2017-2018 Awards and Announcements

Award Winning Students

Each spring, the English Department awards $20,000 in scholarships and fellowships for our graduate and undergraduate students.  We are pleased to announce the following students were awarded English scholarships this spring for the 2018-2019 academic year.

Undergraduate Scholarship and Award Winners

Barbara & John Blackburn Scholarship – Emily Bryce Swain; Paul Blackford Scholarship – Mackenzie Bennett; Olive Fite American Literature Scholarship – Desiree Steele; Irving Garwood Shakespeare Scholarship – Kaylee Gundling; Robert Hodges English Education Scholarship – Laura Landa; Lila Linder Scholarship– Claire Possin & Kevin Titus; Karen Mann Essay Award in Literature and Film – Ashley Hanson; Alfred Lindsey Memorial Scholarship – Desiree Steele; John Merrett Scholarship in British Literature – Tess Tyler; Beth M. Stiffler Scholarship – Paige Rohrback;  Nai-Tung Ting Scholarship – Paige Rohrback; Sig, Jeannette & Dean Johnson Scholarship – Tess Tyler.

Scholar of the Year Scholarship – Tess Tyler

Writing Awards

Bruce H. Leland Essay Contest: English 100, Introduction to Writing – 1st Place, Judson Henry; 2nd Place, Jeresha Davenport; 3rd Place, Asya Morrison. English 180, College Writing I – 1st Place, Kaleb Wadsworth; 2nd Place, Andrea Przybylski; 3rd Place, Kelli Thompson. English 280, College Writing II – 1st Place, Frankie Alexander; 2nd Place, Ryan Zurek; 3rd Place, Lauren Wood.

Lois C. Bruner Creative Nonfiction Awards – 1st Place, Austin Middleton;  2nd Place, Jason Cummins; 3rd Place, Kendrick Keller. Cordell Larner Award in Fiction – 1st Place, Cheyenne Rideaux; 2nd Place, Maria Chiaradonna; 3rd Place, Marissa Purdum. Cordell Larner Award in Poetry – 1st Place, Claire Dodson; 2nd Place, Marissa Purdum; 3rd Place, Marcus Sweeten.

Graduate Scholarship, Fellowship, and Award Winners

John Mahoney Research Fellowship – Kristin Sheppard; Ron & Leslie Walker Graduate Fellowships –  Tralynn Pullen & Grace Sheley; Syndy M. Conger Essay Award – Dakota Carlson; Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award – Jared Worley.

Departmental and College Scholar Awards

The Departmental Scholar awards are sponsored by the Illinois Centennial Honors College.  Each semester, departments select the top student in each of their majors graduating that semester.  Students are selected based on g.p.a. as well as honors and activities.  Those selected receive a medallion to be worn at graduation.  Our winners for this year are Rebecca Graham and Annie Gortowski.


Current Undergraduate Students

Molly Cameron presented  “Addicted to Happiness: Dystopia as Utopia” and moderated a round table in plausible dystopias at the international ΣΤΔ convention in Cincinnati , Ohio (2018). She also presented the same paper at Undergraduate Research Day. At the Midwest regional ΣΤΔ conference she presented “The Performance of Deception: Machiavellian Betrayal in Arden of Faversham and The Shoemaker’s Holiday” and “Degeneration, Excess, Transgression, and the Other: Exposing the Gothic Victorians Through the Actions of Doctor Moreau”, which won second place for undergraduate papers at the conference (2017). She wrote a successful grant through ΣΤΔ which secured the funds for the WIU chapter to restore and replenish the little free library at the YMCA. She has accepted a fully-funded offer to pursue her M.A. in English at the University of South Dakota.

Shane Dierikx accepted a position teaching at Mercer County High School. He was also invited to be a Student Teaching Voice at a summit on teacher shortages and reforms in the State of Illinois. He spoke with Illinois superintendents, education leaders, and the state representative Cheri Bustos.

Tess Tyler presented her paper “Prospero: Man of Otherness” at the regional and  international ΣΤΔ conventions (2017, 2018). She also presented her project “Analyzing Isabel: Exploring A Fierce and Subtle Poison Through Action Strategies” at the national NCTE convention in St. Louis, Missouri (2018). Additionally, she  presented this project at the WIU College of Arts and Sciences Student Speaker Series and also gave presentations on both her paper and project at Undergraduate Research Day.

Paige Rohrback presented her essay “Home Away From Home” at the  regional and  international  ΣΤΔ conventions. Her paper was centered on The Book of Unknown Americans, by Christina Henriquez. This book was the common reader novel for ΣΤΔ. Her presentation was supervised by Dr. Magdelyn Helwig. Paige also won the Common Reader award for her paper at the Midwest regional ΣΤΔ convention.

Kaylee Gundling, Maria Chiaradonna, and Desiree Steele organized and led the Feminist Discovery Reading Group, surveying work from A Room of One’s Own to the SCUM Manifesto every Thursday in the student lounge. They plan to continue the group next year.

Ashley Lefringhouse and Morgan Burwell presented their original work with Dr. Knox for “Building a Future Honors Course: Orderly Topics, Student Co-creation, and Original Projects” at the  Upper Midwest Regional Honors Conference: Future Stories.  Graceland University, (2018).

Current Graduate Students

Mohammed Al Musawi was a volunteer mentor helping new international students at Western’s Quad Cities campus. He was also a volunteer teaching local students Arabic language and culture.

Dakota Carlson presented from “Absence to Creation: The Father in the Male Melodrama” and co-hosted a roundtable about the 2017 remake of Stephen King’s IT at the EGO/ΣΤΔ conference (2017).  This summer he will be researching the preservation of Midwestern culture in cinema and film at the Chicago Film Archives.

Kirsten Dillender presented “Grow Like a Tree, Not Like a Fire”: Ecological Citizenship, Green Liberalism, and Wendell Berry” at the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment biennial conference in Detroit, MI; at the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts conference in Tempe, AZ., she presented “Rice and Potatoes: Biotechnology and Impacts on Non-Western and Western Cultural Health in The Windup Girl and All Over Creation” on a panel that she chaired. She also participated in the roundtable, “Orphan Black and Biotech 2.0”

Alyson Eagan presented “Controlling the Uncontrollable”  at the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association national conference in Indianapolis. (2018).

Selina Mannion is the President of WIU Veggie Club.  She has given several presentations for various WIU clubs on philosophy, health, nutrition, and environmental concerns. Selina is a Vegan Mentor for PETA and she also participates in Mercy For Animals Hen Heroes program. She was recently a guest speaker at the Chicago Jain temple.

Nick Nusbaumer presented his short story “On Tarsiidae” at the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association national conference in Indianapolis. (2018).

Bo Plumer spent the summer of 2017 studying German at the University of Mannheim. He also presented his paper “Emily Dickinson: The Cosmology of Doubt” at the European Society for Science, Literature, and the Arts convention in Basel, Switzerland (2017).

Tralynn Pullen and Kristin Sheppard attended the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association national conference in Indianapolis (2018).


Marissa Anderson (B.A. 2017) accepted a position as an English Language Arts teacher at Harmony High School.

Chelsea Brotherton (M.A. 2016) took a position with the American Health Information Management Association in Chicago.

Brittany (Barrie) Cooper (M.A. 2014) is an adjunct professor at Upper Iowa University.

Christopher David (M.A. 2017) is Assistant Director for Educational Technology at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

Rebecca Gonner (B.A. 2017) accepted an internship with Book List in Chicago.

Annie Gortowski (B.A. 2017) accepted a position as a Para Educator at Andrew High School.

Ashley Grady (B.A. 2016) accepted a position teaching 6th grade English Language Arts at Westchester Middle School.

Haley Helgesen (B.A. 2017) accepted a position as a technical writer with the Triumph Group in Dallas.

Maggie (Wallace) Hoerdeman (B.A. 2017) accepted a position teaching freshman and sophomore English at Bushnell-Prairie City High School.

Ed Komenda (B.A. 2011) is a staff writer for Shaw Media in Crystal Lake, IL.

Lucas Marshall (M.A. 2016) is Lead Copywriter at Elevate Creative Group in Chicago.

Travis Moran (M.A. 2011) is now a Lecturer at Beijing Language and Culture University.

Laura Pfeiffer (B. A. 2008) works at Zurich North America in Chicago, writing commercial marine, property, and professional liability insurance policies for global clients.

Kelly Schloss-Harrington (M.A. 2017) accepted a position as Business Operations Manager for Old Navy in Carbondale, IL.

Katelynn Walsh (B.A. 2016) accepted a position teaching Sophomore and Senior English at Kankakee High School.

Eliza Anne Wells (M.A. 2017) accepted a position as Editorial Assistant with SAGE Publishing in Chatsworth, CA.


Merrill Cole published “The Queer Repression of Jacques Lacan,” in the Cambridge  anthology, After Lacan. His book The Other Orpheus: A Poetics of Modern Homosexuality (Routledge 2003) has been reissued as a paperback. He has published numerous poems:  “Lynxes.” The Good Men Project (2017); “Johnny in Lights.” Spoon River Poetry Review (2017);  “The Hip Poet.” Spoon River Poetry Review (2017); “Defense Mechanism.” Spoon River Poetry Review (2017);“This Fabulous Shadow” Women’s Studies Quarterly (2017).

Jim Courter (Emeritus) published short stories “Elvissa” Write Out (2017) and “The Map of Florence” Downstate Story (2017). His novel Rhymes With Fool will be published in June by Peasantry Press in Winnipeg.

Roberta Di Carmine won the College of Arts and Sciences award for Internationalizing the Campus. She presented in honor of the 10th Anniversary of the Interdisciplinary Film Minor during the film event “Honoring Our Veterans: Film Screening and Live Concert with Chicago-based filmmaker Lucia Mauro and Composer Enzo De Rosa. A celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the Interdisciplinary Film Minor and a commemoration of veterans during WIU Military Appreciation Week.” She delivered a paper entitled, “The Rise of Immigration, Migrant Cinema, and Cultural Plurality in Italy” at the Popular Culture Association (PCA) Conference in Indianapolis.

Magdelyn Helwig co-authored the chapter, “Making it as a Female Writing Program Administrator: Using Collective Action to Transgress Gendered Boundaries,” forthcoming from South Illinois University Press in Women’s Ways of Making (Southern Illinois UP 2019). She traveled to New York City to conduct archival research on her University Research Council Research Grant-supported project, “Splitting Schist in Stones: Delving Into the Integrated Personal and Artistic Collaboration of Frank O’Hara and Larry Rivers,” and in June she will travel to Harvard to complete her archival research.

Tim Helwig presented “Unsettling Whiteness: Black Disguises and Racial Liminality in Antebellum Serial Fiction” at the Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies Conference in San Francisco in March, and “Cross-Racial Class Vengeance in George Thompson’s City Crimes” at the American Literature Association Conference in San Francisco in May. At this year‘s Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society convention in Cincinnati, he was re-elected to another four-year term as Midwestern Regent.

Bill Knox was a panelist-discussion leader for The Sleep Dealer, dir. Alex Rivera (2008) and he was a presenter (assisted by students Ashley Lefringhouse and Morgan Burwell sharing their original work) of “Building a Future Honors Course: Orderly Topics, Student Co-creation, and Original Projects” both at the  Upper Midwest Regional Honors Conference: Future Stories.  Graceland University, Lamoni, IA.  24 Mar. 2018. He presented “Sustainability Lessons for the Crew of Spaceship Earth from the International Space Station” for the Horn Environmental Learning Project’s Earthfest.

Barbara Lawhorn Her ENG 100 students adopted Mr. Hanold’s second grade class at Lincoln Elementary School. They conducted a semester-long writing partnership, and invited the class to Simpkins Hall, where they had a “Reading & Writing Rocks” party. Her students gifted each child with a literacy kit and a brand new book, which they read aloud to their partners. They enjoyed cake and punch, and donated 10 additional books to Mr. Hanold’s classroom library. Lawhorn took part in a biweekly Creative Writing Club at Edison Middle School (4th-6th grade), working with Dr. Rebekah Buchanan and her English Education students. With Dr. Jacque Wilson, she advised the fourth issue of SITREP: Veteran Perspectives on Combat and Peace. She presented “Everybody Knowing, but Pretending Not To: Internal and External Geographies Transformed by Grief” at PCA/ACA in Indianapolis (2018). She was an invited guest speaker for Preeminent Ladies Society, a student organization on campus. She interviewed Fiona Helmsley regarding Girls Gone Old for New Book Networks Popular Culture podcast and she is a book reviewer for Mom Egg Review. Her publications for the 2017-18 year include: “Glance” in Panoply Literary Zine;  Do Not” in Zingara Poetry Review”; “Even Words Fail to Protect You” in Poetry South“; “What Woke You” and “What Can I Tell You That You Don’t Already Know” in Helen: A Literary Magazine Her poem “Something Salvaged” was reprinted on Danny Simmon’s Poem’s I Admire blog. She also wrote the forward for Sean M. Conrey’s The Book of Trees.

Amy Mossman published  “Retrofitting the Ivory Tower: Engaging Global Sustainability Challenges through Interdisciplinary Problem-Oriented Education, Research, and Partnerships in U.S. Higher Education” in the Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement March 2018 (22.1)

Alisha White presented “Creative Responses in Stimulus Response Interviews: Universal Design for Interview Methods” for CAS Talk 2018. She presented “Universal Design for Interview Methods: Giving Voice to the Experiences of Students with Disabilities” for the Annual Conference of ILLOWA AHEAD in Peoria, (2018) and “Floorstorming: Building Background Knowledge Through Visual Displays” for the Commission On Arts and Literacy Session at the Annual Conference of NCTE in St. Louis (2017).

Jacqueline Wilson was co-advisor for SITREP: Veteran Perspectives on Combat and Peace, now in its fourth edition. She presented “The Place of Trauma Narratives in the Composition Classroom and Beyond” at the Allerton English Articulation Conference.  A 2002 article she published, “Teaching Joyce Carol Oates’s’ ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?’ as an Initiation Story” In Eureka Studies in Teaching Short Fiction has received so much traffic on academia.edu in the last several months that during one week in August she was among the “top four percent” of researchers at academia.edu. She believes the revived interest may have been related to the #metoo movement since her works examine issues of initiation, gender, rape, and murder.

Erika Wurth published her short story collection Buckskin Cocaine (Astrophil 2017) and her poems A Thousand Horses Out to Sea (Mongrel Press 2017). Her story “Barry Four Voices,”  was reprinted in The Offing, (2017). She published “Light and Her Mother’s Arms,” Midwestern Gothic (2017) and “Almost Like Children,” Heavy Feather Review (2017). She published essays including “How Trump ‘Care’ Will Sicken Native Americans,” ROAR (2017); “Artists Can Only Be Themselves,” ROAR (2017); “The Rest of Us Have Always Been Here,” ROAR (2017); “The Horrible Terrible Oppression of Famous White Writers Who Have Been Politely Questioned,” ROAR (2017) and “The Problem with Pretendians” ROAR (2017); “Eden Robinson’s Son of a Trickster, a Funny, Dark, Native Fantasy”, “Vermette’s The Break is a Killer”, and “Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection, Volume 2,” in Anomaly, (2017). She published poems, including “*giggles*”, Lit Hub (2017); “Your Eyes to the Sun,” Taos Journal of International Poetry and Art (2017) and “Beasts at Her Feet,” Taos Journal of International Poetry and Art (2017). She appeared at book readings and interviews throughout the United States. Her story, “Barry Four Voices,” was nominated for Pushcart by The Offing.

Pat Young advised The African American Literary Society. AALS co-hosted a Film Club Meeting in celebration of African American History Month; She presented the panel “Stellar African Americans in United States Literature at the Multicultural Center,  and conducted a follow-up discussion to keynote speaker Dr.  Mckinley Melton’s Martin Luther King Speech. She presented “The Private Face of Angelina Weld Grimke” at the College Language Association in Chicago (2018) and “Perusing Iola’s Letter,”  A Study of Ida B. Wells’ Activism at the National Council on Black Studies in Atlanta (2018).