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Volume 24, Issue 2

From Planet English: The Statistics Issue

Welcome to the Statistics Issue of Reading Matters!  My annual trip to the Registrar’s data vault for this issue led to an unexpected distraction: Tableau, a portfolio of data visualization tools for the analysis of UI graduate and undergraduate enrollments. Tableau adds layers of ideological complexity to the data presented in the 9-point-font annual publication, the Fall Profile of Students. It’s going to take me a while to learn my way around Tableau, so I will lead off with some basic information from the Profile and conclude with a few cursory observations about Tableau.

The recently released census information about the English Department contains few surprises. The undergraduate English & Creative Writing major is still growing, although the narrowing gap between first-year declarations of interest and declared majors suggests that the English & Creative Writing population is starting to stabilize. Meanwhile, the English major is holding steady, with approximately 300 declared majors over the past two years, and a slight decline in first-year declarations. The English undergraduate programs’ diversity numbers are impressive in light of broader university averages (the tallies below do not reflect second majors; note to self: 84+ Latinx majors!!). And, women outnumber men in the undergraduate programs approximately two to one.

Undergraduate Programs in English*

     •  English & Creative Writing is the 8th top degree-seeking undergraduate program of study at UI.
     •  English & Creative Writing is the 7th most popular area of study chosen by first-year students.
     •  In 2017-18 English awarded 80 BA degrees and English & Creative Writing awarded 46.
     •  There are currently 71 English minors.

Total Majors: 923 (ENGL/CW 618 + ENGL 305)
Literary Publishing Track: 124 (ENGL/CW 93 + ENGL 31)
Teacher Education Program: 28

Undergraduate Programs Diversity Data:
Native American/Alaskan: 2 (ENGL/CW 2 + ENGL 0)
African American: 24 (ENGL/CW 17 + ENGL 7)
Latinx: 84 (ENGL/CW 54 + ENGL 30)
Asian: 19 (ENGL/CW 11 + ENGL 8)
Mixed Race/Ethnicity: 32 (ENGL/CW 23 + ENGL 9)
International: 17 (ENGL/CW 13 + ENGL 4)
Male: 252 (ENGL/CW 180 + ENGL 72)
Female: 666 (ENGL/CW 434 + ENGL 229)
Gender not reported/other: 6 (ENGL/CW 2 + ENGL 4)

*This information comes mostly from the Fall Profile, including figures from 2017-18, with some supplementary data from MAUI Registrar/Reports. The Fall Profile does not present diversity data for second majors; thus accurate numbers for our total major population are greater than these.


Graduate Programs

It is more challenging to describe trends in the graduate programs, because the Fall Profile combines the Writers’ Workshop MFA, the NWP MFA, and the English MA/PhD.  However, as in the case of the undergraduate programs, the diverse composition of the graduate student population exceeds campus averages, and this is more pronounced in the creative writing programs than in English literary studies.  Women also outnumber men in the grad programs, though not to the degree as in the undergraduate programs.

     •  English is the 7th most common graduate area of study at the UI with 183 students, including the MA/PhD in English Literary                  Studies, the MFA Nonfiction Writing, and the Writers' Workshop MFA programs in Fiction and Poetry
     •  In 2017-18, these programs awarded 4 MA degrees, 48 MFA degrees, and 5 PhDs.


Combined Graduate Programs Diversity Data:
1 Native American or Native Alaskan
16 African American
11 Latinx
13 Asian
5 Mixed race/ethnicity
1 Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
13 International
74 Male + 104 Female + 5 not reported



The colorful bubble graphs on Tableau that depict undergraduate and graduate programs by size unfortunately conjure an RCM-budget version of Agario.  In this case, however, color (collegiate affiliation) matters as well as size.  In the undergrad graph, English would look very like a whale if its majors were merged, and each of our majors would appear bigger if these graphs reflected double majors. More FOMO triggers: the Major Migrations chart uses colored lines to trace which majors students abandon for which new destinations--in correlation with metrics such as average ACT scores! The haunting Losses graph depicts student attrition as a vast tornado, leaving a pile of unanswered questions in its path: why do students abandon particular programs and which students are most at risk for attrition? Does finding one’s department on the outer edge of the tornado mean that a major is challenging and selective, or dull and unwelcoming? 

One antidote to the previous scenarios: look how few courses at UI are taught on Friday.  English is on trend—thanks, Doris and Jon!


Broadway Matters

In October, the Nonfiction Writing Program led a group of 25 undergraduate students to New York City to attend a showing of the Broadway adaptation of John D’Agata’s book, The Lifespan of a Fact; after which they were treated to a private conversation with the play’s playwrights, David Murrell and Jeremy Kareken, and surprise visit from the cast. While in NYC, the group also visited three major publishing houses: Vice magazine, where an NWP alumnus is a senior editor and chatted with the students about working at a magazine; the William Morris Agency, where an NWP alumna is a senior agent and chatted with the group about working as a literary agent; and W.W. Norton, where D'Agata's editor met with the students and talked about the publishing industry.

UI students with Bobby CannavaleUI students at Vice


Undergrad Matters

Congratulations to Austin Hughes and Melissa Lauer, who have been nominated for the Rhodes Scholarship. The University of Iowa nominated two students this year, and both are English majors!


Graduate Matters

Brady Krien’s article, “Build Your Own Career Bootcamp,” was published in Inside Higher Ed and features the career development practicum that fellow PhD students Kate Nesbit and Anna Williams developed this past summer.


Faculty Matters

Florence Boos participated in a multi-sited digitized conference on "Rhyme and Reform" based at Baylor University in Waco, Texas and connected by interactive video to Strathclyde, Scotland and several other locations. Her lecture, "Can the Subaltern Speak?: 'The Cry of the Children' and Victorian Women Factory Poets," was one of five talks centering on Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem.

Congratulations to Jennifer Buckley, who received a book subvention from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development in order to produce her book, Beyond Text: Theater and Performance in Print after 1900 (University of Michigan Press, 2019).

This year, Adam Hooks is co-directing the Dissertation Seminar for Scholars in the History of the Book in Medieval and Early Modern Europe at the Newberry Library.

The University received a Mellon Foundation grant to support the Obermann Center’s creation of a degree in the Graduate College in collaboration with humanities departments, focused on preparing students for a range of careers in the humanities. As director of the Obermann Center, Teresa Mangum will discuss opportunities for faculty and grad students over the next four years during a roundtable at the Mellon-funded Humanities for the Public Good Launch next month.

Congratulations to Horace Porter, whose retirement was celebrated at a ceremony and reception this month. Thank you for your years of contribution to the Department of English, Horace!

Jon Wilcox had two essays published recently:  “Understatement and Incongruity: Humour in the Literature of Anglo-Saxon England,” in Humour in the Arts: New Perspectives, ed. Vivienne Westbrook and Shun-liang Chao. New York: Routledge, 2019. 59-77.  [came out in 2018] and “The Riddle of the Page: Material Enticement to the Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book,” in Manuscript Materiality in the Classroom and Beyond, ed. Ellen K. Rentz and Michelle M. Sauer, a special issue of SMART: Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching 25:2 (Fall 2018): 75-87.


Staff Matters

Corey Campbell’s short story “Turkey Creek Road” was named a semifinalist for American Short Fiction’s Halifax Ranch Fiction Prize, and her story “Outside the Mayan” was a semifinalist in Carve Magazine’s Raymond Carver Short Story Contest.


Alumni Matters

Douglas Dowland’s (PhD 2010) essay, “How to Be a Generous Professor in Precarious Times” was published in the Chronicle of Higher Education.


In Memoriam

Vincent Casaregola (UI English PhD 1989), Professor of English and Director of Film Studies at St. Louis University, wrote with news about the passing of one of our alumni, Dr. Ronald (Rocco) DiLorenzo, who received his PhD in English from UI in 1968. Professor DiLorenzo was Professor Emeritus of English at St. Louis University. We send condolences to Professor DiLorenzo’s family and his colleagues and friends from UI and St. Louis University.


Upcoming Matters

NWP Creative Writing Master Classes - October 27, 2018 | 10:00 am-6:00 pm | 403 EPB

English @ Work: Brent Willett, CEO Iowa Health Care - October 31, 2018 | 11:30 am | Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB

English Department Colloquium - October 31, 2018 | 3:30-5:00 pm | Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB

Faculty Meeting: Hiring Plan - November 1, 2018 | 3:30-5:00 pm | Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB

3 Minute Thesis Competition - November 2, 2018 | 3:00-5:00 pm | ABW 240

English @ Work: Lori Erickson, Professional Magazine Freelancer - November 7, 2018 | 11:30 am | Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB

EC Meeting (tbc) - November 8, 2018 | 3:30-5:00 pm | 331 EPB

The Krause Series in Contemporary Nonfiction: Kisha Lewellyn Schlegel & Meghan O'Gieblyn - November 9, 2018 | 7:00-8:30 pm | Prairie Lights 

Faculty Meeting: Meeting of the English DCG - November 15, 2018 | 3:30-5:00 pm | Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB

English @ Work Speaker, TBD - November 28, 2018 | 11:30 am | Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB

"The Great American Novel in the 21st Century," Gordon Hutner, Department of English, University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign - November 29, 2018 | 3:30 pm | Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB

EC or Faculty Meeting (tbc) - December 6, 2018 | 3:30-5:00 pm | 331 EPB


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