Purpose and Goals
The WAC summer institute (WACSI) is intended to help new and prospective leaders plan, develop, and assess their WAC/WID programs or similar initiatives in the US and internationally, but it is also aimed at supporting more experienced directors who may be facing new challenges or who are seeking to revitalize their programs.
The guiding theme of the multi-day institute is on building and sustaining high-impact WAC programs or initiatives, while specific topics for talks and small group workshops are determined based on the SI facilitators’ expertise as well as on participants’ interests and goals for attending as described on the registration form. Mindful that in order to flourish each WAC program must fit comfortably in its own institutional context, the SI agenda includes time for participants to consult individually with facilitators to share their situations and programmatic aspirations. By its very structure, the SI also affords networking opportunities and peer-to-peer mentoring. The goal of every institute is that participants will leave with a clear sense of next steps and practical strategies for building or revitalizing their own campus-based programs.
Site Selection & Costs
Locations for the WACSI are based on responses to a CFP for potential hosts. Site selection is based on a range of factors, including projected costs, proximity to airports/mass transit, available housing (on-campus and/or nearby hotels), and easy access to restaurants and other amenities. Every effort is made to keep costs affordable for participants with the registration fee typically including an evening reception and meals each day. Considering how many graduate students are acting as WAC program assistants or sometimes even directing a program, SI planners are committed to offering one graduate student scholarship, with application and selection handled by the graduate organization WAC-GO. Details about the application process and criteria for selection can be found on the WAC-GO site.
How It All Started: A Brief History of WACSI
In 2017, at the same time that planning for the Association for Writing Across the Curriculum was underway, a smaller working group was developing plans for a WAC institute to be held in the summer of 2019, well over a decade after the regional UNC Wildacres WID retreats were discontinued. The idea of holding a WAC summer institute was first discussed by Paul Anderson and Terry Myers Zawacki, who drafted an initial talking paper. Terry subsequently presented the talking paper at the 2017 CCCC WAC stakeholders’ meeting to gauge interest and support. There proved to be strong interest as well as a keen sense among the attendees that new and prospective WAC leaders needed a more intensive information-gathering and mentoring experience than 4C’s hour-long WAC SIG could offer, particularly given statistics indicating that more than 50% of WAC programs fail to survive (See Thaiss and Porter, 2010, p. 558). The small working group that was subsequently formed to plan the institute, now dubbed WACSI, met on Skype every three to four weeks to turn an idea into a reality.
The WACSI working group, co-led by Terry and Jeff Galin and comprising Paul Anderson, Chris Anson, Vicki Tolar Burton, and Alisa Russell, began by setting goals and looking at how the International Writing Center Association and the Council of Writing Program Administrators structured their institutes. With the support of Margaret Marshall, host of the 2018 Auburn IWAC conference, the group drafted a question for the IWAC registration form to ascertain interest and asking those interested in attending such an institute to contact Jeff or Terry for more information. Time was also set aside at the conference for attendees to meet with working group members to ask questions and suggest topics they would like to see included in the program.
At the same time the working group was also investigating potential locations and dates for what they determined would be a three and a half day event to be held every two years. The University of Denver eventually emerged as the first choice based on a number of critical factors, e.g. cost, space, available dorm housing, easy access to airports and mass transit, and the support of two DU writing program leaders–Doug Hesse and Richard Colby–who were enthusiastic and enormously helpful in making the local arrangements. Once the site had been chosen, the group determined that the cost for attending would be $500, which would cover space, food, and a small stipend for the SI facilitators. At this point, Teresa Redd was asked to join the planning group and to be one of the SI facilitators, along with co-leaders Chris Anson and Jeff Galin, with Alisa Russell also facilitating and providing all-around organizational support.
Registration for the first WACSI was capped at 30 participants on a first-come/first-served basis with the registration site opening on November 5, 2018. The institute filled within the first 30 minutes after opening, and those who were not able to register were placed on what became a lengthy waiting list. While those who had registered were asked to describe their interests and goals for the SI, the planning group had decided that the overarching focus would be on building sustainable WAC programs, a decision influenced by the full-house attendance at an all-day WAC sustainability workshop at 4Cs, which was co-led by Jeff Galin, Dan Melzer, and Michelle Cox and informed by their book Sustainable WAC: A Whole Systems Approach to Launching and Developing Writing Across the Curriculum Programs. SI talks, small group meetings, and workshops were organized broadly around strategies for understanding, planning, developing, and leading writing across the curriculum/writing in the disciplines initiatives with these thematic areas being broad enough to encompass participants’ stated interests and goals. Additionally, one important goal for the planning group was to design an SI that afforded mentoring and networking opportunities, with room for individual consultations with institute leaders also built in.
The first WACSI, held June 23-26, 2019, was a huge success as evidenced by post-SI evaluations and perhaps even more by the enthusiasm and positive responses of the participants throughout the three and a half days. Participants especially appreciated the opportunity to make connections across universities and develop program-specific projects.
In February 2019, the WACSI became a formal committee of the Association for Writing Across the Curriculum, co-chaired by Alisa Russell and Terry Myers Zawacki (LINK). Committee chairs serve for two years, while the institute leader(s) cycles off after one year and assumes the role of past-leader who is still involved with the planning group.
Members of the SI working/planning group also cycle off as desired and are joined by new members, including past SI participants. The main responsibilities of the SI planning group are to select a location, based on responses to a CFP for hosting the next SI; set registration costs, determine that year’s theme and structure; and to attend to all of the myriad details around the event. While the leader of the current year’s SI identifies and invites people to join the working/planning group, anyone who is an AWAC member is encouraged to contact the leader to express interest in joining the group. Not all members of the planning group are called on to be SI facilitators, who are chosen by SI leader.