Reviewed by Sherri Craig, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Chair: Staci Perryman-Clark, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI
Speakers: Collin Craig, St. John’s University, Jamaica, NY, “The WPA as Collective Identity: Finding Cross-Cultural Spaces of Possibility through Collaboration”.
Aja Martinez, Binghamton University, State University of New York, Binghamton, NY,“‘You Remind Me of My Tia/Niña/Prima/Sister’: Administrating, Teaching, and Mentoring Underrepresented Students as the Untenured Chicana WPA”
Respondents: Staci Perryman-Clark, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI
David Green, Howard University, Washington, DC
As the panelists gathered in the front, the room buzzed with conversations between old friends and new acquaintances. All were present to partake in the rarely shared wisdom of faculty of color in writing program administration work. Audience members were able to listen to two panelists, Collin Craig (St. John’s University) and Aja Martinez (Binghamton University, SUNY), offer their stories of trial and triumph before the respondents, David Green (Howard University) and Staci Perryman-Clark (Western Michigan University), provided insight on the panelists’ presentations and expanded on several of the topics raised before opening the discussion to the audience.
For Collin Craig, his identity as a person of color and a member of the department depended on the availability of mentorship and support in the program. With the departure of his ally, Craig, other members of the writing program established a series of interdepartmental collaborations to satisfy their need for support outside of the dictatorial administrative structure left in the remains of the previous Writing Program Administrators (WPA). By collaborating with the writing center, learning communities, and other institutional programs, the faculty of color were able to take rhetorical action without disruptive resistance. This type of pedagogical work decentralized the WPA’s position and helped build up the faculty of color within an inflexible writing program.
Aja Martinez described her experiences working as the writing director for Binghamton University’s summer bridge program, the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), with great enthusiasm. With one Writing Program Administrator (WPA) course by the great Ed M. White in her doctoral program and an interest in writing programs, Martinez was selected by the university to assist the EOP. At the time of her initial charge it had no structure, had few requirements for those teaching the writing course associated with it and had recently transitioned from not-for-credit to credit bearing. Her title, “‘You Remind Me of My Tia/Niña/Prima/Sister,’” invokes her identity as a Chicana WPA and the identity given to her by students in the summer program. Martinez shared her desire to improve the writing courses, but as a young untenured Chicana woman, the additional pressures to revitalize this program through unpaid labor and an unspoken, and assumed, dedication caused her to question her own identity as a professor and administrator.
Respondents David Green and Staci Perryman-Clark shared their experiences in administrative work at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and a midsized Midwestern University. The struggle to educate writing instructors, students, and colleagues about students’ language rights and educating the 21st century student echoed throughout the panel. The Chair, Perryman-Clark, closed the panel with two questions for the audience to consider:
- How might we build stronger coalitions to support faculty WPAs and those who do administrative work?
- In what ways can all of us work to improve working conditions for those who are often seen as most vulnerable at the institutions we serve?
The structure of this panel created, by far, was one of the most rewarding, inspiring, and enlightening sessions at CCCC 2015. The narratives shared by each of the panelists, combined with a lengthy Q & A session where audience members provided their own stories, questions, trials and triumphs in administrative work, provided a new look into the faculty of color experience unparalleled in other panels.