by JJ Gramlich, Peer Consultant, University Writing Center
I have to be honest; I suffer from ‘imposter syndrome.’ So when our writing center director told us about the East Central Writing Center Association (ECWCA) conference, the first thing that popped into my mind was: Oh this is for the real consultants, grad students, and academics. This isn’t for me. Kirsten Weir, writing for the American Psychological Association, explains this: “imposter phenomenon occurs among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success” (Weir, 2013). Essentially, I experience significant waves of self-doubt and misplacement and I feel as though I’m constantly feigning my ability to keep up with my peers and colleagues. How can I contribute valuably to this discourse community if I’m struggling to even keep up with basic conversation?
As the weeks flew by and I had spent hours of my time overhearing my fellow consultants excitement and passion for their respective ECWCA presentations, I began to feel a little jealous. Well, I’ll do a presentation next year! I thought to myself. Fortunately, my colleagues didn’t let me get off so easily. About a week before our proposals were due, one of our consultants who had created a workshop with me in our writing center training course asked if I wanted to present this workshop at ECWCA. I leaped at the opportunity, eager to participate in a way that required minimal risk-taking. As soon as we submitted our proposal, it was accepted! My mind had been completely blown and I decided that maybe it wouldn’t be too scary to submit a proposal for a second presentation. Before I knew it, I had three separate presentations both accepted and completely developed for the conference.
Fortunately for me, public speaking is not an issue. I’m a ham, I love talking, and my only concern was how my presentations would stack up next to everyone else’s. I anxiously skimmed over the list of presentations, and noticed that the my moments of “what the hell does that word mean?” were far outweighed by my moments of, “OHMYGOD I’VE BEEN THINKING ABOUT THIS TOO I NEED TO GO SEE THIS LIKE NOW.” Though my nerves had been soothed to some extent, I still found myself shaking a little as I walked up to the podium, ready to give my first presentation. But when my cheesy plagiarism joke actually made people laugh and the presenter I was coupled with presented on a topic that fit hand-in-hand with mine, I knew I was in my element. For the next two days, presentations flew by and I made new Twitter best friends. I got the opportunity to talk to like-minded consultants from different states about our similar ideas regarding plagiarism, ELL students, genre, and consulting philosophies. We compiled our grievances toward our inability to completely reform a student’s self-esteem during a 45-minute session, as well as developed strategies to alleviate these issues. Most importantly, I realized I was a valuable part of this community.
Not all undergraduate students get the opportunity to present at conferences, and as someone whose imposter syndrome reigns over her whole life, I thought I would be the last person to participate. I was wrong. Being a part of ECWCA not only strengthened my relationship with the writing center community as a whole, but also validated my ideas and improved my relationship with myself as a consultant. After the conference weekend ended, I overheard a conversation amongst consultants about the upcoming proposal deadline for the International Writing Centers Association (IWCA) conference and I immediately sat down to brainstorm.