Preview: September Sessions 2017

Preview: September Sessions 2017

You might look at the picture above and think, What's Tom doing? What's with the elephant? You'll just have to come to September Sessions to find out!

That's right ... after months of planning, conversations, and preparations, one of our biggest events of the year is upon us: the PWR September Sessions.  From Thursday, September 14 until Tuesday, September 19, PWR instructors will meet for four days of intense professional development and community-building.  This year's theme is Cultural Rhetorics, and the Septembrists -- Christine Alfano, Shay Brawn, Jenae Cohn, Norah Fahim, Tom Freeland, Mark Gardiner, Chris Kamrath, Helen Lie, Sarah Pittock, Ruth Starkman, and Cassie Wright (with extra special help from Gabrielle Moyer!) -- have worked hard to develop a set of sessions that will engage instructors in theoretical and pedagogical issues related to this focus.

There are a few aspects of September Sessions this year that make them different than years past, so here's a brief preview of what you can expect:

  • The Theme - Our Cultural Rhetorics theme turns our attention to the rhetorical traditions and practices of groups of People of Color (POC) and other diverse populations, the idea being that such conversations are essential to help us continue to grow as scholar/teachers and to work effectively with our similarly diverse student population.  Supported financially by a grant Adam secured for the program and supported intellectually by the interests of our instrutors -- and made even more relevant by our current cultural context -- the focus on Cultural Rhetorics during September Sessions is just the start of a longer conversation that will extend across the year (and beyond).  During these four September days, we'll begin the work of this intellectual inquiry and start to imagine how attention to rhetorics (plural), can transform our scholarship and our teaching.  In other words: it's not just about Aristotle anymore (not that it ever was, really ...)
  • The First Day - Our first day will be a little different from years past in that it will have the feel of an academic conference, complete with a keynote by Adam and a visit with five (yes, five) cultural rhetorics scholars.  They'll be featured in a panel presentation in the morning and then will participate in small group discussions with us in the afternoon.
  • The Working Groups - We're introducing working groups this year, allowing people to focus their work and conversations on a pedagogical element that matters most to them.   These groups will be composed of between 6 and 10 instructors and focus on issues such as Cultural Rhetorics+Assessment, Cultural Rhetorics+Oral Presentation, Cultural Rhetorics+Multimodality, etc.   We're also slowing things down, allowing deeper, sustained conversations by scheduling several meeting times for the working groups across the four days. 
  • The Readings - At the request of many of you, we're situating our work in September Sessions in reference to current scholarship, asking all to read two core readings in addition to specialized readings for each working group in order to locate our conversations and collaboration within a Cultural Rhetorics framework.  Skim our list of September Sessions readings  in this issue's Rhetoric from the Field.
  • The Weekend Break - At the request of September Sessions participants-past, we're trying a format that breaks the Sessions across a weekend, giving people time to contemplate and re-charge for a couple days instead of marching straight across four days in a row.  That means our last Session takes place on the first day of NSO (new student orientation) -- there will definitely be a feeling of excitement and anticipation to campus that day!

But not everything has changed with September Sessions this year.  What's the same?  The good company, the good food, our always exciting menu-driven sessions, and at least two or three Star Trek references, guaranteed.

September Sessions officially begins Thursday morning with a continental breakfast at 8:15am on the first floor of CERAS.  There may or may not be elephants, but there will definitely be a spirit of collaboration and conversation -- and coffee and bagels for all.