The Things We Carry

Strategies for Recognizing and Negotiating Emotional Labor in Writing Program Administration

edited by Courtney Adams Wooten, Jacob Babb, Kristi Murray Costello & Kate Navickas

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foreword by Laura Micciche

“Not only is this collection important and timely, but it is also a joy to read. Each chapter showcases vividly written and compellingly theorized stories of WPA life, drawn from WPA’s personal experiences as well as from person-based research. I found the powerful narratives of this collection so engaging that I quite literally could not put it down.”
—Jason Palmeri, Miami University
“I often wish I had the kind of training that a counselor has—some ability to figure out what counts as a crisis, how to manage it, and how to set clear personal boundaries. We don’t learn to do any of this in graduate school. I cannot tell you the number of times I have had junior faculty who are WPAs come to me with questions along the lines of, ‘Will I always feel stretched like this?’ and ‘It’s better after tenure, right?’ and ‘How do you keep from taking everything home with you?’ I don’t really have the answers. But this collection starts to offer some answers through examples, scenarios, experiences, and especially the priceless strategy sheets at the end. And—perhaps most importantly—it offers the comfort and knowledge that we are not alone.”
—Susan Miller-Cochran, Arizona University


Emotional labor is not adequately talked about or addressed by writing program administrators. The Things We Carry makes this often-invisible labor visible, demonstrates a variety of practical strategies to navigate it reflectively, and opens a path for further research. Particularly timely, this collection considers how writing program administrators work when their schools or regions experience crisis situations.

The book is broken into three sections: one emphasizing the WPA’s own work identity, one on fostering community in writing programs, and one on balancing the professional and personal. Chapters written by a diverse range of authors in different institutional and WPA contexts examine the roles of WPAs in traumatic events, such as mass shootings and natural disasters, as well as the emotional labor WPAs perform on a daily basis, such as working with students who have been sexually assaulted or endured racist, sexist, homophobic, and otherwise disenfranchising interactions on campus. The central thread in this collection focuses on “preserving” by acknowledging that emotions are neither good nor bad and that they must be continually reflected upon as WPAs consider what to do with emotional labor and how to respond. Ultimately, this book argues for more visibility of the emotional labor WPAs perform and for WPAs to care for themselves even as they care for others.

The Things We Carry extends conversations about WPA emotional labor and offers concrete and useful strategies for administrators working in both a large range of traumatic events as well as daily situations that require tactical work to preserve their sense of self and balance. It will be invaluable to writing program administrators specifically and of interest to other types of administrators as well as scholars in rhetoric and composition who are interested in emotion more broadly.

Strategy Sheets

Four strategy sheets from the collection provide a range of ideas for negotiating the emotional labor of administration and the emotional labor WPAs are currently experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Contributors: Janelle Adsit, Sheila Carter-Todd, Kaitlin Clinnin, Sam Deges, Sue Doe, Amy Ferdinandt Stolley, Kim Hensley Owens, Kirsten Higgens, Elizabeth Imafuji, Joseph Janangelo, Elizabeth Kleinfeld, Carrie Leverenz, Matthew Nelson, Carl Schlachte, Ian Sherman, Marcie Sims, Anthony Warnke, Kathleen Weaver, Christy Wenger

Courtney Adams Wooten is director of composition at George Mason University. She is a member of the Council of Writing Program Administrators Executive Board and book review editor for the journal WPA: Writing Program Administration. She is a coeditor of The Things We Carry and WPAs in Transition, and her work has been published in Composition Studies, Harlot, WPA, and Peitho as well as in several edited collections.

Jacob Babb is associate professor of English at Indiana University Southeast and coeditor for the Journal WPA: Writing Program Administration. He is a coeditor of The Things We Carry and WPAs in Transition, has published articles in Harlot, WPA, and Composition Forum and chapters in several edited collections, and received the Distinguished Research and Creativity Award for Junior Faculty from IU Southeast in 2017.

Kristi Murray Costello is associate professor of English and associate chair of writing studies and general education at Old Dominion University and has served as a WPA of many different kinds of writing programs—bridge, basic writing, living learning communities, first-year composition, WAC/WID, writing centers, and writing studies. Her work has been published in Composition Forum, Creative Nonfiction, The Peer Review, Women in Higher Education, WPA, and several edited collections. She was named Arkansas College English Teacher of the Year 2016–2017.

Kate Navickas is director of the Cornell Writing Centers and teaches in the Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines at Cornell University. In addition to emotional labor, her research centers on feminist pedagogy and writing assignments. Her work has been published in Pedagogy, Composition Forum, and several edited collections.

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  • Paperback Price: $38.95
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60732-946-6
  • Ebook Price: $31.95
  • 30-day ebook rental price: $16.95
  • EISBN: 978-1-64642-000-1
  • Publication Month: November
  • Publication Year: 2020
  • Pages: 350
  • Illustrations: 1
  • Discount Type: Short
  • Author: edited by Courtney Adams Wooten, Jacob Babb, Kristi Murray Costello & Kate Navickas
  • ECommerce Code: 978-1-60732-946-6
  • Get Permissions: Get Permission

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