Creating More Seats at the Table: WIS Bedford/St. Martin’s Fellows Program

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by Darci Thoune and Jenn Fishman

This is the second post in an occasional series affiliated with the Writing Innovation Symposium (WIS), a 2-day annual event hosted online and in Milwaukee, WI, by a group that includes Darci and Jenn. Learn more below and in posts tagged “writing innovation” and “symposium.” 

As Jenn and I explored in our last blog post on the Writing Innovation Symposium (WIS), putting our finger on how this modest symposium makes so much magic is challenging. But with some reflection it’s easier and easier to see that part of what makes the WIS special is collaboration—and we mean collaboration on every level. Yes, there are the regulars who serve on the Steering Committee and those who faithfully travel to Milwaukee when she is at her least hospitable, but there are others as well. We’re thinking about the graduate students and early career folks who join us as active participants in a symposium that works with and against the expectations of a traditional conference. As we entered our 3rd year of the WIS we wondered how we could manifest more of this—more support for a wider range of participants and more opportunities for them to be meaningfully involved in the WIS magic making.

As writing administrators, we’re accustomed to being scrappy and opportunistic when it comes to funding. Knowing that we wanted to find more ways to support (in travel funding, in mentoring, in networking opportunities) WIS participants from a wide range of perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds, we approached the amazing Laura Davidson at Bedford/St. Martin’s with a wild request--namely, would they support the travel expenses of two to three WIS Bedford/St. Martin’s (WIS B/SM) Fellows? Our hope was that a WIS B/SM Fellow’s Program would especially prioritize participation by first-gen, BIPOC, and multiply marginalized undergraduates, graduate students, contingent faculty, and early career scholars. We were delighted that Laura (and the rest of the B/SM team) enthusiastically jumped at the opportunity to work with all of us involved in the WIS. This program has become a source of reliable funding and support for--at this point--five WIS B/SM Fellows.

Over the first 2 years, the Fellows have been an illustrious bunch. In 2022, the inaugural fellows were Amy Patterson and Ulisa Blakely, who both joined us remotely. Amy Zoomed in from Boston where she was a postdoctoral associate at Northeastern University, teaching multilingual writing and advanced writing in the disciplines. Ulisa, at the time, was a graduate student at Northeastern Illinois University, studying multimodality, technology, and literacy. The following year, we welcomed three fellows, although only two were able to attend. The 2023 cohort included Holly Burgess and Shiva Mainaly, who were able to attend in person, and Abigayle Farrier, whose attendance onsite and online was foiled by the winter storms that turned much of Texas into a no-fly zone just as the WIS was getting underway. 

In addition to supporting our WIS B/SM Fellows with travel funding, Laura’s team also offered an opportunity for the WIS B/SM Fellows to contribute to the Bedford Bits blog. Our first two incredible blogposts are forthcoming from Holly and Abigayle. In Holly’s upcoming post, “Writing as a Black Scholar: Teaching Black Activism, Hip-Hop, and The Cost of Activism,” we learn about the many ways one Black teacher does activist work in and out of the classroom at a primarily white institution. In Abigayle’s post, “Today Is Kindergarten Day!” we are encouraged to remember that writing is a hands-on activity and that we sometimes need to create spaces in our classes for students to play. In both posts, we’re inspired to reflect on our identities and our relationships in our programs and in our classrooms.

With the continued support of the superheroes at Macmillan, we look forward to the submissions from this year’s WIS B/SM Fellows. Interested in becoming a WIS B/SM Fellow? Follow this link for the WIS 2024 CFP! We also invite you to learn more about the WIS via the latest issue of Community Literacy Journal, which includes look back at the symposium’s first five years, coauthored by 29 WISters including Holly and Abigayle.

If you’re interested in learning more about the WIS consider joining us in Milwaukee at WIS 2024! Read our CFP here.