At all four institutions where I have taught, I have worked in the capacity of an administrator. Indeed, administration--whether it is helping run a First-Year Writing Program, serving as a mentor to graduate student instructors, directing an Honors Program, or directing a writing program--is some of the most important and fulfilling work I do as a professor. Below I discuss my administrative philosophy and detail some of my administrative projects.

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Too often Writing Program Administrative roles are characterized by a sense of drudgery--an understanding that the role entails important yet unpleasant tasks such as addressing cases of plagiarism, negotiating faculty demands and schedules, convincing reluctant literature graduate students to teach composition, and attending a copious amount of meetings. While these responsibilities certainly fall under the purview of a WPA, there are other, more positive, responsibilities as well. For me, these positive responsibilities include creating opportunities for dialogue within a program as well as across an institution and promoting a sense of unity even as I support instructors’ individual pedagogical goals.

In these ways, my administrative and mentoring goals parallel my teaching goals. In each instance, I aim to establish a cohesive community as I simultaneously encourage the agendas of the individual members. This means, for instance, promoting awareness of and conversation about the WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition and then supporting individual instructors as they create their own pedagogies that fulfill those outcomes--both within the Writing Program and beyond. In my work at Boston College as Associate Director of First-Year Writing and in my work now as the Director of Writing at St. Thomas Aquinas College, I foster a sense of community through various ways so I can sustain conversations about pedagogy: teaching a semester-long pedagogy course that prepared graduate student instructors to teach in the program; hosting regular program-wide meetings; organizing mentoring groups; hosting annual workshops; developing a site for instructors to share their assignments; and inviting guest speakers from beyond the institution to introduce instructors to scholarship occurring within the field of composition so that they can feel they were members not only of a local community but also a broader one as well.

My experiences at Boston College, where I was mentored by Lad Tobin and Paula Mathieu, were profound and inspired me and pointed me to the University of Michigan, where I pursued a Ph.D. in composition and rhetoric. In my work as Graduate Student Mentor in the English Department Writing Program at Michigan, fostering community meant coordinating monthly colloquiums on various topics, from utilizing technology in the classroom to encouraging productive participation in discussions; introducing a monthly program newsletter in which the GSMs could provide information and advice; facilitating Teaching Circles for new instructors so they could ask questions, practice creating handouts, and share exercises; designing a photo board that helped make instructors more visible to one another and to their students; and helping to update a program website that included links to resources. As an administrator, creating a sense of community means that instructors--and consequently, their students--feel supported.

Furthermore, my work as a Graduate Teaching Consultant for the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching convinced me of the value of promoting conversations not just within the program or the field of composition but across a variety of programs and disciplines. I spent three years observing instructors in history, romance languages, music, engineering, and psychology, to name just a few departments, I came away appreciating the profound learning opportunities afforded by situating our teaching within interdisciplinary conversations. Such situating prevents a kind of tunnel vision and helps writing programs remain relevant. The work I did at Michigan, both in the JPEE program and at CRLT, continues to influence my administrative work today--namely in my efforts to invite to the composition pedagogy table instructors and staff from across the College.

Listening to our students, too, keeps us relevant; this means asking students about the writing they do within and beyond the academy and incorporating their experiences into our pedagogies so that we can train them to enter into a variety of communities and discourses. 

And so I do not feel weighed down by some of the more mundane tasks that come with administrative roles. In fact, I view administration as another exciting opportunity to promote dialogue across a university and beyond.

 

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