Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

English Rhetoric and Composition, PhD

Committee Chair

Brueggemann, Brenda

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Williams, Bronwyn

Committee Member

Williams, Bronwyn

Committee Member

Kopelson, Karen

Committee Member

Chandler, Karen

Committee Member

Brooms, Derric

Author's Keywords

college writing; rhetorical education; transitioning to college; race and writing; civic engagement; writing program administration


This dissertation considers how racialized differences educational experience transition with Black students as they perform the expectations of college writing curriculum. I address the question: in what ways can a first-year writing curriculum centered on civic responsibility aid in smoother transitions from secondary to postsecondary academic writing for Black students at predominantly White institutions? My study applies racial and critical race methodologies framed within the tenets of critical race theory, institutional whiteness, and the absent presence of race in composition studies. I apply the methodologies in three key ways: analyzing transition practices through racialized perspectives; evaluating general education writing curriculum through institutional whiteness; and examining the rhetorical education and writing education experiences of transitioning Black American students today and historically. Through these approaches, I argue that, due to its focus on academic writing as one resource for influencing community development, applying a curriculum of civic responsibility to first-year writing courses can effectively address Black students' complexities in transitioning to college-level writing at predominantly White institutions. The dissertation includes five chapters. Chapter One reviews scholarship on race and academic writing, transitioning from secondary to post-secondary writing, and community-based writing pedagogy. Extending from that review, Chapter Two uses the critical race theory principle of counter-story, or the unique voice of color, to review historical models of Black American-centric education from the Civil Rights era. Chapter Three presents the results of an institutional analysis I conducted of the policies and curriculum designed for transitioning students at one institution. Chapter Four demonstrates the need for race-consciousness and civically responsible curriculum by discussing the qualitative interview responses of nine Black American students at the aforementioned research university. I conclude the dissertation by exemplifying the potential for a writing curriculum of civic responsibility entails at both the program level and course level. For Black American students living in a society with a racial social system built on whiteness as most desired and blackness as most disgraced, teaching academic writing practices as one of many resources to build communities can prove critical in helping Black American students transition to academic writing at the college level.