Ernest Boyer, Marble Mazes, and Poetry

What do these three have in common? Find out in the newest responses to Writing Program Architecture: Thirty Cases for Reference and Research. The three latest responses are written by Remica Bingham-Risher, director of the Interdisciplinary Writing Quality Enhancement Plan at Old Dominion University; Christopher LeCluyse, Writing Center Director at Westminster College; and James Purdy, Writing Center Director at Duquesne University. These responses not only describe the authors’ motivations for writing the program profiles within the book; they add another layer of complexity to the way we understand program structures and the people who hold them together, support them, keep them standing.

The Purposes of Writing Program Architecture

From the introduction:

We suggest that exposing the architecture of writing programs has three purposes: first, it foregrounds elements of a program that are oftentimes treated as mundane background information. In accounts of writing programs, the institutional contexts are typically (and perfunctorily) discussed ahead of the “real” project or argument. Yet, we suggest that this information deserves some attention of its own. Ask any WPA about their current project and inevitably, they will most likely begin the answer with some explanation of the structure of the unit or program in order to situate the work. For instance, a director of a WAC program might have to describe his current professional development program by first explaining that he reports partly to the dean and partly to the English Department, which puts him in a difficult position when he must convince his own colleagues in English to consider some institutional mandate from the administration. Since explanations of structure often precede argument, method, and solution, structure itself is important to highlight.

Second, we see this book as serving a research function. As a collection of case studies, the volume provides jumping off points to address and inspire myriad research questions. For instance, one might notice and believe that writing centers, so important to the support of writing education and culture on a campus, are often precarious in structure, wedged between departments and comprising fractions of a person’s job. For the benefit of a project seeking to improve such conditions, this book provides evidence and documentation for support and corroboration. Each chapter is a site of research, a place where WPAs and other scholars in writing studies can look to invent, support, and challenge their assumptions and arguments.

Finally, the third purpose of this book is to model a method for WPAs to consider and articulate their own programs’ architecture. For one thing, they might consider their program in a material, logistical way outside of their own performance within it. As we noted above, writing programs are often conflated with the WPA themself. Often this is because the only funding source or institutional support that exists is that person’s salary. For another, WPAs might improve their own ability at focusing others’ attention on the parts of the program they wish to expand, improve, or promote. Rather than rattling off what a program isn’t—distinguishing the first-year writing from WAC from writing fellows, say—program architecture within the writing programs featured here exemplifies the many elements within these structures and models how to articulate one’s own.