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Volume 23, Issue 2

From Planet English: The Statistics and Bathroom Remodeling Issue

I wish the faculty, students, staff and friends of English a happy and restful Thanksgiving break. Before you head out of EPB this week, I have data to make one’s head spin! Herewith some recent figures about our undergraduate and graduate programs:

Undergraduate programs

The University of Iowa Registrar’s Fall 2017 Profile of Students Enrolled (available here) confirms that the number of our undergraduate majors currently stands at approximately 853. After a gradual downward trend over the past four years, (low 787 in 2016; high 880 in 2013), the major population is vigorously rebounding. 

The numbers highlight the growth of the English and Creative Writing major, launched two years ago, as well as the dramatic shift that is occurring between our two major populations, which makes curriculum planning somewhat challenging right now. Compare last year’s number of majors to this year’s:

Fall 2017 English: 327

(48 underrepresented minorities + 3 international students)

Fall 2017 English and Creative Writing: 526

(105 underrepresented minorities + 10 international students)


Fall 2016 English: 681

Fall 2016 English and Creative Writing: 106

This fall 27 first-year students declared English to be their Primary Program of Study, while 132 declared English and Creative Writing, suggesting that the shift toward English and Creative Writing will continue well into the future. Though some of these students will certainly change majors en route to graduation, English and Creative Writing is now the ninth most popular area of study for incoming students at UI, and the only Humanities area to make the top 10 programs of study among first-year UI students.

It is vexing that the Profile presents data on minorities among first majors, but not second majors, and by dint of fortune, the English Department has 125 second majors. So, the numbers about minority undergrads in our programs that you see above are incomplete; nonetheless, extrapolating from these numbers, we can conclude that over 18% of our undergraduate majors are from minority groups.

An unfortunate consequence of housing two majors in English is that our majors appear separately on University rankings lists, even as the Department as a whole attracts an increasing number of students (at least on alphabetical lists, the two majors appear next to one another). The combined major numbers are sometimes useful, grosso modo, to represent our departmental culture in which majors share courses in common, and professors teach across the English and Creative Writing areas.

Finally, English awarded 137 BA degrees in 2016-2017, and English and Creative Writing awarded 14 BA degrees in 2016-2017. As of Fall 2017, 23 students were pursuing their licensure in English Education.

Graduate programs

English (including the Nonfiction Writing MFA, the Writers’ Workshop MFA, and the MA/PhD in English Literary Studies) is the sixth most subscribed graduate program of study at UI, with 190 students currently enrolled, including 47 minorities, and 10 international students. There are 68 students in the PhD program, 2 in the MA, and 120 in the MFA (this last figure includes the Writers’ Workshop; the Nonfiction Writing Program, housed in English, currently has 30 students). In 2016-17, the University conferred 19 MA degrees in English (including en passant), 51 MFA degrees, and 4 PhD degrees.

Game of Thrones, the EPB Version

Our own Department of English archivist, John Harper, contributes the following about the chair’s bathroom, soon to become an accessible public bathroom in the 27th anniversary year of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Like other microhistories, this one “asks large questions about small places,” to paraphrase Charles Joyner. I offer it to you as a dialectical image at this moment in our institutional history. And watch this space for a pop-up museum prior to demolition.

EPB 306A

"Those of you who have never served as chair of the English Department may be unaware that the chair’s office has come equipped with a private bathroom since EPB was completed in 1966. Now that last exalted vestige of administrative privilege is about to disappear, and be replaced with a public restroom for persons with disabilities.

During the two years of planning and construction of EPB, John Gerber often waged war with the architects. He got the building turned around 180 degrees on the lot, and won central air conditioning, but only at the price of lopping off most of the 5th floor. The one item that wasn’t negotiable was the layout of the department office complex. In order to save money, architects used many of the floor plans from the just-completed Phillips Hall, new home of the College of Business. The English office complex would be precisely the same as the dean’s office complex on the first floor of Phillips Hall. And if Dean Barnes had a private bathroom, then by God, John Gerber was going to have one, too.

From Gerber’s notes for his memoir: 'I asked the architect why a private toilet was attached to my office, since I had not asked for such a nicety. In reply, he explained that it was there in anticipation of the day when a dean would occupy the office.' Clearly Gerber was embarrassed by the presence of the bathroom. Virtually all of his successors have felt the same way. 

After the remodeling is completed, the only thing a chair might miss is the opportunity to duck out of the private entrance to the hallway and escape, while an angry colleague, student, or parent waits impatiently in the outer office."

- John Harper, October 5, 2017

Alumni Matters

Alum Nate Otjen, now a doctoral student in English and Environmental Studies at the University of Oregon, recently published "Creating a Barrio in Iowa City, 1916-1936: Mexican Section Laborers and the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Company" in Annals of Iowa, Fall 2017.

Graduate Matters

Ringling College of Art will host an exhibition of Margaret Sheppard's book arts work, and she will be an artist in residence at Ringling over Spring Break. During her residency, she will give a lecture and host a series of papermaking workshops and public interventions for the Ringling campus community.

Mariah Spencer was accepted to the Folger Shakespeare Institute in Washington, DC for a weeklong skills course titled "Introduction to English Paleography."

Faculty Matters

In September, Barbara Eckstein attended a workshop of authors at the University of Oregon College of Design for a forthcoming Routledge collection on Urban Imaginaries. In November, she will assist Loras College in implementing ecoliteracy across their curriculum, an effort funded by the NEH. She will present a lecture, "The Anhinga and the Anthropocene," and meet individually with students and instructors.

Adam Hooks published an article in the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies titled "Marking and Remaking a Bishops' Bible in Seventeenth-century England." It is a case study of a bible in the UI Library Special Collections, and it has been completely digitized.

Loren Glass published this article in the October 2017 issue of Critical Quarterly: "The Poetics of the Program Era."

The Academy of Community Engagement Scholarship (ACES) inducted Teresa Mangum as a member during an Induction Ceremony at the Engagement Scholarship Consortium Conference, held September 27th in Birmingham, AL. The full story can be read here.


Staff Matters

Congratulations to Hannah Rounds, who has accepted a position in the Registrar's Office after serving on the English Department staff for four years. Good luck, Hannah!

Other Matters

President Bruce Harreld's address in IowaNow, "Resilient UI Looks Toward the Future," praised the department for creating the new English and Creative Writing major.

Upcoming Matters

Communications Work and Advocacy, with Betsy Brown (Center for Victims of Torture, via Zoom/Skype) - November 29th, 2017, 12:30 pm, Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB

NWP Visiting Writers Series: Jeff Porter - November 29th, 2017, 7:00 pm, Prairie Lights

Faculty Meeting - November 30th, 2017, 3:30 pm, Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB

NWP Reading: Writers Gone Public - December 7th, 2017, 6:30 - 8:30 pm, Prairie Lights

NWP Reading: The Speakeasy Reading Series - December 8th, 2017, 8:00 pm, Trumpet Blossom Cafe

Click here to visit the News and Events on the English Department website for more details.