2007: Dorothy Winsor

Citation for
Dorothy Winsor
Elevated to ATTW Fellow, March 2007
(written by Ann Blakeslee)

I’ve never been particularly good at either ice skating or dancing. And to my knowledge, the individual we’re elevating to ATTW Fellow this year isn’t either – although it somehow wouldn’t surprise me to learn that she was given how adept she is at so many other things.

Regardless, our new Fellow has something important in common with some of the best ice skaters and dancers – the ability to make everything she does, regardless of its complexity, seem easy. I’ve spent most of my career watching this individual and marveling at how easy everything seems to be to her, especially research and publishing.

This year’s new Fellow has received four NCTE best article awards, along with an ABC award for outstanding publication. She also received the 2006 ABC Francis Weeks Award for Impact on the Field.

She’s published numerous journal articles and book chapters, along with one of the most influential books we have: Writing Like an Engineer: A Rhetorical Education. She’s also published Writing Power: An Ethnographic Study of Writing in an Engineering Center, and most recently she’s been the editor of the Journal of Business and Technical Communication. By now, I’m certain that most if not all of you have figured out that our new Fellow is Dorothy Winsor. Dorothy, could you please come up.

Dorothy understands ethnographic and qualitative research as well as anyone in our field, which is especially notable given that her Ph.D. is in literature. She has served as a model for those of us who do qualitative work. And she has been an inspiration for many of us who see the value and who seek to do longitudinal research, something we still need much more of in our field.

Dorothy Winsor’s impact on our field with her scholarship alone has been profound. But most of you who know Dorothy personally know that her impact has extended well beyond her scholarship. And here’s where I’d like to get a little more personal—and empirical—and give all of you a sense of who Dorothy Winsor, the professor, teacher, mentor, scholar, mother, spouse, and fan fiction writer (yes, you heard me correctly), is…

For this portion of the presentation, I thought it most appropriate to collect some data about Dorothy’s contributions to our field. I surveyed a random sample of Dorothy’s colleagues, friends, and former students (I have to admit that I did not seek human subjects approval for this study), and the results of my surveys were extremely consistent…

There were five overarching themes that emerged from my data: Dorothy is interested in the well-being of students; Dorothy is an excellent mentor, friend, and colleague; Dorothy is very bright and expresses complex ideas in a clear and compelling manner; Dorothy is fun; Dorothy has had a significant impact on our field

Let me start with my own story. I first met Dorothy in 1989 when I attended my first Penn State conference. Here I was, and unknown, new graduate student in the field, talking to Dorothy Winsor. Wow. But that, for me, speaks volumes about the type of person Dorothy is. She’s vitally interested in the intellectual growth and well-being of students. [And she’s sincere. I don’t ever remember Dorothy spending her conversation with me, or anyone, looking for someone more important in the room to talk to. She’s one of the most down-to-earth and authentic academics I know.]

Her own students and colleagues agree with me. Let me share just a couple of statements that were sent to me…

Dorothy has the best nose for interesting questions of anyone in the field. She expresses complex ideas with clarity and wit–all the while conveying a sense that the ideas are as fresh to her as they are to her listeners. She is always the one on the panel who finishes on time, who has the most telling displays and examples, and who initiates the liveliest discussion. (Davida)

[I'm so glad that Dorothy has been named an ATTW Fellow. She's a tremendous scholar and person.] When I was working on the dissertation, I remember dropping by her office — her door was always open — and chatting about research, methodologies, theoretical frameworks, job prospects, and other sorts of topics that trouble young grad students. Looking back, what is most extraordinary for me was the patience with which she held these conversations and the genuine interest she had in mentoring me and her other grad students. (Clay Spinuzzi)

I couldn't have asked for a better chair–my research and writing were much improved through her influence, and she prepared me amazingly well for the job search and for the beginning of my career. Dorothy pushed me to think in new ways, provided enormously helpful and amazingly quick feedback on drafts, and constantly astounded me with the amount of thought and energy she put into my work[–after virtually every dissertation meeting, I could expect e-mail messages with additional thoughts she had while walking or driving.] (Dave Clark)

[Working with Dorothy Winsor while I was a doctoral student at Iowa State was both exciting and challenging.] A highlight of that experience was the series of generative conversations we had while I worked on my dissertation. At each turn, she was a model for thinking deeply and productively about the nature of communication in engineered spaces. (Mark Zachry)

Dorothy's door is always open.  And so is her mind.  She's the best colleague I have ever had. Intellectually stimulating, hard working, kind, and a hell of a lot of fun. She knows that teaching and scholarship are too serious to take too seriously. I will miss her deeply. (David Russell)

I admire Dorothy Winsor immensely, and I can think of no one who has had a more positive impact on our field and on colleagues and students lucky enough to work with her.  Beginning with her Challenger article and extending on through her recent book, Writing Power, Dorothy’s work shines as a model for research.  She is simply brilliant at unpacking the particulars of seemingly mundane communicative practices to illuminate broader functions and effects.  And who among us is so masterful at making theory accessible and—yes—useful?   For me, though, Dorothy’s most important legacy is personal.  Dorothy is the kind of person who takes great pleasure in fostering the success of others—whether one of her graduate students or an author struggling with a JBTC submission.  Dorothy is also the ideal colleague: not just because she is smart, hardworking, and funny but because she brings an incredible generosity and sense of fair play to every endeavor.  Dorothy’s appointment as an ATTW Fellow is very richly deserved indeed. (Charie Thralls)