A Note From Our Chair / Anis Bawarshi

Submitted by Henry J Laufenberg on
Anis Bawarshi

As we near the end of another busy and productive academic year, I am deeply grateful to our department’s faculty, staff, graduate instructors, students, and all of you who support us.

I am proud of the work we continue to do together to make the department a more collaborative place.  Our new undergraduate curriculum, featuring three distribution areas (Historical Depth; Power and Difference; and Genre, Method, and Language) has already begun to shape the way we recognize relationships across areas of study in the department and the way we approach our hiring plan. Early indications are that students are responding well to the new major, with the number of pending English majors reaching a five-year high, and high enrollment demand across our undergraduate classes. This year, we recorded a series of short videos about some of the courses in the new major, which we will post to our website next year.

This past Winter, we successfully completed four faculty searches (and six hires) to support our new major and to help lay groundwork for a minor in Technical and Professional Communication, led by Professor Josephine Walwema. Our new colleagues include an Assistant Professor in American Indian and Indigenous Literary Studies, an Assistant Professor in Latinx Literature and Culture, an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Program for Writing Across Campus, and three Assistant Teaching Professors in Technical and Professional Communication.  We also had a successful promotion case and three Assistant Professor reappointments. Earlier this year, Professor David Nikki Crouse was awarded the prestigious W. Wilson and Grace M. Pollock Endowed Professorship in English for a five-year term. In the Fall issue of English Matters, we will share faculty awards and accomplishments, and introduce our six new colleagues.

In April, we hosted the sixth annual Scheingold Lecture in Poetry and Poetics, featuring Javier Zamora and Ricardo Ruiz.  Led by Professor Juliet Shields, the event drew nearly 150 people from across campus and the community.  This issue of English Matters features a story about Ricardo Ruiz, whom we are proud to call an English alum.

The latest episode of our department’s Literature, Language, Culture dialogue series features a conversation between Professors Pimone Triplett and Charles LaPorte, who discuss poetic form in Terrance Hayes' The Golden Shovel.  In 2022, our dialogue series had a total of 3,099 views. Our newly created “Public Pedagogy” website shares teaching resources to accompany our dialogue series episodes.  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 other episodes.

In the Fall, Professor Shawn Wong delivered the Katz Distinguished Lecture in the Humanities, titled "How to Write a DEI Statement in Only 50 Years."  A recording of the lecture is available on the Simpson Center YouTube channel.

Our MATESOL program (led by Professors Suhanthie Motha, Priti Sandhu, and Cristina Sánchez-Martín) this Spring began work on a curriculum redesign, which will make an already award -winning program even more successful in preparing language educators as they develop their English teaching practices in ways that promote antiracist and anticolonial language learning.

With support from Lee Scheingold, this year we launched a new Works in Progress Colloquium series featuring faculty and graduate student research.  The colloquium series, coordinated by Professor Eva Cherniavsky, included five well-attended events, with more scheduled for next year.  And with funding from Mary and Allan Kollar, this year we started a mentoring program for English majors who are interested in teaching careers. Led by Professors Candice Rai and Cristina Sánchez-Martín, the mentoring program culminated in a workshop this Spring on uncovering hidden curricula in K-12 education.

Led by Professor Anna Preus, and with support from the Humanities Division, we also launched a Humanities Data Studies Lab that has offered workshops, lab space, and offers an interdisciplinary hub for digitally-centered scholarship and data-driven projects focused on humanistic topics.

In an effort to continue applying what we learned during the pandemic, a working group led by Professor Kimberlee Gillis-Bridges developed valuable resources for teaching hybrid courses in the department, something we will pilot doing with a few courses next year.

Once again, this Spring quarter department collaboration grants brought faculty together to stage conversations about our hiring plan proposals—to situate upcoming searches within their broader fields and within the intellectual questions, assumptions, and debates that animate them. These conversations create opportunity to learn from and about each other’s fields and to identify shared stakes.  

In addition to the generous donations to our Friends of English and other funds, I am grateful to announce two major gifts: The Stephanie Dassel Barden Endowed Scholarship in Creative Writing, which provides scholarship support for undergraduate students with interest in creative writing, especially children’s literature; and a bequest gift from Emeritus Professor Gail Stygall that would fund the Gail Stygall Endowed Faculty Fellowship in Writing and Rhetoric for the benefit of faculty in English language and composition studies. This generous gift ensures that we continue to support the study and teaching of language and rhetoric that Professor Stygall played such a crucial role in building.

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.  Your generous support helps us feel a sense of community and affirms the value of our work.  Thank you!

In bittersweet news, Professor Robert Abrams is retiring at the end of Spring quarter. While Professor Abrams will continue to teach part time with us next year through the 40% retirement rehire program, this is a big loss for us.  As many of you know, Professor Abrams is a scholar of American literature and culture.  He began as Assistant Professor at UW in 1973, where he has spent his entire 50 year career. His research interests include cultural constructions of landscape in the antebellum US, nineteenth-century American visual culture, the American Renaissance, American post-Romanticism, psychoanalysis, Gothicism, cartography and architecture. Over the years of working closely with Bob, I have come to count on and appreciate his wisdom, equanimity especially in matters complicated and politically charged, ability to listen and learn and change his mind, humor and good will, and generosity. His contributions to scholarship, teaching, and service have contributed so much to our intellectual community, especially to the generations of students, undergraduate and graduate, who learned from him.

As we wish Professor Abrams all the best in retirement, it is with a heavy heart that I share the news that four of our emeritus faculty passed away this year. Professors Hazard Adams, Carolyn Allen, Charles Frey, and Eugene Smith were beloved colleagues who contributed enormously to the department, UW, and profession for decades.  We honor their memories with gratitude.

In addition to remembering professors Adams, Allen, Frey, and Smith, this issue of English Matters includes alumni updates, student awards and achievements, two alumni profiles, and recommended readings.