Friday, September 21, 2018

Dr. Christian Kiefer begins position as West Coast Editor for the Paris Review

The Paris Review recently announced that Dr. Christian Kiefer, Director of Ashland University's MFA Program in Creative Writing, will be taking on the newly created role of West Coast Editor. Emily Nemens, Editor of The Paris Review, writes that 
Christian’s inveterate energy, good taste, and large network have already proven valuable to my first issue, and we should all be thankful that he connected us with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, whose Art of Poetry interview is now underway.

Dr. Kiefer joined Ashland's English Department in January 2017. In addition to directing the low-residency MFA program, Dr. Kiefer is also a musician and a prolific writer of numerous works, including his novel The Infinite Tides and the novella One Day Soon Time Will Have No Place Left to Hide. His forthcoming novel, Phantoms, will be published in April by Liveright.

Christian Kiefer, Ashland MFA Director

Friday, September 14, 2018

English Major Jordan Martin Completes Grant Writing Internship

English major Jordan Martin shares what she learned from her summer internship.

This past summer, I interned in the University Grants and Foundation Relations Office at Ashland University. Through this internship, I was able to learn the different aspects of writing proposals and managing earned grants. For example, I performed many hours of research regarding different foundations that accept grant requests and wrote multiple letters of intent to various foundations. I learned how programs at AU are started and executed. Additionally, I was able to use and improve my critical thinking, researching, and writing skills in this position as I worked with my mentor, Sharon Lowe. The main objectives of my internship were to 1) learn how to write grant proposals and other important documents and 2) advance Ashland University through the projects my mentor had planned. I enjoyed serving Ashland University in a way that will deliver visible results in the next few years.
This internship opportunity has been invaluable to me. I appreciate getting hands-on experience in seemingly every aspect of grant writing. Additionally, Sharon has been an amazing mentor who encouraged me throughout my internship. The greatest takeaways I have from this experience are learning that I have the capability to be successful in this career field and that I definitely want to pursue a career in grant writing. This internship has given me confidence that I can be successful in writing grant proposals for nonprofit organizations and that I can make a difference through my work.

Jordan is committed to writing excellence in a variety of contexts. In addition to perfecting her skills with grant writing, she is also a Writing Assistant at the University Writing Center, where she assists other students in developing their own writing skills.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Megan Connor Begins New Position as Director of the University Writing Center

The English Department welcomes Megan Connor, who recently joined AU as Director of the University Writing Center. In this role, she will oversee the many services offered by the Writing Center, including one-on-one appointments between Writing Assistants (WAs) and undergraduate students seeking assistance in any subject, the training and continued professional development of the WAs, graduate and Seminary writing consultations, and English 110 (the writing lab connected with the Composition Program). Megan describes her training and previous work as follows:

For the last four years, I taught 11th grade English Language Arts at Bio-Med Science Academy, a STEM high school located on the Northeast Ohio Medical University’s campus. While there, I established and developed a student-staffed writing center. Going through this process re-ignited my passion for writing centers.
I have been involved with writing centers for over ten years and have worked with them in almost every capacity - as a student, as a peer tutor, as an assistant director, and as a director establishing a new center. I have my Master’s in Rhetoric and Composition from Kent State and am currently enrolled in the Curriculum and Instruction doctoral program at Kent State. My main research interests include the teaching of writing, writing centers, peer review, new literacies, and critical social justice education.

In addition to her training and expertise, Megan brings with her a warm enthusiasm for the AU community. She writes,
I have been awed by how welcoming everyone has been. There seems to be a real sense of community at Ashland, and I am really looking forward to becoming a part of that community.
The department looks forward to Megan's contributions in her new role!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Dr. Maura Grady Returns to English Department Faculty

This academic year, the English Department welcomes Dr. Maura Grady back to the faculty. Dr. Grady joined the department in 2011 as a full-time faculty member, then served in an administrative position from 2016-2018 as Director of Composition and Director of the University Writing Center, and now returns to a full-time faculty role, which includes directing the Composition Program. Dr. Grady had these thoughts to offer on the invaluable work she has contributed over the past two years.

Dr. Maura Grady

My job in the English department has recently undergone a transition.  From June 2016-August 2018, I served the university in an administrative role with the very long title of Director of the Composition Program and the University Writing Center.  Prior to June 2016, these were two separate positions but for various reasons (turnover, transitioning administrative leadership, and a different budget picture), these roles were combined into one position.  Recently, the decision was made to re-separate them again since the work required of each has grown and changed so much in recent years.  Since I took over as Director, the Writing Center has expanded and updated its services-- we are now serving undergraduate and graduate students, college credit plus students and online students.  The writing center is playing an important role in the new Accent on Writing initiative that is entering the pilot stage in Fall 2018.  The writing center now has an extensive formal training program for new and continuing WAs and as of January, the Director is joined by an Associate Director and a Part-time Administrative Assistant, along with the most important people in the Center-- the undergraduate peer Writing Assistants and the Graduate Writing Consultants.
The Composition program has also undergone some pretty significant changes since I began serving as its director in January 2016. We now have many more part-time faculty teaching in our program and are offering courses in many more platforms-- traditional online, College Credit Plus high school locations, correctional online, and face-to-face correctional education.  The Composition Program consists of four courses-- ENG 100, ENG 110 and ENG 101 (Core) and 102 (Core).  Making sure that students receive consistent and competent instruction that provides the transformative educational experience Ashland is known for is my #1 priority.  To that end, we want to provide faculty with training and support and to conduct meaningful assessment of our teaching and student learning.  The Composition courses can have such a huge impact on student success, since so much of what students are evaluated on comes down to writing skills.  In the next year, I'm looking forward to collaborating with others to improve our training and support for faculty teaching Composition and to better coordinate resources for students.
My current research is focused on creating better assessments of student learning so we can determine how to improve our teaching to help more students succeed.  I recently completed a thesis for my M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction that focuses on our ENG 100 course at Ashland.  About 20% of our traditional undergraduate students start in this course, which provides additional writing practice before ENG 101. 
In teaching, I'm always trying to help students see how important their own experiences and interests are when they write, even if those don't get direct commentary in their papers.  One of my other areas of scholarship is film studies and I've spent the last several years studying the film The Shawshank Redemption and its lasting legacy in Ohio where it was filmed.  Starting in 2013, I've involved students in that research and have been fortunate to publish several articles and a book-- The Shawshank Experience: Tracking the History of the World's Favorite Movie-- on the subject.  I'm now on the board of the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society, a non-profit dedicated to preserving the historic prison where Shawshank was filmed.  Teaching my students the novella, the film and the real history of our local area has been so rewarding and I think it has made me a better teacher.  I'm so glad to be returning to the faculty, though it's bittersweet-- I'm going to miss the hustle and bustle of the Writing Center!  I'm looking forward to making our Composition program the best it can be so that every Ashland student can become a stronger and more confident writer.

Dr. Grady will be giving a book talk on The Shawshank Experience at Main Street Books in Mansfield, OH on Friday, September 7 from 6:00-7:30 PM, and all are welcome to attend. The English Department is delighted to welcome back to a full-time faculty role such an exceptional scholar, extraordinary teacher, and beloved colleague.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

New Publications from Joe Mackall

Joe Mackall, Professor of English, has an essay, “Yesterday’s Noise,” in the current issue of Punctuate Magazine.

Also, Mackall’s essay “Gazing at My Father Gazing” will be out this month in the ten-year anniversary print issue of Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices. Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Stephen Dunn serves as the special guest editor for the issue.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Alumni Spotlight: Sarah Ludwig

Sarah Ludwig (back row, right) with Coworkers

By Sarah Ludwig, class of 2017, English major

The start of my college journey is probably not all too different from what many other undergrad students experience during their first year—going in thinking you want to study one thing but ending up dropping it entirely. In my case, I came to Ashland University believing a major in Integrated Social Studies Education was the perfect fit for me. After one semester, I discovered that, while I had an interest in the field of education, being a teacher was not the route I wanted to take. In fact, I had no idea which route to choose. Enrolling in a variety of classes throughout different disciplines seemed like my best option. It was during Dr. Weaver’s Greek Literature course that I decided to pursue a degree in English. I am very thankful to Dr. Weaver for sharing his love of literature and for leading me to the outstanding members of the English Department.

The skills acquired through pursuing an English degree are compatible with numerous fields, such as Marketing or History; however, I decided to learn more about publishing. During my last two years at Ashland, I had the opportunity to jump into this field while interning at the university’s Master of Fine Arts program and River Teeth. While working under Cassy Brown, I was able to gain vital insight into publishing and to develop professional skills. It was easy for me to see that I had found a career path that combined two things I enjoyed—reading and writing—and that I was eager to explore.

Landing my first job after graduation did not happen right away. I spent the first couple months applying for publishing positions located in Ohio as well as in cities in the surrounding states. The waiting finally paid off when I accepted a job as an editorial assistant at Solution Tree Press in Bloomington, Indiana this past March. Solution Tree provides professional development events and publishes materials for K-12 educators. This position has allowed me to have a hand in every step a book takes to become published, everything from the initial manuscript acquisition to the marketing efforts. Plus, as one of the “Treeple,” my tasks and responsibilities are tied directly to education, a field that I always hoped to contribute to despite abandoning my teacher aspirations. While I continue with this publishing adventure, I am also experiencing the exciting town of Bloomington. I feel very fortunate to work with an amazing group of people in a field that interests me and to have had the far-reaching experiences provided by Ashland University during my four years there.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Q & A with Sarah Wells, Alumna and Author

Sarah Wells, B.A. 2003, M.F.A. 2015, has published a new book. Click here to read her alumni spotlight in this blog. I interviewed Sarah in preparation for her book launch.

HD: How is this new book similar to and different from previous works you've published?

SW: I have published a lot of essays and poems that respond to or engage with the Bible in direct and indirect ways, but this is the first project I've published that is positioned as a resource. Just about everything I've written previously has been nonfiction or autobiographical in nature; this book project required a lot of restraint to avoid interjecting my own personal experience, even my own opinion. It was a very different kind of writing.

HD: How did the project come to be? Could you describe your writing process?

SW: I wrote on a regular basis for an online column called "Off the Page," a publication of Discovery House, for a couple of years. The column offered a platform for engaging with the intersection of faith and everyday life. One day, the editors of the column reached out to me to talk about the possibility of writing a family devotional for them. It wasn't a project I had ever really thought about doing, but the more we talked, the more excited I got about the vision they had for the book and how it could work. I wrote a couple of sample entries. They liked them. And away we went!

Outside of my master's thesis, this was the first writing project I've had with a hard deadline. I began writing the book in May 2017 and had a due date of November 1, 2017. I knew that I needed to have some kind of structure and schedule to stay on target for the due date, and because I have a full-time job and a family, I would need to stick to my guns to get the work done. I tried to write two to three devotionals a week. The mornings are my time - I wake up usually around 5:45 or 6 and spend an hour or so working on writing projects, reading... or sometimes scrolling through Facebook. No one else is up at that hour in my house, so it's the best and most sacred time of day for me. That's when the majority of the work was done for the devotional.

I read several recent books on the Bible as I was writing and referenced a lot of support materials - the Strong's concordance for original Greek and Hebrew terms, Walter Brueggemann's book on the Old Testament, The Gifts of the Jews by Thomas Cahill, The Bible Tells Me So by Peter Enns, and What Is the Bible? by Rob Bell, among other books and authors I've read and been influenced by over the last 18 years.

HD: Who is the target audience for the book?

SW: The target audience for this book is families with school-aged children, although one of my friends is using it with her 3-year-old and another with her 17-year-old, and both seem to be finding it beneficial for conversation starting. Beyond that specific age range, the idea for the book is to help people engage with the Bible in a way that is accessible and practical to our daily lives.

HD: What advice do you have for authors hoping to publish on similar subject matter?

SW: Everything you do, do with excellence. You never know what doors might open. I started writing for "Off the Page" because the editor there read my work in a literary journal. I published the essay in the literary journal after a decade of blogging and practicing writing. The journey is slow, but every step along the way is important.

HD: Do you have another project in the pipeline?

SW: I don't have another project like this one that I'm working on, but I have a full-length poetry manuscript, a memoir, and an essay collection I'm beginning to send out places. All three projects have been coming together the last couple of years, and I'm hoping to start making something of them!