The Writing on the Edge (WOTE) Conference
The administrative impetus behind developing the Writing on the Edge Conference was threefold. First, we wanted to promote pedagogical innovation and teaching excellence by providing adjunct faculty both at COD and across the region a forum for discussing current research and best-practices in the teaching of writing. Second, we sought to provide ongoing professional development and support to part-time faculty at diverse stages of their careers, including the opportunity to network and collaborate across institutions, and to share strategies for navigating the complex demands of working at multiple institutions. Finally, given the tremendous impact adjunct faculty have on student learning and success, we wanted to give them more voice in articulating and sharing their scholarly and pedagogical work both locally and nationally.
English and English Language Studies is one of the largest subdivisions at College of DuPage, comprising 33 full-time faculty, 6 lecturers, and over 150 adjuncts. Each year, approximately 16,500 seats are filled in English and Academic ESL classes; and English 1101 remains the single highest enrolling course at the College—with more than 9000 students taking the class each year.
Despite the size and complexity of the subdivision, there have been very few opportunities for full-time and adjunct faculty to interact and collaborate, and even fewer opportunities for adjunct faculty to receive discipline specific professional development and training. Indeed, while adjunct faculty receive some college-wide orientation as part of their initial on-boarding, and are encourage to participate on faculty committees and initiatives, prior to my arrival there had been no systematic attempt to engage adjunct faculty in their own professional development.
Organized by English lecturers in the Liberal Arts Division of College of DuPage—with administrative support from the Associate Dean of English and Academic ESL—WOTE 2015 was held on COD’s Glen Ellyn campus on September 17 and 18, and featured 28 concurrent panels/sessions on a range of issues related to teaching writing in the 21st century. Indeed, Writing on the Edge (WOTE) is not only the first conference on the teaching of writing of its kind in the Midwest, but is one of the only academic conferences in the United States organized for and run entirely by part-time faculty.
The WOTE Organizing Committee—made up of five part-time Lecturers in the English and Academic ESL subdivision—identified several additional goals for the project, including:
- Promoting pedagogical and technological innovation in the teaching of writing, with an emphasis on multi-modal composing;
- Making the work of adjunct faculty more visible, and celebrating the ingenuity and passion these teachers bring to the classroom;
- Building a sense of community among adjunct faculty who can often feel isolated and marginalized;
- Fostering meaningful collaboration among faculty across institutions;
- Proving the viability of an all-adjunct run writing conference, and securing an institutional commitment to support WOTE into the future.
We had 120 attendees representing more the 25 institutions across seven states participate in WOTE 2015. The majority of attendees were from four states: Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan. All told, 47 panelists and presenters from 16 different colleges participated in sessions—a good indication of the diversity of impact of the conference. Overall satisfaction of attendees with various aspects of the conference was measured through an online survey emailed to all participants approximately three days after the conference, and to date, 66 have responded. While several extremely useful suggestions for improvement have been provided, the overwhelming consensus is that WOTE 2015 was highly successful. For example, 96.6% of respondents rated the quality of the keynote speaker as good or excellent, and 100% of respondents rated the quality of the panel presentations as good or excellent.
An analysis of the final budget for WOTE 2015 reveals that the conference was budget-neutral, with our initial expenditures of $5857.67 offset by nearly $3000 collected in registration fees and over $4000 collected in cash and in-kind donations from sponsors. Finally, the feedback from stakeholders involved in the conference at nearly every level has been incredibly positive. All told, we have received 37 unsolicited emails from participants congratulating us on the success of WOTE 2015, and expressing interest in being involved in the conference next year.
Based on these preliminary results, WOTE 2015 was nominated by the senior leadership team at COD for an ICCCA Innovation Award. You can read our Innovation Award Narrative here.
Now it its sixth year, WOTE continues to provide adjunct and contingent faculty from across the Midwest an exceptionally high quality professional development opportunity–and the model has clearly proven to be sustainable over time.
To see the call for papers and learn more about the most current iteration of the conference, visit the official website for WOTE 2021.