The Working Lives of New Writing Center Directors
The first book-length empirical investigation of writing center directors’ labor, The Working Lives of New Writing Center Directors presents a longitudinal qualitative study of the individual professional lives of nine new directors. Inspired by Kinkead and Harris’s Writing Centers in Context (1993), the authors adopt a case study approach to examine the labor these directors performed and the varied motivations for their labor, as well as the labor they ignored, deferred, or sidelined temporarily, whether or not they wanted to.
The study shows directors engaged in various types of labor—everyday, disciplinary, and emotional—and reveals that labor is never restricted to a list of job responsibilities, although those play a role. Instead, labor is motivated and shaped by complex and unique combinations of requirements, expectations, values, perceived strengths, interests and desires, identities, and knowledge. The cases collectively distill how different institutions define writing and appropriate resources to writing instruction and support, informing the ongoing wider cultural debates about skills (writing and otherwise), the preparation of educators, the renewal/tenuring of educators, and administrative “bloat” in academe.
The nine new directors discuss more than just their labor; they address their motivations, their sense of self, and their own thoughts about the work they do, facets of writing center director labor that other types of research or scholarship have up to now left invisible. The Working Lives of New Writing Center Directors strikes a new path in scholarship on writing center administration and is essential reading for present and future writing center administrators and those who mentor them.
'The Working Lives of New Writing Center Directors is poised to make a unique and valuable contribution to the field of writing center studies, as well as to writing program administration. . . . [I]t gives us a window into the professional lives of writing center directors at institutions that we rarely see in published scholarship.'
—Jonikka Charlton, The University of Texas–Pan American
'These case studies allow us to learn quite a bit about the prevailing views of writing centers within institutions and also within the disciplines in which writing center directors’ professional lives nest—rhetoric and composition, education, TESOL, English. This is a study to be admired.'
—Anne Ellen Geller, St. John’s University
Nicole I. Caswell is the director of the University Writing Centers and assistant professor of rhetoric and composition at East Carolina University.
Jackie Grutsch McKinney is the director of the Writing Center and professor of rhetoric and composition at Ball State University.
Rebecca Jackson is associate professor and director of the MA major in rhetoric and composition at Texas State University.
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