New Reading Room Series

Graduate Student Katya Kozhukhova Reads a Short Story

The Reading Room Series, spearheaded by undergraduate student Grayson Stoik, is an effort to celebrate writing at Western Illinois University, build community amongst English faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students, and feature the incredible space, facilitated by Dr. Banash—the Reading Room, open to all, in Simpkins 025.

During the 2019-2020 academic year, three Reading Room Readings were held, typically on the third Friday of the month at 4:00 p.m. On Friday, October 25th, after a warm welcome by Interim Chair Dr. Christopher Morrow, a packed house was audience to featured English faculty Dr. David Banash, featured graduate student Anna Miller (Psychology), and featured undergraduate student Grayson Stoik.

On Friday, November 15th, again to a full crowd, an engaged audience listened to featured English Faculty member Dr. Merrill Cole, English graduate student Savannah Dupont, and featured English undergraduate Marcus Sweeten. On Friday, February 21st, 2020, English Education faculty member Dr. Alisha White read from her newly published chapter, English Graduate student Katya Kozhukhova read original mythology, and undergraduate Angelique Herrerra, a LEJA major and English minor, read original poetry.

COVID-19 made the last two readings of the semester impossible, but the lineup was planned as follows, and I wish to thank those featured readers for their willingness:

March 27th:

Faculty: Dr. Magdelyn Helwig

Graduate Student: Gustavo Primo

Undergraduate Student: David Vawter

April 24th:

Faculty: Dr. Christopher Morrow

Graduate Student: A.J. Rocca

Undergraduate Students: Emma Dayhoff & Kaylee Gundling

The Reading Room Series also featured an open mic which led to new voices featuring new work each time. Grayson Stoik graduated in May, and he will be missed. Without Grayson’s enthusiasm and deep love for the literary arts and community building, The Reading Room Series would never have found a home in Simpkins 025.

The Reading Room Series will continue in 2020-2021. I’ll be working to plan three readings per semester due to audience demand, and will work to reschedule the readings that were cancelled. If you have any interest in being a featured reader, have suggestions, or interest in helping coordinate this Series, please contact Barbara Lawhorn at Each reading was a warm community, a feast of words and baked good, and a truly nourishing way to conclude a Friday afternoon on campus.