Activity theory as a tool for WAC program development

This program profile describes how program director Crystal Fodrey used activity to redesign the Writing at Moravian (WAM). In the conclusion, the authors acknowledge that they started their study before Sustainable WAC (2018) was published but see fruitable overlap in the two approaches, as both warned caution new directors from mimicking other programs and instead pay attention to the local context, find ways to develop a systematic process, and take use a slow and steady process to program development.

Tracking the sustainable development of WAC programs using sustainability indicators: Limitations and possibilities

Published a year after Sustainable WAC (2018), Michelle Cox and Jeffrey Galin set out to clarify and further refine what has proven the book’s biggest “stumbling block” (p. 39): sustainability indicators (SIs). In this article, Cox and Galin claim that while SIs provide a useful heuristic for all WAC program leaders, they may not require assessment until later in a WAC program’s history. Further, they clarify the following aspects of the use of SIs: the identification of “proto-SIs” during the Understand stage, the process of working with a group of stakeholders to identify and assess SIs, and the use of the Drive-Pressure-State-Impact-Response (DPSIR) heuristic, which we had formerly discussed for creating SIs but have come to understand as a useful heuristic later in the process of WAC program development. Throughout the article, they draw on their own experiences using the WSA as program directors. This article would be fruitful to read alongside Peters (2019) and Galin (2021).

Reading an institution’s history through the lens of whole-systems theory

In this ambitious study, Brad Peters adapts the whole systems approach (Cox, Galin, & Melzer, 2018) to review twenty plus years of history of a WAC program’s development at a Midwestern high-research university, one that he directs and has been leading for these years. Peters first succinctly summarizes the whole systems approach, showing how it fills a gap left by Condon & Rutz’s taxonomy and builds on Walvoord’s social movement theory for WAC. He then articulates sustainability indicators (SIs), translating them into a six-degree rubric ranging from “minimum” to “substantial” (p. 12), a schema that will likely be appealing to readers. He then draws on program and institutional records and data to assess SIs for the following areas of his WAC program: student support, faculty support, degree programs, budget capacity, control of class size, equitable number of faculty to teach, capacity to assess, committee oversight, coordinator’s course-management, and program visibility. For each SI, he established a baseline, using data from year one of the program (pp. 14-15), captured data again in the next four years (when the program was well funded, the next six (when it wasn’t, and was in decline), and then the next nine (dubbed, the turn-around). For each, he provides an SI table and radar chart (e.g. pp. 28, 29, 31), as well as a narrative, in which the story is told visually, as well as grounded in evidence, and framed with the WSA. This article is the first not authored by Cox, Galin, and/or Melzer to most fully take up the WSA, and the first to adapt it for a use not intended by its authors. Peters ends his article with this: “Twenty-some years is a daunting span of time to reconstruct WAC’s presence on a university campus. But using whole-systems theory has helped me (and will help others) gain a much clearer picture of what the program has been, what it is, and what it can be” (p. 33). This article would be fruitful to read alongside Cox and Galin (2019) and Galins (2021).

Foreword: An invitation to read for resilience

In this foreword to a collection on independent writing units, Louise Weatherbee Phelps suggests applying the whole systems approach (Cox, Galin, & Melzer, 2018) to writing programs outside of WAC. She suggests using the WSA to conduct retrospective analyses of independent writing units as well as longitudinal analyses (p. xii). She reminds readers that many independent writing programs had their start as WAC/WID programs and states: “We can build on [Cox, Galin, & Melzer’s] splendid start to develop deeper theoretical understandings of independence, interdependence, identity, and resilience in the units that house writing studies” (p. xii).

Researching Writing Program Administration Expertise in Action: A Case Study of Collaborative Problem Solving as Transdisciplinary Practice

In this article, Tricia Serviss and Julia Voss apply the framework and methodology of “new disciplinarity” (Parker, 2002) to analyze transdisciplinary interactions in the Writing in the Disciplines (WID) program at Santa Clara University. Serviss and Voss draw on Cox, Galin, & Melzer (2018) by showing the “the process of involving stakeholders and engaging with outside systems” in action (pp. 458-459). Their article details how they included staff and faculty from different appointment types and disciplines when setting up a multidisciplinary team, as well as considered diverse professional expertise.

Sustainable WAC: A whole systems approach to launching and developing WAC programs

Informed by theories that illuminate transformative change within systems–complexity, systems, social network, resilience, and sustainable development theories–and illustrated with vignettes by WAC directors across the country, this book lays out principles, strategies, and tactics to help WAC program directors launch, relaunch, or reinvigorate programs within the complicated systems of today’s colleges and universities.

More than a useful myth: A case study of design thinking for writing across the curriculum program initiatives

In this article, Jenna Pack Sheffield puts forth design thinking as a useful framework for “addressing structural or curricular problems in WAC programs” (p. 168). She sees this framework as distinct from and complementary to systems thinking, as presented by Cox, Galin & Melzer (2018). Sheffield notes that design thinking and systems thinking both developed as ways to analyze and solve problems, but originated from different fields, with design thinking emerging from architecture and art/design disciplines (p. 168) and systems thinking from fields like engineering and biology (p. 171). She sees the two approaches as complementary, arguing that “systems thinking may be more valuable for initial program development, but design thinking can be rather quickly (depending on the context and goals) and cheaply applied for innovation at any stage of a WAC program’s lifespan” (p. 171). This useful article is a useful extension of the whole systems approach that bears closer examination.

Review. Sustainable WAC. A whole systems approach to launching and developing writing across the curriculum programs

In this review of Cox, Galin, and Melzer (2108), Mandy Olejnik poses intriguing questions inspired by our work that we hope are taken up by future researchers (pp. 229-230): “what is the role of graduate student directors and administrators in WAC work, as more WAC programs grow and more doctoral programs might enable graduate students to serve in WAC administrative assistantships and specialize in WAC? How can programs sustain the work that graduate students spearhead, as they are only in their administrative roles for a few years at most? What might a whole systems approach offer to the training of future writing program administrators, in WAC and out?”

Building sustainable WAC programs: A whole systems approach

This article explores the whole systems approach (WSA) (Cox, Galin, & Melzer, 2018) by following the launch of a Writing across the Curriculum program at Texas A&M-San Antonio (TAMUSA), a university at which one of the authors, Jeffrey Galin, was consulting and mentoring the WAC director, Katherine Bridgeman. This article provides a concise overview of the WSA, as well as examples that show how this approach works in context, including an image of a whiteboard that displays a mapping of WAC in relation to writing activities on campus completed by the TAMUSA WAC committee (p. 70), a network map of TAMUSA’s WAC program (p. 72), sample sustainability indicators that show TAMUSAs WAC program in distress (p. 78), and an email from Jeff as WAC consultant that prompted Katherine to think of WAC as “the introduction of transformative change for the curriculum on your campus” (p. 83), an email that ultimately persuaded the WAC Committee to implement a four-course WI curriculum (p. 83). This article complements Sustainable WAC by showing how the WSA may be applied on one campus.

Using systems thinking to transform writing programs

Building on Porter et al.’s call for institutional theorizing and critique at the system level, in this article Melzer argues that Critical Systems Thinking (CST) is a useful methodology to understand, critique, and transform campus writing programs. CST focuses on changing the structures and ideologies of an entire system through locating points of leverage where even small changes will affect the entire system, moving it from isolation to liberation. Melzer uses the example of transformations to the campus writing program at his former institution to illustrate the systems methodology, and he ends the article with advice for applying CST to campus writing programs across institutional contexts.