Locations of TPC Programs

Another excerpt from my book manuscript: Programmatic imaginations: A curricular history of technical and professional communication. 

One can view maps of the geographic locations of degree programs: https://tek-ritr.com/techcomm-programmatic-central/maps-of-tpc-programs/ These maps offer geographic locations of the different types of degree programs and also includes a map for online programs.

In addition to the maps online, Figure 3.11 shows the states with the most TPC degree programs.

Pennsylvania has the most TPC degree programs with 30. Texas and Ohio are the next highest with 25 and 22 respectively. There are three states that do not have a TPC degree program: Delaware, Hawaii, and Montana.

Administrative Units for Degree Programs

Historically, degree locations have been of interest to those in TPC (e.g., Yeats and Thompson, 2010). Patricia Sullivan and James Porter’s two essays (1993, 2007) both discussed the idea of locations. In the sister field of composition studies, they have gone as far as to create an organization of “independent writing programs” (e.g., O’Neill et al., 2002; Matzen & Abraham, 2019) as if the programs needed to be freed from an oppressive regime. I understand the impetus to bring together administrators and faculty who have forged their own path outside of English departments or outside of the traditional departmental structure. It seems one of the reasons that that TPC hasn’t been so concerned with “freeing” themselves is that “program” means something totally different than it does in compositions studies. As I explained in the introduction, in TPC, “program” means degree programs, which affords a certain level of respect or recognition within university structures no matter who administers the degree. But, TPC is still concerned about where in the institution degree programs are located administratively.

All degree programs have to be administered by some administrative unit because someone has to be in available to assist students and do the internal processes such as degree audits that are required for students to graduate. The most common administrative unit is a department. While there are 339 institutions, there are 353 administrative units. One institution offers degree programs in three administrative locations, and 11 institutions offer TPC degree programs in two administrative locations. Following is the field-wide summary of where TPC degree programs are located administratively. Figure 3.12 illustrates the breakdown of these administrative units.

Figure 3.12: Percent of all programs (N=712) administered out of English and English related departments.

The 64% of administrative units classified as English include those units that are English, English Language and Literature in all their varying forms. I grouped these together because they seem to capture the spirit of TPC’s concerns through the years about being in a traditional English department where literary study was dominate. Figure 3.13 represents the administrative units of the remaining 36% of degree programs.

Figure 3.13: Percent of programs administered in locations other than English

The English + category here is meant to represent those departments that are English and something else that is not literature or language. An example would be English and Philosophy. The two categories of English and Writing and English and Communication were drawn out because I thought it was important to show that there are departments that give equal weight in the name of department. College identifies those locations where the program is administered at the college level without an additional administrative layer. Multi-administered means that the program touts that it is a collaboration in curriculum and administration in multiple units. Communication, Humanities, Writing, and TPC are as straight forward as they seem, and they are the primary names for those administrative units. Other is a catch-all for those locations that did fit within any other category. Examples of these include “school of applied professional studies,” “business,” and “music and visual arts.”

Paying attention to administrative locations is important, but it may be time to consider what the important questions are about programmatic location outside of the immediate reaction of the (troubled) marriage to English (cf., Macnealy & Heaton, 1999; Yeats & Thompson, 2010). Robert Johnson (2009) called TPC programs fragile because of the challenges they face in institutions. He wrote, “programs are located in English departments where it can be difficult to influence the numbers in terms of hiring priorities and program offerings. Some…programs have even moved out of these large departments and blazed their own trail. This is a dicey situation, however, as support for new departments may take a turn for the worse” (p. 54). Being housed in big, long standing departments does bring stability with structural support and budgets, but it has a trade off as Johnson notes in the need to constantly justify and argue for the position and needs of a TPC program. My feelings are similar to those raised by Porter and Sullivan (1993 & 2007), but while I don’t feel “colonized,” I do wonder what would happen if we considered departments, and our relationship in them, differently. There is some truth that rhetorically we can shift institutional structures, policies, and procedures, (Porter et al., 2000; Grabill et al., 2003) but we need to know what we want them shifted to, and what the consequences of those moves are. Sure, administrative locations matter, but the questions attached to them are actually more important. For example, there are TPC programs in writing departments and faculty in those departments report some of the same problems as faculty in English departments. The questions on departmental location should focus more on what are the barriers that persistently show up that impact program development. This more general question centered on student learning may ease some of the tensions found in any departmental discussion.