Apologies for the late post! Casey and I have been hard at work here in the Praxis offices formatting and assembling the latest issue 14.1, on access and equity for graduate student writers, guest-edited by Shannon Madden and Michele Eodice. The issue will be published Dec. 15, but before that, we wanted to offer you a sneak peek at a few of the exciting articles being published. In what follows, I've provided some thoughts from a few of our authors on their participation in this special issue and short excerpts from their articles to give you a taste of what's to come.
Cedric Burrows of Marquette University had this to say about writing his article:
"I wrote this piece to create awareness on a topic that is often discussed within the African American community. In my experience--and in talking with others who have lived the same experience--I've seen how black graduate students often feel that they have to shoulder a lot of burdens to prove that they are strong and are capable of completing their degrees. In the process, they suffer in silence and are left with the emotional scars of trying to always be the strong person. I wanted to remind those who are in the process of completing their degrees that their experiences matter, and that scholars should examine the institutional environments that prevent students from actively seeking help."
Check out the following excerpt from Dr. Burrows's essay, "Writing While Black: The Black Tax on African-American Graduate Writers":
Despite years of success, when I began writing my dissertation, I had a hard time writing. I did the research and took all of the necessary notes, but I couldn’t save any of my writing. I would write for an hour, and instead of saving the work, I would erase it. In these moments, I experienced the double consciousness: on one hand, I had to get the dissertation done, while on the other, I had to be twice as good and make the dissertation worthy of being published. After a few weeks of going back and forth between these two urgencies, I decided I needed help. I made an appointment; went to the campus writing center; and met with the tutor, an undergraduate English education major who would begin student-teaching the next semester.
After about ten minutes of reading my draft, he commented, “You’re a very strong writer. How did you learn to write so well?” Holding back the rising anger in my spirit, I told him that it came from years of writing and teaching others how to write. After reading some more, he commented again: “Your writing is good, but you may want to rephrase some of your ideas so they won’t offend certain groups.”
“What groups?” I asked.
After several attempts, he stated, “You may offend white people with some of your language. You’re stating that a person who is white will not be able to teach a writing by Martin Luther King, and that can be offensive to a white audience.”
“No,” I responded. “My argument is that anyone can teach a speech or writing by King as long as they understand the cultural dimensions of his works.”
“Well,” he responded, “that’s not what someone who’s white may get from this writing.”
After thanking him for his time, I left the center feeling frustrated. Did he not understand what I was writing? Or, did he not even try to understand? I couldn’t tell my committee for fear that they would think I wasn’t strong enough to deal with criticism, and I didn’t want to go back to the writing center after that experience. So, I resolved to try writing some more and hope it would work. But the double consciousness of being black and a dissertation writer kept me from writing more.
Next, we have an excerpt from Charmaine Smith-Campbell and Steve Littles's "Friere's Pedagogy of Love and a Ph.D. Student's Experience." About their participation in the special issue, Smith-Campbell and Littles had this to say:
"We are grateful that guest editors Michele Eodice and Shannon Madden offered an opportunity to start a conversation on a Freirean model of pedagogical love—of what this would look like in a real world graduate program, and in the life of a real graduate student. Participation in this edition on Access and Equity in Graduate Writing Support allowed us to share a story and an interpretation of the Freirean concept of “love.” The hope is to move forward and generate continued dialogue that will not just increase interest in this aspect of Freire’s work, but encourage its use as an effective instructional model for smooth, timely, and successful transitions from ABD to Ph.D. graduations at the college level. We hope to continue this research, and to seek ways in which this model is applicable in K-12 settings as an educational gap closing instructional method."
Check out the following excerpt from their essay:
Once I got my Ph.D. something else also happened. I eventually was able to begin a new relationship—with myself. I met me for the first time and was determined to make me successful…. I became a better mentor for my group of young male mentees, a better supporter for an annual conference for young girls that my wife and I organize, a willing sharer of personally prepared instructional material with colleagues, and a more focused trainer for staff members at my school. Most of all, I became a better man for my family.
Erica Lynn Cirillo-McCarthy, Celeste Del Russo, and Elizabeth Leahy, authors of "'We Don't Do That Here: Calling Out Deficit Discourses in the Writing Center to Reframe Multilingual Graduate Writing Support," shared this regarding their involvement in the special issue:
"The three of us have long been interested in collaborating on the ways in which we serve graduate students in the writing center. This special issue of Praxis offered us the opportunity (and challenge) to transform our rich conversations into something much more tangible, for both us and readers. We are proud to be part of a community of scholars, administrators, and teachers who attend daily to ensuring access and equity to graduate students. As universities continue to diversify, writing centers have a responsibility to examine their practices and philosophies to provide equitable, accessible, and contextualized resources for all student writers."
From their essay:
Narrative 1: Yifan, a graduate student and multilingual writer, visits the writing center weekly to work on her qualifying paper. For the past year, she and her regular tutor would go through each section, addressing both global and local concerns. One day, she visits the center when her regularly scheduled tutor is not available. When she sits down to begin the session, Yifan asks for assistance on grammar and editing issues in her conclusion. The tutor kindly but firmly states, “I’m sorry, but we don’t do that here.” Feeling embarrassed, Yifan packs up her things and leaves.
Narrative 2: Rayna, a writing center director, is sitting in her office when Marcus, a Ph.D. Candidate in Education (and repeat visitor) comes into her office to announce his progress on his nearly completed dissertation. Last year, his advisor sent him to the writing center to have a tutor help “clean up” his academic English. He worked with several tutors until he found one who would help him with grammar and editing. After working for a year with a tutor, focusing on sentence-level issues and editing, Marcus is preparing his dissertation for submission. “I know the writing center isn’t supposed to do grammar and editing,” he tells Rayna, “and that I shouldn’t advertise this with the rest of the students in our program, but when I meet weekly with my tutor, that’s exactly what we do. We do ‘grammar.’”
Narrative 3: Sam, a writing tutor, has been working with Marina for two semesters on sentence-level issues related to her prospectus. In some sessions, Marina and Sam sit side by side, identifying patterns in her grammar usage, referring to grammar rulebooks, and applying correct usage in the context of Marina’s writing. Lately, as the deadline for the prospectus gets closer, Sam has found herself doing more direct line editing than she normally would. She feels uncomfortable, as though she is not doing her job appropriately, as if she is misrepresenting the writing center’s philosophies by being overly directive, assuming the role of editor and not tutor.
About her essay "The Re-Education of Neisha-Anne Green: A Close Look at the Damaging Effects of 'A Standard Approach,' the Benefits of Code-Meshing, and the Role Allies Play in this Work," Neisha-Anne Green offered the following:
"As I say in my piece, part of it was taken directly from my graduate thesis. I’ll let the readers guess which part of it I was brave enough to write back then, but as I worked on this piece over that last few months what I’ve realized is that even though I’ve developed and clarified certain parts of it just a tiny bit more, the main gist and raw emotion of the piece remain the same and unfortunately, are all too relevant a few years later. I am encouraged however to keep doing this work. I am encouraged because despite a few awful experiences my core group of supporters who advocated for me all through my graduate career, my village as I prefer to call them, continue to advocate and applaud loudly."
The following is from Neisha's essay:
I was born in Barbados and moved to New York right before my fifteenth birthday. We moved because my father had been diagnosed with cancer and needed to be here to be close to his doctors. Even at his best, and in remission some 14 years later, my father is always sick because he has Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD). GVHD is a complication that may occur in patients who were recipients of bone marrow or stem cell transplants. The name is self-explanatory, but put simply, the new donor cells (graft) that were put into the body (host) as part of the cure for cancer attack the transplant recipient’s body.
Imagine what it must be like to be given a cure that turns around and causes you more harm.
GVHD summed up what I felt as a learner, graduate student writer, tutor and budding professional. It continues even to this day. Think of my Bajan dialect, the native dialect of Barbados, as the supposed cancer because people say it is broken English and wrong cause sum times we does talk like dis I go to school and even in Barbados they try to cure it.
Thanks for reading, and we hope this sample has whetted your appetite for issue 14.1. Log on to praxisuwc.com Thursday evening when the issue goes live!