Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The U of A Writing Program Wins a Major National Award

Well, hot dog! A few days ago, I learned that our Writing Program has been awarded the 2017-18 CCCC Writing Program Certificate of Excellence. (The 4 Cs are the major U.S. rhet/comp organization, akin to MLA for literature people.) Since I'm such a recent addition to the university, this award leaves me feeling somewhat bemused -- especially since many lecturers, TT faculty, and administrators have been advocating hard for years to improve this program. Still, this is major, and I'm excited. Please let me gush for a moment.

Arizona's massive efforts to improve the working conditions and lives of its lecturers was a major deciding factor in the award, according to the notification we received. Really, I've been awed at the many initiatives our Writing Program has undertaken:

  • A major salary hike a few years ago,
  • Ongoing efforts for shared governance in the English Department (i.e., lecturers voting on departmental issues), a promotion plan, and three-year contracts
  • Just this year, an additional $1 million in WP funding to reduce class sizes to 19 students by hiring more lecturers -- a move that directly led to my hiring last summer.
There are a lot of other rhet/comp-y reasons for our program's being singled out, which I'll copy/paste below. (Since the announcement has already been made on the CCCC website, I'm pretty sure I'm not breaking any rules by posting this!) In all honesty, I couldn't have been more lucky to wind up in such a fabulous institution.

"The following are comments provided by the selection committee:
"The committee applauds the efforts within this program to establish meaningful, livable, stable non-tenure track positions with shared governance and opportunities for professional development. The first-year class sizes are 19. The scope of this program is huge, and even though it is largely FYW, it is FYW done well. Ongoing faculty self-assessment and required continued professional development help all instructors maintain an investment in FYW teaching. Courses that adhere around outcomes allow for different kinds of autonomy, even as careful assessment helps highlight how best to reach course goals. The program has integrated and modified many kinds of “best” practices in FYW teaching and learning, from reducing and extending support for less-confident or underprepared students to innovating with placement for all writers (including multilingual writers).
"Indeed, the committee believes that the University of Arizona serves as an exemplary model for peer institutions in a number of ways, including the following: 1) their revision of course content for the FYC sequence, beginning with a focus on a genre approach in the first semester with a focus on a WID approach in the second semester in order to improve students’ ability to transfer writing skills and abilities across contexts; 2) best practices in program placement through a DSP approach, which better responds to the needs of a diverse student body; 3) the different levels of support for a large faculty serving a large number of students, including the greatly improved working conditions of Lecturers and the both required and optional aspects of continued, annual reflective professional development opportunities; 4) the reliance on an outcomes-based approach through portfolio assessment at the course level and data-driven assessment at the program level in order to maintain continuity and quality across a large number of diverse course sections. Additionally, as a result of the number and quality of publications authored by faculty in the program, faculty in U of A’s Writing Program have proved themselves to be model teacher-scholars, not only for others at peer institutions but for the field more broadly."

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