SLAC-WPA Conference 2020 Call for Proposals

Call for Proposals: 

The deadline for proposals has passed. Please visit the Conference 2020 information page for conference details. 

Difficult Questions: The Role of Writing and Writing Programs at Small Liberal Arts Colleges

January 10-11, 2020 | Franklin & Marshall College | Lancaster, PA

Small liberal arts colleges ask students to think critically about difficult questions. Increasingly, these academic environments also challenge both faculty and writing program leaders to build new collaborations and alliances, respond to conflicts, develop plans to deal with scarce resources, and moderate competing priorities. Such environments are complicated by our various roles: writing program and writing center directors and assistant directors, leaders of general education initiatives, coordinators for programs that focus on developing writing-intensive courses and pedagogies, leaders of writing assessment or interdisciplinary program initiatives, and more. Each role requires specific skill sets and the ability to meet not just program needs but, more broadly, institutional needs and missions as well. 

The community of SLAC-WPA, then, is in a unique position. Our differing institutions require us to develop strategies tailored to our specific needs, and each campus defines the challenges we face somewhat differently, creating an opportunity to build a deeper understanding of the questions common to many of us. For example, how can tensions and pressures around increasing corporatization of faculty lives be managed? What is the role of the writing program administrator’s voice in general education and curriculum reform? How might the questions raised by austerity initiatives affect our work within larger structures? In our various roles, the difficult questions we face are many. 

We invite members to spend a weekend together pondering difficult questions and strategies for responding to the central question: what are the roles of a small liberal arts college writing program administrator in the context of a larger curriculum? We envision the conference addressing such questions as:

  • In an academic environment that is increasingly corporatized and accelerated, Berg and Seeber advocate in The Slow Professor that “time for reflection and open-ended inquiry is not a luxury but is crucial to what we do.” What might it look like to be a “Slow WPA” in this environment? How might the speed of new media complicate or enhance this question? 
  • What might practical social justice and inclusivity work look like for writing program administrators and writing center directors? 
  • What roles can/should writing program administrators in all contexts take in curriculum or general education reform? How might such roles draw attention to or away from other questions? 
  • What does it mean to be a writing program administrator in context of the current challenges to the liberal arts? How might writing program administrators navigate distinctions among  
    • Thinking for its own sake
    • Thinking as instrumental (“I need a job and to pay off my student loans”)
    • Thinking to bring about social justice (“I want to do good in the world”)
  • What expectations exist around where writing can/should/does happen in the small liberal arts curriculum, and what are ways to encourage and manage those expectations?

We welcome submissions of two kinds:


Roundtables provide the opportunity for discussion of multiple perspectives around a common question, theme, or shared institutional practice. Roundtables, led by 3-4 facilitators, prompt shared discussion rather than individual presentations of research. This year’s format invites each facilitator at a roundtable to speak briefly to an element of the conference theme, setting the stage for discussion. To this end, we welcome proposals for 5-7 minute contributions that develop and articulate motivated questions related to one or more of the “difficult questions” suggested above. Collaborators within or across institutions may propose complete roundtables; conference organizers will cluster proposals from individuals as appropriate.

Speed Sharing

Speed sharing includes ten-minute presentations that preview a new strategy, technique, or arrangement in tutoring, teaching, or administering writing that will likely be of interest to many conference attendees. The subject of the presentations need not focus on the conference theme of difficult questions. Speed sharing keeps us informed of new developments in the field, novel administrative arrangements, ideas for assessment, strategies for staffing, skills for stretching tight budgets, thoughts about faculty development, etc. 

In addition to these familiar discussion opportunities, this year’s SLAC-WPA conference will introduce structured workshops led by experienced facilitators as places for sharing and reflecting on our practices. Saturday’s plan thus includes two concurrent, theme-related workshops. Conference participants will have a choice between the themes of assessment and linguistic diversity.  More details will be forthcoming.  

By September 20th, please submit proposals for

  • Roundtables
  • Speed Sharing

to the Conference Planning Committee at