Kairos 20.1

Transnational Writing Programs:
Emergent Models of Learning, Teaching, and Administration David S. Martins with Patrick Reed

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My Introduction to RIT's Transnational Writing Program

"When the proximity of cultural and linguistic diversity is one of the key facts of our time, the very nature of language learning has changed."

The New London Group (1996), "A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures" (p. 6)

When I received this message from Dubrovnik a few months after I started working as the first-year writing program director, I didn't know who Rebecca Charry was and didn't know quite how to respond. Rebecca, I learned, was a faculty member in Dubrovnik, Croatia. She was teaching Rochester Institute of Technology's (RIT) recently revised and re-named first-year writing course: Writing Seminar. She was teaching the course at the oldest of RIT's three international branch campuses, RIT Croatia, formerly the American College of Management and Technology (ACMT).

In the brief email message, my RIT Croatia colleague asks for clarification about the curriculum of a course she has taught for a long time from the program director whose name she "found on the English Department's website" (personal communication, Jan. 19, 2010). Something has changed in how she views the appropriateness of the program curriculum for the students enrolled at RIT Croatia. By posing a simple question about her freedom to restructure the assignments in the course she teaches, she reveals two distinct, yet ultimately productive tensions: 1) the efficacy of current curricular structures for writing instruction at the two affiliated campuses, and 2) the degree of autonomy and control experienced by faculty teaching in a transnational program.

As the new first-year-writing program director, I didn't understand the curricular connections between the two schools, and was not at all clear about my role with respect to program assessment, curriculum design, and faculty professional development at any of the three branch campuses. Receiving these questions as I did challenged what had been a comfortable sense of the nature and scope of my work as the first-year-writing program director. But even more provocative was my uncertainty about the relevance of the learning outcomes and activities of Writing Seminar for the students enrolled at RIT and its branch campuses.

Questions about roles, responsibilities, and curricular relevance are, of course, the baseline concerns of any WPA. Viewed within the contexts of international higher education, the common activities and structures of first-year writing instruction looked to me impoverished. Susan Leigh Star and Karen Ruhleder (1996) described "infrastructure" as it "emerges for people in practice, connected to activities and structures" (p. 112). From this new vantage point, writing program infrastructure is clearly an institutionally specific, dynamic process. Seeing writing program infrastructure as emergent in international contexts of higher education, then, has reoriented my approach to realizing ideals, bringing about new practices, and designing alternative structures.

Re-Framing WPA Work

"Framing is concerned with the way interests, communicators, sources, and culture combine to yield coherent ways of understanding the world, which are developed using all of the available verbal and visual symbolic resources ... Frames are organizing principles that are socially shared and persistent over time, that work symbolically to meaningfully structure the social world."

Stephen Reese, as cited in Linda Adler-Kassner's The Activist WPA (p. 12)

Writing program administrators are uniquely positioned to see opportunities for improving the structures and activities that constitute the writing instruction students experience. Opportunities for improvements often become visible at moments of institutional change—during curriculum reform, calendar conversion, or program creation—when the framing of educational structures change, activities become the focus and not simply the way it's done.

Transnational Writing Program Administration is just one example of the opportunity- and constraint-filled scene of institutional change. A key element of any international education scene is the overt negotiation of multiple, competing models for how to accomplish the educational and business aims of any given program, campus, or instructional service. In the global expansion of higher education, the tension between economic and pedagogical interests strongly influence decisions made about what kinds of programs to offer and how to offer those programs. Writing teachers and administrators involved in the creation or development of international programs must negotiate these tensions based upon what they know and value about learning, teaching, and writing.

This site reflects my attempts to achieve what Linda Adler-Kassner (2008) called a "balance between ideals and strategies" (p. 9). In her award-winning book, The Activist WPA: Changing Stories about Writing and Writers, Adler-Kassner described ideals as the "goals, aims, ultimate objectives—as well as whose interests are represented in those ends" (p. 8). She elaborated on this sense of ideals, writing: "Ideals are our personal stories and motivating factors—the things most important to us. They extend from what we hold in ourselves, what we see through our emotions and experiences" (p. 9). In the contexts of transnational higher education, I find my ideals—shaped as they are by training in composition, rhetoric, and literacy studies, and my commitments to meaningful writing instruction and to ethical labor and teaching practices—are challenged and invigorated by powerful economic trends and business practices.

Strategies, described by Adler-Kassner (2008), are "the means by which those objectives are measured and achieved" (p. 8). The strategies that I have begun to develop have emerged only as I have come to see and question local institutional infrastructures as they interact with, respond to, and influence globalized, transnational infrastructures. Writing program administration, in a transnational context, has begun to re-frame the terms I use to think about my work:

Curriculum: What happens when a curriculum is exported from an institution located in one country to another? Are the same learning outcomes and activities relevant and meaningful for all students enrolled in the exported course? And if not, how might it be made to be more relevant for both the students enrolled in the course and the faculty teaching it?
Program Identity: What is the identity of the program? Does the program have the same identity at each site? What roles do program or course assessments play in the articulation of program identity? What policies or procedures establish program identity, and who creates those policies and procedures?
Resources: What resources are available to the writing program? What structures are in place to identify the needs and means of instructional support for students and professional support for faculty at the different international branch campuses? To what extent do local resources offer unique opportunities for each campus? To what extent do globally available resources offer unique opportunities for each campus?
Communication: How do administrators, faculty, and students at each campus communicate with one another? What work—administrative, curricular, social, learning—do communication pathways facilitate?
Control: What kinds of balance might be struck between the benefits for students and faculty realized by local control of the curriculum and the institutional-based concern for coherence, continuity, and standard experience of curriculum?

These terms and their related questions foreground tensions between the needs of local populations of students and faculty with global ideals and strategies. By focusing on the tension between the local and global, this site contributes to a discussion of balancing ideals and strategies as institutional infrastructures become visible, and of keeping infrastructure visible while responding both ethically and effectively.

Responding to Questions, Reconsidering Ideals

"An infrastructure is more than material, is never static, and is always emerging."

Dànielle Nicole DeVoss, Ellen Cushman, and Jeffrey T. Grabill (2005), "Infrastructure and Composing" (p. 22)

As the new WPA at RIT's Rochester campus, I was attempting to balance my responsibility for high-quality instruction and programmatic continuity with teacher control and autonomy in a faculty comprised of over 40 adjuncts, lecturers, and tenured/tenure-track faculty. Two years before my arrival, the writing curriculum had changed from a two-course sequence—Writing and Literature 1 & 2—to a ten-week Writing Seminar course based on the WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition. The faculty hired to teach literature-based writing classes were now teaching a much different course. Some faculty were finding the transition challenging, as evidenced by the texts and writing tasks they assigned.

Rebecca Charry's message from Croatia asking to alter the program curriculum for the students in her classes highlights a tension between her teacherly authority and her intention to maintain continuity between the coursework at RIT Croatia with that of RIT. To use the words of Star and Ruhleder (1996), Rebecca's email articulates a tension between the "local, customized, intimate and flexible use [of a technology] on the one hand, and the need for standards and continuity, on the other" (p. 112). The technology in this case is the course curriculum.

Still unfamiliar with the curricular connections between the two campuses, I responded to Rebecca's questions based on two primary ideals: 1) program coherence, and 2) open dialogue. I reiterated the official expectations of the courses and invited further conversation:

This response and our subsequent conversations reveal my own framing of the work the course accomplishes and my WPA role in relation to that work. For example, I link together specific notions of academic writing to class activities that are intended help students create meaningful literacy practices for producing academic writing. As the WPA, my role is to monitor and coordinate the activities of the course and to learn from instructors what they experience in the teaching of the course. Within this frame, I take for granted the kind of preparation faculty might have for teaching a first-year writing course, the instructional resources faculty might have available to them, and the educational and language backgrounds faculty and students in the course are likely to have.

A U.S. expat living in Croatia, Rebecca frames her response to my answer in terms of the students in her classes, their linguistic and educational backgrounds, and their experience of the course activities:

While the experiences of the students in her classes mirrored those of the students in my own—at least in terms of being rushed and feeling the need for more time—Rebecca also raises her concern for what the students' education and language backgrounds mean for their ability to participate effectively in the course. In fact, in later email exchanges, Rebecca talks more specifically about her professional interest in her students' experiences:

Understanding the linguistic and cultural background of students in Croatia, I clearly saw numerous implications of exporting Writing Seminar to a branch campus. The exported curriculum doesn't, for example, reflect what Bruce Horner and John Trimbur (2002) called an "internationalist perspective" (p. 624). And the course itself can be seen as what Min-Zhan Lu (2010) called an "'English Only' projection" (p. 42). As such, the exported curriculum may fail to offer students at its international locations the writing support they need to achieve articulated learning outcomes. And those learning outcomes may limit all students at RIT and any of its international locations from developing the 21st-century literacy practices engendered by the international branch campuses themselves.

An Internationalist Perspective

"The task, as we see it, is to develop an internationalist perspective capable of understanding the study and teaching of written English in relation to other languages and to the dynamics of globalization."

Bruce Horner and John Trimbur (2002), "English Only and U.S. College Composition" (p. 624)

In her article, "The Foreigner: WAC Directors as Agents of Change," Susan McLeod (1995) identified a number of roles WAC directors might play as they conduct their work. After presenting the weaknesses of numerous roles—the conqueror, the diplomat, the Peace Corps volunteer, the missionary—McLeod settled on the change agent.

  • WAC directors are change agents largely by virtue of their difference, their other-ness ... Their unfamiliarity with and respect for the local culture combined with a willingness to listen [to] and learn from that culture makes them appealing visitors, makes their knowledge about teaching writing not something to be imposed but something to be discussed, perhaps broadened through dialogue with disciplinary experts. (McLeod, 1995, p. 112)

This ideal of the WPA as foreigner/change agent highlights those elements of participation in transnational writing programs that, much like the work McLeod describes for writing across the curriculum directors, present opportunities to see differently the work commonly done in first-year writing programs. The familiar becomes unfamiliar. Opportunities to listen and learn are numerous.

As it is revealed in the sustained critique of the monolinguistic ideology in U.S. college composition, and the related attempts to initiate an international perspective, writing teachers and administrators in transnational contexts don't ever get too comfortable:

  • Mary N. Muchiri, Nshindi G. Mulamba, Greg Myers, and Deoscorous B. Ndoloi, "Importing Composition: Teaching and Researching Academic Writing Beyond North America" (1995, the same year McLeod published the article referenced earlier)

    Transnational writing programs counter assumptions of the universality of writing instruction by offering writing teachers and administrators opportunities to see the local-ness of their work. The authors describe experiences of students in Kenya, Tanzania, and Zaire as they enter the university and journey from their homes to the major city centers where the universities are located. And they present the experiences of faculty who may themselves have extremely limited access to academic resources for research and teaching.

  • Bruce Horner and John Trimbur, "English Only and U.S. College Composition" (2002)

    Transnational writing programs challenge notions of language neutrality by offering writing teachers and administrators opportunities to foreground language in instruction. Raising provocative questions for writing teachers and administrators about the sequence of courses commonly designed in first-year writing programs, Horner and Trimbur encouraged instructors and administrators to develop what they call "an internationalist perspective capable of understanding the study and teaching of written English in relation to other languages and to the dynamics of globalization" (p. 623-4).

  • Wendy Hesford, "Global Turns and Cautions in Rhetoric and Composition Studies" (2006)

    Transnational writing programs exemplify a global turn in rhetoric and composition studies by enabling writing teachers and administrators to call into being new geographies and actualize new visions of teaching and learning. Highlighting emerging trends in rhetoric and composition studies, Hesford cautioned writing teachers and administrators to "be apprehensive about idealistic notions of global civil society, skeptical of globalization's bells and whistles, and attentive to its inquiries and risks" (p. 797), and offers key requirements for a global turn: for example, "a comparative-historical frame and a broader understanding of culture, text, context, and the public sphere" (p. 791).

  • Paul Kei Matsuda, Maria Fruit, Tamara Lee, and Burton Lamm, "Second Language Writers and Writing Program Administrators" (2006)

    Transnational writing programs highlight the need to integrate second language issues into writing instruction and administration by bringing native and non-native English speakers together. In their special issue of WPA: Writing Program Administration, the editors present articles that articulate key second language writing issues and explore those issues from different disciplinary perspectives.

  • Gail Shuck, "Combating Monolingualism: A Novice Administrator's Challenge" (2006, in the WPA special issue mentioned above)

    Transnational writing programs counter masked complicity by offering writing teachers and administrators opportunities to be deliberate about the ideology embodied by curricula and institutional practices. As coordinator of the English language support programs at Boise State University, Shuck describes her efforts to counter a monolingual ideology while at the same time acknowledging her complicity in that ideology because of its pervasive structuration of institutional positions, curricular structures, and placement and assessment practices.

  • Chris Anson, "WPA Taskforce on Internationalization" (2008)

    Transnational writing programs foster new connections and broader opportunities for learning by creating new partnerships and expanding the conversation about ways of teaching and administering writing. Demonstrating disciplinary support, the WPA Taskforce on Internationalization offered multiple recommendations for the Council of Writing Program Administrators with examples of activities the organization could engage in and highlight.

  • Christiane Donahue, "'Internationalization' and Composition Studies: Reorienting the Discourse" (2010)

    Transnational writing programs challenge shallow understanding of writing and teaching by offering writing teachers and administrators opportunities to create depth in their understanding. Through her exploration of the "discourses of internationalization" related to scholarly work and the teaching of writing Donahue calls for deep intercultural awareness, familiarity with other relevant research trends and methods, other contexts for education and research, and continued vigilance for the impact of economic factors on writing research and teaching.

  • Bruce Horner, Min-Zhan Lu, Jacqueline Jones Royster, and John Trimbur, "Language Difference in Writing: Toward a Translingual Approach" (2011)

    Transnational writing programs expand meaning-making activities by offering writing teachers and administrators opportunities to develop new approaches to language difference in the writing classroom. The authors countered what they termed as "traditional" and "accomodationist" approaches to language difference with a "translingual approach" to language difference that "sees difference in language not as a barrier to overcome or as a problem to manage, but as a resource for producing meaning in writing, speaking, reading, and listening" (p. 303).

  • Bruce Horner, Samantha NeCamp, and Christiane Donahue, "Toward a Multilingual Composition Scholarship: From English Only to a Translingual Norm" (2011)

    Transnational writing programs encourage multilingual scholarship by begging the question about research on writing in partnership contexts and by creating robust sites for new, collaborative, multilingual and online research. Horner, NeCamp, and Donahue advocated for a "translingual composition scholarship" that will "involve changes in the conduct of current scholarship, the venues for scholarly distribution, and the preparation of scholars" (p. 288).

RIT's International Locations

RIT has endeavored to develop its transnational relationships by extending its educational model through cross-border programs and degree-granting relationships with schools abroad. In 1997, RIT's College of Applied Science and Technology and Velecillste Dubovnikú, the Polytechnic of Dubrovnik, Croatia, collaborated to form the American College of Management and Technology (ACMT). Currently, RIT has international branch campuses in Croatia, Kosovo, and the United Arab Emirates.

In light of this expanding, transnational institutional character, the school's mission aims "to provide technology-based educational programs for personal and professional development [and] develop and deliver curricula and advance scholarship relevant to emerging technologies and social conditions" (emphasis added). With this framing, the organizing principles for the activities in such a complex learning environment link technology and relevance to an expansive, global reach.

In addition to specific degree requirements established by RIT, the international branch campuses also offer a general education curriculum, which includes first-year writing. Additional shared infrastructures include a global email list and access to all the online resources of the Wallace Center, RIT's library. Course schedules, while administered locally on each campus, are all displayed and listed in the student information system accessible to all advisors, faculty, and staff. In short, meaningful elements of the institutional infrastructure of ACMT is built on what Star and Ruhleder (1996) called the "installed base" (p. 113) of RIT's infrastructure.

Public documents discussing the RIT/ACMT collaboration highlight the framing of the partnership. During presentations to the campus community, for example, the Provost described the aims of these global campuses: 1) to "deliver the 'RIT-way' of career-oriented education to the world," and 2) to "provide study abroad opportunities for RIT students and students from other schools" (Haefner, 2011). Within the competitive marketplace of higher education, RIT's leadership sees international education as a way to export the educational activities or products that have made RIT successful as one of the largest, private technological schools in the U.S. At the same time, that export functions as one of the latest educational opportunities for U.S. students as part of RIT's brand.

Revenue opportunities, however, are only part of the picture. According to the "History of RIT," "The American College of Management and Technology opened in Dubrovnik, Republic of Croatia. ACMT is a collaborative effort between RIT's College of Applied Science and Technology and Velecillste Dubovnikú, the Polytechnic of Dubrovnik." The membership of the Board of Trustees at ACMT includes RIT's President, Provost, VP of Finance and Administration, the chair of RIT's Board of Trustees, and the State Secretary, Ministry of Science, Education and Sports of the Republic of Croatia. The integration of educational, commercial, and state institutions is further articulated in the history of the collaboration presented on the RIT Croatia website.

The concept started in 1995 when the Croatian Ministry of Science and Technology (now the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports) wished to establish a private institution of higher education in Croatia and contacted Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York. RIT was considered because of its philosophy of applied, practical education and its reputation for formulating and sustaining successful international partnerships. Following their visit to RIT in 1995, officials from Croatia established an agreement with RIT. In the spring of 1997, ACMT was established as the first private institution of higher education in Croatia, and, more importantly, as a model for foreign universities operating in Croatia ("About RIT Croatia").

This partnership enabled ACMT to offer its students dually accredited diplomas. Today, ACMT (now called RIT Croatia) remains the only private educational institution granting both American degrees accredited by the New York Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and Croatian degrees which are fully accredited and aligned with the Bologna process.

After the Croatian War of Independence the new Croatian government was eager to rebuild the country. Initially, the Croatian ministry valued the educational approach and reputation of RIT, and sought its dually accredited diplomas for the desired outcome of building capacity in the country.

The administration at RIT shared similar values, but initially had different assumptions about the outcomes the new government wanted. As then-RIT provost Dr. Stanley McKenzie explained in 2007:

When two members of the Croatian Ministry of Science, Education and Technology visited RIT in the mid '90s, we assumed they would be most interested in our programs in information technology, telecommunications or engineering technology ... At the end of their visit, to our surprise, we were informed the quickest jump start to the Croatian economy would be in tourism management, since the Dalmatian Coast had been the prime vacation spot for south-central Europe before the war in the Balkans. (McKenzie, quoted in Downs, 2007)

Although what specific programs were chosen to be the articulation point between the two institutions was certainly pivotal to the agreement, the general motivation for the partnership was intently focused on building capacity within the new nation of Croatia as much as it was an opportunity for RIT to expand and create a new revenue stream. Now, after more than ten years in operation, RIT Croatia and RIT offer fully accredited degree programs in information technology, international business, and service management in Dubrovnik, and starting in the fall of 2010, in Zagreb.

The opening of the Zagreb campus, however, also reveals how the infrastructure created for the export of RIT's brand of education has outlasted the initial exigency. New activities, and therefore new infrastructures, are required in order to continue building capacity, continue providing revenue, continue developing RIT's brand.

Infrastructure as Relational and Emergent

"Infrastructure is a fundamentally relational concept."

Star and Ruhleder (1996), "Steps Toward an Ecology of Infrastructure" (p. 113)

In their essay, "Steps Toward an Ecology of Infrastructure," Susan Leigh Star and Karen Ruhleder (1996) noted that infrastructure is often visualized as a "substrate: something upon which something else 'runs' or 'operates'," such as bridges, roads, or water pipes" (p. 112). Within the technology-rich contexts of their research, however, such a static notion of infrastructure "is neither useful nor accurate in understanding the relationship between work/practice and technology" (p. 112-113). In response, they developed a dynamic, alternative approach to infrastructure that understands it as "something that emerges for people in practice, connected to activities and structures" (p. 112). For them, "infrastructure is a fundamentally relational concept. It becomes infrastructure in relation to organized practices" (p. 113).

In what follows, I demonstrate the heuristic value of Star and Ruhleder's characteristics of infrastructure for exploring transnational writing programs. A provocative demonstration of the less obvious, dynamic, and evolving aspects of infrastructure identified by Star and Ruhleder (1996) can be seen in Mary N. Muchiri, Nshindi G. Mulamba, Greg Myers, and Deoscorous B. Ndoloi's (1995) essay, "Importing Composition: Teaching and Researching Academic Writing Beyond North America."

In their essay, Muchiri et al. (1996) presented their experience of "what happens to the published literature on composition" in international contexts (p. 353). In the process, they reveal how composition research itself constitutes infrastructure, and what U.S. and Canadian-based composition studies often take for granted (p. 176):

  • Star and Ruhleder (1996) explained that infrastructure has "Reach or Scope"; that is, it can be seen to have "reach beyond a single event or one-site practice" (p. 113).

    The four authors of "Importing Composition" drew from composition research for their studies of writing at four different universities: Kenyatta University, in Kenya; the University of Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania; the University of Lubumbashi, in Zaire; and in UK universities. When drawing on those experiences, the authors demonstrated that even while interest in composition research extends beyond U.S. and Canadian universities, when it "is exported, it changes meaning and serves different needs in the new context" (p. 176). Thus the reach and scope of composition research is directly related to the infrastructure present at different locations.

  • Star and Ruhleder (1996) wrote that infrastructure is "Learned as part of membership"; that is: "Strangers and outsiders encounter infrastructure as a target object to be learned about. New participants acquire a naturalized familiarity with its objects as they become members" (p. 113).

    In his study of people who are learning to be members of the academic community, students writing dissertations, Mulamba found that over time literature review sections—a common genre feature of composition research—appeared and disappeared based on student's access to library materials:

    They [lecturers] recalled having done some site-writing themselves, but said that now students no longer read ... Students could point out, in their defense, that the books are old, and the library is almost permanently locked. Since 1991 (when the government of General Mobutu began its long and continuing collapse), the library at the American Cultural Centre, which did have some recent publications, has been ransacked. So students write up their dissertations based on other, earlier dissertations still available in the department ... It is not surprising that under these conditions the literature review disappears. (Muchiri et al., 1995, p. 186)

    In this way, Malumba's research highlights the role of infrastructure, in this case access to examples of important membership-granting genres, for providing novices opportunities to learn and become a part of the community of scholars.

  • "Infrastructure," wrote Star and Ruhleder (1996), "both shapes and is shaped by the conventions of a community of practice"; that is, it "Links with conventions of practice" (p. 113).

    Ndoloi, as a researcher working abroad on fellowship, highlights the degree to which university faculty live and work in environments where their academic work is shaped by much more than teaching load, service expectations, and publication. He wrote:

    university lecturers at Dar drive pick-ups. It seems they do at the other universities in Africa as well. This is because they must also have something going on the side, delivering vegetables from one's village to the city, or keeping hens, or having a little cafe. ... These other jobs are of course unofficial, but the university salary is so small and so unreliable that they are usually necessary. It is difficult to do research, even if the materials are available, if one has to juggle several jobs at once. (Muchiri et al., 1995, p. 185)

  • As each of the examples above also demonstrate, infrastructure is "Built on an installed base"; that is, it "does not grow de novo: it wrestles with the 'inertia of the installed base' and inherits strengths and limitations from that base" (Star & Ruhleder, 1996, p. 113).

    Muchiri, Mulamba, Myers, and Ndolois (1995) provided provocative examples of how infrastructure required by academic work "wrestles" with basic, material conditions. When libraries are "ransacked," for example, or when universities must close down periodically, or when faculty must work multiple jobs, the infrastructures supporting research are clearly limited or breaking down. In comparison, the volume of composition research in U.S. and Canadian universities shows the strength of its base: "in the US and Canada there are so many postgraduate degree programs, meetings, books, and funded projects; most of all, there are so many students, and teachers to teach them, and even some relatively secure positions for researchers" (Muchiri et al., 1995, p. 177).

When considering the scope or reach of infrastructure, transnational writing teachers and administrators must consider how effectively any given policy, procedure, curriculum, activity, or technology at one campus extends across borders and campuses.

Infrastructural Change and Export

"The virtual and physical movement of providers to other countries raises many of the same registration, quality assurance, and recognition issues of program mobility. But it also involves extra consideration, especially if a network or local/foreign partnerships are involved. Setting up a physical presence requires paying attention to national regulations regarding status of the entity, total or joint ownership with local bodies, tax laws, for-profit or non-profit status, repatriation of earned income, boards of directors, staffing, granting of qualifications, selection of academic programs and courses, and so on."

Jane Knight (2011), "Higher Education Crossing Borders" (p. 28)

The limitations of current infrastructures are revealed at times of institutional change—calendar conversion, curriculum revision, implementation of approved policies—because of the changing educational activities of the institution. New infrastructure in support of educational activities truly emerges for people in practice.

International branch campuses (IBCs) present most of the same infrastructural challenges of a main campus, but also entail the additional challenges of operating in different cultural, linguistic, bureaucratic, competitive, and student demographic contexts.

Within cross-border relationships, there can be the presumption that instructional activities exported by the main institution are appropriate, even desirable, for the students enrolling at other campuses. My RIT Croatia colleague's question about the Writing Seminar curriculum demonstrates that not every instructional activity can be assumed appropriate, especially in light of any proposed or adopted changes in the curriculum. When an institution's values and desired outcomes are being rearticulated, as they are at RIT's main campus, questions that reveal tensions about the adequacy of infrastructure are abundant. Those questions become most productive, however, when those answering the questions include all stakeholders and address how best to support educational activities for everyone.

Internationalization of Higher Education

Currently, 3.3 million students study outside of their own country, which represents a 65% increase since 2000 (Bhandari & Blumenthal, 2011, p. 1). Such student migration brings with it significant revenue for the institutions providing instruction to students, and for the communities to which students migrate and spend their money on housing, food, etc. Accordingly, education is now considered one of the 12 service sectors as articulated by the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) managed by the World Trade Organization; "positive proof that importing and exporting of education programs and services is a potentially lucrative trade area especially for the commercial companies (OECD 2004a)" (Knight, 2011, p. 32).

As a further indicator of this growing trend, The New York Times, on February 10, 2008, presented a series entitled Global Classrooms in "U.S. Universities Rush to Set Up Outposts Abroad" (Lewin). Fourteen higher education institutions were mentioned as having established or begun talks to establish international branch campuses. The next day a second article, "In Oil-Rich Mideast, Shades of the Ivy League," profiled "Education City" in Doha, Qatar (Lewin, 11 Feb. 2008). Both articles reported on opportunities and challenges to the expansion of U.S.-style education abroad, particularly in the Middle East region. RIT was one of the schools with international branch campuses identified in the Global Classrooms series of articles.

The range of activities comprising international partnerships is expanding and becoming more complicated. Professor of Foreign Studies Robin Sakamoto and Professor of Educational Leadership David Chapman (2011) discussed those activities as including not just instructional-oriented programs (i.e., the exchange of students and faculty), but also non-instructional partnerships, which include "[the] creation of branch campuses, joint research and technology initiatives, collaboration in strengthening institutional management, testing, faculty development efforts, collaboration in quality assurance, and sharing of technology" (p. 4). While instructional-oriented activities like study abroad certainly entail significant infrastructure in terms of establishing relationships between institutions and the logistics of safe travel, many of the structures and policies in place at the main institution are sufficient to allow for student and faculty mobility to other campuses for a short period of time. For example, numerous U.S.-based academic programs require—if not simply allow—students to study abroad, and student financial aid can be used to cover the cost of the study abroad.

Non-instructional programs, on the other hand, are often not, or not entirely, tuition based, so they have less stable sources of funding. According to Sakamoto and Chapman (2011), they are also more likely to be "opportunistic, built around a specific activity" (p. 6). Stated another way, the authors wrote, "while instructional programs tend to originate as institutional initiatives, non-instructional programs are more likely to originate through activities of individual faculty members" (p. 6). With regard to infrastructure, the direct implication is that instructional programs may have the benefit of more long-standing infrastructures, while non-instructional programs, like branch campuses, might survive on the charisma of individuals who cobble together available resources to support activities required by the program and sponsorship of interested benefactors.

In the case of "cross-border programs," Sakamoto and Chapman (2011) explained that while all participants in the partnership see some benefits from the relationship, the different standpoints or positions inhabited by the participants can also reveal different motivations:

  • Even in cross-border activities where both partners believe they benefit, collaborators may have different motivations for participation, assess the value of activities in different ways, seek different outcomes, and value the same outcomes differently. Cross-border partnerships often involve educators negotiating agreements, designing programs, and delivering services in settings and work contexts that are not fully familiar to them. (Sakamoto & Chapman, 2011, p. 4)

When considering the particular utilization and development of infrastructure, it is important to consider the motivations for the creation of these kinds of activities. Trends identified by Sakamoto and Chapman (2011) included generating income, which is often the most common motivation for such partnerships, but also included "promoting brand recognition, increasing market share, and national strategic interests" (p. 6).

Business & Educational Models at RIT

As I began to listen more carefully to conversations about international education at RIT, I heard repeatedly that each of the global campuses had a different business model. Highlighted as a key, distinguishing feature of each campus, the business model speaks to the dynamic relationship between RIT and its global partners, each with its own historical, national, educational, political, and economic context.

Often, when talking about the business models, discussants would mention RIT's Global Delivery Corporation. The GDC is a non-profit corporation established to "minimize risk to RIT" (Haefner, 2011).

Evidence of the historical predominance of the business model can be seen in the recent change in the efforts of RIT to establish and maintain its international education opportunities. In a report prepared in the fall of 2009, titled "Internationalization @ RIT," David Wilson offered a critical assessment of RIT's international efforts. Based on interviews and his own assessment, the author found that "internationalization was not yet part of the fabric of the University" (p. 13).

The following spring of 2010, "in an effort to support the continued advancement of international education[,] the Provost established a cross-divisional intercollegiate International Education Working Group. Then, in the Fall of 2011, the College of Liberal Arts charged its own "International Education Committee" with "promoting international study and global awareness through a variety of educational experiences as they pertain to the College of Liberal Arts." And in the Spring of 2012, an "Associate Provost for International Education and Global Programs" was hired "to guide the strategic growth and direction of international education and outreach."

Communication across the different, interested divisions and units of the institute, as well as the academic programming, policy, and assessment of international education are essential. The international education activities on our campus are significantly changing. As the formation of these committees and positions attest, the infrastructures for international education at RIT are also changing. The recent efforts at RIT demonstrate that infrastructure must be created to better support the educational activities. Such infrastructure must be created in order to catch up with the infrastructure initially produced following the business model.

Reforming the Curriculum

"Universities must reexamine their curricula, scrutinize 'more of the same' thinking, and tune in to the new 'international order' of things by reconceptualizing their roles and reassigning priorities."

Josef A. Mestenhauser (1998), "Portraits of an International Curriculum" (p. 13)

The collection of essays edited by Josef A. Mestenhauser and Brenda J. Ellingboe (1998), Reforming the Higher Education Curriculum: Internationalizing the Campus, presented a comprehensive portrait of reconsidering the international dimensions of a campus's curricula. The essays grew out of a year-long seminar made up of faculty and students at the University of Minnesota, and aimed, according to the editors, to challenge various assumptions about international education. One notable assumption is "that knowledge is universal and 'portable' from anywhere to anywhere" (p. xviii).

Such a reexamination of assumptions, especially in the economic environment of the early 21st century, makes administrators and others nervous about the costs. When it comes to considering the cost and benefits of international education, Mestenhauser (1998) argued,

  • We need a serious debate about direct and indirect costs. Such a debate may reveal that we pay dearly not for international programs, but for our inability to manage multipurpose and complex learning tasks, and for our inability to integrate fragmented segments of international education in to the mainstream system of academia. (Mestenhauser, 1998, p. 30)

Much like Horner and Trimbur's (2002) and Donahue's (2009) arguments for teachers and administrators to develop an international perspective, Mestenhauser sought to integrate an international perspective into mainstream systems of U.S. higher education. His view was strongly motivated by a commitment to enacting changes in the activities faculty and students engage in on university campuses, and a belief that current infrastructures for higher education have not been adequate to the tasks. Teachers and administrators working in transnational writing programs need to remain vigilant, identifying the strengths and limitations of both existing and newly emerging infrastructures.

Robust conversations about the corporatization of the university—in print, at professional conferences, in the hallways of the university—reveal concerns about the trumping of educational or pedagogical concerns by economic and business concerns. The internationalization of higher education certainly adds more fuel for those concerned about how business models have overshadowed or inhibited pedagogical models that emphasize cross-cultural, cross-linguistic, and interdisciplinary education. Along with the potential benefits there are significant economic risks to developing international programs. But there are also educational risks when a business model presumes that the educational activities that have been successful in one location—with its specific geographical, political, economic, linguistic, and cultural milieu—can be imported into another location without significant thought and consideration.

Tensions Anticipate Stakeholder Interests

Transnational writing programs, because they are the result of collaborative partnerships between different stakeholders, are continually pressured by changing values, desires, interests, and activities. Motivations change as situations change, sometimes in direct result of the success of the program.

For example, initially ACMT was one of the first private universities in Croatia. Because there has been significant competition for students from other institutions throughout Croatia, RIT is adding an international location in Zagreb to stay competitive.

The tensions produced by the shifting that happens when programs and activities are added, changed, or discontinued can be challenging, but they can also be productive; the changes in values and outcomes of educational activities reveal the contingent nature of transnational writing program infrastructures. In order to respond effectively to the opportunities that are revealed, writing teachers and administrators in transnational settings need to be able to anticipate stakeholders' interests.

21st Century Literacy and Work

"All of these ways of thinking and acting are carried by new and emerging discourses. These new workplace discourses can be taken in two very different ways—as opening new educational and social possibilities, or as new systems of mind control or exploitation."

The New London Group (1996), "A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies" (p. 67)

The New London Group (1996) began "The Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures" with an assertion about the mission of education: "its fundamental purpose is to ensure that all students benefit from learning in ways that allow them to participate fully in public, community, and economic life" (p. 60). The project initiated by the ten authors of the New London Group (1996) aimed to fulfill that purpose in "the emerging cultural, institutional, and global order [comprised of] the multiplicity of communications channels and media, and the increasing saliency of cultural and linguistic diversity" (p. 63).

While describing the changes taking place globally in people's work, public, and private lives, the authors wrote:

  • Effective citizenship and productive work now require that we interact effectively using multiple languages, multiple Englishes, and communication patterns that more frequently cross cultural, community, and national boundaries. Subcultural diversity also extends to the ever broadening range of specialist registers to groupings of interest and affiliation. When the proximity of cultural and linguistic diversity is one of the key facts of our time, the very nature of language learning has changed. (New London Group, 1996, p. 64)

As a clear antecedent to the arguments against a monolingual language ideology and in favor of a translingual approach to difference in writing, the New London Group (1996) highlighted the expanding role of proliferating communications technologies and "market logic" (p. 68) in the everyday experiences of people throughout the globe. The authors demonstrate how the values associated with "fast capitalism" are couched in terms that have taken on positive associations—"adaptation to constant change through thinking and speaking for oneself, critique and empowerment, innovation and creativity, technical and systems thinking, and learning how to learn"(p. 67)—but warn that without vigilance, the educational values of access, preparation, and participation could be abandoned in favor of exploitation.

To exemplify their concerns, the New London Group (1996) offered a succinct interpretation of the fall of communism. They asserted that the end of the Cold War brought with it the reversal of what had been a trend towards "an expanding, interventionist welfare state" and, subsequently, an expansion of "[e]conomic rationalism, privatisation, deregulation, and the transformation of public institutions such as schools and universities so that they operate according to market logics" (p. 68). The recent collapse of the global financial system, the collapse of the real estate market, and the multi-year recessions experienced in the U.S. and the European Union, the deregulation and privatization that preceded it all, and the dramatic transformation of public institutions that we are now seeing around the world demonstrates that "market logic" does not have the welfare of any citizenry in mind.

Through their arguments for a "pedagogy of multiliteracies," the New London Group (1996) reasserted an educational model for transnational writing programs. In a positive sense, the business model of transnational education offers many possibilities for individuals, programs, campuses, and institutions. Susceptible to the whims of the market, the business model of transnational education risks complicity with a "market logic" that values revenue over the expense of quality education, growth over the deliberateness of sustainable development. In light of massive deregulation that is "barely restrained" (p. 67), and the pressure to replicate corporate culture, which "demands assimilation to mainstream norms that only really works if one already speaks the language of the mainstream" (p. 67), the task before writing teachers and administrators is both daunting and thrilling.

Reckoning with Institutional History and Cultivating New Activities

Efforts on the part of specific individuals, particular programs, and professional organizations to be change agents within various spheres of influence (i.e., within particular programs, departments, institutions, or national and international contexts) is understandably difficult given the dual challenge of bringing change to both the practices as well as the infrastructures that can support (but can also thwart) the activities of writing instruction.

While there are strong forces at work in maintaining the ideological commitments to specific configurations of infrastructure that will make it even more difficult to enact changes to current models of teaching, learning, and writing, the globalization of higher education does offer opportunities to rethink and therefore restructure the delivery of higher education. Without such a rethinking, the business model dominates the discussion, while concerns of educational models are either muted or remain secondary.

Throughout this webtext I have told a story about how I have come to learn about transnational writing programs. Through the course of my learning, I have developed strategies to change the writing program-related activities on RIT's campuses. Specifically, as a WPA working in a transnational setting, I have attempted to reckon with the specific institutional histories of where I work, and make deliberate attempts to foster robust, structured, direct communication with faculty and administrators. I have found the following strategies useful:

Develop a robust assessment plan by posing basic questions (e.g., about how students revise and improve their writing) and integrate those explorations into faculty development opportunities. Collaborate with all faculty teaching in the program to develop the specific assessment activities. By extending those assessment projects to the communities of faculty at the other campuses, those faculty receive support not otherwise available at the branch campus. In terms of program identity, there is so much more work to be done to create a sense of community—and a community of practice—among the writing faculty at all the campuses. This kind of assessment activity raises the possibility for success of the program. External funding is also available; for example, the Council of Writing Program Administrators' research grants.
Form working groups within the writing program to address specific questions. In our program, two groups have been working on assignment sequences and class activities that use two different textbooks that are recommended in the program, while another two groups are focusing on internationalization and new media composing. The working groups, in effect, focus the discussion of writing instruction on basic principles and practices, and also encourage interested faculty to focus on developing new approaches to writing instruction on campus.
Create Globally Networked Learning Environments (GNLEs). The SUNY Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) fellowship offered Rebecca and me an opportunity to continue our conversation in the realm of meaningful curriculum design and teaching. We worked with Michael Starenko, an RIT instructional designer, to develop and teach a blended course that would offer students in the U.S. and Croatia opportunities to learn with and from each other about cross-cultural and cross-linguistic literacy practices. These efforts add experiences and insights to those offered by Doreen Starke-Meyerring (McGill University) and Alyssa O'Brien and Christine Alfano (Stanford's Cross Cultural Rhetoric Project), who have been creating and teaching in GNLEs for many years.
Utilize existing infrastructures supporting faculty research and development:
  • A College of Liberal Arts Faculty Research Fund allowed me to learn more about international education. The grant enabled me to purchase books on international education that have become a mini-library that other faculty members in the college borrow from.
  • A Provost Learning Innovation Grant (PLIG) allowed me and the director of RIT's English Language Center to internationalize the curriculum of two writing seminar courses. The project aims to foreground a translingual approach to writing in a first-year writing course. Two sections of the course were taught Fall 2011, and the assessment data, much like the University of Minnesota faculty/student seminars, has been used to lead discussions with faculty about ways of internationalizing the curriculum. (See Mestenhauser & Ellingboe, 1998)

Strategies like these use existing infrastructure for the development of new activities that challenge the predominance of business models that can be more opportunistic than deliberately educational, despite the intention to deliver strong educational programs. The development and implantation of international programs can be deliberately opportunistic in that they aim to establish alternative revenue streams, expand the reach of an institution's educational, research, and scholarly mission, and establish or further individuate the uniqueness of an institutional brand. WPAs, as part of the infrastructure of higher education, are positioned to balance the pressure exerted by the economic models of education with meaningful and effective pedagogies for education.

Yet in order to influence the conversations about international education on our campuses, WPAs have more work to do in order to rectify our own historical and disciplinary limitations with regard to prevalent linguistic ideologies and disciplinary knowledge gaps. The questions we can't answer easily are not going away. We can ignore them, and continue to do our jobs on U.S.-based campuses, but in doing so we would miss out on some of the most pressing and invigorating discussions in higher education today.

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