Corridors Conferences: A Brief History

The Corridors Conference model began in 2011 as WIDE-EMU, a free, one-day conference organized and supported in an informal partnership between Michigan State University's Writing in Digital Environments (WIDE) research center and Eastern Michigan University's Written Communication Program. The conference alternated between the two founding universities on low traffic (i.e., football-free) Saturdays in late September or early-mid October five times from 2011-2016 (no conference was held in 2014). As WIDE-EMU gained a reputation as an engaging and affordable regional meeting of writing and rhetoric scholars, researchers, teachers, graduate students, and program administrators, representatives of other universities in the region expressed interest in hosting.

Building on the five-year history of WIDE-EMU, with slight reframing we expanded its reach as Corridors: The Great Lakes Writing and Rhetoric Conference. (And, although it was a decision neither easy nor light, we abandoned the wide emu logo that had been long ago sketched by Steven Krause on a whiteboard in his Pray-Harrold office). The concept of corridors hearkens to the hallway conversations invaluable to this conference experience, the advantage of regional proximity and the interstate throughways amenable to our annual gathering, and the coordinated alliances that energize and connect research and pedagogy related to writing and rhetoric in and beyond the Great Lakes region. Corridors was established on December 15, 2016, with the following as its establishing principles:

  • Corridors is a free, one-day conference that meets each October.
  • Schedule the day into four, 75-minute sessions (see a recent sample schedule).
  • Schedule the conference on a low-traffic, non-football Saturday at the host institution.
  • Follow the conference with a social gathering (#beerrhetorics) identified and coordinated by the host institution.
  • Invite as a plenary/keynote a relatively new junior faculty colleague in the state or region. Create a platform for a new voice or voices to be heard.
  • Identify a simple theme, usually in the form of a question (e.g., What does writing want?).
  • Designate sessions upon the proposal phase as talk, make, or do.
  • Maximize hallway conversation and informal interactions.
  • Include open sessions on the program.
  • Continue using Google Sites+Google Forms (i.e., lightweight and non-institutional systems)
  • Hosts may re-use the existing emu logo or develop a new logo. At a future date, the advisory board may commission a standard logo for continuing use.
  • Encourage attendees and presenters to re-use badges from other conferences and provide a template for a customizable badge.
  • Limit proposals for concision to approximately 50 words.
  • Honor a phased lead-up to event: Phase 1: Propose, Phase 2: Teaser, Phase 3: Confer.
  • Those who post teasers can “lock in” a spot on the program.
  • A good host offers coffee. A great host offers morning noshes.

These principles loosely govern the Corridors framework, though of course each new iteration of the conference shapes the event as they wish. The conference model has evolved to meet many different purposes. Additional context for the event can be found in "The Free Conference Kit: How to Start, Promote, Organize, and Run a Local Academic Conference for (Almost) Nothing Using Web 2.0 Tools," a document prepared for the 2013 Computers and Writing Conference by Bill Hart-Davidson, Steven Krause, and Derek Mueller. With Corridors: Great Lakes well established, in 2019 the Corridors Conference is expanding to a parallel event, Corridors: The Blue Ridge Writing and Rhetoric Conference, hosted by Virginia Tech. If you are interested in hosting a free, one-day Corridors Conference in your region, the model and guiding documents are open access, free to adapt for your purposes.

Dates, Themes, and Locations - WIDE-EMU and Corridors: Great Lakes

  • 2011 - What evidence do we have that teaching writing —especially in digital environments—works?, Ypsilanti, Mich., October 15, 2011
  • 2012 - What is composing today? How to people learn (and teach) it?, East Lansing, Mich., October 20, 2012
  • 2013 - Free?, Ypsilanti, Mich., October 12, 2013
  • 2015 - Is _____ writing?, East Lansing, Mich., October 10, 2015
  • 2016 - What does writing want?, Ypsilanti, Mich., October 15, 2016
  • 2017 - When does Writing Happen?, Wayne State U, Detroit, MI, September 30, 2017
  • 2018 - Writing Out Loud!, Saginaw Valley State U, University Center, Mich., September 29, 2018