Thursday, July 5, 2012

Selections from The Writing Program Administrator's Resource

White, Edward M. “Teaching a Graduate Program in Writing Program Administration.” The Writing Program Administrator’s Resource. Eds. Stuart C Brown and Theresa Enos. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002. Print. 101-112.

This article examines the experiences the author and Theresa Enos had in teaching a PhD class in WPA. The piece shares a syllabus, schedule, and lessons learned from the teaching of a WPA class. The author indicates how surprised he was to learn how little students really understood of how academia worked and how insolated they were from the reality of the struggles end within their own field (i.e. the poor status of rhetoric and composition faculty were perceived as a historical issue). The piece explores the strengths and weaknesses of the course design and acknowledges how vast the field of WPA really is. Not matter how one decides to craft a WPA course, he argues, material will be left out. In covering material in the class, or even keeping up with ever evolving literature of the field, White simply laments, “we all did the best we could and that unremitting guilt was part of WPA baggage” (109).

Discussion: This piece certainly reflects the struggle Louise, Mark and I have already addressed to some extent in considering how Mark and I might design a new WPA course for Louise to teach—we are knowingly omitting important, even necessary information in designing this course. As such, I think this piece is important for the class to read. I think it’s a useful reminder that the class will not and cannot be all-inclusive. This class only helps those of us interested in WPA work get our feet wet and learn some of the basics. Keeping up will be a career long endeavor. I just tweeted this morning that the deeper I get into WPA literature the more I feel I have to learn. It’s certainly nice to know Ed White feels the same way. ☺

Schwalm, David E. “Writing Program Administration as Preparation for an Administrative Career.” The Writing Program Administrator’s Resource. Eds. Stuart C Brown and Theresa Enos. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002. Print. 125-135.

This article uses the experiences from the author’s fifteen years of experience in varied levels of academic administration (from WPA to vise provost) to examine the differences between faculty and administrators and to demonstrate how WPA work is effective preparation for a career in upper level administration in the academy, if one so desires. The article makes some generalizations about the nature of faculty members versus administrators that present faculty in a fairly negative, but not undeserved, light. The essential message is that the position faculty hold in the institution allows them to be fairly self-focused, while administrators (good ones at least) must look outside themselves and their context. In the end, the piece argues a quasi-administrator position like the WPA helps a faculty member to develop administrator qualities because he or she gains through the unique position of the role an understanding of the power of knowledge, friendships, persuasion and empathy, all skills that are useful to an effective administrator.

Discussion: This piece actually cracked me up at several points. Schwalm’s characterization of faculty is a bit too true at times. His “nerd hypothesis of administrative failure,” was particularly amusing: "A nerd, whatever virtues or vices he or she may have, is someone who is uncomfortable at a cocktail party with strangers. There are some nerds who are content to be heads-down computer programmers, work in offices by themselves, grow rich, and raise socially adjusted children with perfect teeth. Others who are more resentful pursue the revenge of the nerds by becoming teachers or ministers--specifically because those positions carry with them power over others which the nerd could not win by dint of his or her own personality and social skills. That's bad enough, but Woe unto us all when one of these becomes an academic administrator!" (129). I find this piece really interesting in presenting the administration not as the dark side, but as a side with different concerns from the faculty. It articulates the necessity for faculty and administrators to act differently because of their particular roles. It makes sense. It’s useful. I do wonder, however, how faculty without administrative aspirations, or students how have never taught or been in administration, would respond to his tongue-in-cheek treatment of the faculty ranks.

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