Dissertation Work

Briefly, my dissertation focuses on the work of Writing Program Administration by asking how writing programs navigated the early COVID-19 pandemic through a survey and set of interviews.


Writing programs are in a unique position in higher education because research and pedagogy interact to create educational leadership roles that also require disciplinary expertise–in this case, in Rhetoric and Writing Studies. When education moved to emergency remote instruction in Spring 2020, Writing Program Administrators (WPAs) were supporting instructors and students while making curricular changes for courses and negotiating with upper administration. Through it all, they continued a tradition of sharing their findings, tools, and strategies with other WPAs and Writing Studies scholars.

This study uses a survey and interviews to consider reflections and strategies used by WPAs to support teachers and students in the early pandemic in order to develop a “WPA toolkit:” a set of practical resources for WPAs to cultivate skills that support their writing programs. Preliminary findings suggest that WPAs relied on their disciplinary expertise for activities like creating resources and engaging negotiations that, ultimately, centered the needs of teachers and students in their programs in uncertain times. The next stage of this project is to explore applications of technical communication principles such as design thinking, including prototyping and testing, to the process of creating the WPA toolkit, per Purdy’s (2014) call to find avenues for design thinking in composition studies. This is to find ways for the WPA toolkit to be more applicable across institutional contexts and sustainable beyond completion of the dissertation.

Study Materials

My original recruitment webpage has links to the Phase 1 survey and examples of Phase 2 conversation guides.

Don’t forget to look at my Publications and Conferences pages for the work that has come out of this dissertation!