Chair's update: Winter 2023
Dear English alumni and friends:
It’s great to be sending you news of the English department at Wayne State. In this academic year, the English department is offering most of our courses in in-person modes to ensure better student outcomes. First-year composition and other general education writing courses are crucial for student development and sense of belonging in college. In face-to-face courses, students ideally receive an abundance of feedback on their writing and engage in discussions with their peers and instructor. In-person courses promote bonding with the group and instructor, creating a supportive learning environment.
English has participated in a university-wide initiative to provide Freshman Interest Group (FIG) course blocks where groups of students enroll in several first-year courses together to enhance their sense of community and belonging. If students in such a group are enrolling together in a mix of online and in-person courses, then the bonds they develop in the in-person courses should also enhance and deepen the experiences of the online courses. We are still offering some courses in asynchronous and synchronous remote modes, particularly within the English major and they are in high demand and are the first to fill. We are working to find the best balance after the adjustments we made to the pandemic and with a strong commitment to student success.
We are sharing stories in this issue that we hope will give you some sense of the scope of our activities and what we find valuable. I want to thank Associate Chairs Lisa Ze Winters and Jaime Goodrich for their leadership and guidance in creating our newsletter. Dr. Goodrich, who served as associate chaair of English through mid-August of 2022 and Dr. Ze Winters, who began as Associate Chair of English in fall of 2022, work directly with our student social media and writing interns to select and create the stories that you read here and on our website. This year, our social media and writing interns are Brieanna Garbin and Cheyanne Parker. All of our interns also work with Associate Professor of Teaching, Jared Grogan, who is our Internship Coordinator. Every semester he directs students to great opportunities in our community at tutoring centers, non-profit organizations and in corporate settings. Many of our internships are paid through wonderful support of our donors and through support of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences internship program. The growth of our internship program has been wonderful to witness—these opportunities for networking, job experience and practical applications of their skills are central to our English majors’ career success.
Service learning plays a vital role in fulfilling our university’s mission. The ENG 3020 course, Writing and Community, is an excellent example of this commitment, as it offers students a unique opportunity to both meet the Intermediate Composition requirement and make a positive impact on their local community. This service-learning initiative embodies the spirit of Wayne State, demonstrating the university's dedication to creating and advancing knowledge, preparing diverse students for success and positively impacting both local and global communities. In “ENG 3020 and Service-Learning in Detroit,” written by Brieanna Garbin, you’ll read about ENG 3020 as a unique course that combines service learning and community engagement. Students volunteer at various local organizations, such as Detroit Black Community Food Service Network and D-Town Farm, while researching and writing about real-life issues. ENG 3020 is often a transformative experience for students, giving them the opportunity to develop their own agency, experience different career possibilities and contribute to the community. It’s great to read about the leadership of Associate Professor of Teaching, Ryan Flaherty, who is one of our ENG 3020 instructors. He inspired his students to create the Community, Writing, Engagement iN Detroit (CWEND) student organization, which allows students to continue their service experiences and reflection about rhetoric beyond the bounds of the semester-long course.
In “Bringing the Global Eighteenth Century to WSU,” also by Brieanna Garbin, you’ll read about an outstanding course, ENG 5200, that provided contemporary perspectives and innovative assignments. Dr. Lisa Maruca, an associate professor in the English department, received an award for Innovative Course Design from the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies for her course "Mediating the Global Eighteenth-Century." The class combines the history of race and the history of the book, allowing students to explore the intersection of media and communication technologies, social change and race. Dr. Maruca's teaching approach is known for being creative and highly effective, incorporating her research interests in print and education in 18th-century England. She has received several awards for her teaching, including a CLAS Teaching Award and the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. The course is grounded in anti-racist, feminist pedagogy and emphasizes the values of hope, collectivity and action. The assignments are hands-on and emerge from the readings.
In our spotlight article, “Meet Artist Protection Fund Fellow Michael Okpanachi,” written by Charlene Parker, we introduce you to Michael Okpanachi, who publishes under the pen name Pwaangulongii Daoud. This is an illuminating interview that provides insight into his background and creative practice. I am so very proud that we have Michael, a Nigerian writer and Artist Protection Fund fellow, as a new instructor who began in the fall 2022 semester as a visiting writer. He is widely published and has received recognition through fellowships and awards. His essay "Africa's Future Has No Space for Stupid Black Men" reflects on the life and death of a close friend and activist and won the Gerald Kraak Award for non-fiction. He just completed teaching ENG 5885 Topics in Creative Non-Fiction and is now teaching ENG 5860 Topics in Creative Writing. His advice to writers is that inspiration as motivation is overrated. Writers must be committed to the process of writing every day and thereby encourage their ideas to arrive. Professor Okpanachi’s visiting appointment at Wayne State was made possible through the Artist Protection Fund, a partnership with City of Asylum / Detroit, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the WSU Office of Educational Outreach and our incredibly generous donors who each year help us to replenish our English Annual Fund. I think bringing a visiting, international writer to WSU for a residency is one of the most inspiring ways to use our donor’s funds and many of our students are benefitting from sustained engagement with Mr. Okpanchi in his courses. He brings a valuable, international perspective to our understanding of creative writing as an endeavor.
In “Meet Alumna and Professional Writer Ashley Asimakopoulos,” by Cheyanne Parker, we learn more about the impact of our internship program on the career outcomes for Ashley Asimakpoulos. Ashley Asimakopoulos changed her major from nursing to English with a minor in professional writing due to the influence of two English instructors, Graduate Teaching Assistant, Austin Van Kirk and Associate Professor of Teaching, Jared Grogan. Van Kirk encouraged Ashley's talent in writing and Grogan helped her through her internship experiences secure her post-graduation positions. Ashley currently works as a social media manager at EnBiologics and a Fund Development Intern at Downtown Boxing Gym. She enjoys her work and notes her employers are intelligent and supportive—and also alumni of WSU. Ashley learned that starting a new career is an opportunity to learn and encourages others to not let impostor syndrome stop them from trying a new path.
In “Wayne State Editors Bring Creative Writing to the World,” written by Brieanna Garbin, you’ll read about English department members who are working as editors of national journals. We are honored that Three Fold is a quarterly arts journal that features poetry edited by Chris Tysh, an Associate Professor of Teaching. The journal is curated rather than relying on open submissions, resulting in unique and diverse pairings of writers. The Wayne Literary Review (WLR) is a student-generated review that has been a staple of campus culture for 70 years. Coordinated by M.L. Liebler, an associate professor of teaching, the WLR primarily publishes work by current students and is run entirely by a team of student editors. The experience of working on the WLR helps students develop important life skills and can be crucial to their careers after graduation. The Woodward Review (TWR) is a national literary journal edited by Isaac Pickell, a Ph.D. candidate in English. TWR accepts submissions from artists all over the country and facilitates a mutual exchange of creative ideas between artists and the audience through invited reviews and responses. The publications produced by members of the Department of English are vital in showcasing the relevance of the arts and promoting the work of writers from the university and beyond.
My deepest thanks to alumni and friends who provided gifts to the Department of English this year. Donors help fund our scholarships and initiatives and I’m happy to share some of the specifics in this newsletter with more detail than I do in the notes of thanks that I send. Donors who gave to our English Annual Fund supported our visiting writer Michael Okpanachi, faculty professional development, student participation in conferences and the development of this newsletter.
If you are interested in donating, please make a gift. We would so appreciate your participation in Giving Day this year, which is April 13, 2023. Gifts of any amount help us fund critical initiatives and make more opportunities for our students. Anyone who would like to endow a new scholarship should contact Development Officer, Mari Vaydik, at 313-577-8807 or email@example.com. She is amazing to work with and it is gratifying to receive the great news year after year that these funds are making a huge difference in our students’ education.
If you have career or publication news to share, or if you would like to be more involved with our current students, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the best,
Associate Professor and Chair