Note From English Department Chair Anis Bawarshi

Anis Bawarshi
English Department Chair Anis Bawarshi

After serving as acting chair last year, I am writing to you now in my role as department chair.  I am honored by the trust that colleagues and the College have placed in me and also humbled by the responsibility that comes with this position over the next five years.

Last year’s departmental ten-year review brought with it an exigency for collective self-assessment and future planning that it is up to us to sustain. We now have a five-year Strategic Plan and are at work on a Diversity and Equity Plan.  We piloted merit review criteria, aligned with our efforts to be more accountable to the range of work we do.  We developed and endorsed a multi-year hiring plan.  Led by the undergraduate and graduate directors and the Undergraduate Education and Graduate Studies Committees, we began work on undergraduate curriculum revisions, and continued graduate program curriculum revisions. Thanks to the Placement Committee, we have an updated placement website with information about a range of careers. 

In Fall we put forward five promotion cases and two reappointments.  We are also conducting three faculty searches: for an open rank position in Rhetoric and Composition Studies, an assistant professor position in Asian American Literature and Culture, and a full-time IWP lecturer position in Professional and Technical Writing.  The department is also once again funding faculty collaborations, including some to support departmental conversations about how we define ourselves as we proceed with upcoming searches and identify a greater sense of shared purpose. I am heartened by the commitment and good will of faculty and staff colleagues to engage in this work.

There have been some administrative changes since last year. Eva Cherniavsky is our new Director of Graduate Studies, following Juliet Shields, who concluded her term as director last Spring and whose leadership guided curriculum revisions and helped make significant contributions as part of the Simpson Center’s Next Generation Humanities PhD initiative.  Megan Callow is starting her first full year as Director of the Interdisciplinary Writing Program (having begun this position last Winter), following Carrie Matthew’s valuable leadership in that role. Mark Patterson was interim Director of Undergraduate Studies in Fall while Director Jesse Oak Taylor was on leave, and is also filling in as Department Scheduler in Fall and Winter.  Priti Sandhu is the interim Director of the MATESOL program.  David Crouse continues as Director of Creative Writing.  And Candice Rai heroically is in her sixth year as Director of the Expository Writing Program.  Michelle Liu has taken on the new position of Associate Director of Writing Programs.  In the graduate office, Mary Malevitsis joined us last Spring as the new Graduate Program Coordinator. 

Among the many recognitions English department faculty and programs have earned, I would like to highlight a few.  Over the last year, English department faculty published eleven new books along with directing two documentary films.  (We will profile the most recent books in the Spring 2020 English Matters.) Our MA for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (MATESOL) program was granted the U.S. Department of State English Language Fellow Top Producing Institution Award, one of five programs across the country to receive this recognition. The English department's Expository Writing Program (EWP) has been awarded a Writing Program Certificate of Excellence by the Conference on College Composition and Communication.  (You can read more about these prestigious awards and the faculty involved in the “Faculty and Staff Notes” section.)

The “Faculty and Staff Notes” section also includes news about John Griffith’s departmental teaching award; Alys Weinbaum’s book prize award; a conversation with esteemed writer Annie Proulx hosted by Shawn Wong and featuring a cameo appearance by Charles LaPorte; the publicity around Shawn Wong’s role in the publication history of John Okada's classic novel No-No Boy, and Wong’s successful efforts to stand up to one of the world’s biggest publishers; along with news of other faculty accomplishments.)

If you happen to find yourself near Padelford Hall, be sure to check out the new display case outside the main English office featuring faculty publications.  Be sure also to check out the English Graduate Office's new library of alumni books and the Ph.D. Alumni Spotlight page on the Graduate Program website. Thank you to Mary Malevitsis, Ali Dahmer, and Eva Cherniavsky for their work on this project.

I would like to draw your attention to two upcoming events.  In April, the department will host the third annual Lee Scheingold Lecture in Poetry and Poetics (April 29, 2020). The lecture will include a reading by Naomi Shihab Nye followed by a conversation between Shihab Nye and Lena Khalaff Tuffaha, local writer and winner of the 2018 Washington State Book Award. The event will be held at the University of Washington from 6:00-8:30 in wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ--Intellectual House.  On February 1, the department will also host the sixth annual Praxis Conference, with the theme “Access in Education: Making Space, Changing Spaces.” You can find information about the Praxis Conference at this link. These as well as so many of our most important events are supported by or have their roots in donor gifts.

In that spirit, I am honored to announce a new endowed fund created by English Professor and Divisional Dean of Humanities, Brian Reed: The Charles H. Krysieniel Endowed Fund in LGBT Studies in the Department of English.  The fund will support students who demonstrate an interest and/or active role in LGBT communities through academic studies, life experience, or participation in the University of Washington’s Q Center.  On behalf of the students this fund will support, we in the department are grateful to Brian Reed for this gift in memory of his husband Chuck Krysieniel, who passed in 2017.

In short, this issue of English Matters will catch you up on the latest news from our department. You will learn more about what our faculty have been doing, including their work directing two documentary films; about Maya Sonenberg’s artistic relationship with choreographer Merce Cunningham; about being a mindful traveler in an unequal world; and about student successes and alumni achievements.  Enjoy!

Anis Bawarshi, Chair, English Department

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