Revolution Lullabye

November 19, 2010

Phelps, Mobilizing Human Resources

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Mobilizing Human Resources.” In Administrative Problem-Solving for Writing Programs and Writing Centers: Scenarios in Effective Program Management. Ed. Linda Myers-Breslin. Urbana: NCTE, 1999. 73-96. Print.

Phelps gives a case study of “Cicero University,” a university that is at the same time shrinking its enrollment by 20% and developing a new writing program. She points out that the most glaring resource problem might seem to be financial, but in fact, the biggest challenge that this WPA faces is one of human resources – the WPA must tap into the talents and potential of the instructors and TAs of the program to pull off a revision of the curriculum. She argues that the part-time faculty instructors who worked in the program before are the WPA’s faculty – they are the ones that will either buy in or buy out of the program. The WPA in this position must work to create out of this “disparate group of people” a “community of teachers with the skills and commitment to plan the changes, adapt to them, and work together to successfully implement new goals” (83). She argues that this WPA challenge can be approached with three tasks: 1. create intellectual capital and make it accessible (the program’s knowledge base and practical expertise as represented by all members.) 2. create social capital (a social network of commmuniation and trust); 3. reorganize work roles and work processes to fit a new instructional plan and 4. determine how to fund these solutions.

Notes and Quotes

“Human resources in a literal sense may refer to the number of personnel lines or dollars you have on budget, the types of employees, or the person hours you can tap for some task. But more fundamentally they are the talents and human potential represented among people who work for or with the program. Like any resource, they can be cultivated, expanded, and deployed effeciently and ethically; or they can be squandered, misdirected, underestimated, or diminshed. Human capital is a more crucial resource than dollars, technology, or even time. By investing energy, pride, and commitment in their work, people provide the knowledge, imagination, motivation, and skill without which the program cannot use other types of resources effectively, or at all” (82).

You can’t just replace the whole corps of part-time instructors. “They are your faculty” (83) They have varing backgrounds, but you must cultivate them into a teaching community, one that proposes, implements changes. That’s your job as a leader – not to impose some theory but to allow them to build it.

Argues that you can’t just come up with a plan for yourself and then ask for the money. Program building is a dynamic process and an effective WPA has to seek out synergies.

1990s was a time of change in higher ed – change brought on by troubled economic times, shifting demographi

cs, changing technologies, weak economy, shrinking pool of undergraduate students, move to making “student centered” universities, emphasis on interdiciplinary learning and cooperation between units

build intellectual capital through professional development (87) that involves and serves everyone in the program. List of professional development options on pg 88

opportunity costs of offering professional development to different constituencies (TAs, PhDs in comp/rhet)

the importance of being transparent about information and ideas in the program

November 18, 2010

Smith, Louise Z. Smith Responds

Smith, Louise Z. “Louise Z. Smith Responds.” College English 51 (1989): 436-7. Print

Smith argues that a WAC program only works in context, and the challenge of any WAC program is to make it fit in with the individual institution’s needs and goals. She questions the Colgate Department of Interdisciplinary Writing, asking if it is prudent to value “retrained” compositionists from other fields (science, history, etc.) over literary specialists in reader-response theory, hermeneutics, etc., who might be able to bring a foundational understanding of composition theory and then some more.

Notes and Quotes

“Through helping a wide variety of colleges and universities to develop WAC programs, I’ve come to see every one of them as a living entity with a memory and an imagination, with a developing philosophical and political character – and with idiosyncracies, long may they wave! Consequently, I believe that any discussion of administrative models can carry us so far; then we need to think about the fit between a model and the character of the college where we hope it will serve. No model should be called ‘too idiosyncratic’ until thosewho will teach within it have tried it on and either discarded it or let the program director negotiate the tailoring and alterations for what can be used with durability, comfort, and pride, as the IWP clearly is” (437).

interesting connection here to Syracuse – Smith leaves it up to the program director to negotiate the tailoring and alterations, the Syracuse WP gave that responsibility, in part, to PWIs

March 31, 2009

Phelps, “Budget, Enrollment, and Workforce”

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Budget, Enrollment, and Workforce.” Exploiting Synergies: Positioning the Writing Program for the Nineties. Planning Document. The Writing Program, Syracuse University. November 1991.

This is one of a series of eight concept papers in a planning document submitted by Phelps, as Director of the Writing Program, to the new Syracuse University chancellor (Shaw) in 1991. In it, Phelps argues that the Writing Program’s budget be reconceived: that it depends on budgeted money (not variable allocations); that it is designed based on the Program’s goals (not on the categories of the old Freshman English program); that it uses people, not sections as a baseline for deciding how much money the Program receives; and that it is administered at the university level, not in the College of Arts and Sciences (because it serves the entire population.) Phelps directly ties the goals of the Program, those goals that were stated when she came to serve as director in 1986, to how the budget is constructed and administered.

Quotable Quotes

“The Writing Program recovers an unreasonably low percentage of the profit it generates over costs.”

“Since the status quo budget (no matter how increased) is conceptually organized by the categories and distribution of our teaching in the old program, the Freshman English program continues to repress our imagination through the perpetuation of its budget structures”

Notable Notes

SU was trying to cut costs and enrollment university-wide, early 1990s

make a budget that is based on planning (in this case, the number of faculty for the future grad program), not one that is reactive and scrambles together funds from a variety of sources at the last minute

look at the functions of the writing program: both teaching undergraduate courses and working consultatively in a writing center, with professional development, evaluation, TA training, university-wide projects and initiatives – all thesse, not just the teaching, need adequate funding

February 22, 2009

Phelps, Telling a Writing Program Its Own Story

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Telling a Writing Program Its Own Story: A Tenth Anniversary  Speech.” In The Writing Program Administrator as Researcher: Inquiry into Action and Reflection. Eds. Shirley K. Rose and Irwin Weiser. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook Heinemann, 1998.

 

This version that I am reading and taking notes on is the uncut version. The  speech was significantly cut in the collection.

 

This article combines the tenth anniversary speech Phelps gives to the Syracuse University Writing Program in 1997 with her analysis and reflection on speech as a form  of administrative rhetoric and highlights the intellectual work of both administration and leadership. The speech is divided into three sections – narrative, analysis, and reflection – which are based on the common moves taught in the Syracuse writing studios. Phelps shows how the Writing Program, founded in 1986, can be described as a sort of “Great Group,” who risked chaos in a outpouring of inventiveness and creativity in the early  years of the program. This complex open system became self-organizing, subcritical, and more orderly as the Program reached relatively high “fitness peaks.” However, in order to remain responsive and relevant to changing context, Phelps argues that the Program must be inventive still by bringing in new faculty and new leadership, developing new programs like the graduate program and a major, and by constantly searching out large and small opportunities to connect with other departments, colleges, and outside organizations that will allow the Program to grow, expand, and evolve. Phelps then steps outside her speech and analyzes it as a form of administrative rhetoric, arguing that WPAs, especially women, must not cede their authority as a leader. Rather, they should embrace the public form of administrative rhetoric in the form of speeches for they provide an opportunity to explain to the community that they lead the ideas and principles inherent in their organizing narrative. Strong reflective leadership is not coercive; it is necessary for the survival of a complex, dynamic organization like a writing program.

 

Quotable Quotes

 

“The Writing Program chose the Great Group model, where disparate people are drawn together by mutual commitment to a project and became energized by the power of collaboration, because we believed that it is a social structure more conducive to creativity and more successful in the long run.

In that choice, we risked chaos.”

 

“If the early development of the Writing Program represented the gamble of falling into chaos, after ten years one must imagine that we now risk the possibility of too much order. We are likely to find ourselves trapped on relatively high fitness peaks, where there is a big cost for coming down and trying another one that isn’t likely to prove that much better.” – reminds me of Jefferson/Adams, a  revolution every generation, tension and questioning whether the next wave is going to be as good as what you got already

 

“I came ever more strongly to believe that it is right for writing program administrators to aspire to leadership as an honorable role, to explore and analyze the role of rhetoric in administration, to make creative and ethical use of the rhetorical power their office (and their training) lends them.”

 

 

Notable Notes

 

Great Groups

 

Important sources: Bennis and Biderman (Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration); Gould (Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History); Kaufmann (At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity); Senge (The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization)

 

Reference to working on institutional invention piece

 

Used reflections from people who were in the early years of the program

 

WP wasn’t an  exact Great Group  because the people involved were so heterogeneous; not everyone bought into the idea, so that caused conflict and pain.

 

Ecological/systems  model

 

In a complex open system, there must be smaller, more local groups with autonomy that can grow and evolve, together creating a network to form the entire system

 

Evolution isn’t a linear path – there comes a point where there is an explosion of creativity (supracritical) that then is tamed by a learning or S-curve, when you reach high fitness peaks.

 

That “cascade of novelty in uncoordinated, chaotic interactions” was the fear of those who wanted a common text and curriculum.

 

Coevolving systems

 

Move from romance into a fruitful marriage

 

WPA is a “convenient euphemism” for administrators who don’t want to take on the name of leader – why are we so reluctant to use power wisely?

 

Speech as intellectual work of a writing program administrator

February 3, 2009

Phelps, The Institutional Logic of Writing Programs

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “The Institutional Logic of Writing Programs: Catalyst, Laboratory, and Pattern for Change.” In The Politics of Writing Instruction: Postsecondary. Eds. Richard Bullock and John Trimbur. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, 1991. 155-170.

Instead of focusing on what the relationship between rhet/comp and literature can be in an English department, Phelps takes a step back, widens the scope, and discusses what a independent writing program can do for the institution as a whole. Higher education is going through a multifacted crisis (the devaluing of teaching and undergraduate education due to the focus on research, the absence of community due to specialization, and the employment of under-paid, under-trained part-time and graduate teachers), but the theoretical foundations of a writing program makes it a prime candidate for a site of institutional change: the field of composition highly values quality pedagogy and undergraduate education; a writing program serves the whole institution and therefore must reach out across disciplines; and the large, diverse cohort of teachers allows for the construction of professional communities. Writing programs must confront several challenges to be viable. In addition to negotiating the local political and institutional constraints of each university, writing programs have unique budget, space, technology, labor, tenure, evaluation, and structural needs that must be administratively met in order for the writing program to be viable.

Quotable Quotes

“The most important contribution I think writing programs can make, though, with respect to higher education at large, is to exemplify the struggle to foster community in the face of the prevailing mood of skepticism, critique of all cultural institutions and their traditions, radical individualism, and loss of fellowship that troubles our colleges and universities” (167) – through community building and professional development of professors, part-time, grad students, undergraduates

“With luck, and propitious local circumstances, this situational fit enables writing programs to become a positive force for change by enacting their own logic: operating experimentally and hypothetically; nuturing a fragile sense of community in talk, text, and collaborative work; and seeking interdependencies where they can find them.” (168)

“the concrete practices of community” (167)

Notable Notes

rhetorical concept of kairos – fitting into the historical and situational context – by having writing programs lead institutional change (168) 

the field of rhetoric/composition as a model, a logic for writing programs to develop and follow

get out of the trap of quibbling over departmental structure

use Syracuse as a model

Ernest Boyer (Carnegie Foundation) – higher ed reform that Phelps bases her argument for writing programs on

Themes of the disciplines that work for institutional change:

  1. writing helps students become active learners and meaning-makers
  2. common literacy strategies adapted for diverse rhetorical situations
  3. collaborative work
  4. communicate patiently through hands-on talk and text – create a community (163)

Challenges 164-166

Writing program acts as collaborator and as a catalyst, an experimenter, for change.

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