Precarity and pluckiness: A message from in-coming CWCA/ACCR President, Stevie Bell

Vol. 4, No. 1 (Summer 2023)

Stevie Bell, President, CWCA/ACCR

Thanks to all for the warm welcome to the CWCA/ACCR’s presidency. I come to this position with humility, a readiness to serve the Canadian community of writing centre professionals, and immense gratitude for  the contributions of my fellow Board members. This community is near and dear to my heart. I’ve grown up in writing centres, starting my career as a peer tutor at Wilfrid Laurier’s Writing Centre back in 2004  before becoming an instructor at the University of Waterloo’s Writing Lab and English Language Proficiency Exam program as a graduate student. When I graduated from UW with a dissertation project centered on how student writers learn to engage with sources (often despite their course directors’ assignment designs and their institution’s policing of academic honesty), I was privileged to join the world of writing centres with some permanence at York University’s Writing Department. I attended the CWCA/ACCR’s first independent conference in Victoria and was eager to get involved a few years later in a leadership capacity as Digital Media Chair. Since then, I have committed countless evenings to this amazing organization working in service to my friends and colleagues across Canada.

A portrait photo of Stevie Bell in an office.
Stevie Bell, President, CWCA/ACCR

Given the current context of writing centre work in Canada, I’ve spent the last few weeks reflecting on what my service as CWCA/ACCR president might look like. I’ve begun with a simple question: What is the current context? It strikes me that I’m not sure, and that my reflection can only be based on my experience because of the dearth of national research about our field of practice. For this reason, I see my efforts in the president role addressing this gap. I will be exploring whether and how the CWCA/ACCR’s leadership might involve longitudinal, REB-approved, national research to document and track trends and member experiences. The resulting data could help us all in our efforts to be responsive to the needs of student writers.

Of course, capacity for expanding the Association’s work is always an issue. What can the volunteers who serve on the board manage in a given year? To date, the CWCA/ACCR has served to manage a community listserv and then oversee the organization of an annual conference―one that, in my opinion, continues to evolve and develop to meet the needs of our members. In recent years, the board has supported the launch of the CWCR/RCCR blog, helped craft and adopt position statements, supported its regional associations, and contributed to anti-racism and diversification initiatives, for example. This work has stretched the capacity of board members who offer their lunch hours, evenings, and weekends to the organization’s leadership.

As an Association, how do we add more to our plate?

The answer, as usual, lies in the wealth of energy and talent within the CWCA/ACCR’s membership. The CWCA/ACCR belongs to its members. It is true that the board is a group of members working in service to the membership, but this small group of volunteers does not (and should not) work in isolation. I’m continuously amazed by the leadership members offer as conference chairs and committee members, DW/R special issue editors, CWCR/RCCR blog editors (and writers), authors of position statements, and community and regional association organizers. The Board works to support these efforts and, in my experience, is continuously concerned with how to engage an even wider group of members.

The success of member engagement efforts are sometimes limited by the reality that CWCA/ACCR is largely a community of precarious workers. Writing centre professionals often find themselves in non-permanent positions within under-resourced units that are positioned at the margins of scholarly culture. Few among us are in positions with allowances for research activities or service contributions to scholarly associations. Our membership also includes the many phenomenal students who work as peer tutors and writing consultants during their studies. This cohort is perhaps the busiest among the membership and the most transient. In these many ways, the CWCA/ACCR community is rich with experience, diverse perspectives, and, perhaps, pluckiness, but it is worth acknowledging that it is threatened by the very precarity experienced by its individual members. I enter my term as president asking how to make it easier for members to get involved, even in large-scale projects like conference organization and blog editing, or, perhaps, a national survey of the field.

It is with energy and optimism that I enter into this role as CWCA/ACCR president. I am looking forward to the opportunity to work with, alongside, and in service to you all. Together, we are the most wonderful community among all of Canadian higher education (in my humble opinion).

What would enable and/or inspire you to get more involved in the work of the CWCA/ACCR? Let me know at!