A Little More about our WPA Search

We’re hiring this year for a Writing Program Administrator-type person. And if you’re interested in this job, please do me a favor and read past the “bad” part that follows the ad. I promise, I will get to the good stuff!

Here’s the ad itself from the MLA JIL:

English, 612 Pray-Harrold, Ypsilanti, MI 48197
http://www.emich.edu/english
Assistant Professor Composition/Rhetoric [1638]
Tenure track position in composition and rhetoric starting Fall 2007. We are looking for a faculty member who values teaching, research, and service to join a dynamic department and an active group of composition/rhetoric faculty in a nationally recognized writing program. We seek expertise in some combination of the following: writing program administration, first year writing, and writing and technology. Responsibilities will include administration or co-administration of the First Year Writing Program (with commensurate reassigned time), and some teaching in FYC and/or upper-level or graduate courses in Written Communication. Teaching excellence, scholarly publication, and service are required for academic advancement. Candidate must have Ph.D. in hand by Fall 2007. Phone interviews will be held before MLA. Please send letter of application and a dossier containing letters of recommendation, teaching/administrative philosophy, and evidence of exemplary teaching and scholarship to: Position F0715, 202 Bowen, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI 48197. Screening will begin 11/27 and continue until position is filled. We encourage applications from women and members of minority groups. For more information contact Linda Adler-Kassner (ladlerka@emich.edu).

Now, for some more info– the “inside story,” if you will.

First off, I’d be lying through not only my teeth but the dozens of entries I’ve made here recently about the not yet resolved faculty strike if I said that everything was just hunky-dory and happy on campus. It’s not. (Oh, and the short version fo where we’re at right now: faculty are working under the conditions of the old contract and the process of “fact finding” has begun. If we go all the way through with the “fact finding” stuff, it will probably be another six months before we have a contract. There’s a good chance though that the parties will reach some sort of agreement sooner; fingers crossed on that one).

Beyond this immediate issue, there are of course other longer-term concerns. EMU has been traditionally under-funded by the state and that situation isn’t improving in a state where the economy is in the dumper. The building where the English department is housed, Pray-Harrold, is something of a hole. It’s not easy to get resources like new(ish) computers, decent furniture, and so forth. The parking situation on campus is horrible. Etc., etc., etc.

Okay, with that out of the way: even with all of this crap, even with the situation we’ve got with the board of regents and the upper administration, even with all of these other problems, I still think EMU is a pretty good place to work, and I still think this WPA position is going to be a pretty good job. Here’s why, in no particular order:

  • Within the writing program, I’ve got great colleagues. Sure, a couple of folks are less active than they should perhaps be, but for the most part, my fellow colleagues are super invested in their teaching, in their service to the department, and to their scholarship. And basically, they’re nice people, too.
  • I have A LOT of fellow writing colleagues. In terms of “quantity,” we are a program with a lot of folks invested in the writing program: eight faculty who are squarely in “composition and rhetoric” and/or “tech writing,” another five faculty in journalism and/or public relations, four faculty in English Education (and they work closely with our program, especially in teaching some of the graduate courses in the “teaching of writing” MA program), and another four faculty in creative writing. That, as they say, is a lot of people, and the value of having that many folks in writing within an English department cannot be over-emphasized. At my first job at Southern Oregon University, I had one other colleague who did comp/rhet stuff, and 10 or 11 other colleagues who did “straight-up” literature stuff who didn’t always “get” the scholarship and teaching I did. That’s never been a problem here.
  • Beyond the writing programs, I’ve got a lot of other great colleagues. Hey, some of my best friends are literature specialists! Seriously though: while there are some political tensions in the department between different programs and personalities, we are a department that prides itself on being a friendly and collegial place. I really do think that our English department is unusual in our ability to work together and even kind of like each other.
  • The process for tenure and promotion at EMU is transparent. The faculty union is bad for all sorts of different reasons. However, one of the ways in which the union is very very good is that it has essentially codified the process for tenure and promotion. There’s none of this five old guys getting together and deciding with no input from anyone who gets tenure and who doesn’t. At EMU, it’s all laid out in the “Department Evaluation Document,” pronounced “DEaD.”
  • EMU is the kind of place where you have the flexibility to be the kind of academic you want to be. One of the problems with Ph.D. studies (IMO) is that the programs that train future college professors tend to have a skewed and extreme version of what it means to be an academic. Because Ph.D. programs tend to be tier one research schools, there’s a lot of “publish or perish” vibe going on, a lot of pressure/stress/anxiety about, well, everything. I don’t think that’s the system here. I mean, you can be a “hard core publishing machine” type of professor at EMU, and those people are certainly respected by my colleagues and the institution. But you can also be someone who publishes an article once in a while and then puts a lot of energy into your teaching, or even into your service work. That flexibility is a very very good thing.
  • The Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor area is a great place to live. We’re close enough to Detroit to have access to “big city living” things (major sports teams, great art museum, international airport, shows and concerts, every shopping and dining experience under the sun, etc.), and yet far enough away to have a bit of a “big town/small city” feel. Ypsilanti has its charms and many of my colleagues have a lot of pride and attachment to this town. But personally, I like the things that Ann Arbor offers. In the nutshell, because of the quaint liberal arts school there, Ann Arbor is the quintessential “college town,” with all of the book stores, coffee shops, funky stores, groovy people, and other assorted hangers about that you can imagine.

I could go on, but you get the idea. So if you’re “on the market” this year and you’re interested in this gig, think about applying. And if you want to email me and talk more about this thing a bit more privately (skrause at emich dot edu), feel free.

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