From (Under) The Chair’s Desk
Welcome to the undergraduate issue of Reading Matters, reporting on some of the exciting initiatives and successes of the last academic year. This issue gives some sense of the energy and engagement of the 794 declared English majors, just in time for the English Department Undergraduate Honors and Achievements Ceremony, coming up today, Friday, April 29 at 3:30 p.m. in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol. Warm thanks to the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Lena Hill, for her leadership and oversight of our undergraduate mission, to Marie Kruger as Director of the Honors Program, to Phil Round and his recruitment committee for showing our hospitable face, and especially to Kate Torno for her fantastic work as our undergraduate advisor.
A newly published novel. An invitation to present research in England. A publishing internship. Acceptance letters to top MFA and English graduate programs. The Callen Prize for an outstanding senior in CLAS. A doubling in the number of English honors theses. Our 2015-16 English majors achieved success and collected honors at a dizzying pace. Their accomplishments spotlight the exceptional scholarship, excellent creative work, and extraordinary academic industry that characterize our graduating seniors. As their accolades accumulate, our seniors anticipate the ways the knowledge and skills they take from the English major will shape their lives. Our annual outcome evaluation found that 100% of the seniors surveyed felt “exceptionally prepared” to carry out research as life-long learners. They view the conclusion of their undergraduate studies as the beginning of a life of critical thinking, reading, and writing rather than the end of such work. To ensure our majors grasp this truth early, we embarked on several exciting paths this year. Indeed, a closer look at the triumphs of our current seniors—together with a glimpse of the road ahead—explains why I conclude my first year as the Director of Undergraduate Studies with excitement and expectancy. I hope what follows inspires similar feelings in you.
We are rounding out our first year as an academic partner of a Literature Living Learning Community that will officially become the Living Literature LLC next year. Our work with first year students who declare an interest in literature allows us to introduce freshmen to the pulsing pleasure of majoring in English at the University of Iowa. One new initiative introduced last year and continuing next year is a course in common called “City of Literature,” taught by Loren Glass, introducing students in the LLC to Iowa City as a special place for understanding literature (and, we hope, to a desire to pursue such studies in the English Department). As we look ahead, the reality of the English major is getting better by the day. We revised our curriculum with newly re-imagined “Reading and Writing About a Genre” courses that will be offered in the fall; we continue to look forward to launching our new English and Creative Writing major; and we commenced the work of shaping new certificate opportunities. Our progressive approach to our curriculum proves what so many of our alumni praise when they visit with students in English@Work: A UI English major prepares you for any number of careers and for the work of being a fulfilled, contributing citizen. These alumni visitors zoomed-in from across the country and joined us in person traveling from as far away as Mexico. Kate Torno’s tireless work makes these visits possible and our students could not be more thankful for her efforts.
Recruitment and Advising Matters
Academic Advising has taken on new directions over the past year and Kate Torno, undergraduate advisor, reports that in her second year in the department her time has been divided pretty evenly between marketing the department to prospective students, advising current students, and thinking about career directions for graduating seniors.
The Undergraduate Recruitment Committee headed by Phil Round has served enthusiastically meeting with approximately 5-10 individual prospective students who visit in a typical week as well as hosting larger group events. Linda Bolton and Kate Torno co-hosted an Admissions webinar about the English department along with student ambassador, Christina Crowley. Anna Tonsfeldt, junior ambassador, will return next year as will Steve Raines, who will graduate in December. We wish the best of luck to graduating ambassadors Christina Crowley who begins graduate school in Education and Nathalie Halcrow as she fulfills her Fulbright assignment on the Ivory Coast next year.
In one sign of the times, current students are determined to fit in multiple majors and minors during their time at Iowa with the goal of being prepared for a changing job market. As a result, Kate has developed multiple planning charts and works actively with the students to look for creative ways to combine majors, certificates, and brainstorm internships to meet their career preparation needs. She is currently advising 662 sophomores through seniors, of whom 35 are in the Teacher Education Program,135 are in the Creative Writing Track, and 525 have at least one other major or minor.
The English at Work course has solidified itself as the main conduit through which our current students talk to alum. Lena Hill taught the course this year and Kate supported her efforts by handpicking alum to join the class via zoom meeting. The resulting discussions are posted on our departmental YouTube channel, which can be found by clicking here.
The conversations between alum and students are unscripted, frank, and serve to both inspire our current students and give them networking opportunities. Lena has continued developing the course and included many more experiential exercises for students to practice their interviewing and mingling skills.
Honors Program Matters
Marie Kruger writes: With 25 students writing honors theses this spring (plus four graduates in the fall semester), the English Department’s Honors Program continues to thrive. An amazing range of creative, critical and multimedia projects were completed this year—they include creative work in various genres, critical writing on texts and authors as diverse as Beowulf, Agatha Christie, or Indra Sinha, as well as a web project devoted to the Shakespeare Club in Marion, Iowa, and an interdisciplinary examination of Latino Immigrant Gardeners in our state.
Many thanks to those colleagues who mentored the honors students and guided their projects for the past year: Harry Stecopoulos, Winter Goebel, Jon Wilcox, Matt Brown, Lori Branch, Adam Hooks, Barbara Eckstein, Lena Hill, Claire Fox, Inara Verzemnieks, Jamel Brinkley, Michael Hill, Maryann Rasmussen, Ellen Lewin, Doris Witt, Helen Rubinstein, Brooks Landon, Robyn Schiff, Kevin Kopelson, Margaret Reges, Jeff Porter, Judith Pascoe, Jake Andrews, and Dave Wittenberg.
Thanks also to those faculty who provided invaluable feedback as second readers: Bluford Adams, Stephen Voyce, Corey Creekmur, Claire Sponsler, Kathy Lavezzo, Harry Stecopoulos, Patricia Forster, Kevin Kopelson, Lori Branch, Dave Wittenberg, Barbara Eckstein, Brooks Landon, Jen Buckley, Phil Round, Naomi Greyser, Jamel Brinkley, Samantha Collier, Horace Porter, Linda Bolton, Mark Levine, Eric Gidal, Kerry Howley, Alvin Snider, and Doris Witt.
Honors in English - Spring 2016 Students and Thesis Advisors:
Andrea Bastien, “’Maybe Nothing Ever Happens Once and is Finished’: The Telling and Retelling of Quentin Compson in Absalom, Absalom! and The Sound and the Fury.”
Megan Bowman, “Model Systems.”
Carolyn Brugman, “The Problematic Epic of Finland: An Exploration of Tricky Heroes, Silent Women, and Absent Fathers in the Kalevala.”
Arianna Chronis, “’The Tonic Value of a Puzzle’: Agatha Christie's Contributions to the Golden Age of Detective Fiction Through And Then There Were None.”
Dennis Clark, “The Rise.”
Christina Crowley, “’Grapple Them to Thy Soul’: The Shakespeare Club of Marion, Iowa.”
Jennifer Gosch, “Ashley’s War and the CST, A Call For Recognition For Women in Combat.”
Nathan Gudvangen, “Anglo-Saxon Cliffhangers: A Contextual Approach to the Fitt Divisions of Beowulf.”
Nathalie Halcrow, “Untamed Identities: Primitivism and Introspection in Black Male Protagonists.”
Victoria Johnson, “Using Indra Sinha's Animal's People to Explore Colonialism's Contemporary Remains.”
Tiffany Judarta, “Ghost Hunt.”
Caitlin Keen, “Here After.”
Ashley Lee, “Inheritors of Dominant Visibility: Queer Sexual Black Men and the Reconfigurement of African American Canonical Fiction.”
Mary Cait Milliff, “Stories About Girlhood.”
Nathan Otjen, “Latino Immigrant Gardeners in Iowa: Local Knowledge and the Cultivation of a Twenty-First Century Environmental Consciousness.”
Kaycee Pancake, “The Storyteller's Apprentice.”
Cindy ChaeWon Park, “Eureka.”
Rachel Romero, “Out and In: Breaking Cycles of Poverty and Violence.”
Michael Sacco, “A Creative Exploration in the Genre That Eats You: Zombies.”
Max Seifert, “The Abstract Archives.”
Emily Szymanski, “’Noble Enough’: Introducing a New Perspective on Morality in A Series of Unfortunate Events.”
Brian Vlasek, “A Book of Commonplace.”
Elizabeth Wilson, “The Poison Tree.”
Joshua Wright, “Have You Thought of a Story? Romantic Self-mythology and the Villa Diodati Ghost Stories.”
Wenxiu Zou, “Drum of Heart.”
Fall 2015 Graduates:
Emily Hope Erler, “The Spanish Queen in England: Early Modern Theatrical Representations of Katherine of Aragon.”
Amanda Lund, “Everything Counts.”
Joseph Petit, “Cornucopia.”
Anna Walker, “You are suffering from empathy.”
Honors Society Matters
The University of Iowa Alpha Tau Iota Chapter of Sigma Tau Delta co-sponsors Linda Bolton and Anne Stapleton write: The Alpha Tau Iota (ATI) Chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, International English Honor Society, continues to be active on and off campus, this year guided by President Miranda Pederson, Vice President Elli Ruen, Secretary Meg King, Treasurer Koll Johnson, Publicity Officer Alex Walgren, Membership Officer Nathan Woodard, and Historian Hannah Leonard. Please congratulate these students for a job well done, and welcome new officers for 2016-2017: President Sara Miner, Vice President Ryan Schroeder, Publicity Officer Claire Dietz, Membership Officer Nathan Woolard, and Alumni Liaison Elli Ruen.
Chapter functions have included a lively literary-quiz night of STUMPED at the Vine, fall and spring inductions welcoming fifteen new members, and a variety of social events. In March, the University of Iowa was well represented by ATI member Benjamin Jones, who presented his paper “Ascension,” at the Sigma Tau Delta International Convention in Minneapolis. Thus, the 2015-2016 academic year has proven quite productive for our local chapter, and students and sponsors are very grateful for crucial support provided by the Department of English!
Scholarship and Award Matters
And finally, a taste of Friday’s festivities. Lori Branch took charge of our online scholarship process this year. Congratulations to the following winners, who we will celebrate, along with all of our graduating seniors and their faculty mentors, today from 3.30-5.00!
The Louise P. Herring Scholarship: Established in honor of Louise P. Herring, who earned her master’s degree from the University of Iowa in 1930 and her doctorate in 1932. It recognizes excellent students with a commitment to English studies as a preparation for life.
Helen K. Fairall Scholarships: For Iowa born and educated juniors or seniors with preference to students interested in literature from 1900 to the present.
Ruth Gulden Holsteen and Charles Sophus Holsteen Memorial Scholarship: Established by Jon Holsteen and Nancy Holsteen Lerner in honor of their parents, Charles Sophus and Ruth Gulden Holsteen, natives of Burlington, Iowa. Mrs. Holsteen graduated with a degree in English and this award honors students who share her commitment to excellence in the field.
The Golden Pledge Scholarship: This scholarship is given to an undergraduate from Iowa who has demonstrated commitment to and excellence in English.
Helen Aicher and Kenneth Ward Nelson Scholarship: This award is for individuals who intend to teach at the high school level following completion of their studies.
Margaret Leuz and Fred Einspahr Scholarship: Established by John Einspahr in honor of his parents Margaret Leuz and Fred Einspahr. Margaret graduated from Iowa in 1912 with high honors in English, and this award recognizes excellent students who plan to pursue a career in teaching.
The Scott A. Anderson Memorial Scholarship: Scott Anderson received his B.A. in English with highest distinction from the University of Iowa in 1984. He was an honors student, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, a winner of the Hancher-Finkbine Medallion, and, after graduation, he worked as a writer for the UI Foundation and in the television industry in New York and Los Angeles. This scholarship honors students who share his love of writing.
Sherry Simmons Loring Memorial Scholarship: Established by Eric Loring, in honor of his late wife, Sherry Simmons Loring, who earned her BA in English at Iowa in 1970. The award recognizes students who, like the Lorings, have demonstrated their commitment to and pleasure in the life of the mind at the University of Iowa.
Emily Wagner Scholarship: This award honors Emily Wagner, who received her B.A. in English from the University of Iowa in 2002. After graduating, Emily pursued her love of reading and writing by joining the Teach for America Corps, and continued her career as an inspiring English teacher, challenging and engaging middle-school students until her death in 2010. This scholarship supports an English major who shares Emily’s love of literature, demonstrates academic excellence, and is a graduate of an Iowa high school.
Darwin T. Turner Award: Established in honor of Dr. Darwin T. Turner, chair of the African-American World Studies Program and Professor in the Department of English. The award recognizes outstanding students of color who best combine Dr. Turner’s devotion to literature and scholarship with his exemplary qualities as teacher and leader.
Miriam Gilbert Award for Shakespeare Studies: This award is given each year for the best essay on Shakespeare, renaissance literature, or drama and performance, in honor of Professor Gilbert, who taught Shakespeare at Iowa until 2013.
McGalliard Medieval Prize: This award is given to an English or comparative literature major who submits the most outstanding essay on a medieval subject.
The Lorraine Bolton Prize for Ethic Integrity in Literary and Artistic Accomplishment: Supported by the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, the L. Bolton Prize celebrates undergraduate literary achievements in poetry, essay, and critical prose that illuminate the importance of ethics in academic discourse and scholarship.
The following English faculty and graduate students have been recognized by the Graduating Class of 2016, President Harreld, Provost Butler, and Vice President Tom Rocklin as making a positive difference in University of Iowa student lives: Heidi Renee Aijala, Linda Bolton, Dan Boscaljon, Lori Branch, Matthew Brown, Jen Buckley, Samantha Collier, John D'Agata, Brett DeFries, Kathleen Diffley, Jomil Ebro, Barbara Eckstein, Patricia Foster, Claire Fox, Eric Gidal, Loren Glass, Gemma Goodale-Sussen, Blaine Greteman, Cheryl Herr, Lena Hill, Michael Hill, Jason Hinojosa, Adam Hooks, Mark Isham, Marie Kruger, Brooks Landon, Jennifer Loman, Judith Pascoe, Horace Porter, Jeff Porter, Laura Rigal, Rebecca Roma Stoll, Phillip Round, Robyn Schiff, Tom Simmons, Benjamin Staniforth, Anne Stapleton, Garrett Stewart, Stephen Sturgeon, Bonnie Sunstein, Kate Torno, Inara Verzemnieks, Chris Vinsonhaler, Stephen Voyce, Jonathan Wilcox, and Andrew Williams. Recognition was published in The Daily Iowan on April 25, 2016
Click here to visit the News and Events on the English Department website for more details.
Celebration of Undergraduate Achievement, Friday, Apr. 29, 3:30-5:00 pm, Old Capitol Senate Chamber:
Celebration of Mary Lou Emery on the occasion of her retirement, Friday, May 6, 12:00-2:00 pm, Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB
Writer's Gone Public: A Reading of Undergrad Writing, Monday, May 9th, 6:30 pm, Prairie Lights
"Cistercians, Chronologies, and Communities: The Legacies of Constance Hoffman Berman," May 20-21, 2016, Old Capitol Senate Chambers