A message from Department Chair Dr. Caroline Maun, winter 2024

Dear English alumni and friends:

I’m sending best wishes as spring has arrived in a fully felt way at Wayne State. The solar eclipse of Apr. 8, 2024, coincided with the trees blossoming, clear skies and temperate weather in Detroit and the surrounding areas. I’m also writing in my last semester as chair of the English department. I have been honored to serve the department and its wide constituency for six years as chair.

We are looking forward to our next chair, Dr. Jaime Goodrich, who will begin in the role in August of 2024. She will continue her great service to Wayne State as director of the Humanities Center as well as serving as chair of English. We will all benefit from her vision, wisdom, compassion, know-how and the campus-wide and national connections she brings from her role in the Humanities Center and in the profession as a scholar of early modern British literature. She is a transformative leader.

Giving Day

This Giving Day (Apr. 11, 2024), we are highlighting the English department scholarship. The English department Scholarship has the flexibility to be applied when students need it most, often to help them get through hurdles near the end of their studies. Please feel welcome to make a gift for any of our scholarships or funds, including our Annual Fund, which supports many great initiatives in the department such as internships, research and professional travel.  Thank you for considering a gift.


In the English newsletter this semester, we are featuring stories about our department from the last year that I hope give you some sense of the range of our activities and accomplishments. Steve Zoski, senior writer and content specialist in the Development Office, in “Class gives Wayne State students glimpse of content and publishing careers,” highlights a new course in the English department, our Publishing Practicum, which gives students an immersive experience in publishing and content creation. Through the Rushton Journal of Undergraduate Humanities Research, students engage in the entire publishing process, from writing and editing to managing editorial and production schedules. This hands-on approach is supported by the Edmund and Norma Rushton Endowment. Initiated in fall 2023, with its first issue published in February 2024, the course was inspired by the Rushton family's dedication to liberal arts and aims to furnish students with practical skills transferable to any profession.

The endowment, established to honor Ed and Norma Rushton's legacy and their belief in the power of education, supports the journal's operation and student involvement in humanities research. Ed and Norma Rushton were committed to education and community improvement in Detroit. Their family, many of whom also pursued careers in writing, views the journal as a tribute to their commitment to education and its capacity to foster critical thinking. This initiative dovetailed well with Wayne State's broader College to Career effort, aimed at providing experiential learning to prepare students for successful careers. The journal not only serves as an academic platform for undergraduate humanities research but also stands as a testament to the Rushton family's legacy.


Katie McMillan, associate director of public relations in marketing and communications, features a discussion of the research of English Ph.D. student Chloe Leavings in, “Healing with the Humanities: Rhetoric Research Offers Support for Black Maternal Health.” Black women face nearly three times the risk of pregnancy-related deaths compared to white women, a crisis exacerbated during the pandemic. In Detroit, the situation is particularly dire, with the maternal death rate for pregnant Black women significantly exceeding national averages.

Amidst this context, Leavings is pioneering an approach focused on improving communication within obstetric settings to enhance health outcomes for Black mothers. Leavings' research, underpinned by the concept of linguistic justice, explores the implementation of identity safety cues in healthcare environments. By emphasizing the critical role of effective communication and trust-building between healthcare providers and Black mothers, Leavings aims to address and mitigate the impacts of medical racism and systemic barriers in healthcare, thereby fostering safer and more inclusive environments for Black mothers and their children.


M.A. student and intern Jeffrey Amato, in “Meet Alumna Kinyel Friday,” interviews Kinyel Friday, who earned the Master’s degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing. Her work as the operations manager at 826michigan, a non-profit organization focused on inspiring children through writing, leverages her creative and writing skills. She is also the author of children’s books and the founder of a publishing company, KinYori Books. Her decision to pursue a Master’s in English was driven by a longstanding interest in writing, although initially uncertain about the specific direction. Memorable experiences at Wayne State, particularly with professors Todd Duncan and Bill Harris, broadened her perspective on writing. Her transition to writing children’s literature was inspired by her experiences as a school social worker, aiming to address self-esteem and beauty standards among young students. With several publications to her name, Friday is now focusing on editing a novel composed of interconnected short stories.

Accelerated graduate enrollment

Social media intern Nyana Allen interviews B.A. student Jimmy Showers, focusing specifically on his decision to pursue AGRADE, our program that accelerates the earning of an M.A. degree. Jimmy Showers, transitioning from a musician to a student amidst the pandemic, found his way to Wayne State to pursue an English major, driven by his love for creative writing and storytelling.

The AGRADE program allowed him to take both undergraduate and graduate courses simultaneously, in order to refine his writing skills and explore career opportunities that align with his passion. He has pursued internships and grant writing, which have contributed to his professional development. He is particularly proud of his growth as a writer and a critical reader, achievements that have helped him find his unique voice in writing. Jimmy plans to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in English honors in 2024 and is applying for the master’s program for the subsequent fall, with a number of graduate credits already completed.

Final thoughts

As my tenure as chair of the English department at Wayne State draws to a close, I’m grateful for the opportunity to have served and contributed to our community's growth and success. The department has made significant strides in enriching the academic and professional lives of our students, faculty and alumni. Initiatives like the Publishing Practicum and groundbreaking research projects, such as those focused on improving Black maternal health, underscore our commitment to making a meaningful impact both within and beyond the university.

The stories of individuals like Kinyel Friday and Jimmy Showers, who are leveraging their English degrees to pursue their passions, testify to the department's transformative environment. As we welcome Dr. Jaime Goodrich into her new role, I am confident that the department will continue to flourish, building on our excellence and innovation. I look forward to seeing the continued success and evolution of the English department under her leadership. Thank you for all of your support.

Dr. Caroline Maun

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