History

The vision for the Online Writing Centers Association (OWCA) began in November 2017 at the International Writing Centers Association (IWCA) conference in Chicago.

After meeting at IWCA 2017, Cynthia Pengilly, Jenelle M. Dembsey, Beth Nastachowski, and Sarah Prince decided to combine their efforts to advance scholarly and professional conversations about online writing center (OWC) work. They had often been alone in their OWC work and longed for a vibrant community that would keep them connected to other OWC scholars and practitioners beyond annual conferences. Over the next 8 months, these four scholars worked to initially co-found the Online Writing Centers (OWC) Community–a virtual hub that would help establish online writing support as a professional area of study.

Between 2018 and 2020, the OWC Community provided a range of resources and support for the writing center community, including:

  • Launching OnlineWritingCenters.org, a website coded and designed by Cynthia Pengilly
  • Curating a searchable database of scholarship on online writing center work
  • Hosting special interest groups at IWCA
  • Hosting free Virtual Conversation Hours
  • Facilitating a listserv to connect professionals around online writing center work
  • Developing a mentorship program, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to connect writing center administrators with volunteer mentors

In 2020, the OWC Community founders decided to transition from a virtual hub to a professional association that could better support writing center professionals during COVID-19 and ensure permanence in the writing center community. Elle Tyson joined as a co-coordinator in August 2020 and helped to draft articles of incorporation and bylaws, establish an Executive Board, and apply for legal status. The OWC Community legally became the OWCA on August 29, 2020. Despite this new formal status, what remains consistent is the community’s founding belief that online writing support can effectively facilitate learning and requires specific conversations, theories, and practices. The OWCA continues our commitment to this belief by providing community support for scholarship, virtual discussion, and mentorship alongside professional membership.

Timeline

  • 2017, November: the idea for the OWC Community is formed at IWCA 2017 in Chicago
  • 2018, July 23: the OWC Community website is officially announced
  • 2020, August 29: the OWCA becomes legally incorporated in the State of Ohio
  • 2020, September 16: the Executive Board votes in the OWCA bylaws
  • 2020, October 13: the OWCA is officially announced to the writing center community