Monday, October 24, 2011

Ashland Grads Start Master’s Degrees Deep In the Heart of Texas

by Hilary Donatini

Recent graduates Lauren Schiely (2011) and Logan Fry (2010) are pursuing degrees in the Lone Star state. Schiely, an English and Creative Writing major at AU, is attending Texas State University in San Marcos, near Austin: “I am a student in Texas State’s Master of Arts in Rhetoric and Composition program. It’s a two-year program with about thirty students enrolled. I’m currently taking Studies in Rhetoric, Writing Center Theory and Practice, and a practicum for my graduate assistantship.” Lauren is teaching a developmental writing course and credits her work in the AU Writing Studio with giving her the confidence to lead the class. She also would like to raise current AU students’ awareness of the burgeoning field of Rhetoric and Composition:
I would like to share my ever-accumulating knowledge of the field of Rhetoric and Composition with English and Creative Writing students at AU who are considering graduate school. I wouldn’t have known to apply to this field if it weren’t for Sue Huff [director of the Writing Studio], and I think that many students are under the impression that the only two options are literature or creative writing master’s programs. Those are certainly great options, but I would be willing to answer questions for anyone looking to explore a different venue while remaining in the English department.

Logan Fry’s program is the Master of Fine Arts in English at the University of Texas – Austin, with an emphasis on Creative Writing in Poetry. Logan began his poetic career at Ashland, majoring in Creative Writing and English and minoring Philosophy. “This semester I'm taking three courses and am a teaching assistant in one,” he explains. 

I’m taking a course called Modern(ist) British Poetry, one called Literature for Writers, and a poetry workshop taught by Dean Young. It has encouraged me to be thinking about poetry (including my own) from a different perspective, one where the poem is not a stab in the dark toward Art but an engagement with a tradition and a set of guidelines—a set of guidelines that includes grinding these guidelines into dust with your boot heel, if that's what best serves your purposes in that particular case.

In addition to his course load, Logan is responsible for leading discussion sections and grading for Masterworks of Literature: British, a required class for every undergrad at UT: “We’re reading Chaucer, Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, Pope, Austen, Woolf, Eliot, Pinter, and some other important and often very difficult writers. I'm learning a great deal about how to lead a classroom, but it's certainly a trial by fire.” He has already observed his growth as a poet and a student of literature: “Now I have learned enough to see that I have not learned nearly enough.” Logan and Lauren are both grateful to the AU professors who guided them through the application process and prepared them for the rigors of these programs.

These Ohio transplants have been enjoying the food, weather, and culture of the Austin area. The picture above was taken in one of the many local coffee shops where they socialize and work through their demanding but rewarding grad school tasks. We wish them well!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

New Faculty Profile: Sharleen Mondal

by Linda Joyce Brown

The Department of English is delighted to welcome Dr. Sharleen Mondal to the faculty.  Before coming to Ashland, Dr. Mondal taught literature and writing at the University of Washington, where she earned both her M.A. and Ph.D.  In her research and teaching, Dr. Mondal’s interests lie in gender and sexuality studies, postcolonial literature and theory, and nineteenth-century British literature.  She is currently working on a book-length project on late nineteenth-century Indian feminist and Hindu convert to Christianity, Pandita Ramabai, and the Pentecostal Revival that took place at Ramabai's community for Indian women in the early twentieth century.

In the spring semester, Dr. Mondal will be teaching composition as well as two literature courses:  English 314, Women’s Literature, and English 411, the Victorian Period.  She is also working to develop a minor in gender studies, and she looks forward to speaking with students about courses they would like to see developed as part of the minor.  Dr. Mondal is passionate about AU's "accent on the individual" philosophy, and she notes, “I am very excited to be at an institution where individual students are valued and supported.”

An interview with Dr. Mondal was recently featured in The Collegian; to learn more about her research and teaching, you can access that interview here.  Her office is on the first floor of the Center for the Humanities in Bixler.  Please stop by and welcome Dr. Mondal to AU!

Ashland Grad Teaches at the Crossroads of the Blues

Upon graduating from Ashland, where she took every English class she could fit into her schedule and graduated with honors, Angie Cook joined Teach for America in the Mississippi Delta and writes:

"I teach third grade in Clarksdale, Mississippi—where all of my students live in poverty. I moved to Mississippi eager to help and learn, but I never anticipated the racial issues that still govern interactions in the Delta. As far as anyone was concerned, I was young, white, and Northern—none of which endeared me to students, parents, or co-workers. Some met me with skepticism, distrust, and even opposition. I had always considered myself sensitive and open to diversity, but this never prepared me for life in the Deep South. I have learned the power of humility, perseverance, and a bit of tough love. I understand hardships, sacrifice, and apathy in new ways. I have seen the best and the worst of public education, and still I have faith in the American dream and the potential of our poorest children. Best of all, I have won the acceptance, credibility, and respect of my new community. My students have had a positive experience with a person of a different race, socioeconomic class, and upbringing. And I have a new appreciation for the complexity of the human condition."

To learn more about Angie's experiences with Teach for America, you can read her blog here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sigma Tau Delta hosts Hob Nob Game Night

by Hilary Donatini

Meg Collier, Erika Gallion, and Andrew Kistler enjoy a moment with Jay Robinson and his son Sam.

Photo credit: Justine Ackerman
On the evening of Thursday, September 22, the lobby of the Bixler Center for the Humanities was abuzz with conversation, strategizing, and laughter. The first ever “Humanities Hob-Nob and Game Night,” sponsored by Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society, drew students and professors alike for food and fun. Scrabble, Balderdash, and Yahtzee were among the games played as the partygoers nibbled on pizza and other treats. Dantan Wernecke, a senior English minor from Lexington, Ohio and Secretary for Sigma Tau Delta, thought that the event “was a fun, unique way to bring similarly minded scholars together. There was fun to be had, food to be shared, and a dash of erudition.” Vice President Lindsay Cameron, a triple major in Integrated Language Arts, Journalism, and Creative Writing from Southington, Ohio, shared her opinion as well: “The Hob-Nob was fun because we were able to play games with students and faculty from many disciplines while using the space on the first floor of Bixler for a social event. It adds a new appreciation for other people we may only see in the classrooms.” Faculty in attendance included Visiting Assistant Professor of English Jay Robinson, who said, “As a teacher I don't get many opportunities to meet students who aren't my own. Not only was playing the games fun, but I conversed with creative writing students and talked poetry with them.” In true humanities fashion, Associate Professor of Spanish Bill Cummins stopped by the lobby to mingle. “It is amazing what you can learn about people when time is set aside simply to talk,” observed Cummins. The success of this event means that more hobnobbing is in our future!

Comic Books in English Class?

by David Fitzsimmons

Award-winning comic book author and illustrator Jay Hosler visited the AU English Department on September 15th, speaking to my Literature for Adolescents class. Dr. Hosler’s work includes Clan Apis and The Sandwalk Adventures, Optical Allusions, and Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth.

Dr. Hosler is also an assistant professor of biology at Juniata College. His science-based graphic novels make learning about bees, evolution, and other complex topics fun and interesting.  What better way to learn about social insects than following the soap opera-like life of a unsure, sometimes whiny, highly excitable bee like Nyuki (Clan Apis)?

Besides his engaging and hilarious comics, Hosler’s most recent article, "Are Comic Books an Effective Way to Engage Nonmajors?" (CBE—Life Sciences Education Vol. 10, Fall 2011), offers data indicating that visual texts may play key roles "in engaging and shaping student attitudes" toward science "in a positive way."

Jay Hosler's visit was co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, The Department of English, and the Department of Art.

To see more of Jay Hosler’s, please visit

And check out his uproarious blog, “Drawing Flies.”