Binghamton to host SUNY Council on Writing conference
March 15, 2011Tweet
Binghamton University will provide a forum for writing teachers across the state when it plays host to the 2011 SUNY Council on Writing Annual Conference, March 18-19.
Sponsored by the University’s First-Year Writing program and the Writing Initiative, the conference will begin at 5 p.m. Friday, March 18, with a reception, dinner and plenary address at the Holiday Inn-Arena in Binghamton. Saturday’s sessions will run from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. at the University Downtown Center. The conference is open to the public and costs $45.
“We are excited to have the conference here,” said Kelly Kinney, assistant professor of English and rhetoric and director of First-Year Writing. “We think the Downtown Center is a beautiful forum and we have more people signing up for the conference than in any other year. … It was definitely time for Binghamton to host.”
The council was founded in 1981 to bring teachers together to discuss what makes a good writing course and what teaching strategies should be used in the classroom. The council holds an annual conference on a SUNY campus; this is the first time Binghamton has hosted, Kinney said.
This year’s conference theme, developed by Kinney and Visiting Assistant Professor Mark Brantner, is “Building 21st Century Writing Programs: Literacy and Leadership in the New Millennium.” Participants were asked to “share models for writing programs committed to expanded conceptions of literacy, progressive institutional reform and new directions in the humanities.” The conference session will feature dozens of educators discussing the changing of writing programs and addressing themes such as technology, politics and theory in the classroom and global thinking.
“There are some important issues going on in the field,” said Kinney, who also serves on the council’s executive board. “How do you integrate electronic literacy into the writing classroom? How do you teach students whose first language is not English? Another growing and popular theme is creative writing in the composition classroom.
“We wanted to have a forum to talk about independent writing programs and their important connection to the humanities.”
The conference will feature two of the top scholars in the field serving as keynote speakers: Kurt Spellmeyer of Rutgers University will discuss “Forging the New Humanities” at 7 p.m. Friday, while Lynn Bloom of the University of Connecticut addresses “Is Freshman English Still a Middle-Class Enterprise? A 21st Century Update” at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“If you’re outside rhetoric and composition studies, those names may not mean anything, but if you’re inside rhetoric and composition studies, it’s ‘wow!’” Kinney said.
Kinney is also excited that Patricia Belanoff of Stony Brook, one of the people who spearheaded the formation of the council, will provide the welcome remarks prior to Spellmeyer’s talk. Belanoff will discuss the council’s history and give her views about trends in writing-program assessments.
The council’s president, Arabella Lyon of SUNY Buffalo, will discuss “Plato, Elbow and Bartholomae,” a look at the relationship between ancient rhetoric and how today’s student writers can be taught.
“There has been a good push – one that our program supports – focusing on academic writing,” Kinney said. “But there are also scholars like Peter Elbow and Arabella Lyon who want the course to be more than academic writing. They want it to be about the love of writing and to go beyond the academy.”
While many of the session presenters are tenured professors or writing-program directors, graduate students who teach writing also will speak at the conference. For example, Mary DiNapoli of Binghamton University will examine Spellmeyer’s work, most likely with the subject in attendance.
“This is a great opportunity for graduate students to break into what it means to present at conferences,” Kinney said.
The conference also gives Binghamton University the opportunity to spotlight its own Writing Initiative, an autonomous academic unit now in its third year that serves as the home of the First-Year Writing program and the Writing Center.
“This is a way for Binghamton University to introduce to the SUNY system that we have a fully fledged, autonomous, independent writing program here,” said Kinney, who said there will be a presentation about the Binghamton program. “This is a big deal. We want to be able to showcase what we are doing.”
Kinney said that she hopes the conference’s provocative themes give participants plenty to take home.
“I hope people leave the conference with a sense of what is cutting-edge about the field of composition and rhetoric and how they might bring these important and new pedagogical and scholarly ideas back to their classrooms or the writing programs they direct,” she said.