Current Projects

Kristi Costello is a co-editor of the forthcoming collection, The Things We Carry: Strategies for Recognizing and Negotiating Emotional Labor in Writing Program Administration, alongside Courtney Adams Wooten, Jacob Babb, and Kate Navickas. The book extends conversations about what WPA emotional labor involves and offers concrete and practical strategies for administrators working both within a large range of traumatic events as well as daily situations that require tactical work to preserve their sense of self and balance. The book is broken into three sections emphasizing a WPA’s own work identity, a WPA’s fostering of community in writing programs, and a WPA’s balance of 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 and enduring racist, sexist, homophobic, and otherwise disenfranchising interactions with others 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.

Along similar lines, Kristi is also completing an article that defines emotional labor and describes some of the emotional labors rooted within the writing center tutor experience. She refers to the emotional labors—not labor—of writing center work to emphasize their plurality. Though writing center work is fulfilling and often exhilarating, she illustrates how the emotional labors can also make writing center work difficult, exhausting, and frustrating. In addition to generating additional emotional labors, existing emotional labors are compounded by race, gender, sexuality, dis/ability, class, and other factors, meaning that tutors who are part of traditionally marginalized cultural locations experience more emotional labors more intensely. As Harry Denny and Beth Towle explain, “We always already are liminal creatures” (para. 6). Kristi illustrates how when not recognized, named, and supported, such emotional labors can lead to confusion, tension, frustration, and resentment. The chapter concludes by sharing strategies for WCDs to support tutors’ emotional needs, encourage their self-care, and recognize and mitigate their emotional labors.

Lastly, Kristi is also working with Airek Beauchamp to write up research collected from their NSF-funded WAC/WID initiative. They are currently working on two articles. The first details the collaboration among the small writing program in the mid-south and the university’s much larger College of Science and Mathematics wherein we developed coursework and support in writing and then followed three groups of students: those in a genetics laboratory with no formalized concurrent writing support, another group enrolled in both the genetics lab and a general technical writing course, and a final group comprised of students enrolled in the genetics course and a STEM-specific writing course taught and developed by an expert in Writing Studies. Early analysis of student writing and surveys suggests that the STEM writing course not only improved student writing, but also improved their discipline-specific writing and enhanced their reading skills. The pilot study led to a STEM technical writing course requirement for the university’s STEM majors and additional collaborations among the two programs. The second discusses the impact the study had on the perceptions and pedagogies of the eight graduate assistants (equally composed of students in the sciences and humanities) who were tasked with helping us assess the inaugural sections. The conversations among the group during the training, the assessment process as they reconciled their codes, and the informal wrap-up meeting included discussions of disciplinary conventions, expectations of students’ writing, and how to support and respond to students’ writing– the very kinds of discussions we had been trying to start with our campus colleagues. Data derived from a post-assessment survey show that the GAs’ participation in the assessment process led to increased understanding about disciplinary ways of seeing, thinking, reading, and writing and inspiration to be better teachers and supporters of writing. Thus, we argue that the GAs’ participation in the assessment process may lead to new generations of STEM educators who understand their role in preparing student writers and writing teachers who better understand their role in preparing students to write in STEM.