Since receiving his PhD in Rhetoric, Writing, and the Teaching of English in 1994 from the University of Arizona, Scenters-Zapico has worked at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Arizona State University, Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi, and the University of Texas at El Paso, serving in a range of WPA positions, from UWC and WAC director to PhD and MA program director. In 2014 he came to CSULB, where he is the Director of the Writing Across the Curriculum Program, Coordinator of the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement Program, and Professor in the English Department. His work centers on empowering students to becoming strong critical thinkers and writers, and on working with faculty across the disciplines to learn how to integrate informed writing pedagogies into their classes.
Some of his scholarly portfolio include:
- Two books,
- Identity: A Reader for Writers, adopted at over 80 schools across the country, (Oxford UP, 2013)
- The groundbreaking ethnographic study, Generaciones’ Narratives: Traditional and Electronic Literacy Narratives on the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands (Utah State UP/Computers and Composition Digital P, 2010). For three reviews of Generaciones’ Narratives, click
- Twenty-four peer-reviewed articles or chapters in journals or collections ranging from College Composition and Communication and Computers and Composition to Rhetoric Society Quarterly and American Indian Quarterly.
- Eight national and international keynotes or featured speaker talks, ranging from Penn State to the University of Winnipeg, Canada.
- Over fifty conference presentations delivered nationally and internationally.
- Peer reviewer or on the editorial board of twelve national journal or scholarly presses in several disciplines.
As an ethnographer, he is interested in traditional and digital literacies, focusing on how we make meaning for ourselves, how we communicate meaning to others, and how social, economic, cultural, educational, and political dynamics affect what we learn and understand, and consequently how we communicate or are restricted from doing so. For ongoing projects at CSULB, please click Events & Happenings.
Scenters-Zapico’s teaching career started in 1982 as an English teacher in Spain and since then he has taught over 80 freshmen composition classes, an array of undergraduate courses ranging from Composition Theory to Bilingual Professional Writing, and an assortment of M.A. and PhD seminars, including Composition Theory and Writing, History of Rhetoric, Rhetoric and Technology, Digital/Electronic Literacies, Rhetorical Theory, Theories of Writing and Literacy, Theories and Practices of Composition, and Writing Across the Curriculum & in the Disciplines. He has served on and directed numerous M.A. theses and PhD dissertations. His teaching experiences with economically and demographically diverse students directly inform his research, and vise versa.
Administrative Philosophy and Roles
While having the titles of director or coordinator may sound like an individualized role, John stresses that his work as WPA is based on collaboration and this is key to any innovative, challenging, and successful initiatives. He is a trained and grounded Vygotskian in that he knows first-hand he has needed more competent peers to make some projects work. He also firmly believes in holding regularly scheduled meetings with everyone he works with, and, if a project is research-oriented, he strives to collaborate with students and colleagues in presenting or publishing.
As a WPA John has always worked to collaborate on innovative institutional initiatives with his colleagues across campus. At his first tenure-track and tenured position at Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi (TAMUCC), he was involved with the initiation of large-scale all-freshmen learning communities; specifically, he worked with four clustered classes made up of the same students: Environmental Science (large lecture), Sociology (large lecture), Freshmen Composition (22 students), and Freshmen Orientation (22 students). While the community intent was good, the “community” part didn’t work since no formalized system was in place to make connections. Through a grant, he designed what he called “Discourse Plazas” and led a team of several graduate student IT majors to create an interactive, online site that included “Plazas Menores” for small, safer group discussions, and a Plaza Mayor, where the learning community of students and faculty would meet. As coordinator, he arranged with all the teachers in the community to send him a list of ten questions every three weeks, which he would then combine to make connections among the classes into a set of five questions that students would address first in their Plazas Menores, and then open up to dialogue with the full peer community in the Plaza Mayor. Faculty and students were abuzz, talking with each other about the connections their students were making.
His next tenured position was at the University of Texas at El Paso, where he had several university-wide, high-impact leadership roles. As a certified translator and interpreter, he was first tasked with creating a Spanish-English Bilingual Professional Writers’ Certificate Program, the first in the country. This endeavor included creating two classes (Workplace Writing and Technical Writing) that were designed and taught in Spanish and English by John; two additional classes in Spanish were taught by the Spanish Department. This program became very successful and he eventually trained bilingual instructors to take over this teaching role. As soon as he completed this, UTEP tapped him to create a PhD in Rhetoric and Writing Studies. While he had never taken on such a responsibility before, he embraced it and the PhD was unanimously approved from all campus levels to the Texas Board of Regents; today this program is thriving. After serving as the inaugural director, he accepted another challenge: energize the University Writing Center, which had an annual 5,200 contact hours. He immediately set out to create a complex assessment system, created WAC features working with faculty from across campus, created live, online tutoring, worked with the graduate school, which placed its writing support funds into the UWC from a large grant to help M.A. and PhD students with their dissertations, and he created a new space—The Collaboratorium--in the UWC designed to be inviting to all faculty and graduate students for informal and formal idea exchanges. When he moved to California 2014 he was a full professor, the UWC had more than 12,000 contact hours a year, had excellent assessments, and the College of Business began adding to the annual budget because of its successful WAC/WID collaborations.
California State University, Long Beach, invited him to apply for its inaugural WAC Director; he accepted as full professor, excited by the challenge, and has been here for five years. At CSULB he immediately set out to serve the institution. He created several models of WAC Fellows, works with departments across campus in expanding their writing and the teaching of it, implemented many “Writing Intensive” course creation workshops for faculty needing to create these for General Education WI courses, which students need to graduate. Very familiar with the need to prove WPA effectiveness, he assesses nearly everything, and the results have been superior. In this time he also took on the duties as Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR) Coordinator; this program has approximately twenty-five instructors, requires that he coordinate with entities across campus, from several colleges, the Testing Office, Advising, and International Studies.
Scenters-Zapico loves talking about and teaching writing in just about any location on the planet! If you’d like him to talk/teach/workshop with you, send him an email to get started. Click here for full curriculum vitae.