Radical Transparency: Perspectives on Graduate Education in Rhetoric and Composition

deadline for submissions: 
June 30, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Radical Transparency


Deadlines for Proposals: June 30th

With the rise of labor activism and growing pressures on humanities in higher education, it is imperative that prospective writing studies graduate students have a well-rounded, transparent picture of the system as a whole. We envision this collection as an in-depth dive into the diverse realities of rhetoric and composition graduate student life via short academic essays, brief personal narratives, or vignettes that effectively blend the two.

This collection is inspired by the forms of emotional labor identified by Kristi Costello in “Naming and Negotiating the Emotional Labors of Writing Center Tutoring” (from Wellness and Care in Writing Center Work). We argue that these forms of emotional labor can be extrapolated to the experiences of all writing studies graduate students, regardless of their involvement in writing centers. Similar to the way emotional labors manifest in tutors through their engagement with people, institutions, identities, and their intersecting relationships, graduate students experience emotional labor as they interact with higher education. These labors are, of course, further compounded by intersecting identities of race, gender, class, dis/ability, sexuality, age, etc.  

To explore these labors, we lean on definitions of emotion as theorized by the likes of Ahmed (2004), Hochschild (1983), and others that see emotions as interactive modes of communication informed by reactions to systemic stimuli imbued with meaning and not simply individual psychological states. In their study of emotional labor in doctoral students and faculty writers, Shannon Madden and Sandra L. Tarabochia claim that “Emotional labor is not always negative but can be disruptive and have cumulative effects if not addressed from a structural perspective” (2020). We hope this collection will investigate this claim. We also maintain, as Genie N. Giaimo does, that the success of our work as graduate students depends on the emotional support available to us and that the ideal working situation would be “meaningful, engaging, stable, safe, ethical, and fairly compensated” (2020).

Emotional support should “emphasize the need for community creation in existing spaces” (Olejnik and Messina 2021). We hope to provide a collaboratively composed space where graduate students can discuss the realities of graduate education and we hope that more community creation spaces will emerge as a result. While these spaces are the product of vulnerability and strength simultaneously, we also acknowledge that vulnerability looks different for everyone and is highly dependent upon institutions and identities. In fact, we agree with Brentnell, Dixon, and Robinson that vulnerability is even more important because it intersects with and expounds upon marginalized identities, specifically as it relates to graduate education (2020).

This collection invites a wide variety of submissions from writing studies graduate students (or recent graduates) representing multiple intersecting identities and institutions. We want to tell the story of graduate school in all of its messiness and wonder. We seek submissions ranging from personal narratives to short academic essays and everything in between. Our vision for this collection is for it to serve as both a guidebook for incoming graduate students and a textbook for Intro to Graduate Studies style courses. 

Submissions should:

  • aim for 2,000-4,000 words;
  • position towards audiences such as incoming or current graduate students or those reflecting on graduate school after-the-fact;
  • experiment with genre and innovate in both form and content;
  • reflect on multiple aspects of the graduate school experience (both positive and negative);
  • be written with purposes such as educating others about the experience, reflecting on your own experiences, engaging with the literature of graduate studies, and analyzing the experience via specific critical lenses.

Potential topics might include:

  • performing invisible labors such as emotional labor;
  • performing identities, negotiating multiple roles in graduate school (i.e. student, instructor, mentor, and mentee);
  • status-switching, class consciousness, or changing social dynamics due to an increase in formal education;
  • becoming (or struggling to become) a member of the field through professional development, academic publishing, conferencing, dissertation, comprehensive exams, and/or the job market;
  • belonging within an academic department, building relationships with cohorts and/or mentors;
  • care work, either for the self or other graduate students;
  • complex support networks among graduate students; 
  • censoring emotions or experiences to remain professional;
  • discovery, finding oneself;
  • feelings of inferiority, imposter syndrome, vulnerability, precariousness, and/or contingency across intersecting identities and institutions;
  • liminality, powerlessness, otherness, navigating oppressive spaces;
  • contextual issues and situational occurrences specific to an institution or position;
  • navigating graduate school during a pandemic.

Intersections among suggested topics are welcome and necessary.

Because we believe in investigating more than just the shared beliefs or theories pertaining to graduate education, after approval, authors will also be asked to submit a brief one-page worksheet or list of realistic and actionable suggestions for how to deal with the issues presented in their chapter.

In the spirit of transparency, here is a brief timeline that we intend to follow as closely as possible.

  • Proposals Due: June 30th 
  • Decisions Made & Authors Notified: July 30th 
  • Chapters Due: October 30th 

Proposals should be no more than 300 words, describe the genre of the chapter, and explain what themes it intends to explore.


Works Cited

Ahmed, Sara. “Affective Economies.” Social Text, vol 22, no. 2, 2004, pp. 117-39.

Bretnell, Lauren, Elise Dixon, and Rachel Robinson. “The Hidden and Invisible: Vulnerability in Writing Center Work.” Wellness and Care in Writing Center Work, edited by Genie Nicole Giaimo, Pressbooks, 2020, https://ship.pressbooks.pub/writingcentersandwellness/chapter/title-here-3/ 

Giaimo, Genie N. “Laboring in a Time of Crisis: The Entanglement of Wellness and Work in Writing Centers.” Praxis, vol. 17, no. 3, 2020, https://www.praxisuwc.com/173-giaimo 

Hochschild, Arlie. “Emotion Work, Feeling Rules, and Social Structure.” American Journal of Sociology, vol. 85, 1979, pp. 551-75.

Madden, Shannon, and Sandra L. Tarabochia. “Emotional Labor, Mentoring, and Equity for Doctoral Student and Faculty Writers.” Diverse Approaches to Teaching, Learning, and Writing Across the Curriculum, edited by Lesley Erin Bartlett, Sandra L. Tarabochia, Andrea R. Olinger, and Margaret J. Marshall, 2020, The WAC Clearinghouse, https://wac.colostate.edu/books/perspectives/iwac2018/ 

Murray Costello, Kristi. “Naming and Negotiating the Emotional Labors of Writing Center Tutoring.” Wellness and Care in Writing Center Work, edited by Genie Nicole Giaimo, Pressbooks, 2020, ​​https://ship.pressbooks.pub/writingcentersandwellness/chapter/title-here/ 

Olejnik, Mandy and Cara Marta Messina. “On the Front Lines: Graduate Student Roles in Shaping Discourse in Digital Spaces.” XCHANGES, vol. 15, no. 1, 2021, https://xchanges.org/on-the-front-lines-15-1