"When the proximity of cultural and linguistic diversity is one of the key facts of our time, the very nature of language learning has changed."
The New London Group (1996), "A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures" (p. 6)
To: David Martins
From: Rebecca Charry
Subject: Writing Seminar
Greetings from ACMT Dubrovnik. All's well here in the English department, but I have a question for you regarding Writing Seminar. I've been teaching this course in various forms for several years and I have always included a formal research paper in the course. I am no longer sure that this serves our students well. I think they would be better off focusing on composition and textual analysis. I am considering saving research methods for a separate course. Is the research paper a required part of the Writing Seminar syllabus? How much freedom do I have in restructuring the assignments? (Personal communication, Jan. 19, 2010)
When I received this message from Dubrovnik a few months after I started working as the first-year writing program director, I didn't know who Rebecca Charry was and didn't know quite how to respond. Rebecca, I learned, was a faculty member in Dubrovnik, Croatia. She was teaching Rochester Institute of Technology's (RIT) recently revised and re-named first-year writing course: Writing Seminar. She was teaching the course at the oldest of RIT's three international branch campuses, RIT Croatia, formerly the American College of Management and Technology (ACMT).
In the brief email message, my RIT Croatia colleague asks for clarification about the curriculum of a course she has taught for a long time from the program director whose name she "found on the English Department's website" (personal communication, Jan. 19, 2010). Something has changed in how she views the appropriateness of the program curriculum for the students enrolled at RIT Croatia. By posing a simple question about her freedom to restructure the assignments in the course she teaches, she reveals two distinct, yet ultimately productive tensions: 1) the efficacy of current curricular structures for writing instruction at the two affiliated campuses, and 2) the degree of autonomy and control experienced by faculty teaching in a transnational program.
As the new first-year-writing program director, I didn't understand the curricular connections between the two schools, and was not at all clear about my role with respect to program assessment, curriculum design, and faculty professional development at any of the three branch campuses. Receiving these questions as I did challenged what had been a comfortable sense of the nature and scope of my work as the first-year-writing program director. But even more provocative was my uncertainty about the relevance of the learning outcomes and activities of Writing Seminar for the students enrolled at RIT and its branch campuses.
Questions about roles, responsibilities, and curricular relevance are, of course, the baseline concerns of any WPA. Viewed within the contexts of international higher education, the common activities and structures of first-year writing instruction looked to me impoverished. Susan Leigh Star and Karen Ruhleder (1996) described "infrastructure" as it "emerges for people in practice, connected to activities and structures" (p. 112). From this new vantage point, writing program infrastructure is clearly an institutionally specific, dynamic process. Seeing writing program infrastructure as emergent in international contexts of higher education, then, has reoriented my approach to realizing ideals, bringing about new practices, and designing alternative structures.
"Framing is concerned with the way interests, communicators, sources, and culture combine to yield coherent ways of understanding the world, which are developed using all of the available verbal and visual symbolic resources ... Frames are organizing principles that are socially shared and persistent over time, that work symbolically to meaningfully structure the social world."
Stephen Reese, as cited in Linda Adler-Kassner's The Activist WPA (p. 12)
Writing program administrators are uniquely positioned to see opportunities for improving the structures and activities that constitute the writing instruction students experience. Opportunities for improvements often become visible at moments of institutional change—during curriculum reform, calendar conversion, or program creation—when the framing of educational structures change, activities become the focus and not simply the way it's done.
Transnational Writing Program Administration is just one example of the opportunity- and constraint-filled scene of institutional change. A key element of any international education scene is the overt negotiation of multiple, competing models for how to accomplish the educational and business aims of any given program, campus, or instructional service. In the global expansion of higher education, the tension between economic and pedagogical interests strongly influence decisions made about what kinds of programs to offer and how to offer those programs. Writing teachers and administrators involved in the creation or development of international programs must negotiate these tensions based upon what they know and value about learning, teaching, and writing.
This site reflects my attempts to achieve what Linda Adler-Kassner (2008) called a "balance between ideals and strategies" (p. 9). In her award-winning book, The Activist WPA: Changing Stories about Writing and Writers, Adler-Kassner described ideals as the "goals, aims, ultimate objectives—as well as whose interests are represented in those ends" (p. 8). She elaborated on this sense of ideals, writing: "Ideals are our personal stories and motivating factors—the things most important to us. They extend from what we hold in ourselves, what we see through our emotions and experiences" (p. 9). In the contexts of transnational higher education, I find my ideals—shaped as they are by training in composition, rhetoric, and literacy studies, and my commitments to meaningful writing instruction and to ethical labor and teaching practices—are challenged and invigorated by powerful economic trends and business practices.
Strategies, described by Adler-Kassner (2008), are "the means by which those objectives are measured and achieved" (p. 8). The strategies that I have begun to develop have emerged only as I have come to see and question local institutional infrastructures as they interact with, respond to, and influence globalized, transnational infrastructures. Writing program administration, in a transnational context, has begun to re-frame the terms I use to think about my work:
These terms and their related questions foreground tensions between the needs of local populations of students and faculty with global ideals and strategies. By focusing on the tension between the local and global, this site contributes to a discussion of balancing ideals and strategies as institutional infrastructures become visible, and of keeping infrastructure visible while responding both ethically and effectively.
"An infrastructure is more than material, is never static, and is always emerging."
Dànielle Nicole DeVoss, Ellen Cushman, and Jeffrey T. Grabill (2005), "Infrastructure and Composing" (p. 22)
As the new WPA at RIT's Rochester campus, I was attempting to balance my responsibility for high-quality instruction and programmatic continuity with teacher control and autonomy in a faculty comprised of over 40 adjuncts, lecturers, and tenured/tenure-track faculty. Two years before my arrival, the writing curriculum had changed from a two-course sequence—Writing and Literature 1 & 2—to a ten-week Writing Seminar course based on the WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition. The faculty hired to teach literature-based writing classes were now teaching a much different course. Some faculty were finding the transition challenging, as evidenced by the texts and writing tasks they assigned.
Rebecca Charry's message from Croatia asking to alter the program curriculum for the students in her classes highlights a tension between her teacherly authority and her intention to maintain continuity between the coursework at RIT Croatia with that of RIT. To use the words of Star and Ruhleder (1996), Rebecca's email articulates a tension between the "local, customized, intimate and flexible use [of a technology] on the one hand, and the need for standards and continuity, on the other" (p. 112). The technology in this case is the course curriculum.
Still unfamiliar with the curricular connections between the two campuses, I responded to Rebecca's questions based on two primary ideals: 1) program coherence, and 2) open dialogue. I reiterated the official expectations of the courses and invited further conversation:
To: Rebecca Charry
From: David Martins
Subject: RE: Writing Seminar
Speaking directly to your first question, yes, a researched paper is required in Writing Seminar. Here is the language about this in the Writing Seminar Handbook: "At least one essay in writing seminar must include a research component that asks students to move beyond the classroom materials to finding sources through the library. This essay should be about 5-7 pages."
In light of this description, I would add that rather than emphasize some specific disciplinary research methods, this requirement is one that focuses more on what I would call information literacy. Given the description above, the spirit of the assignment should be seen as helping students understand how to find and evaluate source material, and then incorporate that source material into the composition of the essay.
This response and our subsequent conversations reveal my own framing of the work the course accomplishes and my WPA role in relation to that work. For example, I link together specific notions of academic writing to class activities that are intended help students create meaningful literacy practices for producing academic writing. As the WPA, my role is to monitor and coordinate the activities of the course and to learn from instructors what they experience in the teaching of the course. Within this frame, I take for granted the kind of preparation faculty might have for teaching a first-year writing course, the instructional resources faculty might have available to them, and the educational and language backgrounds faculty and students in the course are likely to have.
A U.S. expat living in Croatia, Rebecca frames her response to my answer in terms of the students in her classes, their linguistic and educational backgrounds, and their experience of the course activities:
To: David Martins
From: Rebecca Charry
Subject: RE: Writing Seminar
What I am seeing in the classroom probably has more to do with our particular student population than with Writing Seminar itself. The vast majority of our students are not native speakers of English. Some of them have never been asked to do close reading, critical thinking, or library research before, in English or in their native languages. And although I have kept the course material relatively consistent over the years, even paring down some of the nonessential parts of the course, lately all but the very best students seem rushed and overwhelmed. I wish (and I think they do too) that we had time for more discussion, drafting and revision.
While the experiences of the students in her classes mirrored those of the students in my own—at least in terms of being rushed and feeling the need for more time—Rebecca also raises her concern for what the students' education and language backgrounds mean for their ability to participate effectively in the course. In fact, in later email exchanges, Rebecca talks more specifically about her professional interest in her students' experiences:
To: David Martins
From: Rebecca Charry
Subject: RE: Possible Collaboration with the COIL Institute
If I were to impose a narrative on my own teaching experience, I would say that it has been a story of getting to know the precise needs of our particular students in reading, writing and research. Some of these needs are unique to a non-native English speaking population, and more specifically, Croatian speakers, while other issues are probably true of students more universally. But, discovering exactly "what they need" and how to reach them, both collectively and individually, has become the focus of my professional life. That focus is what has driven some changes to the writing program infrastructure at ACMT. (Personal communication, Feb. 23, 2011)
Understanding the linguistic and cultural background of students in Croatia, I clearly saw numerous implications of exporting Writing Seminar to a branch campus. The exported curriculum doesn't, for example, reflect what Bruce Horner and John Trimbur (2002) called an "internationalist perspective" (p. 624). And the course itself can be seen as what Min-Zhan Lu (2010) called an "'English Only' projection" (p. 42). As such, the exported curriculum may fail to offer students at its international locations the writing support they need to achieve articulated learning outcomes. And those learning outcomes may limit all students at RIT and any of its international locations from developing the 21st-century literacy practices engendered by the international branch campuses themselves.
"The task, as we see it, is to develop an internationalist perspective capable of understanding the study and teaching of written English in relation to other languages and to the dynamics of globalization."
Bruce Horner and John Trimbur (2002), "English Only and U.S. College Composition" (p. 624)
In her article, "The Foreigner: WAC Directors as Agents of Change," Susan McLeod (1995) identified a number of roles WAC directors might play as they conduct their work. After presenting the weaknesses of numerous roles—the conqueror, the diplomat, the Peace Corps volunteer, the missionary—McLeod settled on the change agent.
This ideal of the WPA as foreigner/change agent highlights those elements of participation in transnational writing programs that, much like the work McLeod describes for writing across the curriculum directors, present opportunities to see differently the work commonly done in first-year writing programs. The familiar becomes unfamiliar. Opportunities to listen and learn are numerous.
As it is revealed in the sustained critique of the monolinguistic ideology in U.S. college composition, and the related attempts to initiate an international perspective, writing teachers and administrators in transnational contexts don't ever get too comfortable:
RIT has endeavored to develop its transnational relationships by extending its educational model through cross-border programs and degree-granting relationships with schools abroad. In 1997, RIT's College of Applied Science and Technology and Velecillste Dubovnikú, the Polytechnic of Dubrovnik, Croatia, collaborated to form the American College of Management and Technology (ACMT). Currently, RIT has international branch campuses in Croatia, Kosovo, and the United Arab Emirates.
In light of this expanding, transnational institutional character, the school's mission aims "to provide technology-based educational programs for personal and professional development [and] develop and deliver curricula and advance scholarship relevant to emerging technologies and social conditions" (emphasis added). With this framing, the organizing principles for the activities in such a complex learning environment link technology and relevance to an expansive, global reach.
In addition to specific degree requirements established by RIT, the international branch campuses also offer a general education curriculum, which includes first-year writing. Additional shared infrastructures include a global email list and access to all the online resources of the Wallace Center, RIT's library. Course schedules, while administered locally on each campus, are all displayed and listed in the student information system accessible to all advisors, faculty, and staff. In short, meaningful elements of the institutional infrastructure of ACMT is built on what Star and Ruhleder (1996) called the "installed base" (p. 113) of RIT's infrastructure.
Public documents discussing the RIT/ACMT collaboration highlight the framing of the partnership. During presentations to the campus community, for example, the Provost described the aims of these global campuses: 1) to "deliver the 'RIT-way' of career-oriented education to the world," and 2) to "provide study abroad opportunities for RIT students and students from other schools" (Haefner, 2011). Within the competitive marketplace of higher education, RIT's leadership sees international education as a way to export the educational activities or products that have made RIT successful as one of the largest, private technological schools in the U.S. At the same time, that export functions as one of the latest educational opportunities for U.S. students as part of RIT's brand.
Revenue opportunities, however, are only part of the picture. According to the "History of RIT," "The American College of Management and Technology opened in Dubrovnik, Republic of Croatia. ACMT is a collaborative effort between RIT's College of Applied Science and Technology and Velecillste Dubovnikú, the Polytechnic of Dubrovnik." The membership of the Board of Trustees at ACMT includes RIT's President, Provost, VP of Finance and Administration, the chair of RIT's Board of Trustees, and the State Secretary, Ministry of Science, Education and Sports of the Republic of Croatia. The integration of educational, commercial, and state institutions is further articulated in the history of the collaboration presented on the RIT Croatia website.
The concept started in 1995 when the Croatian Ministry of Science and Technology (now the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports) wished to establish a private institution of higher education in Croatia and contacted Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York. RIT was considered because of its philosophy of applied, practical education and its reputation for formulating and sustaining successful international partnerships. Following their visit to RIT in 1995, officials from Croatia established an agreement with RIT. In the spring of 1997, ACMT was established as the first private institution of higher education in Croatia, and, more importantly, as a model for foreign universities operating in Croatia ("About RIT Croatia").
This partnership enabled ACMT to offer its students dually accredited diplomas. Today, ACMT (now called RIT Croatia) remains the only private educational institution granting both American degrees accredited by the New York Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and Croatian degrees which are fully accredited and aligned with the Bologna process.
After the Croatian War of Independence the new Croatian government was eager to rebuild the country. Initially, the Croatian ministry valued the educational approach and reputation of RIT, and sought its dually accredited diplomas for the desired outcome of building capacity in the country.
The administration at RIT shared similar values, but initially had different assumptions about the outcomes the new government wanted. As then-RIT provost Dr. Stanley McKenzie explained in 2007:
When two members of the Croatian Ministry of Science, Education and Technology visited RIT in the mid '90s, we assumed they would be most interested in our programs in information technology, telecommunications or engineering technology ... At the end of their visit, to our surprise, we were informed the quickest jump start to the Croatian economy would be in tourism management, since the Dalmatian Coast had been the prime vacation spot for south-central Europe before the war in the Balkans. (McKenzie, quoted in Downs, 2007)
Although what specific programs were chosen to be the articulation point between the two institutions was certainly pivotal to the agreement, the general motivation for the partnership was intently focused on building capacity within the new nation of Croatia as much as it was an opportunity for RIT to expand and create a new revenue stream. Now, after more than ten years in operation, RIT Croatia and RIT offer fully accredited degree programs in information technology, international business, and service management in Dubrovnik, and starting in the fall of 2010, in Zagreb.
The opening of the Zagreb campus, however, also reveals how the infrastructure created for the export of RIT's brand of education has outlasted the initial exigency. New activities, and therefore new infrastructures, are required in order to continue building capacity, continue providing revenue, continue developing RIT's brand.
"Infrastructure is a fundamentally relational concept."
Star and Ruhleder (1996), "Steps Toward an Ecology of Infrastructure" (p. 113)
In their essay, "Steps Toward an Ecology of Infrastructure," Susan Leigh Star and Karen Ruhleder (1996) noted that infrastructure is often visualized as a "substrate: something upon which something else 'runs' or 'operates'," such as bridges, roads, or water pipes" (p. 112). Within the technology-rich contexts of their research, however, such a static notion of infrastructure "is neither useful nor accurate in understanding the relationship between work/practice and technology" (p. 112-113). In response, they developed a dynamic, alternative approach to infrastructure that understands it as "something that emerges for people in practice, connected to activities and structures" (p. 112). For them, "infrastructure is a fundamentally relational concept. It becomes infrastructure in relation to organized practices" (p. 113).
In what follows, I demonstrate the heuristic value of Star and Ruhleder's characteristics of infrastructure for exploring transnational writing programs. A provocative demonstration of the less obvious, dynamic, and evolving aspects of infrastructure identified by Star and Ruhleder (1996) can be seen in Mary N. Muchiri, Nshindi G. Mulamba, Greg Myers, and Deoscorous B. Ndoloi's (1995) essay, "Importing Composition: Teaching and Researching Academic Writing Beyond North America."
In their essay, Muchiri et al. (1996) presented their experience of "what happens to the published literature on composition" in international contexts (p. 353). In the process, they reveal how composition research itself constitutes infrastructure, and what U.S. and Canadian-based composition studies often take for granted (p. 176):
When considering the scope or reach of infrastructure, transnational writing teachers and administrators must consider how effectively any given policy, procedure, curriculum, activity, or technology at one campus extends across borders and campuses.
"The virtual and physical movement of providers to other countries raises many of the same registration, quality assurance, and recognition issues of program mobility. But it also involves extra consideration, especially if a network or local/foreign partnerships are involved. Setting up a physical presence requires paying attention to national regulations regarding status of the entity, total or joint ownership with local bodies, tax laws, for-profit or non-profit status, repatriation of earned income, boards of directors, staffing, granting of qualifications, selection of academic programs and courses, and so on."
Jane Knight (2011), "Higher Education Crossing Borders" (p. 28)
The limitations of current infrastructures are revealed at times of institutional change—calendar conversion, curriculum revision, implementation of approved policies—because of the changing educational activities of the institution. New infrastructure in support of educational activities truly emerges for people in practice.
International branch campuses (IBCs) present most of the same infrastructural challenges of a main campus, but also entail the additional challenges of operating in different cultural, linguistic, bureaucratic, competitive, and student demographic contexts.
Within cross-border relationships, there can be the presumption that instructional activities exported by the main institution are appropriate, even desirable, for the students enrolling at other campuses. My RIT Croatia colleague's question about the Writing Seminar curriculum demonstrates that not every instructional activity can be assumed appropriate, especially in light of any proposed or adopted changes in the curriculum. When an institution's values and desired outcomes are being rearticulated, as they are at RIT's main campus, questions that reveal tensions about the adequacy of infrastructure are abundant. Those questions become most productive, however, when those answering the questions include all stakeholders and address how best to support educational activities for everyone.
Currently, 3.3 million students study outside of their own country, which represents a 65% increase since 2000 (Bhandari & Blumenthal, 2011, p. 1). Such student migration brings with it significant revenue for the institutions providing instruction to students, and for the communities to which students migrate and spend their money on housing, food, etc. Accordingly, education is now considered one of the 12 service sectors as articulated by the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) managed by the World Trade Organization; "positive proof that importing and exporting of education programs and services is a potentially lucrative trade area especially for the commercial companies (OECD 2004a)" (Knight, 2011, p. 32).
As a further indicator of this growing trend, The New York Times, on February 10, 2008, presented a series entitled Global Classrooms in "U.S. Universities Rush to Set Up Outposts Abroad" (Lewin). Fourteen higher education institutions were mentioned as having established or begun talks to establish international branch campuses. The next day a second article, "In Oil-Rich Mideast, Shades of the Ivy League," profiled "Education City" in Doha, Qatar (Lewin, 11 Feb. 2008). Both articles reported on opportunities and challenges to the expansion of U.S.-style education abroad, particularly in the Middle East region. RIT was one of the schools with international branch campuses identified in the Global Classrooms series of articles.
The range of activities comprising international partnerships is expanding and becoming more complicated. Professor of Foreign Studies Robin Sakamoto and Professor of Educational Leadership David Chapman (2011) discussed those activities as including not just instructional-oriented programs (i.e., the exchange of students and faculty), but also non-instructional partnerships, which include "[the] creation of branch campuses, joint research and technology initiatives, collaboration in strengthening institutional management, testing, faculty development efforts, collaboration in quality assurance, and sharing of technology" (p. 4). While instructional-oriented activities like study abroad certainly entail significant infrastructure in terms of establishing relationships between institutions and the logistics of safe travel, many of the structures and policies in place at the main institution are sufficient to allow for student and faculty mobility to other campuses for a short period of time. For example, numerous U.S.-based academic programs require—if not simply allow—students to study abroad, and student financial aid can be used to cover the cost of the study abroad.
Non-instructional programs, on the other hand, are often not, or not entirely, tuition based, so they have less stable sources of funding. According to Sakamoto and Chapman (2011), they are also more likely to be "opportunistic, built around a specific activity" (p. 6). Stated another way, the authors wrote, "while instructional programs tend to originate as institutional initiatives, non-instructional programs are more likely to originate through activities of individual faculty members" (p. 6). With regard to infrastructure, the direct implication is that instructional programs may have the benefit of more long-standing infrastructures, while non-instructional programs, like branch campuses, might survive on the charisma of individuals who cobble together available resources to support activities required by the program and sponsorship of interested benefactors.
In the case of "cross-border programs," Sakamoto and Chapman (2011) explained that while all participants in the partnership see some benefits from the relationship, the different standpoints or positions inhabited by the participants can also reveal different motivations:
When considering the particular utilization and development of infrastructure, it is important to consider the motivations for the creation of these kinds of activities. Trends identified by Sakamoto and Chapman (2011) included generating income, which is often the most common motivation for such partnerships, but also included "promoting brand recognition, increasing market share, and national strategic interests" (p. 6).
As I began to listen more carefully to conversations about international education at RIT, I heard repeatedly that each of the global campuses had a different business model. Highlighted as a key, distinguishing feature of each campus, the business model speaks to the dynamic relationship between RIT and its global partners, each with its own historical, national, educational, political, and economic context.
Often, when talking about the business models, discussants would mention RIT's Global Delivery Corporation. The GDC is a non-profit corporation established to "minimize risk to RIT" (Haefner, 2011).
Evidence of the historical predominance of the business model can be seen in the recent change in the efforts of RIT to establish and maintain its international education opportunities. In a report prepared in the fall of 2009, titled "Internationalization @ RIT," David Wilson offered a critical assessment of RIT's international efforts. Based on interviews and his own assessment, the author found that "internationalization was not yet part of the fabric of the University" (p. 13).
The following spring of 2010, "in an effort to support the continued advancement of international education[,] the Provost established a cross-divisional intercollegiate International Education Working Group. Then, in the Fall of 2011, the College of Liberal Arts charged its own "International Education Committee" with "promoting international study and global awareness through a variety of educational experiences as they pertain to the College of Liberal Arts." And in the Spring of 2012, an "Associate Provost for International Education and Global Programs" was hired "to guide the strategic growth and direction of international education and outreach."
Communication across the different, interested divisions and units of the institute, as well as the academic programming, policy, and assessment of international education are essential. The international education activities on our campus are significantly changing. As the formation of these committees and positions attest, the infrastructures for international education at RIT are also changing. The recent efforts at RIT demonstrate that infrastructure must be created to better support the educational activities. Such infrastructure must be created in order to catch up with the infrastructure initially produced following the business model.
"Universities must reexamine their curricula, scrutinize 'more of the same' thinking, and tune in to the new 'international order' of things by reconceptualizing their roles and reassigning priorities."
Josef A. Mestenhauser (1998), "Portraits of an International Curriculum" (p. 13)
The collection of essays edited by Josef A. Mestenhauser and Brenda J. Ellingboe (1998), Reforming the Higher Education Curriculum: Internationalizing the Campus, presented a comprehensive portrait of reconsidering the international dimensions of a campus's curricula. The essays grew out of a year-long seminar made up of faculty and students at the University of Minnesota, and aimed, according to the editors, to challenge various assumptions about international education. One notable assumption is "that knowledge is universal and 'portable' from anywhere to anywhere" (p. xviii).
Such a reexamination of assumptions, especially in the economic environment of the early 21st century, makes administrators and others nervous about the costs. When it comes to considering the cost and benefits of international education, Mestenhauser (1998) argued,
Much like Horner and Trimbur's (2002) and Donahue's (2009) arguments for teachers and administrators to develop an international perspective, Mestenhauser sought to integrate an international perspective into mainstream systems of U.S. higher education. His view was strongly motivated by a commitment to enacting changes in the activities faculty and students engage in on university campuses, and a belief that current infrastructures for higher education have not been adequate to the tasks. Teachers and administrators working in transnational writing programs need to remain vigilant, identifying the strengths and limitations of both existing and newly emerging infrastructures.
Robust conversations about the corporatization of the university—in print, at professional conferences, in the hallways of the university—reveal concerns about the trumping of educational or pedagogical concerns by economic and business concerns. The internationalization of higher education certainly adds more fuel for those concerned about how business models have overshadowed or inhibited pedagogical models that emphasize cross-cultural, cross-linguistic, and interdisciplinary education. Along with the potential benefits there are significant economic risks to developing international programs. But there are also educational risks when a business model presumes that the educational activities that have been successful in one location—with its specific geographical, political, economic, linguistic, and cultural milieu—can be imported into another location without significant thought and consideration.
Transnational writing programs, because they are the result of collaborative partnerships between different stakeholders, are continually pressured by changing values, desires, interests, and activities. Motivations change as situations change, sometimes in direct result of the success of the program.
For example, initially ACMT was one of the first private universities in Croatia. Because there has been significant competition for students from other institutions throughout Croatia, RIT is adding an international location in Zagreb to stay competitive.
The tensions produced by the shifting that happens when programs and activities are added, changed, or discontinued can be challenging, but they can also be productive; the changes in values and outcomes of educational activities reveal the contingent nature of transnational writing program infrastructures. In order to respond effectively to the opportunities that are revealed, writing teachers and administrators in transnational settings need to be able to anticipate stakeholders' interests.
"All of these ways of thinking and acting are carried by new and emerging discourses. These new workplace discourses can be taken in two very different ways—as opening new educational and social possibilities, or as new systems of mind control or exploitation."
The New London Group (1996), "A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies" (p. 67)
The New London Group (1996) began "The Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures" with an assertion about the mission of education: "its fundamental purpose is to ensure that all students benefit from learning in ways that allow them to participate fully in public, community, and economic life" (p. 60). The project initiated by the ten authors of the New London Group (1996) aimed to fulfill that purpose in "the emerging cultural, institutional, and global order [comprised of] the multiplicity of communications channels and media, and the increasing saliency of cultural and linguistic diversity" (p. 63).
While describing the changes taking place globally in people's work, public, and private lives, the authors wrote:
As a clear antecedent to the arguments against a monolingual language ideology and in favor of a translingual approach to difference in writing, the New London Group (1996) highlighted the expanding role of proliferating communications technologies and "market logic" (p. 68) in the everyday experiences of people throughout the globe. The authors demonstrate how the values associated with "fast capitalism" are couched in terms that have taken on positive associations—"adaptation to constant change through thinking and speaking for oneself, critique and empowerment, innovation and creativity, technical and systems thinking, and learning how to learn"(p. 67)—but warn that without vigilance, the educational values of access, preparation, and participation could be abandoned in favor of exploitation.
To exemplify their concerns, the New London Group (1996) offered a succinct interpretation of the fall of communism. They asserted that the end of the Cold War brought with it the reversal of what had been a trend towards "an expanding, interventionist welfare state" and, subsequently, an expansion of "[e]conomic rationalism, privatisation, deregulation, and the transformation of public institutions such as schools and universities so that they operate according to market logics" (p. 68). The recent collapse of the global financial system, the collapse of the real estate market, and the multi-year recessions experienced in the U.S. and the European Union, the deregulation and privatization that preceded it all, and the dramatic transformation of public institutions that we are now seeing around the world demonstrates that "market logic" does not have the welfare of any citizenry in mind.
Through their arguments for a "pedagogy of multiliteracies," the New London Group (1996) reasserted an educational model for transnational writing programs. In a positive sense, the business model of transnational education offers many possibilities for individuals, programs, campuses, and institutions. Susceptible to the whims of the market, the business model of transnational education risks complicity with a "market logic" that values revenue over the expense of quality education, growth over the deliberateness of sustainable development. In light of massive deregulation that is "barely restrained" (p. 67), and the pressure to replicate corporate culture, which "demands assimilation to mainstream norms that only really works if one already speaks the language of the mainstream" (p. 67), the task before writing teachers and administrators is both daunting and thrilling.
Efforts on the part of specific individuals, particular programs, and professional organizations to be change agents within various spheres of influence (i.e., within particular programs, departments, institutions, or national and international contexts) is understandably difficult given the dual challenge of bringing change to both the practices as well as the infrastructures that can support (but can also thwart) the activities of writing instruction.
While there are strong forces at work in maintaining the ideological commitments to specific configurations of infrastructure that will make it even more difficult to enact changes to current models of teaching, learning, and writing, the globalization of higher education does offer opportunities to rethink and therefore restructure the delivery of higher education. Without such a rethinking, the business model dominates the discussion, while concerns of educational models are either muted or remain secondary.
Throughout this webtext I have told a story about how I have come to learn about transnational writing programs. Through the course of my learning, I have developed strategies to change the writing program-related activities on RIT's campuses. Specifically, as a WPA working in a transnational setting, I have attempted to reckon with the specific institutional histories of where I work, and make deliberate attempts to foster robust, structured, direct communication with faculty and administrators. I have found the following strategies useful:
Strategies like these use existing infrastructure for the development of new activities that challenge the predominance of business models that can be more opportunistic than deliberately educational, despite the intention to deliver strong educational programs. The development and implantation of international programs can be deliberately opportunistic in that they aim to establish alternative revenue streams, expand the reach of an institution's educational, research, and scholarly mission, and establish or further individuate the uniqueness of an institutional brand. WPAs, as part of the infrastructure of higher education, are positioned to balance the pressure exerted by the economic models of education with meaningful and effective pedagogies for education.
Yet in order to influence the conversations about international education on our campuses, WPAs have more work to do in order to rectify our own historical and disciplinary limitations with regard to prevalent linguistic ideologies and disciplinary knowledge gaps. The questions we can't answer easily are not going away. We can ignore them, and continue to do our jobs on U.S.-based campuses, but in doing so we would miss out on some of the most pressing and invigorating discussions in higher education today.
"We need international work because we can no longer do without deep understanding as the world shifts and slips."
Christiane Donahue (2009), "'Internationalization' and Composition Studies" (p. 236)
Creating this site offered me an occasion to think more deeply on the ways writing program administration changes within transnational contexts. But I almost missed this opportunity to understand how the uses and limits of current ideals and practices of writing instruction and administration. Questions posed in one brief email message have permeated my thinking about WPA work. In the process, I have come to greater appreciation for work done by scholars and researchers like Christiane Donahue, Bruce Horner, Min-Zhan Lu, and Paul Kei Matsuda, and a growing number of others. My intention with the organization of this site is to highlight how infrastructure—like the argument presented within—emerges from a dialogue between experience, reflection, and research.
Toward this aim, I present the story of my somewhat startling introduction to international education at Rochester Institute of Technology, and my subsequent sustained inquiry into the scholarship on internationalization of education found in a variety of disciplinary fields. I have interspersed the narrative threads of my experience with critical reviews of scholarship that have informed my thinking, and in turn, shaped my responses to the issues of transnational writing program administration. Additionally, I tell of strategies meant to begin the work of achieving those emerging ideals. If Star and Ruhleder (1996) were correct in that "[a]n infrastructure occurs when the tension between local and global is resolved" (p. 114), then my site aims to engage with the more productive tensions inherent in the work of administering transnational writing programs.
Thanks to the following people for their generosity of time, insights, and expertise: to Pat Reed, who made the digital mediation possible, to Rebecca Charry, who posed the initial question and has continued to think with me about how to improve the curriculum, to Jim Bowman and Rik Hunter, for feedback early on, and to Jill Swiencicki, whose generous and critical response always improves my thinking and my writing. Thank you, too, to Christine Alfano, Bump Halbritter, and the anonymous reviewer for their invigorating encouragement and critical review of this work throughout its development, and to Cheryl Ball and the editors of Kairos for their support to publish this work. Finally, the research for this webtext was made possible by a College of Liberal Arts Faculty Research grant.
Here, as in my edited collection, Transnational Writing Program Administration (2015), I use the term "transnational" to describe the growing phenomenon that Grant McBurnie and Christopher Ziguras address in their book Transnational Education: Issues and trends in offshore higher education as "any education delivered by an institution based in one country to students located in another" (p. 1). But unlike "global" or "international," I use the term "transnational" because it also invokes a more critical, analytical orientation like that described by Rebeca Dingo in her book, Networking Arguments: Rhetoric, transnational feminism, and public policy. Dingo (2012) argued:
The term transnational, while defined in a number of ways, generally refers to how globalization has influenced the movement of people and the production of texts, culture, and knowledge across borders so that the strict distinctions among nations and national practices can become blurred. In the last ten years, disciplines throughout the humanities and social sciences have recognized that increasing globalization and enduring neoliberal economics have changed our understandings of citizenship, place, and texts. Drawing heavily from the fields of political science, sociology, geography, and women's studies, the emergent interdisciplinary field of transnational studies has sought to uncover, analyze, and conceptualize similarities, differences and interactions among trans-societal and trans-organizational realities and dynamics across time and space (Levitt and Khagram, p. 10–11). (p. 8–9)
By considering the infrastructure of transnational writing programs, my aim is to continue a critical conversation about the opportunities and implications for the learning, teaching and administration of writing across borders.
The bitter battle in the state of Wisconsin over the right of public employees to unionize and bargain collectively is now shifted to the courts and yet, the massive efforts to recall elected officials failed. The argument made by the Republican Governor, based upon a kind of market logic, is that after years of recession and continued economic downturns, the salaries and benefits of public employees, which were the result of collective bargaining, were too costly for the state to continue paying. Still, while the public employee unions agreed to reductions of pay and benefits, the governor insisting on his legislation in the Republican controlled legislature, despite the efforts of the minority Democrats to thwart the passage of the law, as well as widespread public support. An example of market logic gone awry: even when the unions agreed to reductions of pay and benefits to help close the budget deficit, the governor signed the law to restrict collective bargaining.
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