Writing Innovation Symposium Archive


Just Writing: The 2020 Writing Innovation Symposium
January 30-31 at Marquette University 

Sponsored by the Social Innovation Initiative and Marquette University Libraries

As writers, we pivot regularly around "just." Whether an adjective or adverb, it's just four letters, and most of us have had at least one teacher or editor who forbade its use. Nevertheless, it helps us measure time and fit: Welcome, we're just getting started. Oh, that's just right. When we assign and teach, tutor, and research writing, we are guided by what is just, and as writers, we know well how writing can—but does not always or automatically—align with principled action and support efforts that yield knowledge, truth, and equity.

The 3rd annual Writing Innovation Symposium will showcase just writing, no more and no less. Our program features a plenary address by Dr. Paul Feigenbaum along with workshops, concurrent sessions, a display and maker session, and an unconference that explore the many valences and complexities of "just writing." Although our primary focus is college, we encourage participation from writing educators of all ranks, roles, and institutional affiliations. What we hold in common, along with our commitment to writers and writing, is our focus on concrete examples of writing instruction, writing research, and writing itself.



Our 2020 plenary speaker is Dr. Paul Feigenbaum. His address is titled "Welcome to 'Failure Club': Cultivating Generative Approaches to Failure through Writing Pedagogy": 

As entrepreneurs and design thinkers continually remind us, failure and innovation are two indelibly linked concepts. Innovation emerges from failure, and vice versa. Failure, of course, is also a form of feedback; it is, in fact, perhaps the most fundamental form of feedback, in that from their infancy, human beings learn from a process of continual trial and error. And yet, far from being seen as the primary pathway to learning, growth, and life success, failure has come to be associated with intense anxiety and fear among millions of students nationwide. The goal of this talk, then, is to help writing teachers better negotiate this basic contradiction. I will first address some of the cultural and educational factors behind our nation’s deeply mixed messaging about failure, focusing on the American system of meritocracy—or, what one might call Ameritocracy. Then I will draw on my own experiences helping students perceive failure as a generative process—which culminated in a course I called “Failure Club”—in order to weigh the benefits and costs of various “pro-failure” pedagogical strategies. Some of these have to do with grading policies, and some have to do with intentionally cultivating an environment that highlights social-emotional components of the learning, and failing, process.

Paul is Associate Professor of English at Florida International University, where he concentrates much of his attention on community writing. Currently he is Co-Editor of Community Literacy Journal, and he serves on the inaugural Board of Directors of the Coalition for Community Writing. He is the author of numerous articles and book chapters as well as Collaborative Imagination: Earning Activism through Literacy Education. He also recently served as scholar in residence at YES, a community-based youth empowerment organization in Pittsburgh, PA.



The 2020 Writing Innovation program includes two half-day workshops on Thursday morning from 9:00am-11:30am:

Just Feedback facilitated by Sara Heaser, Darci Thoune, Virginia Crank
Just because we assign writing doesn’t mean we always know how to give students feedback that will help them learn, and it’s challenging to teach language and discourse conventions without simply reinforcing them. This workshop can help! Learn more.


Just Rhetoric facilitated by Jenn Fishman, Renea Frey, Joe Janangelo, and Bob Whipple and sponsored by the Jesuit Conference on Rhetoric and Composition
Although rhetoric is an essential component of higher education, it is not always clear what counts as rhetoric instruction or who can—and should—be responsible for offering it. Join us for a series of discussions and activities designed to help you explore and expand your repertoire for rhetorical education. Learn more.


The program also includes two Friday workshops primarily for graduate students on Friday 9:00am and 10:30am.

Teaching History and Culture in the Writing Classroom
In her 2011 CCCC chair’s address, Gwendolyn Pough maintains that while instruction is important and valuable work, instructors should also teach students how to contextualize, and sometimes contest, sources (307; 308). This workshop invites everyone to participate in activities and discussions on how to do so, especially when teaching texts that require specific set of historical and cultural knowledge. Learn more.

 Just Course Design facilitated by Sebastian Bitticks, Gabrielle Belknap
Social justice cannot be a supplementary aspect of a writing course. Instead, the course design must account for how unjust systems (political, cultural, institutional) perpetuate inequality (Fraser) while putting into action an alternative. Instructors can avoid “issue fatigue” by empowering students to develop their skills for action around the conviction that there is always hope and the nature of the current world is not the only possibility (Freire). Learn more.


Please note: Pre-registration for all workshops is required. Participation is free to registered symposium participants and Marquette faculty, staff, and students; fees vary for off-campus colleagues and community members. Graduate students receive priority registration for Friday workshops; open places will be released to registered symposium participants on Thursday afternoon.




Sponsored by the Social Innovation Initiative and Marquette University Libraries


Writing is a vital means of connection. It is an invitation, and it is a dare. We know that writing can be a challenge. It can also offer and embody hope. When we assign writing in our classes, we create occasions to connect, and when we engage our students in learning about writing, we help them increase their capacity to make meaningful connections both within and well beyond academic contexts.

The 2019 symposium showcases our collective efforts to connect with students across the curriculum and the extracurriculum through writing. Contributors in all program categories—concurrent sessions, workshops, displays, and maker sessions—offer concrete examples drawn from their own experiences as students, teachers, and researchers. 

Who should attend?

Educators who wish to integrate writing into their pedagogy, curricula, and/or programming. Specifically, this event is for educators who:

  • Assign and teach writing as part of formal coursework within any subject area;
  • Lead co-curricular or extracurricular programming that involves writing in any way, shape, or form;
  • Participate in (or want to learn more about) social entrepreneurship and social innovation.

Join Symposium Workshops

Through January 15th, we are taking applications for all four symposium workshops: 

  • From Outcome to Assignment: Designing Aligned Writing Prompts
  • Writing as Visual Note-Taking 
  • Leveraging Disciplinary Threshold Concepts in the Teaching of Writing
  • Scaffolding Undergraduate Research through Writing 

Schedule Overview

Events will take place in the Beaumier Suites on the Lower Level of Raynor Library unless otherwise noted. 

Thursday, 1/31

9:00am      Welcome and Opening Plenary*

10:45am    Display Session*

12pm         Lunch

1:30pm      Concurrent Session #1

                  Workshop: From Outcomes to Assignment

                  Workshop: Writing as Visual Note-Taking

3:00pm      Concurrent Session #2

4:30pm      Reception

Friday, 2/1

9:00am      Concurrent Session #3

                  Workshop: Scaffolding Undergraduate Research Through Writing

                  Workshop: Leveraging Disciplinary Threshold Concepts

10:30am    Concurrent Session #4

                  Workshops, continued

1:15pm      Town Hall

2:30pm      Closing Plenary

4pm           WI Symposium Steering Committee, Open Meeting 

Symposium Leadership


Jenn Fishman, Associate Professor of English (Marquette University)

Elizabeth Gibes, Coordinator for the Digital Scholarship Lab (Marquette University)

Kelsey Otero, Associate Director of Social Innovation (Marquette University)


Steering Committee

Jenna Green Azab, Visiting Assistant Professor of English (Marquette University)

Virginia Crank, Professor of English (University of Wisconsin-La Crosse)

Jackielee Derks, Doctoral Candidate and Graduate Teaching Assistant in English (Marquette University)

Jessie Wirkus Haynes, Doctoral Candidate and Graduate Teaching Assistant in English (Marquette University)

Sara Heaser, Instructor of English (University of Wisconsin-La Cross)

Lara Karpenko, Associate Professor of English and Director of the Carroll University Center for the Humanities (Carroll University)

Maria Novotny, Assistant Professor of English (University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh)

Patrick Thomas, Associate Professor of English (University of Dayton)

Darci Thoune, Associate Professor of English (University of Wisconsin-La Crosse),

Ann Wallace, Associate Professor of English (New Jersey City University)

Shevaun Watson, Associate Professor of English and Director of the Writing Program (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee).

Writing Innovation Symposium 2019