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2017 Plenaries & Keynotes








   Past Keynotes & Plenaries


Friday Opening Plenary, 9:00-10:00 AM

Connecting Landscapes through "Ecopreneurship" and Narrative: A Call for Sustainable Writing Program Growth

Teresa Henning, Professor, English,
Southwest Minnesota State University
and Founding Director of the
Professional Writing and Communication Major

Amanda Bemer, Associate Professor, English,
Southwest Minnesota State University
and Current Director of the
Professional Writing and Communication Major

Kevin Danielson, Senior Undergraduate
Southwest Minnesota State University
Major in Professional Writing and Communication

        Our MnWE Opening Plenary speakers make the optimistic pitch that even in times of austerity and political uncertainty, administrating an undergraduate professional writing major can be rewarding if one is willing to be an “ecopreneur” who is “making a living while supporting the health of others through selective use of economic and sustainable practices” using bartering, rescuing, reusing, exchanging, recycling, sharing, and repurposing (Ivanko 2008).

        For more information, please see the "Abstracts" section of the Program.

Saturday Plenary, 9:00-10:00 AM

New Territory: How Concurrent Enrollment Connects the Landscapes of Secondary and Post-secondary English

Adam Lowe, First Executive Director of the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP), by Skype

    Pakou Yang, System Director of P-20 and College Readiness,
Minnesota State (formerly MnSCU)

    Lisa Lucas Hurst, Assistant Professor, English,
Liaison SMSU Concurrent Enrollment Program
Southwest Minnesota State University

        Our Saturday Plenary panelists discuss the shifting landscapes of secondary and post-secondary education which have resulted in a new “territory” of concurrent enrollment, where college courses are offered in high school classrooms, delivered by high school teachers in collaboration with college partners. As with any new territory, questions abound about concurrent enrollment. Teachers of English and writing can especially benefit from concurrent enrollment partnerships.

        For more information, please see the "Abstracts" section of the Program.

Friday Academic Keynote, 12:00-1:00 pm:

Muriel Thompson, University of Minnesota

"A Journey through Educational Landscapes"

        Growing up in a small town in South Dakota, I never envisioned a career in education.  Most of my classmates were content to graduate from high school, get married, and settle into life in our farming community.  I think I was one of four girls in our graduating class who went on to college.  So, how did this young girl become the director of one of the National Writing Project sites?

        Through a series of timely events, I have been fortunate to journey through several educational landscapes that led me to this amazing position.  Sharing my journey should be an incentive for all to be open to the unexpected.


Muriel recently retired as the Director of the Minnesota Writing Project, which she helped establish at the University of Minnesota in 1990.  At the university she also co-coordinated the College-in-the-Schools Composition Program for several years.  For over thirty years, she taught language arts at Burnsville High school, where she was actively involved with the district’s curriculum work and staff development programs.  Throughout her career she has been actively involved in several educational organizations and continues to be extremely interested in encouraging effective literacy instruction.

Saturday Creative Keynote, 12:00-1:00 pm:

Dr. Kirstin Cronn-Mills, Award-winning Novelist, Nonfiction Author, and College Professor

"Physical, Mental, Emotional Landscapes: Navigating the World through Stories"

        Whether it's through reading them or writing them, stories help us shape ourselves and the world around us. In this active conversation (including activities, brief lectures, and Q&A), Kirstin Cronn-Mills will discuss both teaching and writing stories (whether in prose or in poetry) about our physical, mental, and emotional landscapes in order to better connect with students. Given the diversity of our K-12 and college/university students in the state of Minnesota, their stories may be very different from their teachers' stories. Story inclusivity will serve us all much better than story singularity.


Dr. Kirstin Cronn-Mills has taught various English courses at the college level for almost 25 years, and is finishing her eighteenth year at South Central College in North Mankato. She is the author of three novels and three nonfiction books for young adults, several of which have been Minnesota Book Award finalists. Kirstin is also the recipient of the 2009 Minnesota State College Student Association Excellence in Teaching Award and the 2014 Stonewall Award from the American Library Association for her second novel, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. She grew up in Nebraska, six blocks east of the American West, but has lived in Minnesota for a quarter-century.


(Scroll down for details.)




Muriel Thompson, University of Minnesota

Academic Keynote, Friday Noon, March 31






Kirstin Cronn-Mills, Award-winning Author

Creative Writing Keynote, Sat. Noon, April1



Contents updated 20 Mar. 2017




Editions: 12-09, 10-14, 8-15, 9-16

Conference Questions--Larry Sklaney or Danielle Hinrichs. General--Richard Jewell

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All MnWE work is volunteer. MnWE thanks the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities for meeting and web space, and the Minnesota State system (formerly MnSCU) for financial and site services. Photos © MnWE