I got my copy of The Naylor Report on Undergraduate Research in Writing Studies last week. A group of 43 UR mentors authored the text in less than a year and the resulting book is, I think, simultaneously visionary and pragmatic. I hope WPAs, writing center directors, English and writing department chairs, UR directors, and others in academia will read it, debate it, and use it to further their engagement with UR in writing studies.
My work as a mentor of students engaged in UR has been some of the most rewarding of my career. In this work, I usually begin by working side-by-side with an undergraduate, working collaboratively with them to formulate research questions, decide on research methods and methodologies, and go through the IRB process. I step back as they collect data, and then I teach them how to code and interpret the data. I act mostly as a sounding board as they work to make sense of their data. I then typically find myself in the audience as they present their work at a conference, joining along with others to recognize their achievement as scholars and knowledge contributors. Work done by undergraduates I have mentored has, in turn, influenced my own work as a scholar, teacher, and writing center director. For example, research conducted by Aubrey Baucum, Rachel Livingston, Harrison Murray, and Sierra Rakes about microaggressions in the MSU Denver Writing Center pushed me toward understanding the Writing Center I direct as a brave space rather than a safe one. Research conducted by Mateo Candelaria on power hierarchies in writing centers continues to inform my pedagogy and raise my awareness of my own performances of power at work.
My contribution to the book, “Undergraduate Research and Labor Practices in Writing Studies,” focuses on how many current models for UR in writing studies depend upon exploited labor, which limits both the experiences available to students engaging in UR and knowledge production in writing studies.