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2017 Convention in Salt Lake City
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Centralizing Marginality, Marginalizing the Center 

February 18 - February 21, 2017 Salt Lake City

Western States Communication Association holds an annual convention, often over Presidents' Day weekend in February, at a location in one of our 12 western states. The location is selected 4+ years in advance by the Executive Council, upon the recommendation of the Time and Place Committee and with input from the Legislative Assembly.

Western's conventions involve about 750 students, faculty, and practitioners experiencing close to 200 research papers, symposium, presentations, short-courses, debates, and discussions. During our convention, we also recognize and reward outstanding contributions to the communication discipline, to its scholarship and teaching, and to WSCA.

The convention begins with pre-conference workshops Saturday morning and afternoon. The Undergraduate Scholars' Research Conference is Saturday, and the Graduate Student Workshop and Graduate Programs Open House are Saturday afternoon. The Kickoff Event and Welcome Reception are Saturday late afternoon/early evening. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday (until about noon) multiple panels are held simultaneously. The Keynote Speech is Sunday morning; the famous, not-to-be-missed Sock Hop is Sunday evening, and the Convention Luncheon is Monday.

The first WSCA convention was held in 1929 in San Francisco. Conventions have been held annually since then, except for two years during World War II. The WSCA convention is where our unofficial slogan comes from: "Work hard; play hard!" We invite you to join us, and "Come West for the Best!" The 2017 conference theme is "Centralizing Marginality, Marginalizing the Center."

Pre-Conference Workshops

President-Elect, Michelle Holling, is featuring several workshops on Saturday, February 18. If you want to participate, sign up when you register for the conference. You may also be able to sign up at the convention. If the minimum numbers are not met, the workshop may be cancelled and those who registered will be notified and refunded.

The pre-conference workshops assembled by the presenters are timely, thoughtfully developed, informative, and connect beautifully to the convention theme. Worth noting is that, where possible, President Elect Holling optimized the time schedule to allow members to register for more than one activity, in some instances. They all occur on Saturday, February 18, 2017.

Reframing Communication Theory: The Impact of Performance and Film on Empathy

          $5.00         10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Presenter: Rosalie Fisher, Arizona State University

The goal of this workshop is to explore the impact that watching a film or performance has on people’s feelings, perspectives, and capacity for empathy. This workshop begins with a brief description of the research conducted on empathy, followed by a viewing of a short documentary made by the presenter. Participants will complete a survey before and after the viewing of the film, with questions regarding their perspectives on empathy. The remaining time will be allotted for small group discussion/interviews as we explore the role that film and performance plays in people’s perceptions of empathy. The discussion will also include a civil dialogue portion, which invites participants to volunteer to take a position on the topic discussed in the film in order to foster a discussion about the future directions for research on empathy and conflict negotiation.

No Greater Odds: Centralizing Marginality, Marginalizing the Center

         $5.00         10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Presenter: Charlene S. Gibson, College of Southern Nevada, Las Vegas

No Greater Odds, the acclaimed documentary, has been screened at the Library of Congress, the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, and is currently touring myriad colleges and conferences nationwide. More recently, it also played a role in higher education legislation and Civic Nation’s Heads Up America campaign. Join us for this screening and subsequent professional development workshop that share the principles that guided the documentary’s featured students to success through “Centralizing Marginality, Marginalized the Center.” During the workshop, participants will view the film followed by discussion and workshop to address themes in the film (e.g., the art of relationship building in class, meeting students where they are, building community outside of the classroom, mentoring, and connecting the college to the community).


Teaching Whiteness in the Communication Classroom: Deconstructing the Center, Moving to the Margins

         $5.00         10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Presenters: Godfried Asante, University of New Mexico; Dawn McIntosh, University of Denver; Dreama Moon, California State University San Marcos

The workshop offers a strategically theoretical and experiential journey into approaches and challenges to teaching about whiteness. Topics to be covered are:

  • Preparing oneself to teach whiteness
  • Theoretical and socio-historical approaches to teaching whiteness
  • Embodied aspects of teaching whiteness
  • Dealing with resistance
  • Broadening the conversation beyond white privilege
  • Balancing different levels of racial literacy
  • Balancing the needs of students of color and white students
  •  Possible assignments and teaching aids

From Margin to Center: Feminist Inquiry in the Communication Discipline

          $15.00         12:30 - 5:00 pm
Facilitators: D.Lynn O'Brien Hallstein, Boston University; Kristen Hoer, Butler University; Sarah Upton De Los Santos, University of Texas El Paso; Casey Kelly, Butler University; Catherine Egley Waggoner, Wittenberg University

Five questions will be circulated in advance of the convention, and those who wish to participate will be asked to submit a short position paper (2-4 double-spaced pages) on one of those questions by February 1, 2017.  At the conference, those who have written about the same question will be placed in a group together.  The questions around which the discussion groups will be organized are:  


1.      Defining Feminism:  How do you define feminism?  What is the center that constitutes the essence of feminism for you?  What does it mean to be a feminist in the field of communication, in academia, and in general? What are feminist principles? Must a feminist consistently act politically, and, if so, what does that mean?  Do we still need the label feminist to describe our orientation to the world?  Facilitator:  Lynn O’Brien Hallstein


2.      Assessing Feminist Scholarship:  What do you see as the current status of feminist research within the communication discipline?  Is feminist scholarship at the center or still at the margins? Has a feminist perspective been integrated into the discipline?  What should the agenda be for feminist scholarship in the communication discipline?  What question about feminism and communication would you like communication scholars to ask?  What article from a feminist perspective would you most like to read in our journals that hasn’t yet been published? Facilitator:  Kristen Hoerl


3.      Speaking from the Margins:  What are you interested in discussing in terms of feminism or feminist scholarship that you have felt couldn’t be discussed? Are there strictures within the communication discipline or within feminism that make you feel that you can’t say certain things?  How would a discussion of this “unspoken” topic change our perspective on feminism or feminist scholarship?  Facilitator:  Sarah Upton De Los Santos


4.      Living Feminist Lives:  What does it mean to you to live as a feminist?  How can feminism be made central to our academic lives?  How can our lives as academic feminists be made more satisfying, coherent, and fun?  Facilitator: Casey Kelly


Teaching as a Feminist:  What constitutes feminist pedagogy?  Is it different from other kinds of good teaching?  Is feminist pedagogy contradictory in any ways to good teaching?  How can we make feminism central in all of our classes, even those that do not deal explicitly with gender and diversity?  Is feminist pedagogy contradictory in any ways to good teaching?  What are the results of feminist pedagogy in our classrooms?  How can we become more feminist in our pedagogy?  Facilitator: Catherine Waggoner

Drawing You Out, Drawing You In: A Workshop for Communication Educators

         $12.00           2:00 - 5:00 pm
Leader: KC Councilor, University of Wisconsin-Madison

This workshop leads communication teachers in creative practices of drawing and writing that can be incorporated into the college classroom. Whether you teach argumentation and debate or public speaking, this workshop will leave you with new ideas about how to meet your learning outcomes and teaching challenges and how to engage your students in new ways. The workshop is generative and hands-on, and participants will leave with a rich set of activities and ideas as well as their own drawings and writing. Time will be reserved for discussion and brainstorming as a group about how participants can adopt workshop activities for their own particular classrooms and needs.


"What Can I Do With a Communication Major?" Helping Students Centralize, Celebrate, and Communicate the Strengths of Our Field

         $5.00          2:00 - 5:00 pm
Presenters: Matthew Sanders, Utah State University; John McClellan, Boise State University

Students often struggle to provide a satisfying response to the question, “What are you going to do with a communication major?” Yet, what we teach in the field of communication is what employers desire most in college graduates. This workshop is designed to help instructors reimagine how they can help students thoughtfully articulate to others why they are studying communication and why it is a useful and necessary degree to earn.  Four main sections compose this three-hour workshop:

  • Explore with participants the kinds of conversations that we have with students about their concerns about studying communication as well as the questions other people ask students about being a communication major.
  • Present to participants a way for them and their students to challenge and reframe the question, “What are you going to do with a communication major?” in way that is respectful and steers to conversation in a positive direction. This is done by asking students, “What kind of work do you want to do when you graduate?” and then telling them, “Tell me what you want to do, and I can help you understand how a major in communication will help you be excellent in that field.”
  • Present to participants an overarching framework for defining the field of communication that is meaningful, understandable, and useful for undergraduate students, their parents, and employers. Defining the field in scholarly terms with all its complexity is challenging, but there are useful ways to talk about communication.
  • Explore potential connections among common courses in the field that develop competencies that employers desire and that are important for living in a complex, global society.

Local Host Activities

The local hosts in the Department of Communication at the University of Utah have planned several fun activities for convention goers. All the events take place on Saturday, February 18. If you want to participate, sign up when you preregister for the conference. If the minimum numbers are not met, the events will be cancelled and those who registered will be notified and refunded.

Ski Solitude!

COMING SOON, check back for details

Natural History Museum          $15.00*                      12:00 - 3:00

Plan on joining us for an exploration of Utah's Natural History Museum. Nestled in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountain Range, the Natural History Museum rests on a series of terraces that follow the contours of the hillside, blending into the environment. The building is located along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, a popular location for hiking and mountain biking, which serves as the Museum's "main street." With a number of permanent exhibits showcasing local biodiversity, geography, and cultures, as well as a special exhibit on the role of poisons throughout history, the Natural History Museum provides an exciting and informative exploration of Utah's history.
*Note: Transportation may be an additional fee. This will be assessed once pre-registration ends January 30, 2017

Temple Square                           free                           12:30 - 2:00

A trip to Salt Lake City is never complete without a visit to the historic Temple Square. Come learn more about the Salt Lake Temple, the Tabernacle (home of the world famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir), and the famous 11 foot marble Christus statue on a 30-minute guided tour of the beautiful grounds and buildings of Temple Square. Led by a volunteer guide from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the tour will conclude in enough time to allow you additional time to wander the grounds on your own pace.

Ice Skating at Gallivan Center   Skate Rental $8.00    1:00 - 3:00

Site of the 2002 Winter Olympic Medal Ceremonies, this outdoor ice skating rink is surrounded by illuminated trees and features a concessions stand for those wanting to warm up with a hot beverage. For a small additional fee, small lockers are available for your personal items. Sign up on the WSCA website at no charge and pay when you arrive at the Gallivan Center.

Self-Inflicted Pub Crawl             Pay as you Go       3:00 - 5:00 or ??

Learn from the locals and take a walking tour of the city's tastiest taverns. You will be escorted through the mean streets of Salt Lake City as you visit microbreweries such as Squatters, Red Rock Brewing, and others. Sign up on the WSCA website when you register for the conference so the local hosts can coordinate this event.

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