Three Terms Old

Summer consultants at the Grand Canyon

Summer Consultants for the IWP, 2014. Dr. Kitalong, Michigan Technological University, and Dr. DeVoss, Michigan State University taking in the Canyon on a cloudy day.

The IWP is now three terms old! Well, three terms and one summer (I’m a 9-month contract academic who knows well enough that summer work is charity work).

After our first year in operation, I invited two consultants to provide their insights, questions, and observations about our program’s growth and direction that we are moving toward. Dr. Nicole DeVoss from Michigan State University, and Dr. Karla Kitalong from Michigan Technological University represented two very different campus climates, student populations, and experiences with available funding (they have and expect more than we can and do). I purposefully chose these two administrators because they came from universities with similar visions and a lot more opportunities to try new initiatives. They’re our well-to-do cousins from the midwest who have experiences trying new approaches to writing.

June, 2014, began my charity work for NAU. Our consultants worked from Tuesday through Thursday, 7 a.m. through 4 p.m., three days in a row and still had energy for a Friday cram-meeting on their final report before they left for the great state of Michigan. I know because I was there with my jet-lagged colleagues. At 7 a.m., I arrived and saw two individuals clearly 3-hours ahead, sharp, reflective, curious, and ready to meet with multiple individuals across the university. Good thing I’m a morning person.

The consultants report included:

The specific work of the IWP in the past year is well-aligned with these national best practices and trends. At the same time, we would argue that IWP is somewhat unique, when compared to similar initiatives at other institutions, in several aspects: First, the inclusion of students in the operations and work of the IWP, and, second, the development and hosting of a public event in its first year. Few institutions engage undergraduates so richly and professionally in program development and curricular design; very few programs are capable, in their initial years, of providing space for students to showcase their research and writing work.

Dr. Kitalong and DeVoss also articulated our needs:

A university-wide program of this size—which addresses curriculum, faculty, and student needs— requires assistants who work closely with the director on curricular design, consultant training, and the ongoing adaptation of resources for all disciplinary colleges, departments, faculty, and students. One person cannot carry this responsibility alone; the current director has made excellent use of a well-selected, well-cultivated group of interns over the past year, and although interns can contribute significantly in certain ways to an initiative like IWP, they are not able to support a program in ways supported by rich disciplinary expertise or in ways that require a particular type of institutional clout (e.g., tenure or an administrative title).

On the third day we held meetings in the car while I drove us to Tuba City (Navajo), Moenkopi (Hopi), and to the Canyon. You gotta see the Canyon at least once in your life.

If you involved with a writing program, I highly recommend working with outside consultants. If you’re lucky, you’ll end up recharged, refocused, and planning the next consultant-visit. I know I am though I’m not sure that I want anyone else besides DeVoss and Kitalong. Actually, I know that I do not. Thanks Danielle and Karla!!

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