Three Writing Program instructors present at the Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference

Nov. 1, 2023

Three Writing Program instructors share their pedagogical approaches to teaching writing in the context of the southwest Borderlands

Three University of Arizona Writing Program instructors

The Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference  (DNRS), held annually at Arizona State University, returned to in-person programming this year for the first time since 2019. 

Founded at the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing in 2003, the conference gathers writing professionals, educators, and people with an interest in literature and creative writing for a weekend of classes, panel discussions, workshops, and presentations on the techniques and practices of creative writing. 

Sylvia Chan, Nataly Reed, and Logan Phillips, three Writing Program faculty members, were among those in attendance at this year’s DNSR conference to present a talk on "Place-Based Pedagogies: Academic Writing in the Borderlands." Their panel discussion highlighted the cultural, geographical, and Border-specific influences that are integral to Tucson and the University of Arizona community. 

Opening the presentation, Reed addressed the challenges of balancing aspects of instructor and institutional positionality. Her talk guided attendees through a series of reflective practices designed to reinforce an anti-racist approach to writing instruction that amplifies the diverse voices of the Borderlands in the curriculum. 

Chan’s presentation titled “Writing from Our Invisible Voices” described how the call-and-response of counterpoint can re-voice those who have been left out — overlooked, othered, or redacted — of the historical documentation. She introduced two “contrapuntal writing strategies” designed to engage writers in the documentary work of reclaiming the invisible voices from the historical archives. 

Reed and Chan, along with Dr. Andrea Hernandez Holm, the Director of the Writing Skills Improvement Program, are co-facilitators of the annual Academic Writing in the Borderlands (AWB) workshop series. Now in its second year, the AWB workshop series invites participants to examine what it means to teach writing at a land grant, Hispanic-serving institute in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, situated in the homelands of two tribal nations. 

Instructors who complete the workshop series receive support in the form of continued opportunities to share the outcomes of their learning with a broader community of educators. Phillips, a participant in the inaugural AWB workshop series last year, joined Reed and Chan to present on “Tucson Texts: Connecting Students to Place Through Genre.” 

His talk previewed a self-guided rhetorical analysis assignment from his first-year composition course which prompts students to participate in place-based writing around the Tucson community. Phillips spoke about how these place-based activities that happen outside the classroom can reinforce prior in-class conversations centered on the concept of Borderlands as both a physical place and a conceptual space that students occupy.