{Leader Bios}

Words of Wisdom

Writer's block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol.

— Steve Martin

Valerie-closer-at-desk-(2).jpgValerie Balester is a Professor of English,  Executive Director of the University Writing Center and the Academic Success Center, and Assistant Provost for Undergraduate Studies at Texas A&M University. She specializes in rhetoric and composition and has an interest in cultural rhetoric. She recently contributed “Tutoring Against Othering: Reading and Writing Critically” to Tutoring Second Language Writers, Eds. Shanti Bruce and Ben Raforth, 2016.

Balester has worked in writing centers since 1978, when she tutored at The Pennsylvania State University. She started a writing center at Texas A&M in 1990 with the help of English graduate students. She also served four years as the Director of Writing Programs at Texas A&M, training and supervising writing teachers for FY composition, technical writing, and writing about literature. In 2001-02, she served as Interim Director of the University Writing Center, which is responsible for the university writing-and-speaking-in-the-disciplines program, and she became its Executive Director in 2002. This January, she took on the position of Executive Director of the Academic Success Center.



Trixie Smith is the Director of The Writing Center and the Red Cedar Writing Project at Michigan State University, as well as faculty in Writing, Rhetorics & American Cultures and the Center for Gender in Global Contexts. She has hosted the East Central Writing Center Association and presently serves as the ECWCA Treasurer. She has also hosted the Michigan Writing Center Association Share Fair and serves on the MiWCA board. Her teaching and research are infused with issues of gender, embodiment, and activism even as they revolve around writing center theory and practice, writing across the curriculum, writing pedagogy, and teacher training. Likewise these areas often intersect with interests in pop culture, service learning, and the idea that we’re just humans learning with/from other humans (you know, with bodies, feelings, lives outside the academy).

Previously, while the director of the writing center at Middle Tennessee State University, she served on the SCWCA board, hosting their conference in 2007, and co-founded the Tennessee Writing Center Collaborative. Recent publications include Bridges to Writing (Fountainhead Press, 2014 with Allison Smith), The Pop Culture Zone: Writing Critically About Popular Culture, 2 ed (Cengage, 2015, with Allison Smith) and articles in Working with Faculty Writers (Eds. Geller and Eodice, Utah State UP, 2013), WAC Partnerships Among Secondary and Post-Secondary Institutions (WAC Clearinghouse Perspectives on Writing book series, forthcoming), and The Pleasures of Identity: Living Queer (forthcoming). She also co-edited a special issue of Across the Disciplines focused on graduate writing (Summer 2015). Other publications include a chapter in (E)merging Identities: Graduate Students in the Writing Center, several articles in Southern Discourse, and COMPbiblio: Leaders and Influences in Composition Theory and Practice (with Allison Smith and Karen Wright, Fountainhead Press, 2007) — a reference book focusing on the career arcs of leaders in composition studies. Trixie attended the first ever IWCA Summer Institute and is excited to be serving her third year as a leader for the SI.


Shareen-2016.pngShareen Grogan has been Writing Center Director and leader of Writing Across the Curriculum Workshops at National University for 15 years. Shareen chaired the 2012 IWCA Conference, served as President of the Southern California Writing Center Directors Association, and is the current President of International Writing Centers Association. When she is not working or playing chauffeur to her teenage children, she enjoys urban travel, preparing hearty soups, and sampling complex wine.


just-Candace-(1).jpgCandace Hastings is Director of the Texas A&M University Writing Center, where she supervises daily operations, including hiring and training writing consultants. Her passion is working with graduate students. Executive Director Valerie Balester jokingly calls her “the dissertation whisperer.” Prior to her arrival at A&M, she served as the dean of distance education at Blinn College where she developed the program from the ground up. Before moving into administration, she taught undergraduate composition and creative writing for twenty years at community colleges in both wired and unwired environments. In addition, she had a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration. Her dissertation is entitled "A Case Study of Faculty Perceptions of Student Plagiarism." Candace also is a lecturer at Texas A&M University in the department of Educational Administration & Human Resource Development, where she teaches College Teaching and Literature Review for doctoral students. Her research interests include writing centers, academic integrity, and faculty development. She is the co-author of the Creative Writing Guide, published by Longman. 

A native of Detroit, Michigan, Dr. Karen Keaton Jackson began her academic career at Hampton University in Virginia, earning a Bachelor of Science in English Secondary Education with Summa Cum Laude distinction. She went on to receive her Master’s and Ph.D. in English Composition from Wayne State University in 2004. While pursuing her Ph.D., she was awarded a pre-doctoral fellowship at LeMoyne College in Syracuse, New York where she taught undergraduate and graduate courses on multicultural literacy. Since arriving to North Carolina Central University in 2004 as an assistant professor, she has become the Director of the Writing Studio, coordinates the campus-wide Writing Intensive Program and has served on the executive boards of the International Writing Center Association and the Southeastern Writing Center Association.  Currently, she serves on the executive board on the Council of Writing Program Administrators. She maintains an active research agenda on the interrelated notions of literacy, race, and identity in the writing classroom, and more recently she has focused on Composition at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and on how writing center tutorials can impact student success.  Most recently, she received a 2015 University of North Carolina System Board of Governors Award for Teaching Excellence.


Alanna-Bitzel-(2).jpgA native Texan and true Longhorn, Alanna Bitzel earned her B.A. in 2005 and later her J.D. from the School of Law and M.P.Aff. from the LBJ School of Public Affairs in 2010 from The University of Texas at Austin. While completing her degrees, Bitzel staffed the University Writing Center, serving as a consultant, project group leader, assistant director, and outreach coordinator. She also taught introductory composition courses as an assistant instructor in the Department of Rhetoric and Writing. Alanna is currently an Academic Counselor and the Writing Program and Tutor Training Coordinator for Texas Athletics Student Services. In 2014, she was recognized as a Winner of the Outstanding New Advisor Award-Primary Advising Role by the National Academic Advising Association. Alanna's research interests include writing center administration, change leadership and management, learning centers/commons, new spaces/places for writing center work, and tutor professional development. She also leads the athletics writing center SIG at the annual IWCA conference.

Alanna is in her second term as Secretary of the International Writing Centers Association. She is also the new President of the South Central Writing Centers Association and Creator/Editor of the region's publication, the SCWCA Newsletter. In addition, she serves on the editorial boards of WLN: A Journal of Writing Center Scholarship and Praxis: A Writing Center Journal

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