We are honored to welcome Dr. Cheryl Geisler to the community of ATTW Fellows as a representative of the very best kind of colleague we could hope to have!
Citation for Mark Zachry
Elevated to ATTW Fellow, March 2019
Written by William Hart-Davidson
It is with gratitude and joy that we elevate Professor Mark Zachry of the University of Washington to the status of Fellow of the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing. Mark’s scholarly productivity, national and international leadership have contributed in significant ways to the field and to our organization. And, of course, Mark has also played a strong role, as editor of ATTW’s journal Technical Communication Quarterly along with several award-winning collections of research, in shaping the overall research agenda of our field. His service also includes an impressive legacy as a teacher and mentor of students and colleagues who have themselves built successful careers in Technical Communication.
Mark is truly a research innovator in the field of Technical Communication. His careful theoretical work in pieces such as “Genre ecologies: an open-system approach to understanding and constructing documentation” published in 2000 and co-authored with Clay Spinuzzi is widely cited and deeply influential. Indeed, the genre ecologies framework proposed in that piece has gone on to become a generally accepted model in the field, though at the time the core ideas were quite new and disruptive of both theoretical and pedagogical approaches to genre. The central implication of the genre ecologies framework argues that the scope of research on written discourse must shift, dramatically, from a focus on relatively discrete communicative artifacts (texts) to a system of interdependent communicative actions. Not a subtle shift. It was a shift that literally demanded whole new research traditions in the field. And it turns out to have been an important change that presaged the networked, social-media saturated world we live in today.
But Zachry did not stop at arguing for such a shift from a theoretical perspective. Indeed, his earlier empirical and archival work had already adopted the systemic approach that would eventually be known as the genre ecology framework, producing insights that helped to demonstrate just where the fields’ research might go. Mark recognized that the transition would mean preparing researchers whose work had primarily focused on text analysis – ranging from close interpretive reading to more systematic corpus studies – to begin looking more broadly at human behavior, in group and organizational settings, without losing the systematic approaches that had brought rigor and value to textual studies.
Mark’s contributions also include outstanding service to ATTW. Mark served two terms as Editor of TCQ, including one as a co-Editor with ATTW Fellow Charie Thralls. During that time, Mark helped to modernize the journal’s review process as content-management systems became standard in academic publishing. He also worked to get the journal indexed more broadly, a move which helped to boost the journal’s overall quality, citations, and submission rate. Mark moved the journal with him from Utah State to the University of Washington, a process that allowed him to document processes and ensure that each subsequent transfer of the journal’s editorial home would be a smooth one. In short, Mark applied his own expertise as a technical writer and as a researcher of distributed work to our house organ, helping it to become the respected source of cutting-edge research it is today!
In the last ten years or so of his career, Mark has encouraged this kind of work by writing about research methods, mentoring graduate students in a highly-productive research group at the University of Washington. He has consistently published the best quality research in our field in journals and edited collections – for which his work has been recognized with awards for outstanding article and edited collection, among others. He has also led workshops and transformed curricula – most notably in graduate education in Human-Centered Design and Engineering. At Washington and Utah State, Mark built a reputation as an outstanding mentor and teacher. Mark has been honored for outstanding teaching throughout his career by the Society for Technical Communication with the Jay R. Gould award for Excellence in Teaching, truly one of our field’s highest honors.
It is not an exaggeration to say that Mark is among the most respected and valued members of the field of Technical Communication. This is all the more true for the way his work has pushed the field to become more interdisciplinary, to engage with allied areas of interest such as Human- Computer Interaction and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work.
For all of these reasons, Mark Zachary has had a transformative impact on our field and has more than earned recognition as a Fellow of the Association of Teachers of Technical Communication.