Naylor Workshop for Undergraduate Research in Writing Studies

For the past four years, York College in Pennsylvania has hosted the Naylor Workshop for Undergraduate Research in Writing Studies. Financially supported by Mr. Irvin S. Naylor, a long-time resident of York, PA.,  the workshop matches undergraduates with faculty for a long weekend retreat full of writing, talking, and learning.

I attended for the first time last year. Dominic DelliCarpini, who holds the Naylor Professorship, is a wonderful host who is dedicated to creating a rich environment for developing ideas and developing mentoring relationships.

The fifth anniversary of the conference is this Fall. Conference planners sent out a call asking for a position statements on undergraduate research. They offered some parameters, but the call was quite broad. I knew I wanted to head back this year, but I was struggling to come up with a response to this call? What did I want to talk about, think about, learn about, regarding undergraduate research?

Sitting at Midland Coffee Shop, I finally had something: the role undergraduate researchers can play in large-scale curriculum changes, the kind my school will start undergoing in the Fall.

So I began writing. I finished. I got accepted. Jane Greer, one of the organizers, emailed and asked if she could use it as a model. That’s awesome. Thanks.

Here’s what I wrote:

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On Rejection

I received a rejection.

The email came just before 5pm on Friday, the Friday that kicks off Memorial Day weekend, the Friday that kicks off summer. I spend a lot of time watching and reading about sports. Sports, like life, are riddled with scandals. When do teams and general managers and owners send out press releases confessing to the Ills of the Moment? Friday at 5pm, ideally before a long weekend. Sandbag the press. By Monday, the President or the leader of North Korea (or both) will do something crazy enough to cause the press to forget about the Ill of the Moment when Tuesday rolls around again and people are back hammering away at their jobs.

It’s a good PR move, the releasing bad news at such an hour and at such a time of the month. And I was the recipient.

But it wasn’t just a regular rejection. I got scores of those. This one was new. This was my first straight rejection from a journal. I’ve been rejected before—from conferences, from journals, from committees, from this girl in college who was in my art appreciation class. But a straight desk rejection before readers get a chance to sink their teeth in my prose and beat around inside the heart of my argument. Well… that’s new and exciting.

The rejection surprised me. I decided to check my email on my phone standing in my garage. Don’t know why. Probably half watching the kids in the front yard and growing bored.

The editor wrote a lengthy response. I think it was lengthy; it took a while for my thumb to scroll to the bottom. I kinda read it. Closed the mail app. Drove to the gas station to get gas for my mower. When I got home, I deleted it. I didn’t need it sitting at the top of my inbox for a whole three day weekend. And I haven’t come back to the email since.

The email was more than boiler plate. There was a lot of substance to it.

But, oh, the rejection.

The next day, I was standing on my mat forcing my rigid frame into a warrior three. My wife, on her mat next to me, doing a much better job. In the quiet contemplative space of yoga, I thought more about rejection. Tallied up my rejections.

Here’s where I am at:


  • A desk rejection
  • A rejection after three rounds of revision

This one probably hurts the most and is still the most surprising and is the one      where I learned the most. This article was my first article I worked on that did not come directly from my dissertation. It was on a similar topic but not culled from my 200 rambling pages of diss writing. The journal was interested, but it was R&R time. I made the changes. I sent it back in. The journal editors invited me to their party at CCCC; “here’s the room number of our suite,” they said. I went. Shook hands. Drank a beer. Awkwardly hung around. Another revise and another ask for more revisions. And then, standing outside Great Clips, waiting for a haircut, I checked my phone. A no. A concern about my conclusion and that my conclusion was too like my just published Composition Forum article. I never cited the Composition Forum article, never mentioned it. The editors found it. Read it. Compared it. Said no. I was finishing my first year in a TT position. I was crushed. Thought my career was done. I remember leaving Great Clips, stunned and numb and hurt. I remember (and let’s just keep this between the two of us, reader) heading back to the apartment my wife and I were living in at the time. I remember going to my then four-year-old son’s room. I remember laying on his bed. I remember staring at the ceiling. I remember him coming in, handing me his blue bear named Christmas. I remember laying there with Christmas. I cried some. Editors read everything, I learned. I need to advance my argument not repeat them, I learned. Write and get rejected but also get published, I learned. Rejection doesn’t mean tenure and job stability is impossible, I learned.

  • A revision and resubmit that I never followed up on. But the article found its way into my book. Take that, you journal editor you


  • 0 for 2 with National Council of Teachers of English. Never gotten in.
  • But, for some reason, 2 for 2 with Rhetoric Society of America. Though I fancy myself more a compositionist than a rhetorician.
  • 3 for 7 with Conference on College Composition and Communication
  • 1 for 1 with CCCC summer regional conferences
  • 3 for 3 with Biennial Watson Conference

Edited collecton cfps:

2 for 4 with edited collection cfps. I got one hanging out there right now, which might tip the scale to better than 50%. But might not.

Offices in professional organizations:

  • 0 for 4. Only made the ballot once

Faculty senate:

  • 0 for 2

Editor positions with journals:

  • 1 for 2

Marriage proposals:

  • 1 for 1


First-Year Composition Annual Report, 2017-2018

For the past three years, I have worked with my colleagues on the First-Year Composition Committee to author an annual report.

This report gives readers a sense of important data points, professional development opportunities the FYC Committee offered during the AY, and ends with recommended reading on teaching writing at the college level.

During AY 17-18, we worked with over 8,000 student-writers in over 400 sections of FYC. During the Fall semester alone, we worked with close to one quarter of the entire student population at UNG.

Thanks to different Offices at the University of North Georgia for help gathering data.

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The Power of Learning and Ceremony

Sometimes I get cranky during graduation ceremonies.

Sitting in a large gym during the summer in my funky gown, I get hot. Listening to empty platitudes spoken by Very Important Commencement Speaker, I get bored. Listening to name after name after name after name, I get restless.

And last week, during the Spring commencement ceremony, I got cranky, hot, bored, restless.

But the little dude jolted me back.

I saw him holding tightly to the woman’s hand—I don’t know if the woman was mom, grandma, aunt, nanny, sister. But the woman was dressed in her graduation gown, her hat pinned to her hair. In her left hand, she held the graduation card that announced her name. She would hand this card to the Name Reader Person and help the NRP with any pronunciation. In her right hand, she held the hand of the little dude. Little dude was dressed in khaki pants, a light blue dress shirt, a gray bowtie. His dark hair cut close against his olive skin.

The NRP read the next name and the next and the next. The woman and little dude inched closer and closer to their turn. Over her shoulder, she had slung a large bag. I’m a parent of young kids. I have travelled with kids, gone to dinner with kids, attended religious services with kids, sat through summer weddings held outside with kids; I know some of the stuff in that bag, the stuff needed to entertain a kid as the kid suffers through the ritualistic monotony of Adult Things.

The NRP read her name. She walked across the stage and met the President. The President kneeled to shake the little dude’s hand. The President, in high-heels, stayed crouched for a moment and talked with the little dude. The cameraperson caught the moment; the moment broadcast on the big screens in the gym. The President stood again, shook the woman’s hand.

The woman and little dude left. The ceremony continued. And the ceremony ended two hours after it began.

As faculty marched out first, my line went past the woman and little dude who were seated at the end. He was standing and she was holding his hand. I knew that hand hold—more of a tether than a hold of affection. But little dude had already suffered through two hours. His brown eyes were big. Full of excitement.

I get bored with graduations because they are an always presence in my life. Three times a year, I get asked to walk in graduation. I come from social strata full of people who graduate. My parent’s fridge is covered right now with high school graduation notices, and my parent’s neighborhood sign is covered with a banner listing all the names of high school graduates. The HOA puts this banner together every spring. My mom and my dad graduated high school and college. My sister and I graduated high school and college. I got an MA and a PhD. My sister got an MA. My wife got a BA and an MA. Six of the seven men in my wedding got a college degree. Six of the seven women in my wedding got a college degree.

I forget the power and the beauty of the graduation ceremony. Woman and little dude jolted that power and beauty back. To think that she elected and paid the money and packed the bag of toys and sat with little dude for two hours in nice clothes during the heat of a May afternoon. To think that she didn’t get a sitter either because she couldn’t find one, couldn’t afford one, didn’t want to find one, wanted to bring little dude, had her sitter cancel. To think of all that effort keeping little dude entertained for a 15 second walk across stage. To think that graduation means a lot.

To think that I had a chance to bear witness to that.

To think that I would ever grow forgetful of the power of learning and ceremony.

Supporting Scholarly Presses

In 2014, Composition Studies published the first in their series titled “Where We Are.” In the first installment, David Blakesley, the founder of Parlor Press, authored “New Realities for Scholarly Publishing in Trying Economic Times.”

He ends his short reflection with 15 concrete ways to support scholarly publishing.

Today: I’ve worked on number 15

Write letters to university administrators or others who might need to know how much you appreciate the work of the press or an editor. Be an independent lobbyist, in other words. Parlor Press has a number of great people who do this for us, and it’s very important (and very much appreciate, believe me).

I wrote a letter this morning to Rick Miranda, the Provost at Colorado State University. CSU supports the WAC Clearinghouse, a wonderful open-access and digital outlet for high-level scholarship. And the home of my first co-edited collection Contemporary Perspectives on Cognition and Writing.

I wrote as a reader and an author with the Press.

Thanks to Mike Palmquist for passing on the name of the best recipient of this letter.

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Rotary Club & Public Scholarship

Last week, I presented some remarks on public scholarship to Rotary Club of Hall County. Dr. Andrew Pearl, the Director of Academic Engagement at UNG, is a member and invited me. Drew and I have worked together on several projects, most recently leading two half-day workshops on public scholarship for our UNG colleagues.

Rotary meets every Tuesday at 11:30 in the Civic Center in Gainesville, a large, beautiful building sitting on Green Street. Longstreet Cafe caters every meeting; I had the salmon pattie, black eyed peas, and white rice.

I brought along one of my students, Rachel Ayers, to snap pictures of my talk.

2018-04-02 23.50.01

I embedded my Google slides presentation below but, in brief, focused on survey data that signals a distrust of higher education and college professors held by Republicans and right-leaning independents.

I argued one way professors can work against this distrust is providing more transparency in what we do and finding local outlets for our work.

I’m thankful for the time to share my thoughts, for the engaging Q&A, and for the salmon pattie.



Making it Count: Public Scholarship and P&T

On March 16th, with the NCAA men’s basketball tournament furiously underway around the country, I’ll talk for a few minutes about public scholarship, specifically how faculty can partner with their centers for teaching and learning to help make their public scholarship count for promotion and tenure.

I’ll deliver my brief words at the Conference for College Composition and Communication, the largest annual conference for college writing teachers/researchers/administrators. We pull in around 5000 attendees and are under the largest National Council of Teachers of English umbrella. CCCC kicked off in 1949, and I’ve been attending since 2010.

This year, we will be hanging in Kansas City.

My colleague, Matthew Boedy, organized our panel on public scholarship. We are lucky to have John Duffy as a respondent.

I’ll be working off Google slides.


Receiving Tenure

I received tenure.

The email came first. Then a letter from the provost. Then a letter from the president. According to my university’s faculty handbook, promotion and tenure can be uncoupled and a tenure-track faculty member can apply for early promotion. I did last AY, received it, and received the salary raise specified in the faculty handbook.

But tenure is on the clock. Nothing early. So I wrote and revised and resubmitted the same documents—just one AY later.

In a previous post, I detailed the tenure process at the University of North Georgia and included the summary letter I wrote in support of my portfolio.

In this post, I’ll show the results.

First, a timeline taken from UNG’s faculty handbook. I bolded the two important dates:

Deans notify P&T candidates for upcoming academic year Apr (2nd Monday)
Department heads/coordinators appoint DPTRC members Aug (4th Monday)
Deans appoint CPTC members Aug (4th Monday)
Faculty submit the P&T applications to department head/coordinator via D2L Sept (2nd Monday)
Provost appoints UWPTC members Sept (2nd Monday)
DPTRC completes review and uploads to D2L for CPTC Sept (4th Monday)
Department heads/coordinators complete review Oct (1st Monday)
CPTC completes review and uploads to D2L for UWPTC Oct (4th Monday)
Deans complete review Nov (1st Monday)
UWPTC complete review and forward to the Provost Dec (1st Monday)
Provost notified P & T faculty members Jan (4th Monday)

By that second Monday in September, I submitted all my material to D2L, the course management software we use. Then the folder was closed on D2L. Then the folder, ever-so ominously, disappeared into the world of Committee Review—never to appear again on my screen until the fourth Monday in January.

And there I was, on the sofa with my wife, watching Frasier on Netflix, when, for some darned reason, I decided to check my email.

I’ve received a handful of Big Emails: my President Obama email (still in my inbox), my PhD program acceptance email, my book contract email. This email was a biggie, too. 7:54 PM at night. Goodness me.


But it was good news.

The letter came from the Provost the next day. It was sitting in my box.

The letter from the President came exactly a month later.

And, when AY 17-18 turns to AY 18-19, I’ll have tenure. No salary bump this time around—just some security.

View this document on Scribd
View this document on Scribd




Centers for Teaching & Institutional Change

This morning, I attended a session at the American Association of Colleges & Universities annual meeting. The session was titled “How Centers for Teaching and Learning Can Influence Campus Culture on Emerging Educational Trends” run by Annie Soisson of Tufts and Stacy Grooters and Cristina Mirshekari, both of Boston College.

The three grounded their session in Connie Schroeder’s 2010 book Coming in From the Margins, which offers a five-point strategic change framework.

  • Understand your center
  • Align with institutional priorities
  • Build relationships and reputation
  • Build capacity
  • Evaluate

A pause:

I’m at an odd place in my career. My tenure begins next AY though I received an early promotion. I have one foot—probably one and a half feet—in my home department where I teach classes, direct our first-year composition program, offer department only faculty development opportunities. At this point in my career, all my publications—including my two books—are within my discipline and land squarely in my home department. But I have one foot—more like 4 toes—in our university’s Center for Teaching, Learning, and Leadership where I am a faculty fellow and offer university-wide professional development opportunities, represent the university at conferences like AAC&U, bring in guest speakers for our annual university-wide celebration of faculty research and talk one-on-one with our chief research officer about future administrative opportunities.


As I watched and listened to this session, I thought about change that may come to my university and how I might leverage my work with CTLL to be a part of helping my departmental colleagues adapt to this change. In short, the session leaders asked us to think about how our Centers might push change via this framework. I thought about how our Center might respond to change via this framework.

Here’s some change I know is coming. The University System of Georgia hired a nice Vice Chancellor, Dr. Tristan Deaney, a PhD in math dude from Cambridge. Dr. Denley is bringing an initiative called Gateways to Completion (G2C), offered by the Gardner Institute. Really, really briefly, G2C aim to improve student learning in high-failure rate classes; UNG, like all System schools, will adopt G2C and probably overhaul our first-year composition courses. Maybe not. But probably.

So, change is coming. How might CTLL help faculty in the English Department adopt to this change? What might my role be, as a department member and director of this potentially soon-to-be overhauled classes, as a CTLL faculty fellow?

With Schroeder’s framework, I start with understanding the history of CTLL: when was it started, by whom, and why? Does the CTLL director have a “seat at the table?” To whom does she report? What does CTLL do really well? Struggle with? What’s their budget? What’s mine (course release? stipend?)

The next step—aligning with institutional priorities—can be glossed over. This change is coming to us. CTLL doesn’t have to sell it.

CTLL and I then work the relationships we have already established. I talk with my department colleagues about these changes and rely on the relationships I have built up with this over 3 years directing first-year composition and publishing books and articles on the topic of writing instruction.

We would also need to build capacity. Would CTLL need to ask for additional revenue streams to be used hiring additional staff or supporting new faculty fellows? Would I need to work closely with my chair and dean to secure a budget for directing first-year composition, a budget that would allow us to bring in experts from other schools who have woven G2C into their first-year composition courses? Would I need to connect more closely with InstitutionalEffectiveness and rely on their partnership with National Survey of Student Engagement to track student learning and data-points such as DWF rates across campuses, differentiating between associates degree-seeking students and bachelor degree-seeking students?

I don’t know. But I do know I would need to build capacity to help faculty adopt to these changes, to help faculty help students adapt to these changes.

And the evaluate. Schroeder doesn’t use the word assess, curiously. But we would need to know, quite simply, if it works. Does G2C improve student writing? And how can we—my department, CTLL—communicate these findings all the way up the chain of command to the System level?

The session got me thinking.

It got me ready for the change that is coming.




Civic Engagement at AAC&U Meeting

American Association of Colleges and Universities annual meeting. The pre-meeting symposium “The Power of Civic Engagement: Across Campus, Within Communities, Beyond Borders.” Lynn Pasquerella, President of AAC&U, opening remarks. Pushing us to transition from an expert model of higher education, bolster reputation of higher education in a democratic society. Pasquerella pushes us to acknowledge bilateral relationships between school and town, relationships that respect local epistemologies. She pushes us to infuse civic learning outcomes into our curricula.

Pasquerella introduces Nancy Cantor, the chancellor of Rutgers University-Newark.

Cantor starts with John Dewey. Dewey tells us democracy needs to be enacted anew in every generation. Cantor starts with the tough, starts with the macabre, starts with the zero-sum evil permeating our society and coming to fore in evil marches, chants, social media posts. This zero-sum believes if you get yours, I can’t get mine; if you got something, anything, it means I get less, I get nothing.

She turns to the stories of hope, of the actual, concrete actions undertaken to topple this nasty narrative.

Cantor starts with the arts (how cool is that; a university chancellor preaching the arts!). The arts as a public square of democratic exchange (how cool is that; yes, from a Eurocentric point here, the ancient Greeks and the agora and the polis as a nexus of the arts [for wealthy, free, males of course]).


my own photo. The acropolis–not an agora but kinda close…

Cantor flashes a slide with Rupert Nacoste’s book Taking on Diversity. Nacoste is a psychologist at NC State. His book comes out of his work counseling undergrads. He offers techniques for handling the challenges that come from encountering diversity.

Cantor then gets specific. Flashes a slide of a beautiful old building in downtown Newark. The building was empty for many years. Now re-purposed. Whole Foods moved in. But more importantly, Cantor notes with a smile, Express Newark moved in—an amazing amalgamation of the community and university arts, an indoor agora of the arts fusing the university and the town. A screen printing room, a photography studio.


Photo by Anthony Alvarez; found at

This bilateral agora as a vehicle for arriving at empathetic citizenship.

Cantor gives a shout-out to Newest Americans, a multimedia collaborative showing how Newark is shaped by migration. Here’s how they describe themselves on their site:

We are a multimedia collaboratory of journalists, media-makers, artists, faculty and students telling the stories that radiate from the most diverse university in the nation. Based in Newark, NJ, a city shaped by migration, our project affords a glimpse into the world of the newest Americans and a vision of our demographic future.

Cantor flashes a slide with a quote from Danielle Allen, who directs the ethics center at Harvard: we are a ‘community of communities.’

And then a slide from Rabbi Joachim Prinz, a holocaust survivor, close friend of MLK. Prinz spoke before MLK delivering the Dream speech in DC. Prinz: “neighbor is not a geographic term. It is a moral concept.”


found via Wikimedia Commons

A riveting hour in my morning. A moment in a ballroom on a cold morning in DC where I was emboldened by the work of others. And thought of how I can take this locally engaged work and bring it back to my community in northeast Georgia and at the University of North Georgia.