Administration, situation, and scholarship: A posthuman examination of writing program administrators

Patricia Estelle Poblete, Purdue University

Abstract

The study of writing programs examines the processes, people, pedagogy, as well as the problems a typical writing program administrator (WPA) encounters and negotiates as part of, as well as outside of, the academic institution. Writing program administrators, as research into their work reveals, define, manage, and defend their writing programs. In the practice of everyday, however, it becomes all too easy to focus on the defense of the program, and even easier to overlook the definition of their programs. The university, like most institutions, has a limited number of resources to allocate, and administrators are much more likely to scrabble in the face of that scarcity. This scrambling, however, distracts administrators from considering questions of their own identities and roles. ^ Whether formally trained in administration or not, administrators don't always realize that the glitches, the ad hocs of every day, are the feature, not the bug, of WPA work. WPA work requires that its practitioners not only react effectively to predicaments, but that they also analyze the causes and anticipate the effects of those predicaments. On a day-to-day basis, however, it's easy for WPAs to slip into a putting-out-fires attitude, and this problem persists past initial WPA work, accumulating negativity and sometimes enabling long-term malaise. The lack of anticipatory mindset which sometimes besets academic administrators leads not only to stagnated scholarship, but to a perpetuation thereof. WPA training—whether through programmatic training or exigent research—sets up a canon of identity in which administrators, whether brand-new or with decades of experience, can easily become entrapped. ^ While the constant contextualization of WPA scholarship is important and necessary—to abstract or generalize any situation immediately robs it of its bite—WPAs also need to avoid becoming isolated and entrenched in their personal practices. They need to stop relying so much on self-constructed histories in order to frame and justify their practices. They cling to lore—the narratives of practices, the anecdotal arguments, the articulation of what "everybody" knows—without realizing that it's often a self-fulfilling prophecy, rather than a retelling of the past. And within the context of the changing university—an institution so often accused of being administratively top-heavy and ultimately inefficient—it's imperative for WPAs to recognize how their epistemological identity crisis becomes part of that same narrative. ^ This project investigates the ways in which WPAs are enculturated, explores the alternative canons through which WPAs can break out of entrenchment, and proposes a posthuman framework for the academic institution as a whole.^

Degree

Ph.D.

Advisors

Thomas Rickert, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Philosophy|Education, Administration|Language, Rhetoric and Composition

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