This past weekend The Center for Writing hosted the thirty-second Annual Northeast Writing Centers Association (NEWCA) Conference. During these NEWCA Conferences, colleges and universities from around the northeast region of the country come together to conduct and attend informational presentations. These presentations involve the study and implementation of specific aspects of writing center work, such as developing methods for effectively tutoring English Language Learner students, enhancing approaches to creating a friendly writing center environment and more. These sessions usually take on the form of a round table discussion, a panel or an open forum.

With 297 students, professors and administrators in attendance, this was the largest NEWCA Conference in history. The conference started off on the morning of Saturday, April 2, with registration, a breakfast and an introduction by keynote speaker Dr. Jackie Gutsch McKinney. McKinney is a professor of English and the director of the Writing Center at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. With the theme of the conference being “Reading Our Past, Telling Our Stories, Writing Our Future,” McKinney’s speech focused around the importance of sharing writing center work and stories with students and colleagues.

After the keynote speech, the various workshops began. With 39 presentations total, students, professors and administrators were encouraged to attend as many sessions as possible. The feedback for these workshops was extremely positive.

Colton McCraken / Equinox Staff

Colton McCraken / Equinox Staff

Psychology Major and Keene State Center for Writing Tutor Allison Brady praised the conference sessions for their lively discussions on culture and the various methods for tutoring students who are English language learners. Brady also commented on the similarities between the obstacles that various other college writing centers face.

Brady said, “It was super interesting to hear tutors from other colleges discuss similar issues that we face here at Keene State.” According to Brady, these issues include engaging students in tutoring sessions, addressing inappropriate content within academic papers, and dealing with student biases.

Tutors outside of KSC also enjoyed their time at the conference. According to Bridgewater State College Student and Massasoit Community College Tutor Carl Olson, the NEWCA Conference was very enjoyable.

“I love any chance I can get to go to any writing center conference, but especially NEWCA,” Olson said. Olson said his favorite aspect of these conferences is discussing the social justice issues that go into running a college writing center. The workshops and sessions develop an understanding of the broader ways tutors are helping students, and Olson said he thoroughly enjoys partaking in those sessions and conversations.

Olson and travel companion Ronaldo Fontes, who is also a Bridgewater State and Massaoit Community College tutor, both praised KSC’s campus and town. They said they found their stay very enjoyable, and the campus extremely welcoming.

Both the director and assistant director of the Keene State College Center for Writing said they were extremely pleased with the success of the conference. Director Kate Tirabassi said that, having been to NEWCA Conferences since 2002, it was extremely interesting and rewarding to finally host one herself. Tirabassi said she was thrilled with the number of attendees for this conference, and received all positive feedback from the NEWCA Steering Committee. According to Tirabassi, KSC is “a beautiful venue and very central” for all of the northeast schools in attendance.

Assistant Director Cyndi Smith said she was also pleased to see positive results after all of the hard work organizers put into the conference. When Smith was initially informed that KSC would be hosting the conference, she said she was not aware of all of the work that goes into NEWCA.

Smith said, “I am very relieved and happy to say it went fantastic.” Smith added, “This was my sixth NEWCA Conference. I’ve attended as a tutor, an assistant director and now as a host. It has been very interesting to compare the three experiences.”

Smith said that one of the highlights of hosting the conference was all of the positive feedback from the attendees.

She said, “People approached me on Saturday evening saying that our writing center staff was very welcoming, professional and knowledgeable. That was a great feeling.”

Amy Donovan can be contacted at

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