2018-2019 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 2019-2020 academic year.

Undergraduate Scholarship and Award Winners

Barbara & John Blackburn Scholarship – Mackenzie Bennett; Paul Blackford Scholarship – Courtney Bender; Olive Fite American Literature Scholarship – Carmen Bizarri; Irving Garwood Shakespeare Scholarship – Courtney Bender; Robert Hodges English Education Scholarship – Adrienne Tinsley; Lila Linder Scholarship– Ashley Hanson and Kevin Titus; Karen Mann Essay Award in Literature and Film – Kevin Titus; Alfred Lindsey Memorial Scholarship – Kelsey Rentfro-Cline; John Merrett Scholarship in British Literature – Courtney Bender; Beth M. Stiffler Scholarship – Carmen Bizarri;  Nai-Tung Ting Scholarship – Abidemi “Bonita” Akinbo; Wanninger Foundation Scholarship – Nicole Foster.

Scholar of the Year Scholarship – Ashley Hanson

Writing Awards

Bruce H. Leland Essay Contest: English 100, Introduction to Writing – 1st Place, Christina Ann Liber ; 2nd Place, Devin Torres; 3rd Place, Jovanni Montalvo; Honorable Mention, Brandon VillaEnglish 180, College Writing I – 1st Place, Brandon Oleson; 2nd Place, Manuel Luna; 3rd Place, Judson Henry; Honorable Mention, Lenora WildermuthEnglish 280, College Writing II – 1st Place, Sofija Micevic; 2nd Place, Gracie Richardson; 3rd Place, Kelly Joiner; Honorable Mention, Reilly Bacorn.

Lois C. Bruner Creative Nonfiction Awards – 1st Place, Marissa Purdum;  2nd Place, Marcus Sweeten; 3rd Place, Kendrick Keller. Cordell Larner Award in Fiction – 1st Place, Adam Norris; 2nd Place, Angelique Herrera; 3rd Place, Brandon Williams. Cordell Larner Award in Poetry – 1st Place, Eric Short; 2nd Place, Marcus Sweeten; 3rd Place, Janae Imeri.

Graduate Scholarship, Fellowship, and Award Winners

John Mahoney Research Fellowship – Francesca Hamm; Ron & Leslie Walker Graduate Fellowships –  Abidemi “Bonita” Akinbo and Savannah Dupont; Syndy M. Conger Essay Award – Nick Nusbaumer; Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award – Nick Nusbaumer; Honorable Mentions, Dakota Carlson and Kristin Sheppard.

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 Ashley Hanson and John Castle.


Current Undergraduate Students

Kaylee Gundling and Desiree Steele organized and led the Feminist Discovery Reading Group for a second year, surveying work by and about women from the ancient drama Antigone to contemporary illustrated novel The Fox and the Star every Thursday in the student lounge and reading room.

Gayla Bean attended the National Sigma Tau Delta Convention in Saint Louis, helping to chair panels and volunteering at the registration table.

Courtney Bender attended the National Sigma Tau Delta Convention in Saint Louis.

Jenna Brown, won the Phi Kappa Phi Best Research Paper Award this spring for her essay, “Can Fiction Represent History?”

Emma Dayhoff presented, “Life Got in the Way,” an original piece of creative nonfiction at the National Sigma Tau Delta Convention in Saint Louis. She also won a CAS Undergraduate Research Grant to support her travel.

Kaylee Gundling presented, “Director’s Cut (Abridged),” an original piece of fiction at the National Sigma Tau Delta Convention in Saint Louis. She also won a CAS Undergraduate Research Grant to support her travel.

Apryl Moore presented a critical paper, “The Sadomasochism and Meaning of Addie Bundren in Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying” at the National Sigma Tau Delta Convention in Saint Louis. Her paper won First place for the Best Undergraduate Conference Paper. She also won a CAS Undergraduate Research Grant and Norman and Carmelita Teeter Undergraduate Research Award to support her travel. At the conference, Apryl was was elected to serve on the Board of Directors as the 2019-2020 Midwestern Student Representative and will represent the interests of the 150 chapters at four-year colleges and universities in the region.

Desiree Steele presented her paper “Gender and Sexuality in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” at the National Sigma Tau Delta Convention in Saint Louis. She also accepted a fully-funded offer to begin the Ph.D. program in Games, Culture, and Media at The University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

Current Graduate Students

Nick Nusbaumer presented his creative work “My Beautiful Dark Twisted (Urban) Fantasy: How Kanye West and Richard Mayhew Overcome the Below in order to Conquer the Above” at the Popular Culture Association Conference in Washington D. C.

Tralynn Pullen traveled to Atlanta and visited the National Center for Civil and Human Rights Museum and the World of Coca-Cola; to Kansas City and visited the National Negro League Baseball Museum and the National Jazz Museum; to St. Louis and visited the National Blues Museum and Gateway Arch Museum. She also attended the annual Popular Culture Association Conference and visited the National Museum of African American History  in Washington D. C. She has accepted a position as Director of The Academic Writing Center at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

Kristin Sheppard traveled to New York and Philadelphia to research Romanticism and Edgar Allan Poe. Her travel was supported by a Mahoney award. She also presented her paper “Representation of Mental Illness in Games: How Player Choice and Limitations Affects Characters” at the Popular Culture Association Conference in Washington D. C.

Rhobie Underwood presented her paper “Markova: A Comfort Gay Victim or an Illusioned Drag Queen? His Stories of War, Homosexuality and Violence in the Philippines during the Japanese Occupation” at the 6th annual WIU Graduate Research Conference. She has accepted a position as an adjunct instructor at Black Hawk College in Moline, IL.


Kimberly Ackers (B.A. 2015) is working as a Child and Youth Program Assistant at the Ramstein Air Force base in Germany.

Alex Ayers (M.A. 2015) accepted a position as Assistant Director of Peer Learning and Tutoring Programs at Stanford University in California.

Thomas Boyd (B.A. 2013) accepted a position at Burlington High school teaching English and Speech in Burlington, IA.

Molly Cameron (B.A. 2018), who serves as a graduate teaching assistant and is pursuing a master’s in English at the University of South Dakota, was awarded best creative response to the Common Reader, Tess Taylor’s poetry collectionWork & Days at the National Sigma Tau Delta Convention in Saint Louis.

Tyler Cregger (B.A. 2017) accepted a position teaching English at Central Lee Community School in Iowa.

Sheldon Gaskell (M.A. 2017) is an instructor in the First-Year Rhetoric and Writing Program at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs.

Duncan Gingrich (B.A. 2017) accepted a position as Communications and Public Relations Assistant at Sterling Schools Foundation in Sterling, IL.

Annie Gortowski (B.A. 2017) accepted a position teaching English at John F. Kennedy high school in Chicago.

Molly Hall (B.A. 2016) accepted a position as Chief of Staff at Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois in Chicago.

Haley Helgesen (B.A. 2017) accepted a fully-funded offer to begin the Ph.D. program in Games, Culture, and Media at The University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

Nicole Hagstrom-Schmidt (M.A. 2014) defended her doctoral dissertation, “Evidence and Epistemology in Early Modern English Drama” at Texas A&M University in Austin.

Kasi Henshaw (B.A. 2015) accepted a position as Associate Director of Donor Relations at Knox College in Galesburg, IL.

Sara Hopkins (B.A. 2017) accepted a position as National Sales Support at Paylocity in Arlington, IL.

Chris Ivy (M.A. 2016) was accepted with full funding into the Ph.D. program in English at the University of Oregon.

Max Keil (B.A. 2017) accepted a position as Learning and Development Manager at TMX Finance in Texas.

Ethan Knight (B.A. 2013) is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of South Carolina. He just finished his second year as Assistant Director of First-Year English at South Carolina, where he was lead editor and author for the 2018 and 2019 editions of the Carolina Reader. He presented his paper “‘The American Scholar’ in First-Year English” at this year’s American Literature Association conference in Boston and attended the International Whitman symposium in New York.

Ashley Lehman (B.A. 2017) accepted a position teaching English at Marissa High School in Illinois.

Lucas Marshall (M.A. 2016) accepted a position as Content Manager at Milwaukee Tool in Milwaukee.

Jessica Lowell Mason (M.A. 2014) published her book of poetry, Straight Jacket (Finishing Line Press).

Maric McLean (B.A. 2017) accepted a position teaching English at Springfield High School in Illinois.

Erin Moore (M.A. 2006) accepted a position as Head of Media Services at Saint Ambrose University in Davenport, IA.

Alexis Phares (B.A. 2017) accepted a position teaching at Harmony High School in Saint Cloud, FL, where she also coaches debate and JV cheerleading.

Veronica Popp (M.A. 2015) is a doctoral candidate in Multicultural Women’s and Gender Studies at Texas Woman’s University.

Erica Salmonson (M.A. 2017) accepted a position as Instructor of English and Writing Center Director at Illinois College.

Amanda Stewart (B.A. 2017) teaches 7th grade language arts at Spoon River Valley School in Illinois.

Abigail Tichler (M.A. 2015) accepted a position Haring News Network Product Manager at Clear Digital Media in Chicago.

Tess Tyler (B.A. 2018) accepted a position teaching English at Havana High School in Havana, IL.

Scott Waldyn (B.A. 2009) is a Digital Content Editor at Prime Publishing in Chicago, and Editor-in-Chief of the online magazine Literary Orphans.

Eliza Wells (M.A. 2017) accepted a position as Copy Writer and Content Creator at Social Spice Media in Camarillo, California.

Jared Worley (M.A. 2017) accepted a position as a Quality Reviewer for Systems Services Enterprises in Saint Louis.


Marjorie Allison presented “When Ghosts Won’t Stay Dead” at the Modern Language Association Annual Conference in Chicago, and she won the Centennial Honors College Award for Excellence in Mentoring.

Penny Clause received the certificate acknowledging her twenty years of continuous service to Western.

Merrill Cole published “The Queer Repression of Jacques Lacan” in After Lacan: Literature, Theory, and Psychoanalysis in the Twenty-First Century. His poem, “Kublai Khan in Transylvania,” appeared in The Main Street Rag. Part of his 2012 translation of Anita Berber and Sebastian Droste’s Dances of Vice, Horror, and Ecstasy is now featured in the new game, Berlin the Wicked City. Merrill and his husband Rick spent a month in Nice, France, and he reports that “we also traveled through the French Riviera and to Rome. I used to be fully fluent in French and was delighted to find I’d lost none of it!”

Roberta Di Carmine became the new Director of Graduate Studies in English at WIU while continuing to teach film and coordinate the Interdisciplinary Film Minor. She published her second book Cultural Metamorphoses in Contemporary Italian Cinema (Peter Lang 2018). She was invited to present her latest book at the Friday Faculty Spotlight Series sponsored by the Expanding Cultural Diversity Project at WIU, and in April her new book was nominated by the Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago to represent the Italian Institutes of Culture in the Midwest at the Flaiano International Literature Awards in collaboration with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Everett Hamner published his book Editing the Soul Science and Fiction in the Genome Age (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press). He edited a special issue of Science Fiction Film and Television (11.3) which included his essays “Introduction: Orphan Black as Protest,” and “Sterility, Abominations and the Optical Illusions of Orphan Black.” He organized the session “Climate Change, Resistance, and Narrative/Art” for Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts in Toronto, where he also presented his paper “Imagining Unsuicide: Whither Climate Change Narratives?” The writers Richard Powers, Omar El Akkad, and Charlie Jane Anders visited his classes via video conference, and he had breakfast in Toronto with the great Margaret Atwood at her favorite coffee shop.

Tim Helwig won the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Faculty Award for Mentoring Undergraduate Research.

William Knox presented “Fire Lights and Flashlights: Melodramatic Signs of Socio-Political Inequality in John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath” at the EGO/ΣΤΔ conference in Macomb and “Not Finding (and Finding) Private Honors Support” at the Upper Midwestern Regional Honors Council Conference in Wisconsin.  He made presentations and wrote extensively for the Macomb community, including “Redefining Sustainability Common Sense” at Earthfest and “Sustainability and Situational Awareness” for the McDonough County Voice. He also mentored undergraduate Mariah Dicksen to her win of the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship.

Dan Malachuk published “Antebellum Natural Rights Liberalism,” in the edited collection, The Political Thought of the Civil War (University Press of Kansas, 2018); he also won the Centennial Honors College Award for Excellence in Mentoring.

Christopher Morrow won the College of Arts and Sciences Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Rich Ness was a participant on the panel “A Knack for the Unexpected: Why Alan Rudolph’s Films Matter” that was part of the symposium “The Unreal Reality of Alan Rudolph” at the Cinetopia retrospective on Rudolph in Ann Arbor. He presented the paper “Not Alone in the Dark: Alan Rudolph’s Cinematic Symbiosis” and also participated in various activities at the event. He organized and moderated “The Secret Lives of Filmmakers: An Insider’s View of the Industry with Alan and Joyce Rudolph,” presented as a Special Event at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies annual conference in Seattle. At the annual meeting of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies he also participated in the “Cinema and Media Studies and the Study of Moving Image Journalism” seminar. In Macomb, he organized the summer film series, The Dead Filmmakers Society, now in its nineteenth year.

Shazia Rahman published her book Place and Postcolonial Ecofeminism Pakistani Women’s Literary and Cinematic Fictions (Univ. of Nebraska Press). She also presented “Postcolonial International Conflict Through an Animal Studies Lens” at the South Asian Literary Association Conference in Chicago.

Alisha White presented, along with her student, Alexis Phares, “Six Thinking Hats: Teaching Critical Thinking through Discussion Questions” for the Future is Now Roundtable Session; she also presented “Symbolizing Experience: Personal Reflection through Body Autobiography Drawings” for the Coalition on Arts and Literacy Roundtable at the annual conference of the National Council of Teachers of English in Houston. She also won the College of Arts and Science Outstanding Faculty Award for Excellence in Multicultural Teaching.

Erika Wurth published her novel You Who Enter Here (SUNY 2019) and her short story, “Not Like Jesus but I am a Boy,” in River Styx. She will participate in the Tin House Summer Workshop and the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. This spring, she read her work Metro State University in Denver and proposed and chaired two panels at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP): Native American Voices: A Reading from Recent Works in Native Letters”; Indigenous Fiction: Intersections in the United States and Canada,” and “Outsiders in Minority Fiction, When You’re Not From Where You’re Supposed to Be.” Her essay“Learning from the Lone Ranger” appeared in American Book Review.