The featured session Friday from 12:30 – 1:45 was a curiously titled one: “We are 113!” The program abstract indicated that “The purpose of this panel is to embrace the call of cluster 113 by breaking traditional boundaries.” Submitted to the #113 category, newly created this year by Malea Powell to encourage outside-the-box thinking, this panel wowed the crowd and might just be the best panel of the conference. The format: 10 speakers, 5 minutes each, 20 slides per person. Rapid fire delivery. Boundary-breaking topics. Each speaker detailed parts of his or her personal life to connect to how they have transcended boundaries and not conformed to traditional rules of the discipline.
Shelley Rodrigo opened the panel with an introduction to the concept: Rhet/comp, as a field, has rules. We are placed into categories based on our research interests, admin duties, and aspirations. But we need to break these rules and transcend boundaries to be truly successful. We should embrace collaboration, or as she and Susan Miller-Cochran call it, be partners in academic crime. We are more than we study, and it is time we embrace blurring boundaries. This panel – We are 113! – is a call to do so.
Next up: Paul Kei Matsuda, who discussed how his scholarship in second language studies and writing has transcended boundaries and created new boundaries, the field of second language writing. The field also encompasses/considers many others: technical writing, global professional writing, rhetoric, basic writing, and writing program administration. His takeaway: at this point, we have enthusiasm and experience with the field, but now we need expertise that can truly transcend boundaries. And that we are 113!
Cynthia Selfe held the crowd captive with her discussion of identity and how we relate to each other. She says we can only know ourselves through relating to others, and that discourse is a central way in which we do so. We need to be open to transcending boundaries to relate to people in news ways and new people in new ways. By doing so, we are 113!
Greg Glau, known for his work in basic writing, brought in his previous work in sales to talk about how teachers are really in the business of selling, and that teachers make good salespeople. We sell our students how much our class is going to benefit their studies and life. His work traces across all three public universities in Arizona, and he has now come full circle with both his sales and teaching work, saying that he is now in the business of helping his teachers learn how to sell what they are teaching. We need to transcend the boundary of teaching and see it in new ways. If we do this, we are 113!
Jay Dolmage presented a science fiction of sorts, asking us to imagine what the 4Cs would look like in 2020. He began by offering several possible – yet scary – scenarios: at the Palin Presidential Conference Center in Alaska, on a cruise ship in Hawaii, the SS CCCC, hosted by Pearson-MacMillan-Bedford-Cengage-McGraw-Hill-et al. publishing company, with a conference so large and disparate that many could neither afford to go nor get accepted. A place for the select few. These scary scenarios contrast with what Dolmage says we can do instead: have an inclusive, increasingly affordable, and infinitely accessible conference for all involved. As our discipline grows, we have the opportunity to make this a truly great professional conference by emphasizing access. We can do this by putting more and more content online, choosing affordable locations for the conference, and encouraging more contact and interaction, not less. His vision for CCCC 2020 is one that we can achieve – and we can all be 113!
Kathy Yancey followed with a discussion of her path to rhet/comp scholarship. As a young girl, she wanted to be an actress, then an architect, and went to school and became a teacher. She reckons that if she had attended school at another time, she would have studied weather, fascinated by use of patterns and the unpredictability of it. Instead, she’s now in the business of big ideas and always trying to come up with the next great one. This has led to many projects over the years, too many for her presentation or me to list here, but most recently the Center for Everyday Writing, a new initiative at Florida State. By tackling academic projects and thinking of big ideas, we are 113!
Chris Anson brought down the house by telling the narrative of his childhood, a mix of identities: a nature and animal lover, a writer, a wannabe veterinarian, an English child living in France and then the United States. His identity broke boundaries and he struggled to transcend them in school, resisting his American teachers’ desire for conformity to American spelling. In moments of brilliant openness and hilarity, he showed us how we all have mixed identity that transcends boundaries – that we are all 113.
Lamiyah Bahrainwala also told a narrative of the experiences that led her to study at Michigan State University. Born in India, she migrated to Dubai as a child, going to an all-girl’s private Catholic school until she went to the American University in the Middle East. It was there that some of her friends, whose L1 was Arabic, but who wrote predominantly in English, created a new language in order to reconcile their desire to write in Arabic but having to conform to English coding/writing online. Fascinated by the language, she now studies it at MSU, asking questions about how people are reclaiming their language while also contesting boundaries. They are 113!
Finally, Kati Fargo and Kevin Brock, both of NCSU’s CRDM program, introduced how their work and our program contests boundaries every day. Interdisciplinary in nature, CRDM brings together communication and rhetoric scholarship while asking questions through the lens of digital media and technology. We are fostering collaboration across topics and fields. They are writing program administrators, grant writers, graduate students, teachers, and friends. Our program blurs and transcends boundaries. WE ARE 113!
The panel ended with smart questions exploring how we can apply 113 to our work. The panelists are making a call for us to break, blur, transcend, and collaborate across boundaries to improve their field and make our scholarship even better. The panelists report struggling with the concept of first, unsure of how exactly to break boundaries and call for change. Their message was clear: we are 113!