Date: Wednesday, April 7, 2021 from 10 AM to 4:15 PM

Program: Please see the 2021 IWCA Online Collaborative Program for information about individual sessions.

Mode: Synchronous Zoom Sessions and Asynchronous Videos. For guidelines on developing an accessible live or asynchronous presentation, see the IWCA Remote Presenter Access Guide.

Registration: $15 for professionals; $5 for students. Visit to register. 

  • If you are not a member, you first will need to join the organization. Visit to join the organization.
    • Student membership is $15.
    • Professional membership is $50. 
    • Because our plenary session is particularly relevant for WPAs, we invite non-writing center WPAs to join the organization at the student membership rate ($15) for a one-day membership to attend the Collaborative. After joining, they will need to register for the event at the professional rate ($15).

Plenary Session by Courtney Adama Wooten, Jacob Babb, Kristi Murray Costello, and Kate Navickas, editors of The Things We Carry: Strategies for Recognizing and Negotiating Emotional Labor in Writing Program Administration 

Chairs: Dr. Genie Giaimo, Middlebury College, and Yanar Hashlamon, Ohio State University

Theme: Contact Zones in Writing Center Work 

In the ideal sense, contact zones are spaces where we find consensus and commonalities among differences. In reality, we aim to but perhaps do not obtain them. Amidst the current trauma experienced by migrants in our political climate, it’s important to recognize that spaces of growth and opportunity for some are spaces of exploitation and exclusion for others. One group’s land of opportunity is another’s dispossession.  

Keeping this in mind, we propose that contact zones are an apt model through which to explore the tension in writing center work and theory. Contact zones are “social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power” (Pratt 607). In Writing Center work, contact zones have been deployed by a number of scholars over the last two decades, framing centers themselves as “borderlands,” or linguistic, multicultural, and interdisciplinary contact zones (Severino 1994; Bezet 2003; Sloan 2004; Monty 2016). Other scholars have framed writing centers as critical and postcolonial contact zones for marginalized writers to position themselves in relation to dominant discourses  (Bawarshi and Pelkowski 1999; Wolff 2000; Cain 2011). Romeo García (2017) writes that Writing Center contact zones are too often presented as static and represent inequality as fixed or ahistorical conflicts to be resolved or accommodated (49). To create more just spaces, we need to examine the tensions in our work and confront contact zones as shifting and historically grounded. Histories and spaces of injustice call our attention to how institutional corporatization and austerity shapes our labor; how practice and theory can be at odds with each other in our work; how our most vulnerable workers and clients experience writing centers and writing center practice; and how organizational structures affect ethical engagement in writing center pedagogy. In other words, we must consider how contact zones within and surrounding writing centers, such as the broader institution, the State, the government, and other power structures affect our labor and our practice.