Thursday, July 14, 2005

KU Reception

On Wednesday we were all treated to a Tea Reception sponsored by the Vice Provost for Student Success at KU. We met in the Oread bookstore on campus.

Clint with finger puppets

Brian & Ben

Greg & Mary

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

KU Writing Center

Hi I'm Verlinda Washburn from Dickinson State University (DSU) in Dickinson, North Dakota. I'm attending the IWCA summer writing institute and having both a fun and edifying time.

DSU has never had a writing center, but I will be creating one that is due to open August 23, by presidential command. Thus, I'm here in Lawrence absorbing all the information I can. I really appreciate our esteemed education staff headed by Michele. I think they are not only well versed in the knowledge of Writing Center theory and practice, but they are congenial, inclusive, and very lively presenters and facilitators. I have gained a wealth of knowledge in a very short timeframe.

Today we had a great discussion facilitated by Clint and Harry on the hierarchy in institutions as related to Writing Center Directors.
The question: If we see WC Director as an in-depth, academic career, where do the hierarchies of degrees, of faculty/staff, and of respect come in? Masters or Ph.D.?

- Realize that they exist, and deal with them from that perspective
- Frankie - Ph.D.'s don't necessarily know more than MA's. There are a number of ways to acquire knowledge.
- Nevertheless within an institution, it can make a difference according to the environment on campus.
- Investing in a Ph.D. may not be cost effective for some.
- There is no Ph.D. in Writing Center Academics.
- There are other pressures on directors to have a Ph.D. besides peer pressure within the institution and within the WC community. Accreditation and university prestige are two.
- Must not only be critical of self (choices, position, degrees, etc.) but also be critical of the institutional/cultural/social forces that are requiring you to exhibit certain defenses/behaviors/responses.
- One must always push him/herself to grow in whatever way; we can never be static. Getting a Ph.D. is only one way to grow.
- What about the logistics of the future of the WC Director? Will a time come when one must have a Ph.D. to get the job? Is that a good thing?
- Jeanne: Some of the frustrations that we feel are imbedded in the contradictions, and they are not going to go away. Experience vs. degree; tenure and degree vs. effectiveness of ones work and contribution to the student and university
- Writing centers serves all disciplines not just comp/rhet

In closing:

A Michelism for the day: We can all be the CVO, the Chief Visionary Officer, for our campus!




It is "Writing Time" on Wednesday at the Summer Institute. Our day today has been rich with possibilities--as always, most of those unforeseen before we came here to Lawrence. We visited the KU Writing Center today, as well as one of the many Writers' Roosts, which are satellite writing centers. The center is lovely, well-lit and modern, but the Writers' Roost is amazing. In a corner of the library by a coffee stand, there are three round picnic tables (indoors) with umbrellas that say "KU Writing Center." Like many things we have encountered this week, it is an amalgam of vision and possibility, one which takes the Writing Center to the students rather than the other way around.

That's the thing about the Summer Institute: the intersections are what makes this such an incredible experience, intersections with people and intersections with ideas. I have spent time with friends from Kansas City and Chicago. I have made new friends from California, North Carolina, and North Dakota.

We have had discussions about ESL learners, faculty relationships, professional qualifications, and more. While each has been thought-provoking on its own, taken altogether they explode with possibilities. And this is only Wednesday! We can only imagine what we will be envisioning by the end of the week.

Susan Mueller
More photos below!

Monday, July 11, 2005

IWCA Summer Institute - Day One

Sure, there may be hours of sun in Alaska, but in Kansas there's prairie heat and barbeque.

We can hardly believe it, but Day One of the Summer Institute is over. The walls of the room are covered with posters of participants' and leaders' writing center spaces, we've thought about the intersections between staff education, being activists for our campuses, and how the pedagogical models we use impact our work.

Tomorrow...look for photos of the fifty six of us working hard at learning more about our administrative roles.

Anne Ellen & Michele

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Tiffany, nothing about assessment or budgets here, I promise

I attended a couple of great sessions today. The day started out with a great session on WAC led by Richard Jewell (Inver Hills Community College) and Melissa Faulkner and Paul Anderson, both from Miami University’s Center for Writing Excellence. This combination of papers helped audience members see the commonalities and specifics of WAC work at institutions with different missions.

Whenever I go to a conference, I try to go to a session or two that’s completely unrelated to my own research in order to find out what’s going on in other parts of the profession. In this spirit, I went to a session on “Composing Multimedia Public Relations” which focused on designing public service announcements on writing related issues. While I may have chosen this session because it seemed unrelated to my work, it nevertheless got me thinking about writing center PSAs for local consumption through campus media. Wouldn’t it be cool to have as 15-30 television short that we could use on campus networks to advertise the writing center? Or to broadcast radio PSAs to advertise our services on the student station. I’ve tried the latter, but somehow it never worked out. Now I’m thinking I should’ve tried harder to get this going.

In the afternoon, an assistant professor administrator (APA) special interest session met. We discussed ways in which APAs might work use the CWPA resources in our quests for tenure. This was a great session and I’m hoping to get a similar group together at IWCA this fall. So stay tuned.

Now, gentle readers I’m off to see a little of this very big state. Somewhere in the next few days I’ll try to post my “Springer’s Final Thoughts” on this mad week.

Later, administrators! Melissa

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Can it really be DAY ONE of the conference?

Well, gentle reader, after the workshop and the assessment institute, we’ve finally arrived at the first day of the conference. The first panel I went to today focused on honors composition (btw, thanks for a great panel, Barbara, Jeanne Marie, and Greg). We had some discussion here of positioning honors composition in such a way as to counter the deficit quality that dogs first year writing. In other words, honors comp allows us to argue that FYW isn’t about getting students ready to do “real” college work; rather, it’s an opportunity for all writers to improve. Such lines of argument, recollected strongly for me the reoccurring argument that writing centers are for all writers, not just those needing “remediation.”

However, the panel most directly oriented towards the writing center was “Writing Center Directors as WPAs: Rethinking Roles, Territories, Writing and Mentoring.” Here, a group of writing center directors spoke about the issues and opportunities that arise when writing center directors interrogate the intersection of the writing center and the WPA. During their talks, the presenters raised such issues as:

• Who is a WPA?
• When one individual holds both roles, where does their identity as director of Composition stop and Director of the Writing Center begin?
• Why -- when we all are involved in teaching, administration, research and service -- is the writing center so central to our professional identities?
• On your campus, are you *a* WPA or the WPA? What’s the difference?
• What should the relationship between the writing center and the writing program be (with a nod to Mark Waldo, of course!)?

While I have no definitive answers to offer, I think the questions themselves are something all writing center directors should consider . . . but now, it’s time to get off to my next session.

More later!

Friday, July 08, 2005


Although yesterday, I left the WPA workshop with sad steps (and thanks, Bud and Lauren for a great time), but today your humble narrator headed for the assessment institute led by George Meese and Meg Morgan. And sadly, I consider this an important topic. Why sadly, you may ask? Because it was a beautiful, sunny 71 degrees out, and since it was important, I couldn’t play hooky! Grrrrr . . ..

Luckily Meg and George had lots of good ideas to share with us, which they used to lead us through a daylong reflection on the hows, whys and wherefores of program assessment. We talked about first establishing program outcomes and then creating definitions and measures for these outcomes. I’ve started thinking about what kinds of outcomes one might establish for a writing center, how we could define these outcomes and what methods might assess them. I’ve got some ideas for my center, but right now I’m wondering if there are any generalizable outcomes for writing centers? That is, is there anything like the WPA Outcomes Statement that would apply to the center? While I don’t want to be the one to propose a document, I think there probably is, although I’m not sure we’ll ever see such a document written.

In addition to a head stuffed with assessment related ideas, I also came away with *more* stuff to read:

Program Assessment

The Outcomes Book

Developing Sucessful College Writing Programs

And totally unrelated to administrative work:
The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint

A workshop-buddy recommended this last one – apparently, it makes the argument that PowerPoint is the devil. And not only because people seem unable to use it appropriately but because it is fundamentally evil. Sounds like a good read to me.

Somehow, it's morning already. I guess I'd better sign off so I can get some breakfast before the first plenary session begins.

More later, Melissa

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Numbers as a way of knowing

Today was the last day I’ll attend the WPA workshop for new writing program administrators (*sigh*). Today we talked about staffing issues, understanding budgets, and time management issues. While all of these are important, I think that understanding budget issues generally and numerical data specifically is useful for all writing center directors. One of the workshop participants pointed out that quantitative data is often used to shut out (or shut up) those of us trained in the humanities – which is ironic, considering that citing numbers is really just another form of rhetorical evidence, that stuff with which we’re generally pretty savvy. But if we don’t understand the relationship between a standard deviation and a mean, for example, how can we argue against the claims that this information represents? A pretty compelling argument, if you ask me . . .

Same thing with budgets, really: sometimes it seems like budgets are constructed to obscure our understanding of the information they contain (what is the capital fund? Something in Washington D.C. maybe?) Even if we don’t control budgets, just understanding them is terribly useful – otherwise we don’t really know what resources our programs are even using – which makes it pretty difficult to know if they’re efficient!

Speaking of numbers, it’s 11:10PM here. And while it’s still light out, I should probably go get some sleep – I have an assessment workshop tomorrow.

More tomorrow, dear readers

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Assessing Assessment . . .

At the beginning of today’s workshop session, I polled the group to see how many people were writing center directors. Of the 22 people present, about 7 people identified as writing center directors. I guess I’m not the only one who thinks there’s something for writing center folks here . . .

One of the big issues we discussed today, for example, was assessment, a necessary if not always beloved issue in writing center administration. We discussed Brain Huot and Ellen Schendel’s "A Working Methodology of Assessment for Writing Program Administrators,” an essay I recommend to anyone looking for an entry point into assessment conversations (it’s included in The Allyn and Bacon Sourcebook for Writing Program Administrators). This resource nicely supplements the writing center-specific essays given to us by WPA workshop leaders Bud Weiser and Lauren Fitzgerald. This latter group includes copies of Jeanne Simpson’s “What Lies Ahead for Writing Centers: Position Statement on Professional Concerns,” and Mickey Harris’ “SLATE (Support for the Learning and Teaching of English) Statement: The Concept of a Writing Center.” Less particular to writing centers – but no less interesting to a director, I think, was the NCTE’s documents “Writing Assessment: A Position Statement” and “Scholarship in Composition: Guidelines for Faculty, Deans and Department Chairs.” And, of course, let us forget WPA’s own “Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition” and their “Evaluating the Intellectual Work of Writing Administration.”

If you’ve missed any of these documents, I highly recommend them as ways of thinking our work and explaining it to others. Particularly if you’ve got twenty hours of daylight, as we have here in Anchorage!

Monday, July 04, 2005

a rose is a rose is a . . .WPA?

Quote of the day:"Administration: Think Globally, Act Locally"

What a great first day for the WPA workshop: the discussions were interesting, the material useful and the chocolate-chip and Macadamiaia nut cookies were tasty! Also, I think I've adjusted to the Alaskan time zone and the twenty hours of daylight.

As I hope to photodocument later this week, there's several of writing center directors in the workshop as well as FYW and advanced composition directors. As you'd probably expect, then, the conversations have focused on issues of common interest. Today, for example, we talked quite a bit about the question "What is a WPA?"

Some of the answers that have stuck with me: a "pope" of writing, a translator, a godparent, and the person who *always* has to be the grown up.

This questions is actually something I've thought about quite a bit in relation to writing center work: is a writing center director always a WPA? If so, what do we gain/lose by identifying as such? If not, what's the difference? Is WPA a more privileged term than writing center director? Or is it a larger concept for which writing center director serves as a subcategory? I suppose there's different answers for this question, but I wonder about the implications of our answers to these question; how our self-definitions effect our self-presentations and how we construct our work for others.

Deep thoughts, no doubt. . . . .but, there's been too much thinking today already, and I've got homework to do, so, reader, I'll leave this issue for you decide for yourself.

Tomorrow we're discussing curriculum and trends, technology and assessment, so I'd better stop writing now and get reading!

More later, Melissa

Sunday, July 03, 2005

WPA???? I thought the program said IWCA!!!!!

Just kidding, folks . . . your humble narrator did indeed knowingly come to Anchorage Alaska for the WPA workshop/conference. My reasons for coming to WPA this particular year have to do with my move to the University of Delaware, where I’ll be starting this fall as a Director of Writing and member of the English faculty. (This position includes directing the writing center, so don’t think the writing center community is getting rid of me that easily! I’ll still be at IWCA this fall.)

While I’ve waited a whiles, I’ve wanted to come to the WPA conference in the past, but never found the time (and by “time,” I mean money). I’ve wondered how the “other half lived” at WPA, but the travel money attached to my administrative work sent me to the Cs and to IWCA, the conferences most directly related to my position as a writing center director.

I wonder how many of us find ourselves in this position: we’d like to broaden our participation in the varieties writing program conferences (WAC, Comp, TechWriting) but lack the time or other resources to do so? What opportunities we (I) miss by going to the same conferences every year? I think the support offered by our most immediate professional community at these conferences is crucial, but so is the cross-pollination of ideas available in a broader community of scholars. Maybe we’d benefit from something the Alliance of Rhetoric Societies, which promotes interdisciplinary work among rhetoric scholars? Or maybe not?

But, in reality, many of us are lucky if we get funded to see our colleagues at a single regional or national conference each year. Accordingly, my goal this week is to impart some sense of WPA from a writing center p.o.v . . . now, I'm off for a quick nap before things start up!

Until later, Melissa

Whoops! Wrong conference photo!