This year, the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) was held in St. Louis from March 21-24, and it was there that Dr. Malea Powell delivered a CCCC chair’s address unlike any previous — and half the time, she wasn’t even speaking.
Traditionally, the address is a 40-minute talk in which the chair speaks about his or her research and scholarship, or about the current state of the discipline, but Powell says that while she was terrified to step away from that convention, she knew that she wanted to do something vastly different. She said, “I wanted to make it hard for people to discount what was said.”
The address was a storytelling performance, in which 10 individuals stood up and narrated their own story, and seven others read quotes. “I wanted [the address] to say something about the organization — have a vision — and I wanted to give a talk that demonstrated and shared that vision.”
Those who spoke were broadly representative of the organization, spanning from tenured professors to graduate students; Powell said she feels that by structuring the speech as she did, she was able to express the organization’s values regarding collaboration and diversity.
Social media tools such as Twitter hashtags (#4C12) were also used to document how the talk circulated throughout the entire convention.
Aside from her address, Powell is also working with CCCC officers and EC members to craft a strategic vision for the organization, something that has never been created in the history of CCCC. “We have a mission statement, but that’s pretty abstract. Now, we are trying to craft a vision for the next decade to guide our governance actions.”
Powell also went on to express how important she feels it is that someone from WRAC was elected to the as chair, saying, “Here we are forward thinking, a little edgy, and a little risky in the work that we do, and we’re bringing that to an organization that’s not always been that way.”
Among many other tasks, the remainder of Powell’s appointment will involve working to finish the vision statement, moving forward with other important governance work (like creating a Committee on the Status of Graduate Students), and helping to rethink what it means to be a member of the organization in general. Powell hopes that by taking these important steps, the organization will begin to have more than a professional voice, but also a public voice that can position itself at the forefront of conversations about writing, rhetoric, and literacy.