Cornell hosts writing conference for Ivy Plus schools

By: Kathy Hovis,  A&S Communications
October 5, 2016

Cornell will host 40 writing program administrators and faculty Oct. 7-8 for the Ivy Plus Writing Consortium, to discuss classroom and programmatic issues, their evolving roles on campus and talk about trends in the field, including a new focus on expanding the ways they prepare teachers to teach writing within and beyond first year writing programs.

“One thing that distinguishes the Ivy Plus annual meeting from many academic conferences is that it is truly a meeting, not a sequence of presentations,” said Elliot Shapiro, the Knight Foundation Director for Writing in the Majors. “Our Saturday sessions are intended to share ideas and information about what’s going on at our various institutions and learn from the experiences of colleagues.”

Participants will discuss various topics ranging from supporting writing outside the humanities to building writing networks across campus.

“Many people believe that one of the most important things colleges teach is how to write well,” said George Hutchinson, professor of English, professor of American history and culture and director of Cornell’s John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines. “Freshman seminars dedicated to writing are a crucial element at most universities, but they cannot in themselves make a large permanent impact if they are not followed by further practice and guidance throughout the college career. Humanities students tend to get such guidance, but how can it be integrated into other fields?”

Shapiro will lead the session on how to build and maintain networks.

“In Cornell’s writing in the disciplines programs, as in our peer institutions, most writing happens within the academic curriculum, not apart from it,” Shapiro said. “Building and maintaining writing networks means learning how writing happens within courses across the university so we can help support writing across the disciplines.”

Although Cornell has a well-established writing program, Shapiro said building relationships with departments and individual faculty members is an ongoing process.

During the conference, informal networking and sharing can be one of the most beneficial aspects, said Jessica Sands, multilingual writing specialist and a lecturer in the Knight Institute’s Writing Workshop.

“There is a genuine shared interest in learning about how one another’s programs are evolving, supporting colleagues across institutions, trouble-shooting programmatic and institutional challenges, and celebrating each others’ progress,” said Sands, who is also a member of the Ivy Plus board.

For example, an institution might be preparing for an influx of international students and needing advice on best practices to successfully absorb and support these students’ needs.

“Issues like the one above are commonly discussed so that we as writing program administrators and faculty can share insights and plans, what changes seem to work well and which ones need to be tweaked,” Sands said.

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