Greetings, from someone relatively new to this position, an endeavor so far exhilarating, a challenge, yes, but likewise an opportunity.
English is the largest department on campus, and we like to stay busy, vivid, vibrant—of quality and quantity. We proudly do things, make things, analyze things, with a critical and imaginative mind. A lot of things. Time management is key.
A meandering way of saying I write this missive from my office in quiet dusk of after-hours, as I nibble on a tortilla chip and listen as cars swooooshhh by, and the laughter of college students echoes off the sidewalk like thrown pennies…
Pop Quiz! Fortunately, it consists of only three questions.
Pop Quiz Question #1
First, what are the critical factors indicating student success in college? How do you get a student to remain in school (retention) and then do well (learn something useful)?
Research indicates that active involvement is the most fundamental and powerful principle of college success. And what is active involvement?
According to studies on the subject:
- active reading
- responding to others/providing feedback
- group activities
- visiting the library
- making things
- community service
- embracing a diverse community
- career development
- attending co-curricular events
Anyone recognize this list? It’s Ball State English!
It’s Book Arts Collaborative, Broken Plate and River Teeth magazines Digital Literature Review, Journal of Modern Periodical Studies, In Print Literary Festival, Creative Writing in the Community, Indelible Podcast, Compass Creative, the Marilyn K. Cory Speaker Series, the Writing Center, and starting in Fall 2022, our new course: ENG 269 Career Discovery.
As noted, we all like to stay busy: faculty, staff, students, and alumni.
As I’ve heard more than once while attending various higher administration meetings in my new role as Chair: “The English department is so large it’s sort of like its own College.”
Or to quote former chair of the English department Pat Collier, who has this to say about the nature of our department:
“Social scientists (the linguists, and some of the rhetoricians) rub elbows with artists (the creative writers) and critics (the literature people). In our classrooms, aspiring poets and screenwriters converse, argue, and collaborate with future K-12 teachers and students aiming to travel the world with their license in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) tucked inside their passport.”
I hope all readers will note that Ball State repeatedly promotes English professors to top administration positions:
- former chair Pat Collier to Associate Dean of the College of Sciences and Humanities
- former chair Adam Beach to Dean of the Graduate School
- former chair Kecia McBride to Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
Again, the essence of our department entails the most valuable skillsets in ANY professional employment: to critique, create, and communicate, in writing, verbally, hybrid, or otherwise.
Pop Quiz Question #2
What is the best food in the world?
That’s easy, nachos.
Speaking of diverse toppings, um, I mean choices, this year we were in an enviable situation, as far as selecting writers for our literary festival, Visiting Writer Series, or for readings and presentations from our faculty and their plethora of achievements.
As for our faculty, I could mention every award, grant, film screened, or publication this last semester, but then this newsletter would grow to the size of a 5,000 pound serving of nachos or a Russian novel. So, for brevity’s sake, I’ll mention that within the last semester our faculty produced 15+ articles and book chapters, 14+ creative texts, had films shown at 13 refereed festivals, published maps and other hybrid forms, and have multiple books in press and forthcoming—from poetry to the rhetoric of accessibility, to personal essay and scholarship on African American celebrity, from diverse fiction to teaching literature to professional writing. And so on.
As much as I’d like to continue to brag upon our faculty, let us pivot to where this department’s hearts, intellect, and efforts always focus: the students, current or former.
What did I mean earlier by “enviable situation”? We are now such a strong English department, with such an impressive record of student achievement (Fulbright Scholar, anyone?), that we select professional authors for our various co-curricular activities from our own alumni.
What a fascinating novel, with a truly inclusive array of character that push and disrupt the expectations and norms of the genre, in a good way.
“Hollowell builds a magical atmosphere with ominous, spooky overtones…. An otherworldly showing of inner strength.”—Kirkus
And for the capstone of an impressive semester, the English department, along with President Mearns, an array of other departments, and various community partners, welcomed friend of Oprah and New York Times best-selling author and Ball State graduate (OK, yes, I must admit I taught her back in the day!), Ashley C. Ford.
Check out her Ball State Writer-in-Residence page here.
(Please take a good while over the break to peruse all the wonderful resources and readings on this website from her visit to our campus.)
I hope I’ve made my point by now: In this department, we get things done.
Even in these challenging times, we know active learning is critical to success. And we know this intensive pedagogy takes a community, faculty, staff, alums, all together. And we are grateful.
If you want to help us strengthen that community:
- contribute to support our programming and extracurriculars
- hire or mentor one of our graduates.
- come visit us and share how your education in English prepared you for a fulfilling life.
- just send an email and say, hello.
In this autumnal season, I thank you all. The English Department wishes you safety and comfort and blessings (for example, nachos) in the New Year.
Oh, and I almost forgot:
Pop Quiz Question #3
What was the undergraduate major of Ball State University President Geoffrey S. Mearns?
Yep, you guessed it. ENGLISH.