Workshops & Editors Roundtable

W1: “Mental Modeler: A Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping (FCM) Software Tool for Collecting and Standardizing Community Knowledge for Decision-Making”

W2. “Cultivating Community College-University Relations across Writing Ecologies”

W3. “Developing Networks through Writing Centers and Writing Across the Curriculum”

W4. “Place-Based Literacy Education in Rural Communities: Re-envisioning and Re-inventing Connections to Communities of Practice”

W5: “From Syracuse to Syria: Grant Writing as Tool to Grow Community Projects”

W6. “Contemplative Practices for Community Work”

W7. “Leading Public Creative Writing Workshops for Social Justice”

Editors Roundtable and Discussion

W8. “Blues You Can Use: Protest Songwriting Workshop”

W9. “Microaffiliation: Countering Microaggressions across Campus and Community Spaces”

W10: “Exploring, Curating, and Creating: Using Digital Rhetorical Tools for Archival Work”

W11. “‘What Is To Be Done?’: A Writing Democracy Workshop”



W1: “Mental Modeler: A Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping (FCM) Software Tool for Collecting and Standardizing Community Knowledge for Decision-Making”
Alison Singer, Michigan State University

In this demonstration we present the architecture and various uses of a software program called Mental Modeler ( and discuss the benefits and limitations of the tool to facilitate scenario planning and promote learning among stakeholders. The architecture of the program is designed to allow stakeholders a flexible way to transition their disparate, loosely-connected, and largely qualitative knowledge about a complex issue into a tractable format which can be validated through the generation of empirical evidence.

The software is based on fuzzy cognitive mapping (FCM), a parameterized form of concept mapping used to develop qualitative static models of complex systems that are translated into semi-quantitative dynamic models for scenario analysis. Bart Kosko originally developed FCM in 1986 as a way to structure expert knowledge using a soft systems programming approach that is “fuzzy,” thought to be similar to the way that the human mind makes decisions.

FCM represents knowledge by defining three characteristics of a system:

  •  The components of the system
  •  The positive or negative relationships between the components
  •  The degree of influence that one component can have on another, defined using qualitative weightings (e.g., high, medium, or low influence)

The analytical mechanics of FCM are based on examining the structure and function of concept maps, using graph theory-based analyses of pairwise structural relationships between the concepts included in a model. These models can be used to examine perceptions of an environmental or social problem or to model a complex system where uncertainty is high and there is little empirical data available.

By providing workshop participants with sample data and web-based access to the software, we will create models, run scenarios, and identify additional software functionality. The workshop participants will first have an introduction to the software and its capabilities, and then together we will make a single FCM about an issue chosen by the participants. They will then have the opportunity to break into small groups and develop more detailed models, run scenarios, and discuss the potential outcomes.

Mental Modeler has been used with community groups around the world to address a variety of issues, by bringing together stakeholders with diverse perspectives and interests in complex socio-environmental problems. We have most recently used it with residents of Flint, Michigan as they deal with water contamination, and with fire managers and local residents in Ashland, Oregon as they search for solutions to prevent catastrophic wildfires. Mental Modeler presents a unique opportunity that allows groups of people to make their mental models explicit and sharable, leading to learning and insight. It allows ideas to be visualized and turned into computer models, providing groups with simulations that can help them think through the consequences of any potential decisions.

W2. “Cultivating Community College-University Relations across Writing Ecologies”
Christie Toth, University of Utah
Andrea Malouf, Salt Lake Community College; former director of Community Writing Center
Jennifer Courtney, Salt Lake Community College
Shauna Edson, Graduate Student Co-Researcher
Kelly Corbray, Transfer Student Co-Researcher
Anthony Magro III, Transfer Student Co-Researcher
Sandra Salazar-Hernandez, Transfer Student Co-Researcher
Claudia Sauz, Transfer Student Co-Researcher

In this workshop, faculty and students from Salt Lake Community College’s English Department and the University of Utah’s Department of Writing & Rhetoric Studies will invite attendees to reflect on community college-university relations within their local writing ecologies. First, workshop leaders will discuss their own evolving efforts to understand and support students’ movements across Salt Lake City’s writing ecology. They will speak from their various locations about how cultivating these inter-institutional relations has informed their understanding of and engagement with the city’s broader writing ecology. Workshop leaders will ask attendees to consider the specific histories and dynamics between their own community colleges and universities, identifying existing resources, missed opportunities, and possibilities for collaboration. Ultimately, participants will think together about how we might reimagine community college-university relations at local, regional, and national scales in order to better serve diverse student writers and the communities we share.

W3. “Developing Networks through Writing Centers and Writing Across the Curriculum”
Allen Brizee, Loyola University Maryland,
Tom Deans, University of Connecticut,
Jaclyn Wells, University of Alabama Birmingham,

Enacting community engagement through campus writing programs presents a range of affordances and challenges. This workshop focuses especially on creative possibilities for writing centers and WAC/WID initiatives. To guide our inquiry, we’ll ask a series of questions: How might we develop university, neighborhood, or regional networks keyed to community writing? What is possible and feasible? How do you find the right partners? How can a busy WPA or faculty member find the time and funding for such projects? How might we translate such work into publishable research? To answer these questions, we’ll present three brief case studies of how we have negotiated such questions, all related to writing centers or writing across the curriculum programs but each grounded in different institutional circumstances. Among our current and past appointments, we have led writing programs and community projects at universities large and small, urban and rural, public and private, land grant and liberal arts. After presenting the case studies, we’ll lead interactive discussions of how to translate your ideas into action and negotiate your own institutional circumstances.

W4. “Place-Based Literacy Education in Rural Communities: Re-envisioning and Re-inventing Connections to Communities of Practice”
Cynthia Miecznikowski, University of North Carolina at Pembroke,
Laura Staal, University of North Carolina at Pembroke,

Informed by the work of scholar-teachers of place-based pedagogies (e.g., David Sobel, Robert Brooke), this workshop design is based on National Writing Project Rural Sites efforts to engage teachers in rural communities—and faculty at regional universities serving rural communities—in collaborations to develop supplemental place-based reading and writing curricula that support and enhance public and private school, grade-level standards.

Specifically, informed by Robert E. Brooke’s edited collection Rural Voices: Place Conscious Education and the Teaching of Writing and the work of David Sobel and others (e.g., “Place-based Education: Connecting Classroom and Community”) and fueled by our own experiences developing and nurturing service-learning partnerships between our regional University and feeder schools, this collaborative workshop will engage, guide, and challenge conference attendees in brainstorming and planning their own place-based community writing efforts, whether one time events (e.g., National Day of Writing, Reading Marathons, Poetry Slams, etc.) or integrated curricula (e.g., service-learning courses or partnerships).

In the spirit of the National Writing Project, we would like to offer and guide this workshop as a vehicle for conference attendees to exchange ideas they have brought to the conference, expand and extend ideas they have gleaned at the conference and in their research and practice, and to leave with an action plan for launching or enriching their own place-based, ecologically infused and informed pedagogies in their home institutions and disciplines.

As workshop facilitators, we will actively engage our audience with personal story, research from our fields, and most importantly collaborative discussions with workshop participants who have also been involved in literacy, community writing, and/or service-learning activities.  The sharing that occurs in this workshop will help to create a strong network of engagement.

We will provide materials (e.g., paper, graphic organizers, annotated bibliographies of resources on place-based education and eco-composition) for all participants as well as other materials (e.g., Post-It note posters, etc.) to facilitate the small and whole group collaborations we plan to conduct.  Attendees should leave this workshop with ideas, logistical information, and scholarly, empirical, and anecdotal evidence to support their action plans and win the support of colleagues and community partners at their home institutions.

W5: “From Syracuse to Syria: Grant Writing as Tool to Grow Community Projects”
Steve Parks, Syracuse University

“From Syracuse to Syria” will focus on three distinct community partnership projects: New City Community PressThe FWWCP Archives, and Syrians for Truth in Justice. The session will provide a brief discussion of the grant strategies used to initiate, develop, and sustain these projects, with sample language from each grant provided. Break-out sessions will then follow, focused on specific grant strategies and skills.

W6. “Contemplative Practices for Community Work”
Stefani Briggs, Community College of Baltimore County
Paula Mathieu, Boston College

Writing projects in and with diverse communities can be exhilarating and stressful. Interpersonal dysfunction, latent discrimination, and displaced personal pain can hamper or derail community-writing projects before they have even had a chance to realize their potential. In this workshop, we will discuss and practice contemplative tools for self-care, staying present during difficult conversations, and how to reduce group reactivity and increase compassion, creativity and love. Yes, we said love. And we mean it. Community work should be about love and compassion–come practice, learn and teach with us.

W7. “Leading Public Creative Writing Workshops for Social Justice”
Rose Gorman, NY Writers Coalition / The Tuxedo Project, Marygrove College
Aaron Zimmerman, NY Writers Coalition

NY Writers Coalition Inc. (NYWC) provides free creative writing workshops throughout New York City towards one key goal: To create an inclusive city, one that recognizes the diversity of voices within it and honors the lives and stories of all of its citizens. In this workshop, writers, educators, and teaching artists are invited to engage with and practice the powerful and unique workshop method that has been employed in over 1,200 NYWC writing workshops for youth and adults each year. Putting pen to paper in a supportive environment, participants will tap into what inspires them (inside and out) and leave with the tools to build community through the art of creative writing. NYWC’s workshop method is designed to reduce competition among writers and allows people of all backgrounds, ages, experience levels, and genres to work together and grow as writers. This workshop seeks to a) identify creative writing as an act of social justice in the classroom and beyond; b) envision the power of creative writing to unify communities surrounding schools; c) provide resources and guidance to those interested in encouraging creative writing and personal storytelling within marginalized communities and creating opportunities for their stories to be heard by wider audiences.

Editors Roundtable and Discussion
Katie Comer and Kelly Bradbury, Harlot
Paul Feigenbaum and John Warnock, Community Literacy Journal
Laurie Gries, enculturation
Tara Lockhart and Juli Parrish, Literacy in Composition Studies
Deborah Mutnick and Laurie Grobman, Reflections
Steve Parks, Studies in Writing and Rhetoric, NCTE
Jessica Shumake and Saul Hernandez, Community Literacy Journal, Book Review and Keynote Essay Editors

W8. “Blues You Can Use: Protest Songwriting Workshop”
Brian Laidlaw, University of Denver,

“In the dark times, will there also be singing?”
“Yes, there will also be singing. About the dark times.” (Bertolt Brecht)

As times grow darker, many writers feel a responsibility to tackle our social and political climate in their creative work. Texts of this type have historically played a crucial role in resistance movements – but at the same time, such texts are notoriously difficult to write! In this interactive workshop, Grammy-credited folksinger (and current PhD candidate in Poetry at the University of Denver) Brian Laidlaw will look at successful examples of the form – protest songs, circle-songs, and chants – and identify some “best practices” and “pitfalls” for writing politically-engaged music. Participants will then have the opportunity to compose, with guidance from the facilitator and from fellow members of the group, their own lyrical responses to the times at hand.

W9. “Microaffiliation: Countering Microaggressions across Campus and Community Spaces”
Rasha Diab, The University of Texas at Austin,
Beth Godbee, Marquette University,

We write at the beginning of 2017–a time of hope and despair, potential and uncertainty. With increasing precarity, it’s imperative to revisit calls for a more serious investment in justice (e.g., Cushman; Gilyard; Goldblatt; Powell; Richardson; Villanueva). Heeding these calls and responding to the CFP, we propose an interactive workshop that argues for, explains, and illustrates microaffiliation, or intentionally relating through relational communication. We coin this term as a rhetorical intervention into everyday microaggressions.

In this workshop, we (1) introduce and define microaffiliation; (2) explore its potential for countering microaggressions, or everyday and pervasive insults, dismissals, and hurts that feed into injustice; and (3) use cases from a community-based writing course, “Writing for Social Justice,” to unpack microaffiliative responses to microaggressions. We change the typical order of identifying problems and then proposing/applying solutions to shortcut the momentum of stuck-ness that results from staying in the realm of the problem.

First, we explain the need for microaffiliation, which entails choosing to build and sustain associational ties toward more equitable relations. When faced with increased incidents of microaggressions, we need intentional relational work–networking, forming alliances, and standing in solidarity with people within and across group memberships. Resisting naive celebrations of relations, we need also to identify the strategies of “divide to conquer” and “conquer to divide”: these strategies engineer and sustain divisive, demeaning relations (relations of oppression and marginalization). Microaffiliation intervenes through micro-actions (e.g., talk, gesture, embodied action, self-talk) that enact a reflective stance toward the other, particularly by people with relative institutional power.

Second, we situate this call for microaffiliation (the term, theory, and action) in relation to cross-disciplinary research on microaggressions (e.g., Nadal; Solórzano, Ceja, and Yosso; Sue; Sue et al.; Young). Often subtle and in fleeting moments, microaggressions are easy to dismiss as inconsequential; they confound us in ways that impede response. Yet, like interest in a bank, microaggressions compound so that vast inequities grow, resulting in a whole host of harms. To contextualize these problems, we share with participants references to microaggressions across academic, workplace, and community settings. As illustrations, microaggressions are compiled through blogs and tweets (e.g., @microaggressive, #EverydaySexism, #NotYourAsianSidekick); documented through maps and mobile apps (e.g., DeWitte); and satirized using social media (e.g., Fernandes). Bringing attention to microaggressions helps us understand these everyday and cumulative indignities.

Third, to show how microaffiliation can counter microaggression, we share scenes from teaching collaboration with two community organizations: the YWCA and America’s Black Holocaust Museum. These scenes involve students, educators, and community partners rewriting microaggressions: (1) giving feedback on a video project in which white students positioned white speakers before speakers of color and (2) addressing how white students (mis)represented “Breaking News” of black news sources. By unpacking these and other scenes, workshop participants will reflect on (1) who most needs to respond to microaggressions–and when, where, how, and why; (2) why microaffiliation needs both in-the-moment and planned response; and (3) how to revisit moments of experiencing/enacting microaggressions and then rehearse intervention through microaffiliation.

W10: “Exploring, Curating, and Creating: Using Digital Rhetorical Tools for Archival Work”
Tarez Samra Graban, Florida State University
Michael Neal, Florida State University
Courtney Rivard, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

This workshop draws on the presenters’ experiences in researching and creating digital archives in order to do two things: (1) address the role of rhetoric in both constructing and deconstructing the power structures implicit in institutional archives; and (2) offer specific digital tools to address these uneven power structures. The workshop will be divided into the following three segments: (1) In “Understanding the Rhetoric-Power Relationship in Archives” discussion leaders will briefly describe their experiences with archival projects to demonstrate the critical role of rhetoric in identifying issues of collection, access, circulation, and archival organization. (2) In “Surveying and Critiquing Useful Digital Tools” discussion leaders will demonstrate a set of digital tools that can be implemented for archival re/creation with students, university, or community members. (3) In “Working Together” discussion leaders will invite participants to share specific issues and digital tools that they have faced when dealing with archival dilemmas.  

W11. “‘What Is To Be Done?’: A Writing Democracy Workshop”
Shannon Carter, Texas A&M-Commerce
John Duffy, Notre Dame University
Carmen Kynard, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Deborah Mutnick, Long Island University, Brooklyn

In 1902, Vladimir Lenin published “What Is To Be Done: Burning Questions of Our Movement,” in which he argued:

Class political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from without; that is, only from outside the economic struggle, from outside the sphere of relations between workers and employers. The sphere from which alone it is possible to obtain this knowledge is the sphere of relationships (of all classes and strata) to the state and the government, the sphere of the interrelations between all classes.

We humbly cite Lenin not because we have the answer to “what is to be done” but rather to suggest that we are at a historic conjuncture of forces defined by a similar exigency and fraught with some of the same and many new burning questions.

In the first part of the workshop, four panelists will address the rhetorical exigency of this historical conjuncture with respect to three of its defining touchstones: (1) neoliberal higher education, (2) the troubling emergence of the Professor Watchlist and the notion of “alternative facts,” a.k.a., the “post-truth” era, and (3) the rise of white nationalism. The rest of the workshop will be spent debating and deliberating possible courses of rhetorical, pedagogical, and material action in response to this moment of crisis. Our objective is not to end up with any definitive answer to “what is to be done” but rather to move closer to potential, concrete actions we might take—individually and collectively, on our own campuses, in our own communities, and across the nation—to challenge the unfolding crisis of neoliberal capitalism and the geopolitical shift from post-World War II U.S. hegemony to a new world order.