Saturday, May 25, 2013



I changed offices this week, moved from the smaller, windowless interior office that is standard issue for junior faculty in my department to the larger, windowed outer office pictured here. This is one among the incentives for taking on responsibilities as Director of the First-Year Writing Program--a role I formally stepped into earlier this month. The larger office is warranted because it is spacious enough for meetings with small groups of 3-4 people, or that's the main rationale for the up-sized office, I'm told.

There's quite a bit of new work that comes with being WPA, and I have been daily trying both to tick items off a long task-list I'm keeping in Astrid for now and to keep short-term priorities in clear view. In the mix: (anti)textbook decisions, curricular fine- and coarse-tuning, drilling down on outcomes that read to too many--me included--as over-general goals, getting publishers to say anything-more? about their pricing and margins, scrounging for budget, setting up online spaces (e.g., Wordpress and Mediawiki installs), scheduling for fall, prepping a summer materials PDF for new GA cohort, and on and on. I'm not sure how the size of this FYWP compares, but I'd guess it is larger than most with 140+ sections per year, more than 3000 students per year, and an instructional staff of more than 50.

Along with all of the challenges, the transition into this role is generative in that it is pushing me to re-think my research agenda, reconsider my teaching philosophy, formalize an administrative philosophy and plan (almost certainly rooted in chreods and chreodologies), and reflect on what worked well in my graduate education. I have every indication so far that EMU is a hospitable place for tending to the strength and solidity of the first-year experience and Gen. Ed. There are many smart, supportive people involved, which always helps.

I have half-kidded on Twitter that in addition to Writing Program Administrator, WPA means Writing Program Atavist and Writing Program Adhocrat: atavist for throwback tendencies (returning to my own TA training, unearthing relic teaching influences, leafing through the 1936 Sears catalogs as Jim Corder did, and finding it fixed, stale: "We mustn't try to live forever with only the knowledge we now have."), adhocrat for the gut-trusting making up of this thing as we go, leaning hard on practical wisdom and the proceed-as-way-opens Quaker maxim LWP has always been fond of. I've ordered a few other books about contemporary WPA thinking, but right now this is where I'm at.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at May 25, 2013 9:30 AM to Academe

As I always said to students, the address is 613M, that's "m" as in MY office. Enjoy the new digs, and don't mind the ghosts I left.

Posted by: Steve Krause at May 25, 2013 10:59 PM

Having spent three of the last four years in 612M, I've never once told anyone the M meant MY. Suppose that M stands for MOVING ELSEWHERE ASAP.

So what does the letter in your new office number stand for? Maybe I shouldn't ask. It's 603F, yeah?

Posted by: Derek at May 26, 2013 8:58 AM

Yeah, that F is a problem. I'm trying to come up with PG-rated for that letter for me and students to remember the locale. "Fraud" comes to mind, but that probably wouldn't instill a lot of confidence....

Posted by: Steve Krause at May 26, 2013 9:22 AM


Posted by: Derek at May 26, 2013 9:25 AM

That might be a little too familiar for students-- don't want to set myself up for a harassment allegation by telling students "That's 613F, and the F is for 'friend.'" Funky? That doesn't describe me at all. Fun? Maybe. Fearful? Probably.

I better stop this if I intend to get any work done today....

Posted by: Steve Krause at May 26, 2013 9:28 AM

Congrats, I guess, on the WPA thing. I feel your pain.

Posted by: Alex Reid at May 28, 2013 8:22 PM

Thanks, Alex. I take your words to be genuinely congratulatory condolences.

Posted by: Derek at May 28, 2013 10:36 PM