Many of the historical snapshots discussed in this article have suggested that a membership-based professional organization for WAC would be beneficial. Several organizations—the International WAC Network, the International WAC Conference, the WAC Clearinghouse, regional WAC associations, and WAC-GO—had developed in response to specific needs and thus played important but distinct roles in the field. While they often collaborated and had overlapping memberships, they operated independently and collaboration and coordination among them, while frequent, was informal. By 2016, several developments had led to discussions about forming a membership-based professional organization that might serve a function similar to that served for their constituencies by the Council of Writing Program Administrators and the International Writing Centers Association. These included the endorsement of the Statement of WAC Principles and Practices by INWAC; the impending retirement of Chris Thaiss, who had served as the coordinator of INWAC for more than three decades; the growing number of retirements among scholars who had served for many years as an informal leadership group within the community; and a lack of clarity among those new to WAC, given the number of WAC organizations, about where to address questions related to WAC initiatives and how to connect with colleagues in the WAC community (an issue that was particularly pressing for younger scholars and those who had recently assumed responsibility for WAC initiatives at their institutions). These developments left some questioning the sustainability of WAC as a viable subfield of writing studies and others arguing for the need to develop a more formally organized agenda for moving forward as a scholarly community.
In a chapter describing the rationale for forming what would become the Association for Writing Across the Curriculum (AWAC), Chris Basgier and his colleagues (2020) pointed to the benefits that were likely to accompany the establishment of a membership-based professional organization—and the limitations associated with the lack of one.
The lack of a formal professional organization—a hub, such as those provided by the CWPA and the IWCA—has arguably limited what this collection of WAC groups has been able to accomplish. Barbara Walvoord (1996), for example, observed that a central organization would better position WAC to take part in national movements that impact writing and to support new and existing WAC programs (p. 74). Similarly, Thaiss (2006) noted that without a formal organization, WAC had been unable to "create an agenda to focus efforts, issue position statements, establish and publish standards, conduct statistical surveys of members, and, maybe most basic, ensure continuity through an orderly process of succeeding leadership" (p. 139). (p. 36)
Pointing to Orlando Taylor et al. (2010), Basgier and his colleagues also argued that a membership-based professional organization would likely lead to an increase in "the diversity of scholars who participate in WAC initiatives" (p. 36). This would, they argued, not only strengthen the field but also align "with broader calls to address the disparity between the lack of diversity in faculty and leadership positions in higher education and an increasingly diverse student demographic nationwide" (p. 37).
Over a series of meetings at conferences between June 2016 and June 2018, AWAC moved from a general concept to a project led by a working group composed of a cross-section of new and long-standing members of the WAC community.4 Over more than two years, the working group assembled an executive board, wrote and codified bylaws, applied for 501(3)(c) status, and opened the organization to members. AWAC consists of both elected leaders and committee members who engage in a bottom-up process that builds the organization's infrastructure through voluntary participation in two types of committees. A handful of committees, such as WAC-GO, WAC Summer Institute, and IWAC committees, were formed through the affiliation of existing groups with AWAC. Others, such as the Advocacy, Communications, Diversity and Inclusion, International Collaborations, Mentoring, Partnership, and Research and Publication committees, focus on issues that have emerged from discussions among members who see these areas as important to the continuing development of WAC scholarship and the WAC community. By early 2020, AWAC had grown to more than 400 individual members and more than 20 institutional members. The AWAC website is available at https://wacassociation.org.
4. Members of the working group included Chris Anson, Christopher Basgier, Melissa Bender, Ann Blakesley, Laurie Britt-Smith, Pamela Childers, Michelle Cox, Heather Falconer, Jeff Galin, Jonathan Hall, Al Harahap, Brian Hendrickson, Margaret Marshall, Maureen Ann Mathison, Dan Melzer, Siskanna Naynaha, Federico Daniel Navarro, Mike Palmquist, Joseph Pizzo, Justin Rademaekers, Nicole Severino, Stacey Sheriff and Terry Myers Zawacki. A historical account of the formation of AWAC can be found at https://www.wacassociation.org/history-of-awac/.