Fall 2021: A message from Department Chair, Dr. Caroline Maun

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Dear Alumni and Friends:

I’m sending warm greetings to you from our fourth pandemic semester. In Winter 2020, the English Department faculty and staff shifted, as did most other professionals in higher education, to remote, online delivery of our courses and all our services. For years, a portion of our courses have been online, but the public health situation demanded that we shift most operations online and all of us became skilled with the tools and best practices of online teaching as we continued in mostly remote modes in Fall of 2020 and Winter of 2021. In Fall of 2021, approximately a third of our courses are face-to-face and two-thirds are online, either in remote synchronous or asynchronous modes. With mask and vaccine mandates recently implemented on campus, I am hopeful that we will be working toward more completely regular operations in Winter of 2022 and beyond.  Ultimately, our experiences with online teaching have brought focus to accessibility, course design, and communication, and the fruits of those lessons will last beyond the pandemic.

I’m excited to launch this newsletter during a period of resilience for our department.  We have recently completed a program review that highlighted strengths in our excellent instructors, the accomplishments of our majors, and the ways in which the department fosters passionate engagement with English and the humanities. The stories here will help you to see where we are now as a department, and I hope that you will feel welcomed to connect with us and be a part of all we are doing. 

The English Department recently established a Diversity and Social Justice Scholarship, inspired by the social justice movements of the summer of 2020 and the accomplishments of our alumna Nakia Wallace (B.A. 2020 and organizer of Detroit Will Breathe).  I’m inspired by our recent recipients and all that they do and aspire to do.  The awardees are taking what they are learning in our classrooms and using their knowledge and skills to create change in their communities with a focus on equity.

Our profile of Nabilah Khachab (Ph.D. 2019), who was awarded an American Council of Learned Societies Emerging Voices Fellowship, highlights her passion for children’s literature and social justice, race, ethnicity, and disability studies.

This year, the Department of English coordinated the Rushton Undergraduate Humanities Research Showcase, a digital event that took the place of our usual Rushton conference. This newsletter includes a link to the presentations of two outstanding students who graduated last academic year: Amy Loji, an English honors student and the recipient of the Best Essay award, and Vera Shaw. While Amy focuses on her study of literature within the global context of colonialism, Vera discusses her work on immigration policy.

In this issue, we also remember Ron Wilson, an entrepreneur with TechTown Detroit who worked closely with Dr. Jared Grogan and a great number of our students who studied in our Professional Writing minor.   Mr. Wilson was unforgettable in his commitment to increasing the dignity and independence of the disabled, and he was incredibly generous in sharing his experience with Wayne State English students. Our students’ range of skills and confidence grew because they were able to see the ways that their writing supported Mr. Wilson’s business and goals.

Finally, our story about two recent courses that involved the digital humanities shows the ways in which our department is preparing students to write for wider audiences within the context of their studies and to make contributions at the forefront of the field.

Please keep in touch with us! I would love to hear about how you have used the skills and knowledge gained at Wayne State and how you remember the department. If you have career news to share, or would like to be more involved with our students, please get in touch with me at caroline.maun@wayne.edu.

All the best,

Caroline Maun, Ph.D.

Chair and Associate Professor

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