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Volume 19, Issue 2, Oct 03, 2013


From (Under) The Chair’s Desk

Week 6 means that we are more than a third of the way through the semester, which feels like a work well and truly in progress from where I’m sitting.  Already launched are the faculty colloquium series (thanks, Kevin, for the edifying start and here’s looking forward to Loren’s expanding our minds next Tuesday), the first in the book celebration series (bravo, Brooks and Blaine), and the beginning of the brown bag pedagogical lunch series (thanks to Doris for guiding our thoughts on writing, and don’t forget to sign up for next Monday’s discussion of promoting our curriculum).  And more excitement looms. 

Job searches are definitely a form of work in progress.  Our search for a staff receptionist is progressing apace.  Many thanks to Barb Pooley and Cherie Rieskamp, who are spear-heading the search committee also including Justin Denman, Doris Witt and myself.  With the search now closed, we have some 71 applicants and I am confident we will be bringing an outstanding new member to the staff team.  Meanwhile, thanks to all the staff and to our undergraduate office workers for keeping the office humming as smoothly as it is even in such tightened circumstances.

We are now in a position to also launch the search for a colleague in Nonfiction Writing with the secondary skill to contribute to the undergraduate creative writing track.  Harry Stecopoulos, Bonnie Sunstein, and Miriam Thaggert have all kindly agreed to serve on a committee chaired by John D’Agata.  The committee will be rounded out by two graduate student representatives from NWP and supported by the administrative efforts of Elizabeth Curl.  My warmest thanks to all.  Given the lateness of the authorization and the nature of the field, we are planning on using new technology (i.e. Skype) for the short-listing interviews rather than the traditional grueling MLA marathon.  We would hope to have a selection of exciting presentations and visits for the full department to participate in early in the spring semester.  

The search plays up our strengths in writing, of course.  In authorizing it, Dean Djalali stressed that the College was guided more by the intellectual vitality of the request and by the strategic integration of writing within the department than by the numbers.  As chance would have it, this was also the week in which the NWP saw itself validated with an appealing number: Poets & Writers magazine ranked it #1 in terms of the most desirable nonfiction program for graduate applicants for a fifth year in a row. 

For understanding writing in the broader university context, Doris Witt and I had earlier met with Danny Khalastchi, assistant director of the Frank N. Magid Undergraduate Writing Center.  This is the group that runs the university’s undergraduate Certificate in Writing (see their website for more details).   One of the English Department’s courses serves as an option for their core requirements and many serve as optional courses, although we all agreed that further use of the offerings in English might be healthy for these budding writers.  In addition to the Certificate, the Magid Center also oversees the Iowa Writers Living-Learning Community (set up sans apostrophe and avec hyphen), a residence hall option for first-year students who identify themselves as interested in writing, populated this year with 140 students.  That sure sounds like a community that is ripe for discovering the joys of the English major! 

Shaping that major and all of our teaching for 2014-15 is the work of the next few weeks organized by the curriculum committee led this year by Barbara Eckstein and supported by Justin Denman.  The full committee just met with the executive committee to review the manifold constraints and desiderata affecting our teaching and to ponder how best to maintain a vital and valuable curriculum that makes most effective use of the galaxy of imaginative and hard-working faculty that we have on offer.  As areas and individuals continue their discussions about shaping next year’s curriculum, supported by the data and forums available on the shared drive, don’t forget to return your pink curriculum form to Justin by October 8. 

The graduate program constitutes one pinnacle of our curriculum construction, related, of course, to all the other elements of our curriculum along with the size and interests of our incoming graduate classes.  “The Future of Graduate Education” is a topic on the agenda for next week’s DEO meeting and is something about which we need to be constantly mindful.  Loren Glass will take the lead in a full faculty discussion of such issues at our meeting on October 17. 

Meanwhile, October is promising to be a month rich in intellectual stimulation, including two high profile visits supported as Ida Beam lecturers, namely those of Wai Chee Dimock and Joy Harjo, not to mention a myriad of exciting readings and lectures and other events listed on the departmental calendar of events.  And then, there is the continuing work of effective teaching and outstanding scholarship that takes most of our energy most of the time.  Welcome to the middle bit of the semester!


Faculty Matters

James McKean, who is teaching an Essay Writing Workshop for us this semester as a visiting professor, is being inducted in the Washington State University athletic hall of fame.  See the fascinating write up of his sporting career here.


Honors Matters: ATI

Anne Stapleton reports: Miriam Thaggert and I are almost through with our chapter recruitment for ATI this fall, and I thought you would be pleased to learn that 11 more students have completed applications and qualified to join Sigma Tau Delta.  Last year we had 24 students enrolled by the end of spring (seven of whom graduated), so our total of active students should be 27 by the end of the month--a healthy-sized group of students for a new chapter, I think! 


Obermann Symposium Matters

Teresa Mangum from the Obermann Center writes to remind colleagues that we welcome proposals to direct the 2015-16 Humanities Symposium. The due date is October 8, and the CFP is online here.

The last two symposia--"Comics, Creativity, and Culture" and "The Latino Midwest"--were significant events that helped our faculty create intellectual networks across the country. In both cases, two or three faculty members from different departments applied together. The symposia that resulted were valuable for a large, interdisciplinary group of faculty and students.

Several things make this a unique opportunity. The Obermann Center provides funds but also active staff support, along with budget and organizational assistance. We can also help organizers prepare applications and budgets for AHI and Ida Beam awards to heighten the impact of the event. We make this award two years in advance to allow thoughtful planning, and we have additional funding if the faculty members would like to teach a short graduate course to prepare students to participate fully in the conference.

Jennifer New, our Assistant Director, and I are happy to answer questions as people prepare proposals.


Flu (Prevention) Matters

The University Employee Health Clinic (UEHC) and UI Wellness will again offer free seasonal flu vaccinations to UI regular full-time and part-time (50% or greater) faculty and staff.  ALL UI Health Care employees, regardless of percent time worked, should obtain a free flu vaccine.  A University photo identification card must be presented at the time of service in order to qualify for this free service.  Any non-UI Health Care employee working less than 50% time has the option of receiving the vaccine for a fee of $18.00 (payable by check only to UEHC).  To assure prompt service, please encourage all of your eligible faculty and staff to participate in this service during the dates and times listed.

A list of dates and locations to obtain the flu vaccination are posted on the UEHC web site.

For those faculty and staff who are unable to attend a scheduled flu vaccination clinic or the Health Fair on November 6, free flu vaccines for eligible faculty and staff will be available through December 31, 2013 without an appointment at the University Employee Health Clinic.

If you have additional questions, please contact Joni Troester.

Please note: All flu vaccines administered through UEHC are latex and preservative free this year at all clinic sites.  Employees who are eligible and wish to receive the FluMist will be able to do so at the University Employee Health Clinic beginning October 9th after 7:30 am.


Upcoming Matters

Brown Bag Pedagogical Lunch for Faculty: Promoting Our Curriculum in a Big University. October 7, 2013 at 12:00pm. Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB.

Faculty Colloquium with Loren Glass titled "Lit: A Secret History of Cannabis and Modernity." October 8, 2013 at 3:30pm. Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB
Carl Klaus reading. October 9, 2013 at 7:00pm. Prairie Lights.

English @ Work: Applying to MFA programs. October 10, 2013 at 3:30pm. Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB.

“Writing in the City of Literature” Iowa City Book Festival. October 11, 2013 at 7:00pm. The Englert Theatre.

Christopher Merrill reading. October 14, 2013 at 7:00pm. Prairie Lights.

Faculty Meeting. October 17, 2013 at 3:30pm. Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB.

Faculty Meeting. October 31, 2013 at 3:30pm. Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB.

Brown Bag Pedagogical Lunch for Faculty: Teaching Our Classes in a Digital University. November 6, 2013 at 12:00pm. Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB.
Faculty Meeting. November 7, 2013 at 3:30pm. Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB.

Faculty Colloquium with Eric Gidal titled "Ossianic Unconformities: Bardic Poetry in the Industrial Age." November 12, 2013 at 3:30pm. Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB.

DCG Meeting (full professors only). November 21, 2013 at 3:30pm. Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB.

Faculty Colloquium with Ed Folsom titled "'That towering bulge of pure white': Whitman, Melville, the Capitol Dome, and Black America." December 3, 2013 at 3:30pm. Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB.

DCG Meeting (full professors only). December 5, 2013 at 3:30pm. Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB.