Chair's Letter 2016

Submitted by Brian Reed on
Brian Reed, Chair of English

This June, I complete my second year as Chair of the UW Department of English. Looking back over the last nine months, I am pleased to say that, thanks to long hard hours of work from our faculty, staff, and students and more than a little help from our alums, the year has been a resounding success. I’m proud of what we as a community have managed to accomplish.

The biggest achievement has been a complete overhaul of our web site. You’ll find the new version at The site is viewable and functional across many different platforms, from smartphone to desktop, and we’ve set it up to allow for more frequent and robust posting of news and other content. In the coming year, we plan to begin adding more to the site, including video clips. Be sure to check back often!

As you can see, we’ve also made the transition to a digital newsletter. This new version of English Matters will continue to provide you with updates about the department and the many people who make this such an exciting place to work and learn. We look forward to hearing from you about how we are doing as we move into this new medium. We’d be particularly obliged if you told us what sorts of news and features would you’d most like to see in the future.

In this inaugural digital issue of English Matters, we’ve chosen to highlight several of our outstanding students, survey a few recent publications, share stories about our amazing alums, and to feature the work that one of our professors, Shawn Wong, has been doing with the Red Badge Project, an effort to help veterans with PTSD, depression, and anxiety disorders by giving them opportunities to write about their experiences.

 We could have featured many other stories. For example, this winter we put on the third in our annual series of “short takes,” ten five-minute public presentations on a literary topic. This time our theme was “Emily Dickinson’s World,” and we again collaborated with ACT Theatre. Audiences had a chance to hear about Dickinson’s life and times, from her herb-collecting to the marriage proposals she declined to the recurrence of ghosts and haunting in her poetry.

We also benefited greatly from the generosity of donors. The final installment of a gift from Grace Pollock will generate fellowships for students in our MFA program for years to come. Donna Gerstenberger, a former chair of English, was honored by her late partner, Yvonne Mandorf, in her will. An endowment in Donna's name will provide badly needed funding for graduate students in our MA/Ph.D. program. Carl Milner has created an endowment whose use will be at the chair’s discretion; in our era of budget cuts and financial challenges this flexibility is especially welcome. Mary and Allan Kollar have made possible our Professional Learning Communities initiative, which has enriched the intellectual lives of high school teachers by encouraging them to collaborate in conducting and sharing research on writing and pedagogy. We are thankful, too, to Pete Nordstrom, Lee Scheingold, and so many more of you out there who have helped this community to flourish and grow stronger.

This summer and fall, I’ll be taking a short break. I have a quarter of research leave, and I’m headed across the Pacific to Canberra to learn more about Judith Wright, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Philip Hodgins, and other important contemporary Australian poets. While I’m away, Anis Bawarshi will be taking over as Acting Chair. A former Director of Expository Writing and our current Associate Chair, he is ideally prepared to step in and keep the ship on course. Look for me again in 2017, when I’ll be back to share the very latest about what’s been happening here in Padelford Hall and beyond.

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