Principles in Action: Initiatives at UMaine
Since arriving at UMaine in 2015, I’ve used my principles to shape my exploration of the situation that our College Composition program finds itself in. As I’ve collected and studied various data, I’ve developed four grand strategies for our program to pursue over the long-term (you can read about that in a forthcoming edited collection), as well as some more urgent strategies such as developing a more sustainable program or increasing the transparency of various programmatic functions (that’s in another forthcoming edited collection – I’ll update this site as it becomes available).
But it might be useful for readers to see a bit more immediate, practical effects of my principles in action, so I’ve identified three initiatives that demonstrate what happens when the three of them seem to be working together.
University of Maine Outcomes Statement
In 2017, the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs announced funding opportunities for multi-campus projects within the University of Maine System (UMS). Seeing as (1) the entire system has first-year writing transfer agreements in place, and (2) the various writing programs across the system get little opportunity to sit down together and discuss the work they are all doing, we (that is, the WPAs throughout the system) took advantage of this funding to do just that.
The result was the University of Maine System Outcomes Statement for first-year writing (UMS-OS, for short). It takes into account the writing instruction (and assessment) across campuses, national documents on outcomes and standards (i.e., WPA-OS), and what we know about how writers write and develop. It has provided us with some language to articulate how our programs align with one another and will, I hope, contribute to more collaborative opportunities. Maine is a far bigger state than it looks like on a map, and we are all very busy, so any step to having more chances to work together is a good one.
Burnes-Kail Professional Development Fund
In 2017, two long-time WPAs at UMaine retired—Pat Burnes, the Director of College Composition, and Harvey Kail, the Director of the Writing Center. To honor their decades of work at UMaine, some fellow colleagues and former students got together and created the Burnes-Kail Professional Development Fund, an endowed fund through the UMaine Foundation.
The Burnes-Kail Fund is designed to support the professional development of adjunct instructors, teaching assistants, and tutors of writing. It can send people to conferences, bring speakers to campus, buy books for reading groups, and meet many other needs that these teachers/tutors have. We’re currently in a five-year plan to raise $8,000.00 to further develop this fund.
Making Knowledge of College Composition
This initiative is taking a while to get off the ground, but I am deeply interested in how we can generate “small, stubborn facts” (see my contribution in an upcoming edited collection) to shift the conversations that we have about student writing on UMaine’s campus.
I’ve been trying to convene some meetings about the questions people have about first-year student writing in the program, and the kinds of methods we could deploy to get some answers. It’s been slow going, as this is a PD opportunity that is outside of the many commitments to teaching, research, and service that others already commit to. But, I’m stubborn. It’ll get some momentum eventually!