"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, "A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures," (p. 6)
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). 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.
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 addressed 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 womens 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.