A Brief History of the WAC Clearinghouse

The WAC Clearinghouse was originally planned as a companion site for the larger Writing@CSU Web site (writing.colostate.edu). Initially envisioned as a set of resources to support the writing-across-the-curriculum (WAC) program at Colorado State University, the growing capabilities of the Web made it clear that the planned site could also address the needs of teachers of writing at other institutions. In spring 1997, Mike Palmquist approached two colleagues, Bill Condon and Christine Hult, about the idea of developing a Web site that would provide access to scholarly work on WAC. By late 1997, an initial planning group, which included Luann Barnes, Linn Bekins, Nick Carbone, Gail Hawisher, Will Hochman, Kate Kiefer, Donna LeCourt, Paul Prior, Martin Rosenberg, Cindy Selfe, and Richard Selfe, was working via electronic mail, and a collection of resources had been established on the Web.

When progress on the site stalled in early 1998, due largely to what Bill Condon later described as an inability to find ways to make work on a Web site count for purposes of merit evaluations (personal communication to Mike Palmquist, 1998), the decision was made to convert the project into an online journal. In a May 1998 email message to the planning group, Palmquist wrote:

I am imagining a journal that is essentially an evolving, growing document (or, more accurately, a collection of documents) on the Web. Many, but not all materials published in the journal would be peer reviewed. For instance, in addition to peer-reviewed articles (both linear and hypertext), we could post WAC program proposals, successful grant proposals, program evaluations, material collected during research on WAC, and so on. (These would need to be reviewed, of course, but not in the same way as scholarly pubs, and permissions would need to be obtained before posting.)

In 2000, the Clearinghouse became academic.writing, a peer-reviewed online journal. The collection of resources developed for the Clearinghouse was converted into a "related resources" section of the new journal. Members of the project team subsequently gained recognition for their work through peer-reviewed publications, editorial positions, and editorial board memberships. Over the next few years, however, the original vision of the Clearinghouse continued to shape the direction of the journal, to the point where academic.writing became home to the digital archives of two print journals (Language and Learning Across the Disciplines and The WAC Journal) and one online journal (RhetNet) and provided access to out-of-print books in digital format.

As conditions within the field changed to the point where "working on a Web site" began to be viewed as legitimate scholarly work, the decision was made to restructure the collection of materials that had become academic.writing. The WAC Clearinghouse was re-launched in 2002 as a publisher of scholarly work addressing writing across the curriculum and as a site providing an extensive set of resources for the WAC community. It subsequently became home to the International Network of Writing Across the Curriculum Programs, launched three new books series (including its first original book, Writing Selves/Writing Societies, a collection edited by Charles Bazerman and David R. Russell), and entered into partnerships with Parlor Press to distribute its digital books in print format. A key element of its new instantiation was a reliance on a cooperative approach in which visitors to the site could contribute to the site's development by creating an account and adding information—such as bibliography entries, program descriptions, conference announcements, and calls for proposals—to the site's database. By the end of 2010, more than 2,000 individuals had created accounts on the site and the Clearinghouse had become the leading site supporting writing across the curriculum.

In the years following the re-launch of the Clearinghouse, it entered into new partnerships with other organizations and groups within the field of rhetoric and composition. The Clearinghouse became a sponsor of the Writing Spaces books series, a project directed by Charlie Lowe and Pavel Zemliansky. It also partnered with the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) to provide access to key articles on writing across the curriculum published in NCTE journals, provide access to NCTE books on writing studies, and (potentially) to jointly publish a series of new books on WAC. At about the same time, the Clearinghouse began working with the directors of CompPile to develop a stronger WAC bibliography. At Colorado State University, support for the project followed Mike Palmquist from the University Composition Program to the Institute for Learning and Teaching (TILT). The Clearinghouse also found support at the University from the faculty and staff at Morgan Library, who have provided assistance digitizing and cataloging books on the site.

In early 2011, a redesigned site was launched. New books, many contributed by NCTE and some included in a new series of occasional publications called "Practice and Pedagogy", increased the total number of books available on the site to more than 40 (of which more than a dozen were original publications). In addition, the Journal of Basic Writing joined the Clearinghouse, offering its archives for access by visitors to the site.

At the 2012 International WAC Conference in Savannah, Georgia, the Clearinghouse celebrated its 15th year of operation. At the conference, it also announced the Sustainable Publishing Initiative. The Initiative serves as an umbrella for a collection of projects intended to explore and/or demonstrate sustainable approaches to scholarly publishing, including the publishing collaborative model that has been pioneered by scholars associated with the Clearinghouse since the late 1990s. 2012 also saw the launch of a newly designed site that supports mobile browsing and provides greater accessibility to visitors.