Winter 2022: A message from Department Chair, Dr. Caroline Maun


Dear alumni and friends:

We have had a whirlwind semester, with our first month in remote modes of teaching during the worst of the Omicron wave and then back in-person (for courses scheduled as such) starting at the end of January 2022. We are returning to more in-person instruction (public health situation permitting) in the fall of 2022, with a special emphasis on in-person teaching in Introductory College Writing (English 1020). Success in that fundamental course has proven to be a marker of improved retention and graduation rates for students across the university.

You will find news from across our department in this issue. We were overjoyed to learn that Danny Fenster (M.A. 2016) was released from detention in Myanmar where he worked as a journalist. He was one of many journalists imprisoned there; his family and his extended networks never flagged in bringing his case to the attention of diplomatic officials and the public. He is a brilliant writer, and we are so grateful he had a safe return.

We spotlight the remarkable generosity and vision of Hillary and Leslie Keyes, the daughters of Daniel Keyes, the bestselling author and educator. In establishing the Daniel Keyes Family Endowed Scholarship at Wayne State University, the Keyes’ sisters memorialized their father’s service to Wayne State as an instructor of creative writing in the early to mid-1960s. It was here in Detroit that he expanded his novella “Flowers for Algernon” to its well-known novel-length form. Students who apply for this award provide a statement about how they understand the fundamental emotional capacity of empathy. Encouraging empathy was a central, motivating force behind Keyes’ fiction, and it is such an honor to have this award in our department. It will help us to continue to center empathy in our pedagogy and to reward our students who articulate its meaning in their lives so well.

We share a story in this issue about our highly productive faculty in Linguistics, an interdisciplinary program offering B.A. and M.A. degrees. The Linguistics Program brings together faculty across the college, including the Department of Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures, the Department of Anthropology, and the Department of Psychology, among others. The English Department is home to the largest concentration of Linguistics faculty at Wayne State, with Walter Edwards, Ljiljana Progovac, Natalia Rakhlin, and Peter Staroverov. You will get to know more about their areas of research in this article and how fundamental their area of study is to our discipline. While I am writing of linguistics faculty, congratulations to Walter Edwards, who has served as the Director of the Humanities Center for thirty years, and who will be returning to the English Department after a research leave in academic year 2022-2023.

We hope you enjoy reading the Community Writing Newsletter and learning about the service-learning carried out by students in Writing and Community (ENG 3020). The newsletter was started by Ryan Flaherty to showcase the work of ENG 3020 students. You will read about Professor Flaherty’s students and their engagement with seven community partners in the fall of 2021. They logged more than 600 hours with organizations such as D-Town Farms/Detroit Black Food Security Network, Zero Waste Detroit, St. Vincent and Sarah Fisher Center, Freedom House Detroit, Michigan Urban Farming Institute, and the Detroit Phoenix Center. Students worked on fundraising, developing publicity materials, tutoring K-12 and adult GED students, and gardening, among other activities. The newsletter highlights the new student organization CWEND: Community Writing and Engagement in Detroit. Students who were energized by their experiences in ENG 3020 in past semesters have begun this organization to continue their outreach.

We also focus on Distinguished Professor of English Emeritus, Arthur Marotti’s, incredibly generative retirement. He is the founding director of the Wayne State University Emeritus Academy, which was established in 2015. The Emeritus Academy is located on the third floor of the Tierney Alumni House, and the Academy offers programming and engagement for retired full-time faculty. The university community benefits from programming that is available for everyone to attend, such as symposia and invited lectures. The Emeritus Academy offers many ways for retired faculty to remain engaged in their professions, with each other, and with Wayne State.

Just for fun, please also check out our crowdsourced list of favorite schools from film, TV, and literature recommended by Wayne State students and faculty. The crowdsourced lists have become a regular feature from semester to semester and have sparked good exchanges on our social media accounts when we post them.

Thanks so much to alumni and friends who provided gifts to the Department of English this year. Your generosity is so appreciated by students who will receive awards that help them to afford their studies. Watch this year's virtual awards ceremony.

Donors who helped us with our general fund supported an international visiting creative writer in residence, student participation in professional conferences, and the creation of this newsletter through an English department internship. If you are interested in donating, please visit Anyone who would like to endow a new scholarship should contact Mari Vaydik at 313-577-8807 or

I enjoy hearing from alumni who send notes by mail or email and tell me their news and memories of the department. Starting with our next newsletter issue, we will include notes from alumni so our large family can stay better connected. If you have career news to share, or if you would like to be more involved with our students, please let me know at

All the best,

Caroline Maun
Associate Professor and Chair

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