What I’m Working On: Laura Matravers

This semester, as I finish up coursework (!), I’m also working toward some future projects that I’m really excited about. The most noteworthy (and blog-worthy) of these projects is The Dissertation (as surreal as it is to say that that’s a thing I’m working toward). Right now, I’m at the outset of this morphing beast, brainstorming, questioning, and still figuring out how to capture what it is, what it might (someday) be—and constantly in awe of all the different shapes it already seems to have taken.

However, through these continuing (and messy) conceptual transformations, my anchor remains the same: teachers and students in writing programs at two-year colleges (TYCs).

I came to this topic by way of the life I led in the time before this PhD program, when I worked as a writing tutor and a part-time (adjunct) instructor at a handful of schools in East Tennessee. One of those schools was a community college, where I experienced some of my very favorite teaching moments (issues of adjunct labor aside—for the time being, at least).

Because of those experiences (and because of my Tennessee roots), since moving to Louisville, I’ve been fascinated by emerging stories about Tennessee Promise. For those who aren’t familiar with it, Tennessee Promise is a recent initiative that offers eligible students two years of free tuition at community colleges in Tennessee. Since its implementation, Tennessee Promise has been a model for other similar initiatives across the nation, and enrollment at two-year colleges in Tennessee has, not surprisingly, increased.

In light of the potential future impacts of policies like Tennessee Promise—and having taught at a community college—I’ve been curious about how and where two-year colleges are (and have been) situated in the field of Composition and Rhetoric.

To begin to feed that curiosity, I spent some time last semester in the online archives of the journals, College English and College Composition and Communication, doing keyword searches to see what kinds of trends there were in publications concerning two-year colleges. Since then, a lot of my thoughts on this project have revolved around questions of representations and relationships (for example, disciplinary representations of TYC writing teachers and students, and what those representations might say about the relationships between writing programs at two-year colleges and four-year universities).

I’ve even made a few graphs to summarize some of my initial findings, such as this one: 

Graph 1: Keyword Search Results v. Number of Two-Year Colleges Open

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This graph shows some trends in the number of times two-year colleges came up in the journals, either in articles (red line) or somewhere else in the text of an issue (blue line), compared with the number of two-year colleges open in the U.S.

Right now, as I think about moving forward with this project, I hope to continue conducting similar research, in order to get a clear sense of the professional voice of two-year college writing faculty. Ultimately, I hope to examine the pedagogical implications that voice might have for writing students and teachers—both within and outside of two-year colleges.
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Laura Sceniak Matravers is a 2nd-year PhD Student.

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