Happy Trails...

Fabio Slongo, 'And With One Last Wave, He Was Gone' 2011

Fabio Slongo, 'And With One Last Wave, He Was Gone' 2011


Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we're together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you, 'till we meet again.

Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue.
It's the way you ride the trail that counts,
Here's a happy one for you.

-Dale Evans

I'm surprisingly sad to be leaving Praxis. I served the journal proudly for two years, and as my co-editor James and I prepare to put one last issue to bed before I pack up my office, I'm thinking wistfully of all the people I've met and enjoyed working with as Praxis managing co-editor and AXIS Blog Editor. To the authors, reviewers, and editorial team members I've had the privilege to work with: thank you. I learned a lot here.

One of the projects I'm most proud of is my role in re-publishing Vintage Praxis. It was an enormous privilege to return to the all work my predecessors have done and it was frankly touching to see the willingness to do great work for little obvious return evinced by authors and editors for many years. It gave me a very real sense of the weight of obligation my stewardship of Praxis carries, but it also gave me the chance to track writing center scholarship published in Praxis as it became ever more complex and far-ranging. Doing so has given me a solid foundation in Writing Center Studies and proven to me how desperately needed our discipline is, how much assistance we give student authors on a day-to-day basis but also how structurally necessary our work is in contemporary institutions of higher education, where composition is both centrally important and utterly abjected. The primary carrier of meaning in the academy is and will remain the written word, and the fact that the teaching of collegiate writing is so important and so neglected continues to astound me (and, I suspect, the vast majority of people working in Writing Center Studies). The saddest realization I came to as a result of my work with Vintage Praxis was that, as I returned to the present with Praxis volumes 12 and 13, many of the challenges facing writing centers have not changed and, as we learned multiple times this semester on this blog, the availability of writing assistance may actually be in decline even as student enrollment and student need continue to mushroom. The new issue is entitled 'New Solutions to Old Problems' and I like the hopeful note that title sounds, but problems both old and new (like the difficulty in garnering respect for writing centers, or the rise of distance learning) remain.

The other project I'd like to celebrate before I leave is this blog. AXIS began under the expert leadership of a dear friend, Hannah Alpert-Abrams, and was carried on by a friend, writer and thinker I admire deeply, John Fry. After I took over the blog editorship I felt intensely privileged to have the cooperation of colleagues from across the nation who agreed to share their thoughts on various aspects of our shared work, and while the editorship of a blog isn't an easy post, it is one where both the creative and cooperative aspects of journal editorship are expressed weekly. I've enjoyed choosing images, soliciting blog posts from my colleagues, and writing them myself, and while I won't mind the weekly obligation becoming someone else's, it's been a fun challenge. AXIS serves as a forum for writing center practitioners and will continue to do so, and I hope that more and more people contribute to the blog after I've left.

The only regret I have, aside from having to stop working as closely with the people I've met through Praxisis that I don't get to see PRX take off. I think it will, in fact I think it has a central part to play in the future of writing center studies, but so far it has not done so. My vision is for PRX to become a data exchange making raw data from our authors' articles and assessment data from centers around the world freely available to anyone who wants it, but more than that I think PRX will eventually become a space for working out the rhetorical/strategic aspects of writing center data, assessment, and research. If writing centers are dependent on rhetoric to keep their doors open, and that rhetoric perforce must include data, then we as a field need to focus our energies on creating a theoretical/rhetorical model of writing center proof-of-efficacy that is scalable, portable, and effective. I believe PRX will become a place where a consensus on what that might look like can be reached, the models for proving a writing center's worth to resistant (or just ignorant and harried) administrators worked out, and the future of Writing Center Studies assured for a long time to come.

In fact this has always been my understanding of what Praxis, as a whole, does. Praxis works to assure the future of Writing Center Studies by asking hard questions, exploring new directions in research, and engaging with the lengthening history of our field. How the journal does this is through the hard work and cooperation of a number of incredibly smart people - especially our authors and reviewers - and even when the challenges writing centers face feel insurmountable, that's been a constant. As Dale Evans said, "Who cares about the clouds when we're together?/Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather./Happy trails to you, 'till we meet again."