top of page
  • Writer's pictureSpencer Bennington

Double Conference Report!

Hello again everyone--I've missed you! It's been a couple weeks since my last post. Conference travels do tend to throw a wrench into regularly scheduled events/appointments. That said, I'd like to share what I've been up to in the past two weeks and give you a better idea of what my ATTW and CCCC conference experience was like and, of course, how I spread martial arts to the darkest corners of Pittsburgh.

I knew I was a stranger in a strange land when I ordered a salad on the first night and was given this...monstrosity

To start, I feel I should give my impression of what these conferences mean in my field. ATTW is the Association for Teachers of Technical writing and they hold an annual conference which always precedes 4C's (Conference on College Composition and Communication). The ATTW pre-conference was something I imagined as being a smaller gathering of writing instructors with more niche interests and (probably) more ties to industry. This impression proved to be correct. The one thing I didn't necessarily anticipate is the warm reception veteran scholars and practitioners would bestow upon a fairly green graduate student like myself.

From our initial registration to the final days of the conference, scholars from all across the country and at varying levels of their career were so generous with their time and wisdom. I felt especially welcomed by the tenured/tenure track faculty who participated in a "Speed Dating" event designed for graduate students to learn more about the job market. In short, ATTW was packed with welcoming, kind, and wildly intelligent professionals. What's more, many of them decided to come to our presentation!

I had the distinct pleasure of presenting on a panel with Dr. Lisa Meloncon (AKA El Jefe Shrimp), Josh Rea (AKA Dad), and Tanya Zarlengo (AKA Tizzy) on what Tizzy has theorized in her dissertation as the "programattic network." What this means, in general, is viewing writing programs more holistically as a series of reciprocal relationships between program outcomes, classroom dynamics, faculty professional development, and the trends in the field at large. This view allows for administrators to iterate writing programs more dynamically, rapidly, and for reasons other than simple top-down student assessment. In short, we believe that Tanya's model allows for more sustainable continued growth for writing programs who wish to best prepare students for higher education and future career demands.

How does this presentation fit in with Rhetorical Roundhouse? I'd argue that anytime we can look at something large and complex more holistically we are embracing a more Daoist worldview, particularly when we stop seeing institutions like writing programs as static and more as a constantly changing system of moving and interrelated actors. Furthermore, my segment is specifically drawing on the eight principles of Palgwe integral to a deeper understanding of Tae Kwon Do pumsae as a way to conceive of faculty professional development through mindfulness and critically reflexive habit practices.

This is the crew you'd want to take professionalization advice from, amirite?

If you didn't have the opportunity to attend and hear all of our wonderfully shrimpy ideas, fear not! You can see the whole presentation in the video below (just click on Josh Super-Shrimp Rea to see the whole thing):

After a successful panel presentation, I had Wednesday-Saturday to schmooze and network until my solo presentation on Saturday at 4C's. I like to think I used this time wisely...

Visited the original location of the world famous Primanti Bros sandwich shop

Indulged in pastrami and a pickle

Danced, sang, made new friends...

Captured a Josh Rea in his natural habitat

Kicked it rhetorically over Pitt's skyline

Grimaced in the face of morning snow...

And then, before I knew it, Saturday was upon me! Being that I was scheduled to present at the last time slot on the last day of the conference, I didn't have high expectations for a large audience. In fact, much like myself, two of the other panelists didn't even know they had been accepted until a week before the event. As such, they couldn't attend. Saturday morning I prepared myself to stand in the front of a conference room designed to seat around 100 people and give my entire presentation to one other person, someone who would then present their ideas to me as their only audience member.

As it turns out, I was in luck! People came to see my presentation and (I think) even enjoyed it. My impression of C's when first going into this was that it's this giant mega-conference with scholars research agendas stretching from one extreme to the next. In this way, I was, once again, not wrong. What I failed to realize, however, is that because of its size, C's presentations lack a sense of audience engagement that I was expecting. The theme for this years conference was "performance" pedagogy. In that vein, I decided to make my presentation performative and as interactive as I could. I'm not sure my audience was quite ready for that lol. That said, they were all incredibly good sports and asked some really valuable questions after the fact.

In a nutshell, I was presenting much of the same information that I did at ATTW, only this time, the principles of Palgwe were to be embodied by student writers in a series of prompts as habit-practices. The bulk of the presentation deals with how martial arts can be conceived of as rhetorical (both to outside audiences as well as internally) and how pumsae operate as a means of uptake for certain mindfulness traits.

To see my presentation, check out the video below!

What I learned in giving this presentation is something pretty simple: I've been invested in this niche research for so long that I'm beginning to talk above potentially interested audiences. To that effect, I have resolved to make a series of introductory video shorts to help newcomers gain a better understanding of what it is I'm trying to do here. The first one will simply start with this premise: "Martial arts are rhetorical practices" and dive deep on what exactly that means. My hope is to build bridges between scholars in martial arts studies and rhetoric and, more importantly, open the door to non-academic audiences to better understand the connections between Tae Kwon Do and communication/persuasion/language.

When it was all said and done, Josh and I celebrated St. Patty's day with good libations and way too many pierogies.

Now that's a good doge

Yes, the pierogies are covered with BBQ, Buff chicken, and Chicken parm. Yes, there's a pierogi in my bloody mary.

At the end of a cold long trip to the airport, I realized two very important things:

First: there are enough bridges in Pittsburgh to assemble a Transfortmers style robot named Arch

And second: Mr. Rogers' legacy lives on in the ways my academic community embodies hospitality. I'm proud to be a part of that.

In many ways, I truly feel like this trip was less about me getting on stage and being a showman (I do love peacocking I must admit) and much MORE about getting to know my academic neighbors. I'm thankful for that, especially for the time I got to spend with various scholars involved in the Martial Arts Special Interest Group. In a blog coming soon, I'd like to talk more about those folks and how they incorporate their own martial arts experience into research, writing, and teaching. For now, I'll simply sign off and say how happy I am to be back in Florida!

Thanks for reading and checking out the conference videos. As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or if you'd like a copy of the handouts I distributed at the conferences.


57 views0 comments


bottom of page