About the Rushton Conference

The annual Rushton Conference in Language, Literature, and Culture is made possible by the Edmund and Norma Rushton Endowment. The presentation consists of undergraduate student papers, projects, and posters, representing the intellectual and creative achievements of Wayne State's students from all disciplines.

The panels will showcase student scholarship in a variety of disciplines, concerning myriad themes. English, classical and modern languages, philosophy, linguistics, history, film and media studies, anthropology, sociology, and many other majors will be represented.

History of the Edmund and Norma Rushton Endowment and the Rushton Undergraduate Conference

The Edmund and Norma Rushton Endowment was established to honor the memories of Mr. and Mrs. Rushton by members of their family. As a tribute to the Rushtons' lives, the endowment supports an annual conference for Wayne State University undergraduate students.

Both Edmund Rushton and Norma G. Rushton appreciated the diversity and scope of a liberal arts education that encouraged a questioning and deeper understanding of humanity. They were dedicated to enhancing the lives of others through participation in the communities in which they lived. Mr. Rushton, B.B.A. 1950, M.A. 1973, spent his career as a respected member of the Detroit advertising community. He served on the Board of Directors of the Franklin Wright Settlement, Children's Hospital of Michigan, and was a member of the speaker's board of the United Way. Mrs. Rushton, who began her studies at WSU in 1950 and received a B.A. degree in 1981 in American Studies, pursued her education while raising six children. She was instrumental in founding Children's Oncology Services of Michigan, which was responsible for raising the funds to build the Ronald McDonald House in Detroit. She served as the first patient ombudsman at Children's Hospital.

The purpose of the endowment is to emphasize the cultural richness of Detroit through an activity highlighting the interdisciplinary strengths of Wayne State University. The endowment was originally established and administered by the American studies program which hosted several youth/exchange conferences from this funding. The American studies program presented its final Rushton event in 2010 when the program was discontinued by the university.

In autumn 2013, the Rushton family gave the Department of English permission to re-establish an annual interdisciplinary conference under the title Rushton Undergraduate Conference in Language, Literature, and Culture and to open the conference to all Wayne State University undergraduate students. The first conference of this name took place on February 28, 2014. The kickoff featured a colorful presentation by the founder of the Grand River Creative Corridor urban art project and a reading by the winner of the conference's best essay award. Afterward, thirty students from a wide range of majors presented on 11 panels throughout the day. Projects ranged from traditional academic research to creative fiction and non-fiction, to performance art and everything in between.

In 2015, the Department of English began partnering with the Department of Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures to expand this ongoing event. Featured speakers for the second annual conference were the founder of the Detroit Cooley High School Reuse Project and the winner of the conference's best undergraduate essay contest. The level of student participation increased with 47 undergraduates presenting on 13 panels. A poster contest was also added to the event.

In 2016, the conference took place in the spacious and newly renovated Student Center Building and featured a presentation by the Detroit Experience Factory. This non-profit organization operates experiential tours of the city focused on getting newcomers and locals more connected to the people, places, and projects in Detroit.

Some 2017 conference highlights included 13 interdisciplinary panels, a King Lear roundtable, and a well-attended poster session where students competed for scholarships through the Global Crossroads competition. The midday keynote speaker was Marian Reich from Global Ties Detroit, a nonprofit organization that hosts international exchange programs on behalf of governmental organizations, universities, and think tanks that promote global exchange and citizen diplomacy.

In 2018, the conference grew to include 15 interdisciplinary panels and a global studies-focused poster session. At midday, speakers from Freedom House Detroit gave a moving presentation about the plight of immigrant asylum-seekers and the organization's efforts to provide a safe haven and services for refugees.