Friday, April 29, 2005

Path-a-logical

Once I finished my doctoral program in the spring of 1996, I figured I'd be settling in to another phase of adjunct work while I recovered from the dissertating process. I had lined up a couple of sections of composition for the fall and would continue tutoring in the Writing Center at MIT. However, over the summer I spotted a job ad in the Boston Globe. The Massachusetts College of Pharmacy was hiring someone half-time to start a writing center. Hmm. I polished up my CV, dropped a note to my reference writers, and mailed my stuff in. By the next month, I was starting in my role as a writing center director. Amazing.

I've written about my first year at MCP in a WCJ article that's here . That half-time position plus a section teaching first-year composition at MCP meant I could jettison the other adjunct work I had lined up and only work in two places: MCP and the MIT Writing Center. By the next year, I was a full-time faculty member at MCP, a position I would hold for another five years until I left three years ago for my current job teaching in the WAC program at MIT.

As I think about the path I've described this week--from a reluctant undergraduate to a doctorate in education, from a fiction writer to an "academic" writer (whatever that means), from a writer to a teacher, from a tentative graduate student writing tutor to a writing center director--it seems meandering (and I haven't added in the side trips to have two kids, interview for other full-time jobs, write a lot, teach a lot, find a support network within the writing center field). Yet I don't think that lack of a direct line is unusual. I frequently get emails from folks brand new to writing center work, folks who have suddenly been asked to direct their college's writing center and who have very little background in the field. That's likely changing as more and more graduate students turn to the possibilities of writing center work and pursue more traditional paths to the field (and as more and more writing center jobs are defined in traditional, faculty-line ways). Still, our field is a relatively young one, and its inclusiveness is certainly one of its best features. We have yet to be lampooned in the ways that English departments have been for their politics in books such as Richard Russo's Straight Man, David Lodge's Small World, or James Hyne's The Lecturer's Tale.

(Actually, back in 1958, James Ruoff write a hilarious satire in College English on “The English Clinic at Flounder College.” vol. 19, pp. 348-51.)

I'm really happy to be associated with writing center work and am psyched to discover the potential future paths I might follow. Shout a hello when you see me.

Neal Lerner

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