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Volume 20, Issue 7, Apr 23, 2015

From (Under) The Chair’s Desk

What a delight to see so many English Department achievements recognized at Monday’s CLAS Faculty Honors Celebration! Proceedings commenced with an academic processional in honor of Claire Sponsler’s appointment as M. F. Carpenter Professor (alongside Jodie Plumert’s installation as Starch Faculty Fellow in the Department of Psychology). Blaine Greteman’s achievements were lauded on the occasion of his selection as Dean’s Scholar, and Naomi Greyser was honored for her selection as a winner of the Collegiate Teaching Award. Other English Department achievements saw recognition in the program, including, under Publication Awards, Loren Glass’s Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, Dave Wittenberg’s Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies Book Prize, and, under Research Awards, Blaine Greteman’s Stanford Humanities Fellowship and Miriam Thaggert’s Newberry Library Research Fellowship. Bravo to all!

And my apologies for the recent gap in Reading Matters publications! The pleasures of overseeing so many achievements in teaching and research have left me a little behind. As the end of term approaches (just two and a half more teaching weeks?!), expect a flow of Reading Matters as we center on graduate achievements ahead of the Celebration of Graduate Achievements coming up in the Clinton Street Social Club on Thursday, April 30, 5-7 p.m., and of undergraduate achievements around the Undergraduate Recognition Ceremony coming up on Friday, May 8, 3:30-5 p.m., in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber.

Even though significant time has passed since the last Reading Matters, many of the fundamental issues I like to keep an eye on appear strikingly similar to the way they were. The budget situation for the university for next year continues to look as clear as mud. You will likely have seen the hints in the press that many legislators seem less than enamored of the new funding formula, the one where the UI loses $13 million next year, but very little talk about what budget we might be expecting instead. But even if the talk from Des Moines about respecting higher education in the state sounds a little pro forma, it starts to sound like music to the ears compared with the truly alarming cuts to higher education getting bruited in some states like Wisconsin, Louisiana, and Illinois. The only budget news that seems clear is that we won’t know the state’s budget until exceptionally late in the planning year, with some talk that serious decisions may get put off until June, even though the fiscal year begins in July.  

One other thing that looks clear, though, is that President Mason’s decision to boost undergraduate enrollment numbers is coming to fruition. Brent Gage, the new Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management, assured an audience of DEOs that the university is on target to enroll 500 new undergraduates beyond the record-breaking class of last year without dropping standards. From this desk, it certainly looks like a significant number of them will be coming to study English. Many thanks to the recruitment committee, to the student ambassadors (Christina Crowley, Manuch Khoshnood, Nate Kooker, and Catherine Shook), and above all to Kate Torno for taking such an energetic lead in our new initiatives to reach out to prospective undergraduates.

Our proposed new major in English and Creative Writing has not yet appeared on the agenda for a meeting of the Board of Regents. There is some speculation that it may get considered at the June meeting, but hard to be sure of this. Presumably, the Board may be busy with priorities such as securing a budget and selecting a new president for the university. On the latter, congratulations to Lena Hill on her selection as part of the presidential search committee! It is nice to see such impressive faculty involvement in the search process.

Meanwhile, classes are filling nicely for the summer and fall. Thanks to Hannah Rounds for stepping into Justin Denman's position and keeping the flow of information into MAUI and ISIS so seamlessly on track, even as we make the occasional emergency adjustments of courses or room assignments to react to the enrollment flows. Thanks to our excellent undergraduate student employees - Brianna Adamson, Caroline Allen, Annalyse Madsen, and Heidi Stofer - for taking on extra hours at the front desk during this transition. Thanks, too, to John Compton for his work in getting all the TAs into place to teach so many courses, and to both John and Cherie Rieskamp for their care of the graduate programs. As the next issue of Reading Matters will report, we appear to have a record-breaking crop of graduating Ph.D. students, with as many as 18 completing this spring and summer, which suggests that learning is moving forward apace. And then there is that buzz of teaching and of research that is generating so much warmth around EPB that the leaves are beginning to unfurl… Happy Shakespeare’s birthday!


Faculty Matters

Thanks to Florence Boos for her work toward this year's Midwest Victorian Studies Association Conference to be held on campus May 1-3, 2015. Congratulations to Florence for the funding received from the CLAS Bond Fund in their support of MVSA.

Lori Branch was selected for this year’s Geneva Lecture Series, presenting on “The Religious Turn: Postsecular Approaches for Literature and the Humanities.”

Jennifer Buckley was selected as co-leader of one of the 2015-16 Obermann Center for Advanced Studies Working Groups on “Performance Studies.”

Barbara Eckstein took a lead in organizing the three-day interdiscisplinary Obermann symposium on the Anthropocene. For further details, click here.

Congratulations to Loren Glass, who received a special award from the OVPRED in support of the Annual Meeting of the Post45 Collective in November, and has also garnered Graduate College assistance to help fund an associated graduate student position. Loren was also selected as a participant in the June 10-19 Mellon-funded Digital Bridges Summer Institute on digital pedagogy.

Speaking of Shakespeare’s birthday, congratulations to Adam Hooks, who celebrated the occasion by by hosting a "livestream" with Colleen Theisen. As Adam explained, “Anyone with an internet connection can ask a question, or simply watch along as we tell stories about some of the Shakespeare items in our fabulous collection.” More information can be found here and you can watch along here.

On Wednesday, February 18, 2015, at 12 noon in 214 Blank Honors Center, "Experienced TILE instructor, Mark Isham, presented his experiences on student writing in a TILE classroom. Participants of this hands-on session explored the technology that supports interaction in both electronic and non-electronic tasks. They were given the opportunity to experience the student's perspective as well as see the challenges of teaching. Mr. Isham has taught numerous English courses in a TILE classroom including topics such as writing for business and industry and using cartooning to improve writing."

Mark Isham also created graphic notes for the University of Iowa’s 4CAST '15 The University of Iowa's Annual Campus Academic Strategies and Technology Conference on January 16, 2015. The cartoons can still be viewed on the University of Iowa 4’CAST '15 website. He has created cartoons that record the events of the conference for the past three years.

On March 18, 2015, there was a dramatic reading of an essay by Kevin Kopelson, "Those Beautiful Shoes of Catherine Deneuve," at the Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus in Athens, Greece. See here.

Kevin Kopelson has a new piece in the London Review of Books, in which this Department just happens to get mentioned, and can be read here.

Bravo to Judith Pascoe, who is the mastermind behind and coordinator of the first ever CLAS Master Class. See the fall listing CLAS:1001 on ISIS for details. Judith was also selected as a participant in the June 10-19 Mellon-funded Digital Bridges Summer Institute on digital pedagogy.

Congratulations to Phil Round on his successful AHI application to support his summer research project, “Cultural Shorthand: Early Native Writing and the Practice of Sovereignty,” an exploration of the collaborative writing practices that made possible the production of Native American vernacular texts during the nineteenth century, focusing especially on the orthographies they employed.


Graduate Matters

Next week’s Reading Matters will have fuller news of graduate achievements, but a couple of items of particular interest are worth including here. In recent news, congratulations to Ben Miele as the winner of the Graduate College’s first ever 3-Minute Thesis Competition. Ben was tied for first place AND won the people's choice award.

In addition, bravo to all those many English graduate students who participated in and helped with this year’s wildly successful Craft Critique Culture conference: Changes and Exchanges, which took place April 10 and 11. Special thanks and appreciation to the two tireless co-organizers, Angela Toscano and Annemarie Pearson, for crafting such an energetic and engaged sequence of scholarly exchanges!  


Upcoming Matters

Faculty Meeting: Foundations of the English Major. Apr 16 at 3:30pm. Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB.

English @ Work: Careers in Marketing and Research Apr 22 at 1:30pm. Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB.

Pastries and Pedagogy. Our interdisciplinary students: A faculty discussion with colleagues from one of the departments with which we share many students and texts, Theatre Arts. Apr 29 at 9:00am. Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB.

Faculty Meeting: Outcomes assessment. Apr 30 at 3:30pm. Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB.

Faculty Colloquium with Matt Brown. May 5 at 3:30pm. Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB.

Undergraduate Honors Celebrations. May 8 at 3:30pm. Senate Chamber, Old Capitol Museum.