E.17 "Polymorphic Frames of Pre-Tenure WPAs: Eight Accounts of Hybridity and Pronoia"
Reviewed by Magdelyn Hammond Helwig (Mhfirstname.lastname@example.org)
Derek Mueller, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti
- Matt Dowell, Le Moyne College, Syracuse, NY, “Getting Up to Speed Quickly: The Untenured WPA and Curricular Change”
- Rik Hunter, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, “Teaching the Teachers: Designing a FYW Curriculum for Non-Writing Specialists”
- Kate Pantelides, University of South Florida, Tampa, “Why Won’t This Thing Open? Negotiating New WPA Identity”
- Kristine Kellejian, University of Washington–Bothell, “Flight of the Bumblebee: Creating a Writing Program at an Interdisciplinary University”
- Mike Garcia, Georgia Regents University, Augusta, “Everything’s a Moving Target: WPA Work in the Midst of Comprehensive Institutional Change”
- Laura Davies, United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO, “Boots on the Ground: Negotiating Military Contexts as a Civilian WPA”
- Derek Mueller, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, “Assembling Handles for Divergent Grasps”
- Alanna Frost, University of Alabama, Huntsville, “Axis and Allies: Strategies for Untenured WPAs”
Using the phrase, “Pre-Tenure WPAs” in a CCCC session title virtually ensures that the poshly appointed hotel ballroom cum conference room will be packed; those of us who are pre-tenure WPAs look for all the help we can get. Syncing idiosyncratic, yet generalizable narratives of WPA work from a range of institutions to a quirky slide show of associative images and punchy text ensures that the audience will be glad they plucked up the energy to attend a 4:45 pm session. Don’t just take my word for it: these hardworking, thoughtful, and thought-provoking panelists have made their session available as a YouTube video, thus extending the range of the session well beyond the four walls of the ballroom.
Since you can experience the content of the session yourself, I will eschew the standard summary review in favor of making a few comments about the session as a whole. Though each speaker’s narrative was different-representing WPA work from such diverse institutions as a military academy, a newly consolidated regional state university, and a small, Catholic liberal arts college-the overarching narrative focus was on negotiating hybrid identities (faculty member, administrator, researcher) through pronoia, or tactical foresight. I left the session with a toolkit for negotiating my own hybrid identity, as well as with a larger theoretical framework for understanding that identity.
The idea of pronoia was new to me. Searching through session titles on my iPhone, using the handy 2014 CCCC Annual Convention app, my mind covertly altered the title of this session to “Hybridity and Paranoia,” which seemed fitting, I thought, for a roundtable discussion focused on the pre-tenure WPA. As I prepared to attend the session, I double-checked the title, read “paranoia,” stopped, backed up, and read “pronoia.” Hmmmmm. It turns out that pronoia is closely related to paranoia, at least as I envision that state of mind in relation to the pre-tenure WPA; but rather than suggesting a state of mind into which one might descend, as paranoia does, pronoia suggests a state of mind one might adopt to combat the onset of paranoia. As a theoretical lens for understanding how to negotiate shifting, often contradictory identities, pronoia proposes that we pre-tenure WPAs must proactively create kairotic moments that allow us to assert our disciplinary identities within local contexts. Specific tools for doing so range from adapting strategies from other disciplines, such as borrowing from Critical Systems Thinking (see Dan Melzer’s (2013) “Using Systems Thinking to Transform Writing Programs”) to doing what we writers do best: asking genuinely curious questions and telling our own stories.
While it’s clear that I learned a great deal in this session, I believe the value of the session moves beyond its content. The form of this session is one to be emulated in future conference sessions. From the campy slide show (one slide insists that bacon is indeed the answer to everything) to the live Twitter feed that allowed the panelists to speak simultaneously to a fixed audience and a much wider audience, to the preservation of the session in its entirety on YouTube, what session chair Derek Mueller calls a “durable artifact” on his blog Earth Wide Moth, Session E.17 suggested one successful way that we can provide access to our work beyond the borders of the conference hotel.
Melzer, Dan. (2013). Using systems thinking to transform writing programs. Writing Program Administration, 36(2): 75-94.