“Assessing the Cyborg Center: Assemblage- Based, Feminist Frameworks Toward Socially Just Writing Center Assessments.” 2017. The Graduate Center, CUNY, PhD dissertation.

This dissertation will broaden the purview of recent scholarship pertaining to socially just writing assessments by making connections among assemblage theory and materialism, studies of ecological and anti-racist assessments, and studies of writing center work, to ground theoretical conversations in everyday practices. Focusing on systemic oppression in the neoliberal university and consciously using assemblage theory as a mechanism for confronting multiliteracies allows writing center directors to see the constant movement and reshaping of students’ knowledges as they approach different environments, different courses, and different genres. Notions of intra-relatedness and intertwinings evident in assemblage theory are essential to this dissertation’s consideration of pedagogy and administration. Expanding upon research on ecological and anti-racist assessment practices, I argue that it is vitally important for writing program administrators and writing center directors to bring complex views of literacies and identities to their assessment protocols. I further argue that this practice can be aided by frameworks based in assemblage theory. Using archival research and critical discourse analysis, this project explores one WC’s history and current practices in a large public, urban university system as a case study. Acknowledging the burden of negotiating hurdles set up by corporatized university structures, this dissertation examines the ways institutional pressures can shape assessments, and makes suggestions for new, socially just approaches relying on assemblage theory that follow current trends in writing assessment.


“Making the Most and Best Use of Eggs: Producer-Consumers, Modernist Labor Periodicals, and the Rhetoric of The Farmer’s Wife.From Installation to Remediation: The CWSHRC Digital New Works Showcase. Peitho, 18.1 (Fall/Winter 2015).
  • In order to continue the interactive work of the New Work Showcase, I’ve designed this remediation of “Making the Most and Best Use of Eggs” in a way that, I hope, inspires a participatory conversation with its audience. The articles are curated here based both on their importance to my larger argument and on their featured position in the individual issues of the periodicals in order to offer a general overview of the labor-related rhetorical framework I am addressing. Below, you’ll find a linked pathway that will help you navigate through my reading of this work. However, I encourage you to explore the WordPress-based timeline chronologically as well, or to examine the images and articles collected here in an order that makes sense to you. The images and links throughout the timeline will take you to PDF or JPEG versions of the articles that can be enlarged for easier viewing. Commentary connected to my narrative can be found linked at the bottom of the appropriate pages.

Conference Presentations

Operation Collaboration: Uncovering Histories of Writing Center Assessment Networks.” 2017 International Writing Centers Association Conference, Chicago, IL.
  • Individual Paper Description: In her 2014 WCJ article, Stacy Nall argues that writing centers must give archives a privileged place in their operations in order to emphasize important collaborative practices. Programmatic archives, as has been argued across composition and rhetoric scholarship (L’Eplattenier and Mastrangelo; Kirsch and Rohan), tell an important story of our administrative past that is key to the on-going success of our programs. When faced with building new archives in order to establish these patterns of collaboration, what must be emphasized by writing center directors? Specifically, for the focus of this presentation, where do stories of assessment fit into these archival histories, and why do they matter? This presentation will confront these questions, using the speaker’s research narrative of the past year. In working through her dissertation research, the speaker focused on a case study of one urban writing center and its scattered archives. The speaker discovered that, while the English department records had been maintained as archival works, the founding of the writing center had gone largely undocumented, despite its key role in English department initiatives and the special programming of other campus offices. Relying on oral histories, then, the speaker established a narrative focused on the assessment practices of the center. By attending to assessment specifically, the speaker argues for the importance of archiving programmatic evaluative practices that can help establish past WC collaborations as templates for new initiatives. Turning to her current work as a director, the presentation will finish with ideas for starting a writing center assessment archive from scratch.
Advocating Across Campus: Identity-Driven Writing Center Collaborations.” (roundtable) 2017 National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing, Hempstead, NY.
  • Panel abstract: How can writing centers act as advocates for student writers across campuses? More importantly, how can writing centers focus their collaborations in ways that emphasize the need for inclusivity across campus through broader definitions of literacies? This roundtable discussion, facilitated by a director and peer tutors, will engage with these questions using personal narratives of new partnership-building initiatives in one writing center. After brief presentations, participants will break out into small groups to consider brainstorming questions regarding partnership initiative possibilities.
    Description: Speaker One will introduce some background information about the writing center, and will explain the context for the partnership initiatives. She will set up the framework used for developing the collaborations, and will offer some insight about the process from an administrative perspective. Additionally, this speaker will offer examples from the center’s new policy documentation, and will analyze the language choices in these documents as she explains the collaborative drafting process behind them.
“Fostering Social Justice Frameworks: Activist Praxis in the Practical Spaces of Writing Programs.” 2017 Conference on College Composition and Communication, Portland, OR.
  • Panel abstract: The 2016 CCCC asked composition and rhetoric scholars to consider “action” in our field. This panel continues that conversation by considering practical applications of critical literacy and translingual theories for social justice in the writing program. How do we cultivate social justice ethos in disciplinary conversations focused on the “practical life” of WPAs? This panel takes on both practical and theoretical notions by considering the ways in which the field implements—or balks at—communication-oriented activism in everyday practices. Since the early days of the field, a tension has existed between scholarship focused around theoretical discussions and those focused around “what we do” as teachers/administrators. To address this tension, we build on Linda Adler-Kassner’s argument to bridge sociopolitical issues and social action theories with the teaching of writing in the university examining what it might mean to enact “activist WPA” work in specific, local contexts, both in and out of the classroom. Coming from a large public university system in New York, the four panelists will discuss the ways they are able to confront the difficulties of institutional normativizing structures at a time when so many of their students are working to break down structures of inequality in their neighborhoods and elsewhere. By questioning the  separation between activist WPA work and institutional constraints, this panel seeks to respond to the 2017 CCCC call to gain better understandings of “the disciplinary landscape.”DescriptionIn “Cultivating Change, Complicating Literacies: One Writing Center’s History of Assessment,” Speaker Two will examine the history of assessment frameworks used in a public university writing center (WC). WC histories often overlook assessment practices, focusing instead on histories of tutor training and tutoring pedagogy. By attending to assessment specifically, Speaker Two points to the importance of programmatic evaluative practices in fostering activist environments in writing programs. This presentation will point to connections between trends in WC theory and their impacts on the everyday practices of this particular WC over time, and, taking into consideration the institutional history surrounding Open Admissions and student activism, will emphasize the growing concern for multiple literacies and student identity politics as the WC developed over the last quarter of the twentieth century. Turning to conversations coming out of the 2016 CCCC and recent published scholarship, Speaker Two will make suggestions for applications of current scholarship regarding anti-racist assessments (Inoue, Inoue and Poe) as a way of speaking to today’s political climate and continuing the WC’s history of pushing against institutional pressures in order to work toward important literacy activism.
“Refried Beans: Moving Beyond Standardization in Writing Center Assessments.” (roundtable) 2016 International Writing Centers Association Conference, Denver, CO.
  • Panel abstract: This panel examines three viewpoints from different institutions that can be taken into account when developing responsible WC assessment practices. Presenter 1 draws on ecological frameworks to design assessment that recognizes student multiliteracies. Presenter 2 resists prior narratives of writing center work and involves writing center stakeholders in developing a mission towards future assessment. Presenter 3 reports on outreach offered to multilingual students that blended quantitative and qualitative methods to more accurately capture what was working in sessions in order to create more inclusive future training practices.
    Description: During the 2014 IWCA Conference, Lynee Lewis Gaillet and her roundtable co-discussants interrogated collaborative relationships between writing programs and writing centers. Speaker One picks up this conversation, focusing on programmatic assessments. How can WCDs effectively use ecological frameworks in order to show the complex work of writing programs and centers? Drawing from assemblage theory and anecdotal experiences at two different university writing centers, this presentation explores collaborative possibilities for assessment that recognize student multiliteracies.
“Assessing Assemblages in the Online Writing Center: Multiliteracies and Labor Practices in a Theoretical Framework.” Council of Writing Program Administrators 2016 Summer Conference, Raleigh, NC.
  • Panel abstract: Conversations surrounding labor issues have become an important part of WPA activism. Simultaneously, greater emphasis has been placed on online writing instruction as universities move toward technologically-facilitated educational models. As these trends converge, WPAs must meet both the educational needs of students and material needs of faculty members. This session introduces five perspectives on these issues, highlighting concerns for administering OWI in different settings. Participants will use these lightning talks as starting points for small and then large group discussions.
    Description: Assemblage theorists emphasize the process of the always-becoming aspect of intersectional identifications. (Puar, 2012). But how does this principle highlight identity issues in our WC assessment practices? This speaker uses assemblage theory as a lens for WC assessment practices that  recognize issues of multicultural multi-literacies in the online tutoring of students.
“Designing Freshman Writing with Writing Centers: Not an Afterthought.” 2016 Conference on College Composition and Communication, Houston, Texas.
  • Panel abstract: This panel describes course designs in a writing program that fulfill curricular requirements, yet still exemplify pedagogical creativity.
    Description: While some argue that structured curriculum and pedagogical freedom have too many incongruities to work in tandem, this panel proposes some contradistinctions between restrictive programmatic curricular prescriptions and anti-oppressive pedagogical free-for-alls. As instructors all working within one program that has curricular requisites, these panelists re-examine this counterproductive binary in writing programming that unnecessarily pits programmatic parameters against pedagogical liberties. By describing an FYC curricular infrastructure that paves the way for innovative teaching and then giving examples of individual course designs, these panelists demonstrate how a program can inscribe a curriculum that meets institutional constraints (i.e., mission directives, curricular consistency, obligatory assessment) while also invoking inventive teaching practices. Through their pedagogical responses to a curriculum with clearly articulated assignments and end objectives, this panel exemplifies how curricular structure can harness collective teaching experience and spur pedagogical creativity for a sustainable, vibrant writing program.
    Paper Abstract: The curriculum in question works closely with the campus’ writing center (WC) to offer individualized and group programming for FYC students. These initiatives help fill the gap left when basic writing classes were removed because of an institutional status change and resulting university regulations. These support initiatives also help facilitate transfer between the two required writing courses and freshman-level classes in other departments. This speaker will explore the interrelationship between the writing program and the writing center, highlighting the ways in which transfer is actively sought and achieved. Giving the WC a central focus rather than seeing it as an afterthought in programmatic design, this presentation will show the importance of curricular collaboration between the WC and the writing program. Rather than an afterthought of pedagogy, this panelist considers the role of the writing center as a central focus of freshman composition.
“Inhabiting Failure: Space and Experimentation in FYW Digital Environments.” Session Co-Chair, “Epic Fail: Encouraging Digital Exploration in the Classroom.” Council of Writing Program Administrators 2015 Summer Conference, Boise, ID.
  • Failure consistently emerges as a theme in the writing classroom. Whether instructors invite it or not, students’ fear of failure colors countless elements of the first year writing classroom, especially given that students frequently enter the classroom with the collective baggage of a standardized testing structure that punishes failure harshly and squashes any possible opportunities to learn from failure. Speaker 2 will consider possible connections between students’ anxieties regarding failure in the classroom and digital FYW projects that “survive” beyond the end of composition courses. Using Nedra Reynold’s concepts of space from Geographies of Writing to consider the emotive ties between writing and place, as well as phenomenological theories regarding connections between physicality and the composing process, Speaker 2 will interrogate the ways our students conceive of an exploratory space for their work in the writing classroom. Ultimately, this presentation will question the ways in which we, as writing teachers, can encourage students to see their digital compositions as speaking to parts of their identity that can be sustained beyond the time span of a semester, changing and developing as their writing identities change.
“Growth in Writing, Teaching, and Learning” Panel Chair. 2015 Northeast Modern Language Association, Toronto, Ontario, CA
  • In his classic composition text Writing Without Teachers, Peter Elbow asks us to consider the metaphor of growing as a way to encourage and teach fluid, flexible writing: “Instead of a two-step transaction of meaning-into-language, think of writing as an organic, developmental process in which you start writing at the very beginning — before you know your meaning at all — and encourage your words gradually to change and evolve” (15). The idea of growth applies to so many aspects of scholarship, as we approach the profession simultaneously as teachers, students, and researchers in our own rights. This roundtable session seeks to explore the idea of growth broadly conceived, thinking about the ways we develop our writing and teaching, as well as the ways our students’ writing develops. The concept of growth can be expanded to include the ways that our research process in the archives progresses, the ways our work as coders and activists develops from thought to working projects, and our approaches to professionalization in higher education. The co-chairs of this panel will be soliciting papers that recognize the interconnected nature of our work in the classroom and outside of it. We seek out pieces that creatively use growth and/or Elbowian “growing” as a way of metacognitively looking at the work we do that speak to process and change. In revisiting a touchstone metaphor in the field of composition and rhetoric at a moment in time when our definitions of “the composition classroom” are shifting and through a lens that welcomes the diverse perspectives of a variety of subfields, this panel hopes to expand conversations about development, processes, change, and writing.
“To Boldly Fail: Space and Exploration in Digital Composing” 2015 Conference on College Composition and Communication, Tampa, FL
  • This presentation will present a range of digital projects created for a doctoral seminar that explored the affordances of multimodal composition. Using the idea of “failing forward” explored in Judith Halberstam’s Queer Art of Failure, the speakers will present a series of reflections by digital composers who examined the exploratory moves that went into their projects and the first inevitable failures that accompanied their forays into the digital world. In using these reflections to study the role of both failure and experimentation in a digital composition environment, the speakers will consider how all composers – students and faculty alike – can benefit by being given room to experiment — and at times to fail in ways that can become generative and productive.
“Making the Most and Best Use of Eggs’: Producer-Consumers, Modernist Labor Periodicals, and the Rhetoric of The Farmer’s Wife” Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition 2015 New Works Showcase at CCCC, Tampa, FL
  • The Farmer’s Wife (1906-1939) was the only periodical to speak specifically to rural women during its publication run. Given its title and beginnings as a “ladies supplement,” it is easy to conflate the periodical with The Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, or other mainstream ladies’ magazines. While TFW contains content similar to those mass circulation women’s magazines, and while it’s important to acknowledge its emphasis on woman-as-homemaker, its unique place in this publication history narrative means that it goes beyond the typical rhetoric of domesticity to position farm women as laborers and goods producers. Scholars studying the magazine have done much to recover TFW as part of modernist literary studies and agrarian history, but have neglected to place the magazine in conversation with modernist labor periodicals, instead opting to discuss its connections to LHJ. This presentation seeks to address this oversight by connecting TFW to The Masses (1911-1917), a socialist political periodical, and also looks to bring TFW to the attention of feminist rhetorical studies, a field that has neglected the periodical thus far. For this presentation, I will be looking at issues from 1916, the year just before the US’s entry into WWI and an election year – a time of great political uncertainty for US workers. By exploring the rhetoric of TFW within the larger conversation of labor-oriented modernist periodicals, I hope to expand definitions of “modernist periodicals” to include this rural-focused publication, and to acknowledge the importance of this woman-centric magazine and its reader-contributors in a distinct rhetoric of labor, a connection that has gone unacknowledged due, I argue, to the magazine’s focus on traditionally feminized spaces on the farm.
“Freedom of Choice: Graduate Student Labor and Curricular Design” 2014 Summer Conference on Writing Program Administration, Normal, IL
  • This presentation will address issues of continuity and instructor-level independence in the program from the perspective of a first-time graduate-level instructor. The speaker will synthesize experiences from the program’s teaching practicum with those form her first year of teaching in order to address questions of teacher training and curricular design – issues that, as composition and rhetoric scholars seek to perpetuate ethical working conditions at every level of the university structure, should be incorporated into the design of any writing program that employs graduate student labor.
“Agents Online: Assessing Access to Transfer in Online Tutoring Initiatives”; 2014 Conference on College Composition and Communication, Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Recent scholarship on transfer in the field of composition and rhetoric has focused largely on implications for writing classrooms (Reiff & Bawarshi 2011; Robertson, et al 2012; Donahue 2012; Wardle 2007, 2009). However, Rebecca Nowacek (2011) addresses implications of transfer research for writing centers, acknowledging the crucial role for tutors as mediators between students and instructors as they forge connections that lead to the transfer of writing-based knowledge. Speaker 3 will expand on the conversation opened in Nowacek’s work, extending the transfer discussion to include writing centers, recognizing their important place in composition studies writ large. She will investigate what it means for tutors to actively participate as “handlers” and “agents,” as both student guides and active connection-builders, when a tutoring initiative takes on a digital life. Speaker 3 will share data from her assessment of an online tutoring program, drawing on session feedback forms, student survey data, and chat session transcripts. She will explore the process of assessing the online initiative while staying attuned to the unrecognizable forms transfer sometimes takes. Implications for work in writing center assessment will be examined and will emphasize connections between transfer and writing center experiences.
“Breaking the Bonds of Marriage: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a Rhetoric of Embodiment, and Marriage Reform after Seneca Falls”; 2013 CUNY ESA Graduate Student Conference, Graduate Center of the City University of New York, New York, New York
  • During the middle of the nineteenth century, early American women’s rights activists took on the issue of women’s property rights, recognizing the need for improvement in laws regarding women’s inheritances and wages earned during marriage, as well as for their ability to maintain custody of their children and the ease with which they could obtain a divorce. These concerns were taken up in the oratory of many well-known first-wave feminist figures such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton. While Stanton is most frequently noted for her pieces focusing on temperance, abolition and, of course, suffrage, her entire argument for the advancement of women in American society depended upon the reformation of marriage, as previous scholarship has argued. We can see that the passion of her words comes from her desire for women to be equal not just in the eyes of the legal system, but within the boundaries of the relationships in which they find themselves. Stanton’s concern with the individual lives of the women she represented in her speeches is echoed in the images of the body that can be found in much of her work. It is this element, in part, that this presentation will explore, suggesting that Stanton’s explosive rhetoric, often quite shocking for her time, was one that frequently relied upon analogies, images, and allusions to physicality and material human bodies, particularly those of women oppressed by an unjust legal system. Stanton’s use of bodily imagery is noteworthy given that bodies were not a public topic, but rather private objects to be covered and protected, according to the Victorian doctrine of modesty. A woman speaking in a public forum was already something barely tolerable for Antebellum Americans; a woman speaking publicly about politics while referring to human bodies would have been an affront on audiences’ sensibilities (Campbell 14). This imagery, however, speaks to a deeper notion of embodiment that has been alluded to in previous scholarship of the commonly used rhetoric of the women’s rights movements of the time.  Women’s rights discourse often relied upon a “rights versus virtue” dichotomy, inadvertently creating a paradox that positioned, respectively, sex as biologically determined or ontologically centered. In addressing the need for marriage and divorce reform, Stanton most often employed the rights topos. However, as this presentation will argue, by focusing on the need for women to find power and independence outside of a marital contract, Stanton moves beyond the simple opposition of rights or virtue, and instead engages a rhetorical portrayal of bodies similar to that of Emma Goldman in Goldman’s work on free love. By making sexuality and the need for women to control their own bodies a central part of her discourse, and by consistently creating imagery of material bodies in her speeches, this presentation will show that Stanton creates a unique rhetoric of embodiment, one connecting a radical feminist movement – free love – to the more frequently utilized women’s rights discourse of the time.
“‘Women of Ability and Understanding’: The Farmer’s Wife, The American Country Life Association and the 1926 Farm Women’s Conference”; 2012 Conference on College Composition and Communication, St. Louis, Missouri
  • In 1926, the editors of The Farmer’s Wife, the only periodical of the time to cater exclusively to the needs of farm women, collaborated with the American Country Life Association in order to bring together a select group of farm women for a conference. The event, held in Chicago for three days in March, addressed the question, “What are farm women thinking about?” and was one of the predominant farm women’s conferences held in the early twentieth century. Echoing the broader concerns of Theodore Roosevelt’s Country Life Commission in 1908, the conference focused mainly on issues of rural education and the organization of agrarian communities. While the few published scholarly pieces on the periodical’s history have been thorough, they have neglected to include the important addition of the Chicago conference in the rhetorical history of the publication. Through close readings of issues of TFW in the years surrounding the conference and of the published conference pamphlet, The Farm Woman Answers the Question: What Do Farm Women Want?, this speaker will investigate the active role TFW played during the years surrounding the conference in the actual communities of the farm women who made up its readership, and will attempt to position it more clearly in the rhetorical history of periodicals of the time.
“Power Hungry: Food and Farm Women in A Thousand Acres and The Grapes of Wrath”; 2011 CUNY English Student Association Interdisciplinary Conference, Graduate Center of the City University of New York, New York, New York
  • Although the women in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath and Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres are marginalized in their gendered roles as farm women,  their duties as caretakers of their families give them sources of alternative power. This power, located in the domestic sphere, is directly linked to the meals they provide for their families, as food is a dominant image throughout both texts. One might see similar cases reflected in the lives of American farm women of the past as they established themselves as integral parts of agrarian life despite a marginalized status in standard power structures. Though it is easy to think of the domestic duties of women as servile, one must look past the common perceptions of farm women in order to see that, within their gendered responsibilities, women were able to obtain great power within their families. In this paper, I will argue that although the women in Steinbeck’s and Smiley’s novels, like their historical counterparts, seem to take on inferior positions in their traditionally oriented lives, in actuality their gendered roles hold as much power as those of the males in the texts due to their culinary duties. This demonstrates that food plays a key part in the distribution of authority in agricultural settings. Adhering to the definition of female power found in Susan C. Rogers’ article, “female forms of power and the myth of male dominance,“ I will attempt to show how the women in these novels achieve a subversion of the ’repressed rural woman’ stereotype using food as their main tool for obtaining this alternative authority and developing unique domestic feminisms in each text.