Nebraska Writing Center Consortium 2014
A few weeks ago I spent my weekend attending the Nebraska Writing Center Consortium (NWCC). As a writing assistant at Chadron State College’s Learning Center, I represented the college’s writing center at the consortium.
Most of the active colleges in the NWCC are from eastern Nebraska. Because of this, the annual consortium is usually held in the eastern part of the state. However, this year Chadron State College had the opportunity to host the 10th annual event.
This conference was the most unique academic conference I have ever attended. Instead of moving from session to session taking notes and nodding my head, the coordinators switched up the usual venue.
The NWCC was held at historic Fort Robinson in Crawford, Nebraska, only 30 minutes outside of Chadron.
Throughout the decades, Fort Robinson has worn many hats: German POW camp, K-9 corps training center, Red Cloud Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture Beef Cattle Research Station. Fort Robinson is also the place of the Cheyenne Outbreak and is where Crazy Horse was killed with a bayonet. Fort Robinson is now a Nebraska State Park.
Because of the venue’s rich history, the consortium’s theme was “Writing Center (Hi)Stories.” The consortium was divided into two sections:
- Writing Center Pasts
- Writing Center Futures
We met for a wonderful continental breakfast bright and early. For people still accustomed to the Central Time Zone, rising with the sun was a piece of cake. For me, a mere Mountain Time Zone girl, I required several tumblers of coffee.
The consortium officially began and we were instructed to explore the fort and find a place to write about your past with the writing center. Okay, GO!
Unacquainted with this academic conference freedom, I was more than ready to spend my morning writing. We were each given a spiral notebook and told to come back at 10:00am.
So I started my exploration….
And found a few buildings…
And stumbled upon a horse….
And finally found a warm writing place.
For my writing, I focused on where I fit in among the vast amounts of writing theories. I have struggled to articulate my place in the history of writing so I enjoyed the opportunity to put my struggles onto paper.
We came back as a group and divided into smaller breakout sessions. I was in a group of five, the majority being writing center coordinators. It was amazing to hear their thoughts about their role in the history of writing centers.
Because I had only been part of the writing center for two semesters, my history was somewhat limited, unlike the coordinators’ histories. The coordinators had stories that went on for miles about the struggles of the writing center and about the lessons learned throughout the years. It was an incredible exchange of ideas and thoughts. While I was interested in their perspectives, they were also interested in my ideas about the history of the writing center.
After the breakout session, the whole group came back together to share. I asked the group if NWCC had a hashtag because I absolutely LOVE live tweeting conferences. When I asked, they looked at me like I had spoken Latin.
I looked from their faces to my iphone and said, “Oh, okay. I’ll just make one up then.”
We then had a break for lunch and several of us went to Staab’s in Crawford.
And yes, I stumbled upon more horses.
Next on the agenda was another chunk of time for writing about the future of writing centers.
I explored the opposite side of the fort and got to see the soldier’s barracks.
I also passed the spot where Crazy Horse was bayoneted to death.
And then I saw something that stuck with me…
The Cheyenne Outbreak happened because the Cheyenne were confined to Fort Robinson and had to obey curfew among other constraints. Shortly after arriving the Cheyennes decided to take a chance and try to escape the fort. The Cheyennes followed the river to their freedom. Unfortunately, only few survived and those that did were confined once again.
The bravery of the Cheyennes inspired my writing for the afternoon.
We formed breakout sessions and met as a whole group, discussing how we envision the future of the writing center and concluding the formal portion of the consortium.
For supper we were treated to an old-fashioned cookout. We took a “train” ride through the fort until we came upon a campfire.
There we ate stew and cornbread while soaking in the stunning northwest Nebraska view.
We concluded our time together around the campfire with an open-mic opportunity for people to share their writing pieces in front of the whole group.
I decided to read my newly written poem, “Cheyenne Freedom.”
NWCC was an amazing opportunity to network with people who all want to see writing centers on college campuses succeed. Although my time as a writing assistant is ending this semester because I am student teaching in the spring, I feel invigorated to possibly implement a writing center at my future school.
NWCC is a tight-knit and intimate community that leans on each other for survival. Even though different challenges arise in different writing centers, I was impressed to see the genuine concern everyone showed for each other. Coordinators empathized with each other and writing assistants collaborated while soaking in all the ideas.
I am grateful for the opportunity I had at NWCC. I only have great things to say about the integrity of the writing centers across Nebraska because they are all doing phenomenal work to help writers.