Letter from the Chair

We are back! The 2022-2023 academic year was a year of growth and renewal for the WIU Department of English. Most of our classes were back to face-to-face, but we kept plenty of Zoom and hybrid options for those students who needed that option. It was great to see our Macomb and QC campus classrooms again buzzing with the voices of new and continuing students. The Department also welcomed two new faculty members, Director of the Writing Program Dr. David Johnson and Director of the University Writing Center Dr. Ashley Beardsley.

We kicked off the school year with a Creative Writing event & potluck organized by Barb Lawhorn. It was great to see the Reading Room filling up with people and chatter. And, of course, food was a great addition as well! Throughout the fall, Ms. Lawhorn continued to host a fantastic and well-attended Reading Room series, both in person and on zoom.

In October the Department supplied lunch for English majors and minors in the Reading Room. We also held a “Haunted Simpkins” event to celebrate Halloween and give everyone the opportunity to hear and tell ghost stories and have treats. On a recent gorgeous spring day we broke out the ice cream and nondairy treats to spend some time on the steps of Simpkins Hall. Clearly, socializing and food was a theme this year!

The Fred Case and Lola Austin Case Writer-in Residence events are always special moments for the Department to come together and hear from up-and-coming and established writers. In the fall we hosted KB, a “Black queer nonbinary miracle.” KB’s poetry is personal and riveting. This spring we hosted Angeline Boulley, the Native author of the best selling Firekeeper’s Daughter (soon to be adapted as a mini-series for Netflix). Her craft talk and reading in the WIU Art Gallery made for a lovely afternoon. Ms. Boulley was extremely generous with her time and attended a class to discuss the students’ varying interpretations of a key scene in her novel. We are excited to have three authors scheduled to visit campus in 2023-24.

The Maurine Magliocco Lecture in the spring was face-to-face again! Dr. Sara Austin was invited to discuss her work on “Teenage Zombies and Baby Vampires: Childhood Culture, Monsters, and the Taboo.” We plan to move the Magliocco event to the fall in 2023; watch for announcements of the date and time!

The annual High School Writing Festival was led by Drs. Buchanan and White and over 80 students from area schools attended; many with their WIU English Education major alumni teachers! Drs. Buchanan and White also hosted a writing festival for middle school students in November. Our “Get Lit” Festival was organized by Dr. Hamner and 73 students attended from 7 high schools. We are proud to offer these opportunities to high school students in our region!

Gathering together again to read, write, learn (and eat!) were wonderful experiences during this year of growth and renewal. As I write this, I am also listening to a different kind of growth—that of the construction of the new Performing Arts Center next to Simpkins Hall that used to be two tennis courts and parking lots. For those of you who are remote from us, there is a webcam set up on the roof of Simpkins which will give you a live view of the construction site: http://www.wiu.edu/cofac/cpa/stream.php. A lot is happening at WIU! We can see it outside our Simpkins Hall windows and hear it in the voices of our students in our hallways and classrooms. We are back! Come see us some time—or drop us a line. We are here to welcome you!