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 2021–2022 academic year.

Undergraduate Scholarship and Award Winners

Barbara & John Blackburn Scholarship – Deanna Palm; Dr. Paul Blackford British Literature Scholarship – Samantha Misener; Dr. Olive Fite American Literature Scholarship – Desiray Meyer; Nai-Tung Ting English Education Scholarship – Lonita Ash; Dr. Irving Garwood Shakespeare Scholarship –Isabella Maxwell; Sig. Jeannette & Dean Johnson Scholarship – Ashunti Westbrook; Lila S. Linder English Scholarship –  LewLew Dixon and Steven Clay; Karen Mann Essay Award in Literature and Film – Deanna Palm; Beth M. Stiffler Memorial Scholarship – Joshua Stinson.

Scholar of the Year Scholarship – Darrin Ross.

Writing Awards

Bruce H. Leland Essay Contest: English 100, Introduction to Writing – 1st Place, KJ Lee; 2nd Place, Aliyah Abayomi; 3rd Place, Jaysie PruisEnglish 180, College Writing I – 1st Place, Mindy Diaz ; 2nd Place, Henry Phipperi; 3rd Place, Joao Pedro MacielEnglish 280, College Writing II – 1st Place, Marvina Fraze; 2nd Place, Kayla Johnston; 3rd Place, Salem ShinnGH 101 General Honors – 1st Place, Kanika Palecanda; 2nd Place, Grant Hibbeler; 2nd Place, Salem Shinn; 3rd Place, Kayla JohnstonMultimodal Writing – 1st Place, Mackenzie Block; 2nd Place, Grace McGill; 3rd Place, Kayla Johnston. Lois C. Bruner Creative Nonfiction Awards – 1st Place, Victoria Law; 2nd Place, Elle Swafford; 3rd Place, Abigail Gindlesberger. Cordell Larner Award in Fiction – 1st Place, Abigail Jones; 2nd Place, Khamiya Ellis; 3rd Place, Deanna Palm. Cordell Larner Award in Poetry – 1st Place, Abigail Jones; 2nd Place, Khamiya Ellis; 3rd Place, David Rush.

Graduate Scholarship, Fellowship, and Award Winners

Ron & Leslie Walker Graduate Fellowship – Samuel Oluwaseun Idowu & Emily Woods ; Syndy M. Conger Essay Award – Anthony Greer; Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award – Emily Woods; Richard T. Thornberry Graduate Award – Anthony Greer.


Current Students

Josh Fahrenkrog presented his paper “Living Chess in the Depths of Hill House” at the Sigma Tau Delta national conference in Atlanta.

Samantha Misener presented her paper “The Not-So-Subtle Art of Confession” at the Sigma Tau Delta national conference in Atlanta.

Darin Ross attend the Sigma Tau Delta national convention in Atlanta and presented his paper “Race and Queerness in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” which went on to win first place for the best convention paper in American Literature.

Jessica Schaumberg presented her papers “Summary and Close Reading of ‘I Could Not Tell’” and “Analysis of Character and Setting in Dear Martin” at the Sigma Tau Delta national conference in Atlanta.

Josh Stinson served as President of the WIU chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, was elected Midwestern Student Representative of the national Sigma Tau Delta organization, and played a leading role in organizing and participating in this year’s national conference in Atlanta.

Ashunti Westbrook presented “A Queer Reading of Frankenstein” at the Sigma Tau Delta national conference in Atlanta.

Emily Woods published her short story “House of Bees” in Forté, the Illinois College literary journal.


Zachary Almquist (M.A. 2019) accepted a position as Manager of Research Programs at Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, IA.

Nick Apke (B.A. 2011) accepted a position as a Learning Consultant at Lincoln College, Lincoln, IL.

Carmen Bizarri (B.A. 2020) accepted a teaching position at West Central High School in Biggsville, IL. 

Ayana Contreras (B.A. 2006) published her book, Energy Never Dies: Afro-Optimism and Creativity in Chicago with the University of Illinois Press. She returned to campus as a Lola Austin Case Writer-in-Residence for two days of events with English department students.

Kristen Dillender (B.A. 2016 M.A. 2018) returned to Western as the keynote speaker for this year’s Centennial Honors College Undergraduate Research Day. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in English at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and the managing editor of American Literary History.

Ishimine Goins (M.A. 2019) accepted a position as an Assistant Professor at Raritain Valley Community College in Branchburg, NJ.

Raqueal Henry (B.A. 2016) accepted a position as a Reading and Writing Specialist at National Louis University in Chicago.

Kraig Hiland (B.A. 2022) accepted a teaching position at Unity High School in Mendon, IL. 

Kristyn Kasner (B.A. 2017) accepted a position as a Supply Chain & Logistics Coordinator at COSIDLA in Rockford, IL.

Max Keil (B.A. 2017) accepted a position as a technical writer at Tempus Labs in Chicago.

Maddison Miller (B.A. 2020) accepted a teaching position at Clinton High School in Clinton, IA.

Jon Naskrent (B.A. 2016, M.A. 2018) accepted a position as a Proposal Specialist at the Lochmueller Group in Saint Louis.

Brandon Nizzio (B.A. 2016) earned his M.B.A. from the University of Illinois.

Meghan E. O’Toole’s (M.A. 2021) short story, “Good Food for Starving Things” won the 2021 Emerging Writer’s Contest selection in fiction and appears in Winter 2021-22 Issue of Ploughshares.

Mackenzie Ricco (B.A. 2021) accepted a teaching position at Bushnell Prairie-City High School in Bushnell, IL.

Klaira Strickland (M.A. 2017) accepted a position as an Adjunct Professor at University of Maryland Global Campus in Columbia, MD.

Maureen Sullivan (M.A. 2021) accepted a position as a Technical Writer at Abbott Laboratories in Chicago.

Kevin Titus (B. A. 2020) was accepted to the Film Studies M.A. program at New Castle University in England.


Marjorie Allison attend the MAPS Leadership Institute.

David Banash, co-writing with Andrea Spain, published “Professional Life, Childhood, and Fantasy Solutions: Middle-Class Alienation in the Fiction of J. D. Salinger and the Films of Wes Anderson” in Post45.

Rebekah Buchanan broadcast her Tri-states Public Radio Commentaries, “What if We Put Our Energy into Supporting and Improving Schools?” and “Preparing Teachers for Diverse Student Populations.” As the host New Books in Popular Culture she conducted 24 interviews. Her book reviews for Library Journal include: “Mark Andrews, Paint My Name in Black and Gold”; “Michael Christopher, Tupac Behind Bars”; “Shirley Reva Vernick, Ripped Away”; “Karen McManus, You’ll Be the Death of Me”; “Will Sergeant, Bunnyman: Post-War Kid to Post-Punk Guitarist of Echo and the Bunnymen”; “Jason Draper, Prince (Lives of the Musicians)”; “Kate McGovern, Welcome Back, Maple Mehta-Cohen“; “Alan Cross, The Sciences of Song: How and Why We Make Music”; “Questlove, Music is History”; “Sonia Hartl, The Lost Girls: A Vampire Revenge Story“; “Lauren Gibaldi & Eric Smith, eds. Battle of the Bands” “Pete Shelley with Louie Shelley, Ever Fallen in Love: The Lost Buzzcocks Tapes“; “Cassie Gustafson, After the Ink Dries”; ‘Shayna Maskell, Politics as Sound: The Washington, DC, Hardcore Scene, 1978-1983“; “Claire Swinarski, The Kate InBetween”; “Rosa Hawkins, & Steve Bergsman. Chapel of Love: The Story of New Orleans Girl Group the Dixie Cups”; “Mercy Fontenot with Lyndsey Parker, Permanent Damage: Memoirs of an Outrageous Girl.” She presented on the Anti-Racist Rural Educator panel at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Conference. She also presented on the Painting Equity, Singing Justice, and Performing Antiracism: Making Art That Makes a Difference in the ELA classroom with Dr. Alisha White at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Conference. She presented “DREAMers and Undocumented Students Access to Higher Education: Findings from Interviews with 33 Dreamers” with Julia Albarracin and Marcy Olague-Jamaica at the Sharing the Dream Conference.

Merrill Cole published his poems, including “My Censored Tumblr” in The Thought Erotic; “Hinge” and “Linear A” in Lotus-eater Magazine; “Man Shot First” in Denver Quarterly; and “Defense Mechanism” in Metro Weekly. He presented “Surrealism and the Real of Slavery: An Intervention with Kara Walker” as part of the The Geopolitics of Contemporary Surrealisms panel for the International Society for the
Study of Surrealism Conference. He participated in poetry readings, including Poems from Johnny in Lights at the International Society for the Study of Surrealism Conference. He was a reader and panel organizer for Trans and Queer Poets on Gender at the OutWrite Conference.

Roberta Di Carmine was on sabbatical this year, continuing research for her new book on visual anthropology. She also enrolled in a Master’s program in Criminology at an Italian University, and she is currently finishing the online course and doing research for the thesis, which will be on serial killers. She plans to apply all that she has learned to teaching Crime Films in ENG 393 “American film genre” in the fall.

Everett Hamner published his review essay “Wanna Be an Antiracist? Keep Science and Fiction Entangled” in Science Fiction Studies. He also reviewed Science Fiction and Catholicism: The Rise and Fall of the Robot Papacy, by Jim Clarke for Fafnir: A Nordic Journal of SF and Fantasy Research.

Magdelyn Helwig accepted a position at as Writing Programs Director at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina.

Tim Helwig published his review essay, “Histories of Contested Nation-Building in Early Transatlantic Print Culture,” in Early American Literature. He presented “These Wretched Beings”: Representations of “Poor White Trash” in Mary Pike’s Ida May at the American Literature Association Conference in Chicago.

William Knox presented “How Combating Climate Change Can Help Restore the Ecosystem” to the Western Biology department for World Environmental Day.

Barb Lawhorn along with Rebekah Buchanan partnered with alum and teacher Connor Sullivan to organize a Creative Writing Club at West Prairie Middle School. She also published the short stories “Treading Water” in Sandhills Literary Magazine and “Underground Volcanoes” in Sierra Nevada Review. Her poems “Beading the Alphabet”, “Orb Eater”, and “Capsaicin’s Kiss” were published in White Wall Review. In collaboration with Sullivan, her ENG 100 students did a writing partnership and major book and literacy kit donation to West Prairie 8th graders. She organized the creative writing open mic series “Voices Raised.”

Dan Malachuk co-edited Re-Transcendentalizing the Transcendentalists, a special issue of the journal ESQ, for which he also wrote the introductory essay: “Re-Transcendentalizing the Transcendentalists.” He also published “Romanticism and Democracy,” in Handbook of American Romanticism (De Gruyter).

Freesia McKee writes monthly for the Ploughshares Blog. She recently published “Interconnection Beyond Denotation in Sappho’s Gymnasium” as part of this series. Her lyric essay appeared in the LGBTQ+ literary magazine Foglifter Journal. She also had two critical essays appear on The Ploughshares Blog. Her poem “Missing Cat” was featured on the The Slowdown, a poetry podcast produced by American Public Media. She presented a workshop at the Youngstown Fall Literary Festival called “Getting the Word Out: Publishing Your Work in Lit Magazines, Zines, Poetry Videos, and More.”

Amy Mossman led the department search committee, resulting in two successful hires for tenure-track positions in Writing Studies. She also led the reprogramming and reorganization of new faculty orientation.  

Rich Ness’s “A Perfect Couple: The Altman-Rudolph Connection” was included in the anthology Refocus: The Later Films and Legacy of Robert Altman (Edinburgh Univ. Press). His entry on “Journalists in Motion Pictures” was published in The SAGE Encyclopedia of Journalism. He was interviewed about his book, Encyclopedia of Journalists on Film for the Journalism History Podcast done for the History Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Alisha White  published “Discovering Disability Experiences” in English Journal; “Inquiry and Empathy with Young Adult Literature” in English Education; and co-wrote “Walking the in Between: Convening Time and Space for our Entangled Selves” and wrote “Do Not Enter: Walking and Rolling the Wrong Way Up the Down Ramp” for Pedagogical Propositions: Playful Walking with A/R/Tography (International Society for Education Through Art). With Rebekah Buchanan she presented “Creating Rural Anti-Racist Educators: Students, Faculty, and Alumni Teachers Talk about Race and Teaching in a Rural Teacher Education Program” and “Creating Art as Social Justice Work in English Education. Roundtable session for Painting Equity, Singing Justice, and Performing Antiracism: Making Art that Makes a Difference in the ELA Classroom” at the annual conference of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), Louisville, KY.

Jacqueline Wilson read her poetry and creative non-fiction at the University of Louisville Conference on Language and Culture, Louisville, KY.

Erika Wurth’s short story “Reflection” was accepted for the anthology Never Whistle at Night (Penguin/Random House). Her novel White Horse will be published by Flatiron/Macmillan this November.