A Note From Our Chair / Anis Bawarshi

Submitted by Henry J Laufenberg on

Professor Emerita Colleen McElroy
As we near the end of a busy academic year, with what we hope are sunnier days ahead, I am again deeply grateful to our department’s faculty, staff, and graduate instructors for creating community and spaces of care for students.

I am especially proud of the way that we have continued to work together to build the department.  Our revised undergraduate major (a three year long collective process led by Professor Jesse Oak Taylor) has been approved and we are at work revising our website to reflect the new major and its distribution requirements.  Our two writing programs, led by Professors Stephanie Kerschbaum and Megan Callow, have received funds to renovate the writing programs office suite to create more collaboration spaces.  In addition, Kerschbaum and Callow are in the process of changing their respective program’s names to reflect more accurately the work these programs do to teach writing in multiple modalities and across disciplinary contexts.  This Winter and Spring, department collaboration grants brought faculty together to stage conversations about our hiring plan proposals—to situate the searches within their broader fields and within the intellectual questions, assumptions, and debates that animate them. Our hope is that these conversations can be an opportunity to learn from and about each other’s fields and to identify shared interests and stakes.  

This Spring we successfully completed a search in African American and Black Diasporic Literary Studies and also hired a scholar of Shakespeare and early modern drama, literature, and culture.  In all, we have hired seven new faculty the last three years, with three more searches likely next year.  We also had two successful promotion cases.  In the Fall issue of English Matters, we will share faculty awards and accomplishments, and introduce our new colleagues.

I am especially pleased to announce that the main conference room in the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office is now officially known as the Colleen J. McElroy Room, in honor of English department Professor Emerita Colleen McElroy. In a special ceremony on April 12, UW faculty and staff, and family, friends, and former colleagues gathered in the Dean’s Office to unveil the plaque for the room. McElroy recited a poem she wrote especially for the occasion, titled “To Fool the Tricks of Time.” You can read about the event and listen to Professor McElroy recite the poem here.

The latest episode of the English department’s Literature, Language, Culture dialogue series features Professors Laura Chrisman and Colette Moore, who discuss a graduate seminar they co-taught on postcolonial literature and language. Together, they discuss the poem “Colonization in Reverse” by “Miss Lou” (Louise Bennett Coverley), its historical context, and how literary and linguistic studies inform one another. We are developing teaching materials to accompany the episodes for use in high school language arts classes and other educational contexts. We hope this work will help build more bridges between our department and local communities. Please support the department by subscribing to our YouTube channel to make sure you stay up to date on the series, or check out the series webpage for the latest episodes.

This Spring, Professor Rae Paris led the Fourth Annual Scheingold Lecture in Poetry and Poetics, and Professor Colette Moore led the twelfth biennial Studies in the History of the English Language conference, which brought together language scholars from all over the world.  I am grateful to Lee Scheingold, the Simpson Center for the Humanities, and to all of you who support the department for helping make such events possible. 

With another donor gift, we are working to create an internship program that allows English majors to connect what they are learning in the major with their professional aspirations, and with support from the Mary and Allan Kollar Endowed Scholarship in English, we are building mentoring and community for English majors who are interested in teaching careers. These efforts will build on Professor Emerita Elizabeth Simmons-O’Neill’s work in creating teacher partnerships within and beyond the department.

This past year, in addition to the generous donations to our Friends of English and other funds, I am grateful to announce two major gifts: The Lee D. Scheingold Term Faculty Support Fund in English, which provides support for faculty recruitment, retention, and professional development; and the Kathryn H. Ruemmler Endowed Fund in English, which offers broad departmental support for initiatives and programs.

As featured in the student awards and accomplishments section, we have a stunningly impressive group of students, and in nearly every case, it is donor gifts that help us recognize and support them.  In short, we cannot do this work without you.  Your generous support not only helps us feel a sense of community and affirms the value of our work; it also inspires us to create the department we aspire to be.

In bittersweet retirement news, this Spring sees the retirement of three of our beloved colleagues: Linda Bierds, Sydney Kaplan, and Mark Patterson.  Though it is our good fortune that Professors Bierds and Kaplan will continue to teach on occasion with us through the UW post retirement rehire program, we will keenly feel Professors Bierds', Kaplan's, and Patterson’s absence.  Their academic achievements and contributions to their fields are exceptional, as is their participation in shaping what the English department is today and will be in the future.  We pay tribute to our retiring colleagues in this issue of English Matters

As we wish our colleagues all the best in retirement, it is with a heavy heart that I share the news that our colleague, Professor Laurie George, passed away in May.  This was a sudden and big loss for our community.  Many of us have worked with Professor George over her nearly three decades in the department on various committees, initiatives, and via the Computer Integrated Classrooms lab. Her care for students was constant. 

It is also with sadness that I report the passing in December of Emeritus Professor David Wagoner.  Professor Wagoner was a faculty member in the department from 1954 until he retired in 2002, earning international acclaim as a poet and novelist. 

In addition to an In Memoriam for Professor Wagoner, this issue of English Matters includes recent faculty books, retirement news, alumni updates, student awards and achievements, MFA student publications, and recommended readings.

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