Mason Hosts International Writing Conference

Posted: January 25, 2011 at 1:01 am, Last Updated: January 24, 2011 at 9:25 pm

By Art Taylor

More than 600 writing scholars from 38 countries will come to Fairfax Feb. 17–20 when Mason hosts the fourth annual International Conference on Writing Research, “Writing Research Across Borders II,” at the Mason Inn Hotel and Conference Center (the opening session will be held at the Fairfax Marriott at Fair Oaks).

The University of California Santa Barbara hosted the first three conferences, which are held every three years. The decision to relocate the program across the country was in part driven by English assistant professor Paul Rogers, who helped organize the two previous gatherings. He also relocated from one coast to the other.

“We wanted a broader geographical representation than we’ve had before, and we actually have that,” Rogers explains.

Rogers stresses that Mason is also the perfect place for such a meeting because of its longstanding reputation as a center for excellence in this area.

He cites a proposed new PhD program in public rhetoric and writing; the longstanding accomplishments of the Northern Virginia Writing Project (NVWP), which Rogers will soon lead; and the national reputation of the Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) program, recently recognized by U.S.News & World Report for the ninth year in a row as one of the nation’s best.

“The support, participation and contributions of [English professors] Doug Eyman, Don Gallehr, Susan Lawrence, Shelley Reid, Eve Wiederhold and Terry Zawacki in planning the conference will help draw attention to the university and give visibility to our emerging programs,” says Rogers.

Many sessions will focus on K–12 education — the focus of the NVWP. As for the WAC angle, Zawacki, who directs the program at Mason, echoes the strength of the partnership.

“Having the conference at Mason definitely enhances our already strong WAC reputation,” adds Zawacki, who has organized two back-to-back panels on writing center research with presenters from seven countries for the conference.

“I’m excited about chairing these panels because the presenters’ research shows how integral writing centers are to WAC goals. In fact, for most of the international presenters (China, Sweden, United Kingdom, Ireland and Lebanon), the writing center is the place where WAC happens.”

The international component stands as a conference highlight, one that Rogers says is the most fun and most engaging for most participants.

“The circumstances are local for teaching,” Rogers says. “But then when you share what you’re doing across these borders, I think those differences are really what makes this conference so rich.”

Thanks to a previous iteration of this conference, scholars are also learning about writing research in China, which has been little-known in the West until recently.

Another focus of the conference will be on a lifespan approach to learning writing.

“What the research shows is that people continue to learn to write throughout their professional trajectories,” says Rogers. “People who are in their late 20s and beyond continue to learn to write in specific genres — a bank report, for example — and try to solve these higher level tasks both intellectually and rhetorically.”

More information, including registration information, is available here. Graduate students and Mason faculty members, including adjuncts, are eligible for the $170 discount rate.

This article originally appeared in the English Department newsletter Not Just Letters.

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