As a writing consultant at the University of Minnesota Center for Writing, I was excited to present, with two other consultants and two directors, our new staff co-mentoring program at the IWCA conference in Denver. Created out of conversations among the staff members at our writing center about building a more supportive community, this experience helped me see the divisions, hierarchies and inequities that keep us from taking care of and learning from one another. The workshop format of our presentation also broadened my perspective, leading me to think more deeply about how applicable the language and assumptions in our writing center are for other writing centers.
In addition to the presentation, the IWCA conference provided many opportunities to learn about the issues and concerns that are currently shaping writing center culture. These opportunities showed me that the “writing center” is not as a generic term but a creation that can take many different forms and adapt to (or resist) various institutional contexts. Learning about diverse writing centers and their practices led me to view the writing center I am in with a fresh set of eyes, appreciating its strengths and discovering where it can be improved.
When I later look back on this, my first trip to the IWCA conference, I will see it as a huge step in my development as a teacher, scholar, and writing center professional. Talking with others who shared my interest in writing center culture reinforced my belief in the importance of co-mentoring and my commitment to writing center work. The ideas I took from the sessions contain many important seeds of thought that I will keep coming back to. I want to thank my co-presenters for making it all happen for me. They were my mentors throughout the process, and I am truly grateful to be working with them.
-Jennifer Somie Kang, University of Minnesota, 2016 MWCA Travel Grant Winner