation on the presence of white colonialism in writing centers and how writing centers can stifle other cultures followed.
Coincidentally, the last presentation was given by yours truly who talked about the importance of outlines to tutor and writer cooperation with tales of three-legged races gone horribly wrong and tomatoes squished by hammers. It was a fitting and funny note to end the individual presentations on.
I did not have the last word of the entire conference, though. That honor went to Mrs. Kathleen Hutchison who talked about how the Leland Speed Library and the Mississippi College Writing Center have been great allies throughout the years.
After the conference, one tutor in particular expressed how much he liked the conference.
“I really enjoyed being a part of the MSWCA Conference! I thought that the experience was really helpful for me personally and professionally."
-Sam, Economics Major and Peer Tutor at Jackson State University
But in my opinion, what happened after the conference was just as valuable a statement on collaboration as any that was made at the conference. The MC tutors who had stayed until the end worked together with Ms. Song and Dr. Price to quickly clean up and put things away. It was all done in minutes thanks to the incredible teamwork of the Mississippi College Writing Center. I will always be grateful that the tutors at Mississippi College work so well together.