The Study

Focus and Scope

This study examines scholarship published in WPA: Writing Program Administration during the last twenty years in order to determine how students have been invited to participate in WPA work.

This section presents evidence from the archives of the field's flagship journal, WPA: Writing Program Administration. As in Critel’s dissertation chapter "Sixty Years of Conversation: Student Participation in CCC, 1950-2010," the archival approach enables an examination of trends through scholars' discussions of students' participation—in this case, their involvement at the programmatic level.

To limit my search, I focused on scholarship published between 1994 and 2013. Though neat, the twenty-year range is not arbitrary; the mid-90s are generally recognized as the point at which the field of writing program administration came into its own: "'The Portland Resolution': Guidelines for Writing Program Administrator Positions" (Hult, et al.) was released in 1992. In 1995, Joseph Janangelo and Kristine Hansen's Resituating Writing was hailed by Charles Schuster as the first collection of essays by and for WPAs outside the journal itself. And in 1996, the CWPA released an early version of "Evaluating the Intellectual Work of Writing Administration" (finalized in 1998), a document that continues to define and justify the WPA position. Since then, publication surrounding issues of program administration has flourished; the resulting abundance of resources prompted my decision to focus on WPA as a manageable corpus and a logical place to start an investigation of common WPA practices.

Twenty years yields an immense amount of content in a journal like WPA. In order to further narrow the corpus, the final selection included symposia but excluded letters from editors, book reviews, bibliographies, responses, and position statements. Within those parameters, I also left out studies of graduate-student/TA involvement, an area that already receives a good deal of attention. This study therefore covers 234 articles across 39 issues.

An initial sorting based on article abstracts identified those in which student participation might be addressed within discussions of program development, curricula, assessment, evaluation, instructor or tutor training, teaching methods, community outreach, campus partnerships, and so on. With roughly half the original corpus remaining, I read each article closely to identify those that referenced instances of student participation before coding and categorizing those references as I identified trends.


Of the 234 major articles published in WPA during the past twenty years, 42 articles—roughly 18%—refer explicitly to possible or actual undergraduate-student involvement in the work of writing program administrators. The categories of intellectual work delineated in the seminal "Evaluating the Intellectual Work of Writing Administration" (CWPA), with a few adjustments, serve as a logical framework within which to consider students' contributions to that work.

I present the results according to the frequency of references to student participation within each area:

  • program creation and curricular design
  • program assessment and evaluation
  • faculty development
  • public relations and production

Within each of these categories, I delineate the work WPAs ask students to do for/with writing programs above and beyond standard academic expectations. As in "Evaluating the Intellectual Work," I leave out the conventional administrative tasks—enrolling in courses, completing assignments, fulfilling requirements—in order to focus on those interesting "other" categories.

The pages that follow provide ample evidence that students are invited to contribute to writing programs in significant ways; the examples provide a range of possibilities for student participation in WPA work, as well as the authors' own astute reflections on these practices.