MENAWCA 2021 Biennial Conference

Imagine and Innovate: Navigating Uncertainty in Writing Centers

MENAWCA’s 7th biennial conference will be held virtually via Zoom, on the 27th and 28th of May 2021. MENAWCA’s conference is a platform for teachers, tutors, peer tutors, center directors, and other professionals supporting student writers in the MENA region, to share the innovative practices they have explored in the past year and report on their efficacy. This year’s virtual conference aims to discuss theoretical and practical perspectives related to themes of imagination and innovation, in the context of the disruption and uncertainty brought about by the global pandemic.

Over the last year, writing centers have had to reimagine their practice and develop innovative solutions to complex problems. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, writing center support has largely moved online, and practitioners have had to develop new procedures and protocols with little prior notice, and in some cases, overnight. Despite sudden and dramatic changes to the educational landscape, MENA writing centers have stayed true to their core principles and committed to best practice. One year on, MENAWCA invites the regional writing center community to reflect on this experience and make purposeful use of it moving forward.

We invite proposals for sessions on any aspects of this theme, with specific reference to the MENA context.

Plenary Speakers

Dr. Eliana Schonberg

Dr. Eliana Schonberg is Associate Professor of the Practice in Writing Studies and Director of the TWP Writing Studio at Duke University. She co-edits The Writing Center Journal and was co-founder of Praxis: A Writing Center Journal. Her current research focuses on writing center studies, student self-efficacy, and transfer of learning; her work appears in The Writing Center Journal, Across the Disciplines, Praxis, and WLN.

Session Abstract

Decelerating Our Thinking: Postpandemic Directions for Writing Center Praxis and Research 

As we move toward the end of pandemic, crisis-phase thinking and begin to define a “new normal,” what should we take forward into our postpandemic lives? What of the old “normal” might we abandon? And how might the experiences of the past year shape the research questions we ask in the future?

The shift to a largely virtual lifestyle and educational structure has changed our sense of time: our physical immobility slows us down while we are simultaneously offered speedy access to newly virtual global resources. As writing centers consider the affordances of this online year, we may face a push to embrace this newfound speed—a parallel to what Anne Geller terms “fungible time” in the writing center—are students finding the online options easier or more convenient? Can we translate these elements in our return to the non-virtual?

This plenary explores “slowness” (building on Geller’s sense of “epochal time”) as a guiding metaphor for writing center innovation, practice, and research. We consider heuristics for participants to apply to their own writing center practice, identify moments of speed and slowness in pandemic thinking, and decide which of these we may wish to preserve or discard in the post-pandemic writing center. We then look at how to apply slowness to our research questions and research practices, both individually and as a discipline. Together we examine—as individuals and as a field—which research questions may no longer need asking and to which we should now turn our attention.

Dr. Maha Bali

Maha Bali is Associate Professor of Practice at the Center for Learning and Teaching at the American University in Cairo. She has a PhD in Education from the University of Sheffield, UK. She is co-founder of (a grassroots movement that challenges academic gatekeeping at conferences) and co-facilitator of Equity Unbound (an equity-focused, open, connected intercultural learning curriculum, which has also branched into academic community activities Continuity with Care and Socially Just Academia). She writes and speaks frequently about social justice, critical pedagogy, and open and online education. She blogs regularly at and tweets @bali_maha

Session Abstract

Reimagining Writing Centers in the Midst of Uncertainty: An Interactive Workshop

In this session, participants will crowdsource ideas and practices from their own lived experience and from what they’ve been learning at the conference so far, and start thinking collaboratively about what this means for the future of writing centers. What might the writing center of the future look like, what might its purpose be, what might its potential be? Participants will consider what kind of wicked questions and uncertainties face them in the short term, and imagine strategies to turn these into opportunities for growth, while including relevant stakeholders in the process of transformation.

MENAWCA Outstanding Tutor Award

At the 2021 conference, MENAWCA will recognize tutors who provide exemplary service to students, writing centers, and institutional communities. Download the Call for Nominations here.