Chair Majorie Allison on a road trip to Portland, Oregon

This has been an incredible year of perseverance, persistence, and resilience for the Department of English. Our students, faculty, and staff have dealt with the unprecedented demands of the Covid-19 pandemic, recruited exceptionally talented new faculty colleagues, and have begun the process of returning to safe, in-person events so vital to maintaining the vitality and spirit of our Department of English community.

This year we met the ongoing challenges of the pandemic as we mixed face-to-face classes with new technologies. Our faculty, students, and alums all continue to meet the moment with grace, imagination, and goodwill. We have all dug in and engaged in creative problem solving regarding everything from finding classrooms large enough to hold our entire, socially distanced classes to learning the possibilities and limits of Zoom formats. We have come out of the year stronger, more flexible, and with great new skills and options for delivering courses both face-to-face and online.

After a fall of virtual events and socially distancing, this spring students and faculty in the creative writing concentration hosted live, in person events. What a welcome return to community! Donuts and readings! We were also able to welcome to campus our returning alumna and newly published author Ayana Contreras as part of our Lola Austen Case Writer in Residence. By the end of the year, Sigma Tau Delta was able to host an in-person induction and celebration for new students. In early June, the English Education faculty hosted a reunion and celebration for alums (some of whom missed their graduation moments due to covid). We are thrilled to be back in-person for these events, and we are looking forward to more in the coming year.

Our department faculty, students, and staff worked incredibly hard to recruit and hire the first new tenure track positions in several years. Dr. David Johnson will be joining us as the Writing Program Director and Dr. Ashley Beardsley will take on the role of director of the University Writing Center. You can read interviews with both of them in this issue. The excitement and joy of having two new faculty members with fresh ideas for the Department is palatable. And, they both love good food—so the pun really works there! This will be an exciting year as we further develop our new major options in Creative Writing and Professional Writing with our new faculty hires. This department is going places; new places, places that require imagination, risk, uncertainty, and hope for the future.

In English Studies, we believe that there are no clear-cut answers, no one path that is superior to all other paths (yes, we all know about that very famous road that was not taken). We are forever considering, pondering, examining, what our choices are and what might happen “if”… We all know that the world of imagination and our practice of reading and reading deeply allows us to meet the world as it comes. Studying Chaucer is more relevant than ever! Imagine future readers looking back and reading about twenty-first century story tellers reaching out via Zoom and Instagram during pandemic times and telling their stories to one another. We get through the hard times with stories and with each other.

As I write this piece in the late spring of 2022, I feel more hope and more lightness than I have for two years. The wind is changing. The department is moving in positive directions. Our foundations of reading, writing, and thinking have seen us through to this moment. We still face remaining challenges from Covid-19, but we can see those challenges more clearly now. We have been here before, and as we set new goals and directions for English Studies at WIU we can rely on the imagination, resilience, and perseverance of our community.