To: Dr. Jessie Moore
From: Katherine Adriaanse, Olivia James, Claire Monaghan, Emily Steiner, Brittany Wheately Subject: Rhetorical analysis of CWPA’s website
Date: November 17, 2011
In examining the Carolinas Writing Programs Administrators website, it has become apparent that a multitude of rhetorical choices went into its creation. This is necessary for any website to reach its intended goals and audiences. It is crucial that these choices--which include content, technologies, graphics, and interactive features -- reflect the context in which the organization exists. For the Carolinas WPA, this is necessary in reaching its stated goal of the “unification of its members and [recognition] of the accomplishments of the members and the organization as a whole.” To reach both current and prospective members, the Carolinas WPA website must analyze the current rhetorical choices and strategies it employs, and look to ensure that they are the most beneficial for its purposes. This is what we have tried to do as a group not affiliated with the organization -- to evaluate the rhetorical strategies behind the website and determine whether they are working in its best interest.
CWPA was founded in 2003 to encourage communication among colleges and university in North and South Carolina. The founding board members included: Marsha Lee Baker, Don Bushman, Dee James, Meg Morgan, Paula Rosinski and Tim Peeples. Members represent a variety of writing programs, including writing centers, writing across the curriculum programs, first-year writing programs, professional writing programs, and so forth. Carolinas WPA enables regional writing program administrators and teachers to share concerns and issues related to writing instruction and to the administration of writing programs. The organization also provides a support system among North Carolina and South Carolina Schools. CWPA hosts two conferences each year, one in the fall and one in February, for members to come together and share research.
Carolinas WPA is a website that provides an outlet for Carolina college professors and graduate students to discuss writing. The Carolina WPA lists the organization’s goals within its website. These goals consist of unifying teachers from varied campuses, recognizing the accomplishments and current work of WPAs and writing teachers, and communicating a more thorough and clear understanding of teaching of writing. Also, the Carolina WPA strives to “discuss policies that affect all teachers of writing and administrators of writing programs, including admissions, transfer, curricular, and hiring policies.”
CWPA’s current president is Wendy Sharer of East Cast Carolina University. Anthony Atkins of University of North Carolina at Wilmington serves as President-elect. Susan Miller- Cochran of North Carolina State University serves as secretary. Jessie Moore of Elon University serves as web and list manager. Nancy Barendse of Charleston Southern University serves as treasurer. Dee James of University of North Carolina at Asheville, Meg Morgan of University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Lynn Rhodes of University of South Carolina-Aiken also serve on the board.
The website’s purpose is to “to encourage communication among community colleges, colleges, and universities, public and private, in North Carolina and South Carolina.” Carolinas WPA allows regional writing program administrators and teachers to join for free and discuss various topics related to writing instruction and to the administration of writing programs.
Carolinas WPA’s website is not only a space that defines what the organization is and does, but an outlet for members to reach out. This website has two intended audiences: current and prospective members of CWAP. Members of this organization are primarily English and writing teachers from private and public colleges and universities, writing administrators and graduate students in the North Carolina and South Carolina region. They are typically involved in a writing program such as writing centers, writing across the curriculum programs, first-year and second-year writing programs, and professional writing programs. Considering that the members are working through a college or university it can be assumed that most members have reached bachelors degree in English, writing, or education. In addition members would be interested in learning new ways to teach college students to become stronger writers as well as sharing how their program has helped the students on their campus. For current members, their main purpose for coming to the website is to be updated on the two conferences hosted by CWPA annually as well as hear news that isn’t distributed through the mass emails and list serve. Individuals interested in the website come to find more information about the organization, hear about employment opportunities and learn how to become a member.
The content of the Carolinas WPA website is broken into a three column website. On the left hand side is a list of pages (About CWP, Board, Conferences, Fall Conference, Meeting in the Middle, Listserv, Resources), a list of archives, meta (Log in, Entries RSS, Comments RSS, WordPress.org). The center of the page is where the content or announcement is viewed; with announcements, the newest post appears at the top of the page. On the right side are menus for categories (which are used as tags when the announcement is posted),a tag cloud (which shows different commonly used words, with the most used being largest in font and bolded), and a blogroll (CompPile, Council of Writing Program, Administrators, The WAC Clearinghouse). The blog roll offers links to websites related to the interests of Writing Programs Administrators.
Using the largest word in the tag cloud, which in theory shows the word most often tagged in the announcement, we found that the largest talked about word (“CFP”) was only in three announcements. By going through the websites archives we found the at website was not consistently being updated every month. The announcements largely cover the conferences, panels information, grants, and survey opportunities. By going through the different resources on the site and interviewing Dr. Jessie Moore about the site, we learned that most of the announcements went through ListServ, in which members join a group email list, rather than being posted on the site. Another listed resource was “The Map of Majors in Writing and Rhetoric”, which moves the reader to Google maps, but doesn’t explain what the map is showing specifically.
The website shows few features that could be described as visual, interactive or multimedia. The most noticeable of these is the header at the top of every page that rotates generic images of nature, plants, and flowers. The tag cloud described before is another visual element.
The design choices that went into this website were taken from the administrator’s ideas of how accessible the website needed to be for its members. The purpose of the website is to create a forum for the members of the organization to share ideas, and the layout of the website’s design and the use of WordPress (known for being an easy way to create a blog) shows that purpose. This website had to replace a conference room or office setting because the participants are spread out across the Carolinas, so the website needed to help the members relay information to other participants.
By researching the website and interviewing Dr. Jessie Moore, we learned the purpose of the organization and it’s reasons for the current layout. In implementing the Carolinas WPA’s purpose, the website is used as a key tool in executing its goals. The website tries to focus on the needs of its members and strives to encourage communication among these adherents with a blog website, various conferences, and announcements of the accomplishments of colleagues. The website features little visual, multimedia, and interactive features to further its goal of reaching members. Ultimately, the website functions as a useful mechanism in which the Carolinas WPA can apply in fulfilling its purpose.