Keynote Addresses

Plenary Address 

Innovation through Intentional Administration: Or, How to Lead a Writing Program without Losing Your Soul

Susan Miller-Cochran, Thursday 6:45-8:00, Regency ABC 

Writing program administrators work in a conflicted, liminal space. For example, we sometimes are asked to enforce language norming that we don't support. As program directors, we often must facilitate labor practices that we also fight. In spite of the transformations we advocate for, the long histories and stubborn practices of our programs reflect and enact privilege. We often have little control over the fiscal decision-making that impacts the instructors and students in our programs. Yet that conflicted space is also complex, for even as these issues likely sound familiar to many program directors, they manifest in vastly different ways in the broad range of institutional contexts and job titles that we find ourselves in. 

Our rhetorical training, however, prepares us well for the spaces in which we work, especially when we consistently allow clear, consistent principles and values to guide us. When we understand our institutional contexts and remain focused on our guiding principles and values, we can intentionally, strategically move toward change. Through intentional approaches such as grassroots-lead efforts, collaborative decision-making, and clear boundaries, we can work toward innovative approaches that can transform our programmatic spaces. 


Picture of Susan Miller-Cochran


Susan Miller-Cochran is Professor of English and Director of the Writing Program at the University of Arizona, where her research focuses on the intersections of technology, multilingual writing, and writing program administration. Her work has appeared in College Composition and CommunicationComposition StudiesComputers and CompositionEnculturation, and Teaching English in the Two-Year College, and she is also an editor of Rhetorically Rethinking Usability (Hampton Press, 2009) and Strategies for Teaching First-Year Composition (NCTE, 2002). Additionally, she is a co-author of An Insider’s Guide to Academic Writing (2017), The Cengage Guide to Research (Cengage, 2017) and Keys for Writers (Cengage, 2016). Before joining the faculty at the University of Arizona, she was the Director of First-Year Writing at North Carolina State University (2007-2015) and also a faculty member at Mesa Community College (AZ). She currently serves as Immediate Past President of the Council of Writing Program Administrators.







Panel Discussion

Racially-motivated Brutality and Micro-aggressions

Sonia Lewis (Sacramento Black Lives Matter), Saturday 12:30-2:00, Regency ABC. Live stream available on Council of Writing Program Administrators Facebook page.

Sonia Lewis will pose questions for WPA attendees to consider and discuss at their table groups. 

A native California girl, Sonia has lived in both northern and southern California but Oakland is where her foundation is rooted and feels the most like home.  She is the oldest of 2 daughters to Raymond and Rita Williams.  Her father is a country boy from Texas, a Vietnam vet, a former police officer with the Richmond Police Department and a Baptist minister.  Her mother hails from the mid-west, grew up in the projects of Chicago, was a community activist, associate of the Black Panther Party, and social worker.  It was this dichotomy, on opposite ends of the spectrum that she bore witness at a very young age to the two starkly different Americas.  

It was in the 2nd grade at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School where Sonia remembers consciously engaging in her first intentional rebellion; a silent protest, she refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance.  Mrs. Billiue, her 2nd-grade teacher was very unhappy with this unpatriotic expression and there were consequences for this choice in action.  At that moment, she began to understand the need for freedom of expression, as well as the difference between being a leader and a follower.  Soon after, Sonia began to question the glaring differences in the living of Black people compared to everyone else.

Engaging with her family and community propelled her interest and love for history, current events and social justice activism.  After graduating high school, she successfully attended and earned a dual BA degree in History and Psychology from Spelman College of Atlanta, GA.  After returning to California, she pursued and earned a secondary teaching credential and Master's degree in Education from San Francisco State University.  

After 18 years of teaching, in 2008, Sonia was a victim of school cutbacks and program downsizing.  Instead of moving to a new school site to build yet another program, Sonia decided to take a major gamble and start a business.  She co-founded ASCRIBE Educational Consulting, where they help families with transitional plans for life after high school.  Based on her experience in the field of education and community organizing, she was often asked to speak on educational advocacy and parenting.  Speaking engagements led to the birth of EDIFY the Soul Motivational Speaking and Writing, where her motto is "Every Day I Fight for Youth....E.D.I.F.Y."  However, up to recently, she has been a sales agent with AFLAC to make ends meet financially.  Currently Sonia is a chapter lead with Black Lives Matter Sacramento and she is deeply passionate about marrying education and activism.   

Her fight for Black Liberation is at the center of everything.  It is out of America's denial of the reality of 2 very different Americas existing; which keeps the crisis of racism, implicit bias, and oppression anchored in the storm of historical disenfranchisement.  The most vulnerable and marginalized are always people of color.  Thus the importance of speaking life into the movement to abolish systems that perpetuate State Sanctioned Violence and is replaced with community-centered oversight and power.

On a more personal note, Sonia has been married for nearly 20 years, birthed 6 beautiful black boys into this cruel world, helped raise 4 older bonus children, and cares for 2 granddaughters. Over the years she has found time to participate with community organizing, pen hundreds of pieces of poetry and is working to become a published author.  She has often said, "I could not look my boys in the face if I ignored Trayvon Martin's murder; I could not stand beside my husband if I didn't acknowledge Eric Gardner's murder, and I would not be who I am if failed to honor Sandra Bland's murder."  Hence her commitment to and work with BLM Sacramento.  Wife, mother, educator, writer, speaker and community activist, Sonia Lewis is our city's call to action because the time to stand for Equity and Liberation is now.