Friday, December 6, 2013

Alumni Spotlight: Anna Harrington

By Anna Harrington
As an English major and Applied Writing minor, I worked in the AU Writing Center from 1989 until 1993 as the intern Assistant to the Director, when I left Ashland to study in London and then earn my M.A. in English from Michigan State University. After MSU, I took a job in Chicago as an advertising executive, where I worked for 8 years while also teaching as an adjunct at local community colleges, before taking a full-time teaching position at Jackson State Community College, where I was promoted to Associate Professor and served as the Writing Programs Coordinator, then as a Professor at Edison State College in Fort Myers, FL for one year, before being asked to take a newly created position at Chattanooga State Community College as the Assistant Department Head for Humanities/Learning Support Reading and Writing, tasked with redesigning the existing Developmental Reading and Writing programs into individualized, modularized course delivery. 

I earned my Ph.D. in Composition & TESOL from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, writing my disseration about the increased marginalization resulting from Computer-Assisted Personalized System of Instruction course delivery for developmental writing courses; my writing received the Thomas Farrell Language Teacher Award in 2009, and in 2012, my dissertation earned the award for Promising Future Research in Composition. This past year, I received the state award for Outstanding Service to Students in Learning Support Programs for Tennessee for 2013 and was nominated for the Gladys Shaw National Award for Outstanding Service to Developmental Students, to be awarded in 2014. 

My academic publications include a chapter in Computer-Mediated Communication Across Cultures: International Interactions in Online Environments (IGI Global Publishers), and peer-reviewed journal articles in TESL-EJ, The DKG Bulletin, Working Papers in Composition & TESOL, and the Tennessee English Journal; fiction publications include short stories in The GW (George Washington) Review, the Red Cedar Review, Yemassee, Re:AL, and Fugue, and my novel, The Freaks, was published in 2012. I am currently teaching writing in Tennessee and have been selected to teach British Literature to 1789 in London next summer.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Alumni Spotlight: Sarah (Ross) Weber, Technical Writer

By Sarah (Ross) Weber, Class of 2007, English and Creative Writing major

My current job is with a software company, where I am a Technical Writer. I test software and create training PowerPoint presentations to help our support staff answer clients’ questions and help them become familiar with our software and the correct ways to do things like invoicing, payroll, and inventory management. . . . I feel like I have found something very, very close to ‘the’ job. People who work in tech are my kind of people—they are generally laid-back, hard-working, analytical, highly logical, and enjoy critical discussions on making things more efficient or have greater impact. Ashland's English and Creative Writing program taught me all of those things. . .

In my current capacity, I am not only a Technical Writer, but the only English major in the company. Anything written that leaves the company’s hands to be viewed by anyone else generally goes through me. I edit and proof; I help create and make things better. I may not be changing the world, but I have impact where I am with what I do. That’s a very powerful thing for a 26-year old woman to feel in her workplace. I am seen as an expert, and because of my foundation of skills, I am an expert.

In a recent discussion, Amy [Lesniak Herzel] and I explored the three main paths that English majors generally take: teaching; journalism; the other. I have chosen the other path. The other path is terrifying—students who study education or journalism come out of college with not only a degree, but a job title. They can say, "I am a teacher." They know exactly what jobs or graduate schools to apply for, where to find those job postings, and what to expect in interviews and their first classrooms. They have a large part of their identity (as it relates to their profession and projected societal image) already figured out. Finding one’s way on the other path, in contrast, entails trolling Craigslist, publishing websites,, searching for a job, any job that has the word "writing" in its description. The other can do almost anything, which is fun to think about when you're a college student [but] extremely overwhelming when you're actually engaged in that job search. The other sits in front of the computer screen, baffled. "I just want to write. I’ll write anything, really. Why aren't companies looking for writers and editors?" Because most companies aren’t looking for writers and editors. They are looking for people with a specific set of skills that includes writing and editing. Those skills are a plus. A bonus.

The other has to straighten her shoulders and charm in job interviews and really, really emphasize that she never wants to stop learning . . . and mean it. Then she has to prove herself super capable and efficient and able to keep track of every detail at once. The other has to watch Youtube videos to learn new skills like Photoshop. She has to Google-search every problem she comes to encounter with the new software she’s using, to figure out the pitfalls and novice mistakes she’s made so she doesn’t need to ask for help. The other becomes self-sufficient because she never wants to be seen again as "young" or "inexperienced." The other has to fight for experience in a myriad of fields to back up that "always learning" statement. The funny thing is that the other grows to really enjoy this. The hustle, the unknown. The yawning hole of opportunities right in front of her that just requires a rope and a spelunker’s headlamp to start exploring. One hand on the rope, one hand stretched out before her in the darkness, ready for whatever she encounters.

I got into the tech industry and technical writing, I recently realized, because I like instructions. I like having clear directions in front of me when I am doing something new. Now I get to create those instructions and make sure they are simple, clear, and concise. It’s like having an entire bar and soft drinks menu in front of you, and choosing a tall, cool glass of water because it is refreshing and feels clean, and is exactly what your body wanted, even in its simplicity.

I suppose my point is that while an English/Creative Writing degree can be very specific or staggeringly open-ended . . . having that degree means that whatever you choose to do, you will do it better. Perhaps only a tiny bit better. But those skills we unconsciously learn while tearing apart Shakespeare and Faulkner and Milton and cummings for the fun of it? They matter. We can read between the lines and use context, making us better communicators. Our vocabularies are large, making us precise and confident speakers. We read quickly and closely; we know how to find the important information in large blocks of text. We are creative thinkers from writing fiction and constructing arguments—find a problem we can't solve or untangle. We know how to mimic. We know how to learn and never want to stop learning, and mean it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sigma Tau Delta Theater Trip: Sweeney Todd

By Naomi Eberly, English major

“You’ve never seen Sweeney Todd?!” Fellow students almost gasped as soon as they found out I was going into this experience with no previous acquaintance with the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Other than people getting baked into pies and Johnny Depp starring in the movie version with Helena Bonham Carter, I knew nothing. However, in my experience it’s best to go into a stage production with no preexistent knowledge because everything looks fresh and the nagging notions of what could be done in CGI or previous actors’ portrayal choices don’t dim the performance in front of you.

At the end of October, a group of Sigma Tau Deltans and English professors went to see a production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street at Playhouse Square in Cleveland. Some had seen a performance before, others loved the movie, and for some it was a new experience made complete by posh-feeling box seats. For anyone reading who is just as unfamiliar as I was before this trip, here’s a quick plot synopsis: Sweeney Todd is a wrongly deported barber who returns to London seeking revenge on the judge who exiled him to Australia, raped (and possibly murdered) his wife, and now has custody of his daughter. After some unsuccessful attempts, he decides everyone deserves to die and starts enacting this vindictive justice on his customers. He joins forces with a baker who conveniently uses the fresh meat in her pies. I wish I could say a happy ending is had by all, but what do you expect from a play where your antihero is slitting people’s throats then selling their meat in tasty treats to unsuspecting Victorians?

With such a macabre storyline, the songs were quite catchy and the actors were equally warped and compelling. I don’t think I exaggerate when I say a good time was had by the viewers who afterwards went to an Irish pub because the GPS couldn’t direct them to the restaurant where “Emerson Shelley” had reserved a table.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Alumni Spotlight: Erica Brindley

By Erica Brindley, English and Creative Writing major

When I went to college at Ashland University, magic happened. I somehow wound up in the English 101 class of Dr. Joe Mackall. His first assignment? A personal narrative about whatever we wanted. So on a hot August night in my dorm room, I sat down and wrote about attending a KISS and Aerosmith concert–about how the grass felt on the lawn that night, cool yet sticky. About how I somehow felt a kinship with people I didn’t know, and people I’d never really know, and how I felt more comfortable in decades prior to my time than in my own time. I wrote about the chains that bounced off my hip as I climbed the hill of Germain Amphitheatre in Columbus, Ohio, and how I held the callused hands of a boy who kept me at skin’s length even though I wanted more than anything to be a part of him.

I turned in the paper. The next class, Joe kept me after. The humid air had crept in through the windows and the sweaty plastic of the desk stuck against my forearms. I felt like I was suffocating. “What’s your major?” he asked.

“Undecided…but leaning toward education?” I half-asked. Was there a right answer?

“No. Creative writing. You have something here,” Joe said. Apparently there was. When I left Miller Hall that day, two weeks into my college career, I felt like I had direction for the first time. The flowers were brighter and the sky was bluer, and I felt like Joe had uncovered a part of me that I didn’t even know existed, like he had peeled back my own calluses and exposed a raw, undeveloped part of me.

As with any “new skin,” this part of me was sensitive. I babied it, wouldn’t fully walk on it right away. It was an odd sensation, having someone believe that what I had to say was worth something, that my insights meant something. That my story was one that people might want to hear.

I spent many nights at the computer, my chair tilted back on two legs, trying to find my reality. Reality. It felt so foreign then. It felt like a thing of value.

All through college, I pecked away at my keyboard. When I couldn’t write, I turned on Metallica, turned off the lights, and hung upside down on my futon. I tried.

Four quick years later, I was getting ready to graduate when Joe asked me, “What do you think about grad school?”

I shrugged. After a barrage of questions from my mother about what the hell I was going to do with a Creative Writing degree, I decided that grad school would only be a waste of money.

“University of North Carolina at Wilmington. You should apply. A friend of mine, Philip Gerard, is down there. You’ll learn a lot from him,” Joe said.

So I applied. I got accepted. I didn’t respond until they started calling me and asking me what I was going to do. I decided I wouldn’t take it without a teaching assistantship, and the next day, I got the assistantship. So in August of 2007, I moved to North Carolina with a fire in my hands to write. I had managed to keep the skin that Joe revealed open–vulnerable, yet livable–everything that a writer should be. Because if a writer is not vulnerable, are they really a writer?

The truth was that Philip Gerard was wonderful. I felt comfortable with him much like I felt comfortable with Joe. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in 2010 with an MFA.

That same year, I was hired at Foundation Software (a company out of Cleveland that writes/supports construction accounting software) to do all their writing and to act as a creative source for marketing campaigns, headlines, etc. September 2013 will mark my third anniversary with the company. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Alumni Spotlight: Seth Snow

Seth Snow graduated as an Integrated Language Arts major in 2007. He applied for a job as a seventh-grade teacher and was hired to teach a “great books curriculum.” He proceeded to teach his seventh-graders Ray Bradbury’s story “The Veldt.” Some of the administrators felt this was too difficult for these students, but when one of them, while visiting Seth’s class, asked a student who had been pointed out to Seth as hopeless case gave a very intelligent account of the story, he found that this criticism would not stand up. As the class went forward, a number of parents began reporting to him that they had never seen their children interested in reading, but they were now reading without being made to do so.

In the process of discussing “The Veldt,” Seth had occasion to refer to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and presented a passage from that play for the class to talk about. They did so and got so excited that they asked for another passage to discuss. Having done this, they asked whether they could read the whole play. Seth said that that probably would not be possible during class time. Then they asked whether they could meet after school to talk about it. Seth said that would depend on the interest. He passed around a sheet, and seventy-five students signed up to meet after school to talk about Shakespeare. However, his career there was cut short when he was let go.

In 2008, Seth was hired by Danville High School in Danville, OH, a small town of about 1,000 people. He brought the same commitment to teaching at a high level that he had shown in his previous job, but here this approach met with more favor. He has regularly taught texts like The Odyssey, Crime and Punishment, Julius Caesar, Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and Antigone along with poems of Keats, Frost, Dickinson, and Tennyson. He teaches all of these texts at a high level, taking, for example, three months to do The Odyssey. This approach has paid off for him as witnessed by the fact that, when I visited him once for a discussion of The Odyssey, I found that his students knew this text far better than mine did.

Seth has sent students to Brigham Young University, Dennison University, and Kenyon College. The BYU student was returned a paper in her freshman English class with this comment on it. “Wow. In 30 minutes, you put together a well-written and insightful analysis paper. No sweat. You got this. Major in English. It’s a good idea.”

He has also sent a student to Kenyon College where he is now a senior majoring in philosophy. This student wrote the following to Seth during his freshman year: "The critical examination skills that I learned in your class are invaluable. I know now not only how to look at a problem but how to look around and through it. This is all while taking into account the bits of information that I know and realizing that there is some guesswork involved. Using that process while implementing basic logic for the guesswork, I have been able to grasp different subjects and topics quickly, followed by developing my understanding of them even faster if I have basic instruction."

These comments show why Seth is so highly regarded by both students and parents. One parent, for example, asked whether he would still be there in five years to teach her younger daughter. If not, she was thinking she might have to make other arrangements for her education.

All these things show the incredible impact one of Ashland University’s graduates has had on the school and on the community where he is working. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Alumni Spotlight: Tom Sweo, Tech/Game Writer

Tom Sweo writes, "Since graduating in May of 2012, I've been working two jobs. The first is a full-time job with the 3E Company in Canton, Ohio, doing technical support and quality assurance. Recently I've been doing technical writing as part of a team overhauling the training manuals that we send out to clients around the world working to standardize Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for their specific needs and country regulations. These sheets cover important safety and environmental information that is often required by national and international government organizations, such as OSHA or the EPA in the United States.  My courses in grammar and usage and my work experience in tech support for Ashland University were good preparation for this position.

My second job involves tele-commuting with On the Lamb Games in Palm Coast, Florida. I connected with this game company while on vacation in Orlando last summer and have been writing rules (crunch) and fictional stories (fluff) for their games since September. "Crunch," or the game rules, gives the game substance. "Fluff" is the historical background to the game-- the game universe.  On the Lamb's first major release since I joined is coming up in two weeks, when we release a grid-based (like a chess board) tactical game called Endless: Fantasy Tactics. The other release we're working on is a historical parody game called Brushfire, which mimics Earth's history up until the late 19th century but features animals instead of humans (similar to the Redwall series by late author Brian Jacques).  The creative writing and literature classes I took at Ashland have helped me work with Matthew Whitehouse, our lead writer, to create short stories in the style of mid-nineteenth century authors.  Another part of my job with On the Lamb is traveling to nearby gaming trade shows and teaching people our games; my teaching and presentation experience from my ILA work comes in handy here."

While the language arts skills Tom got from his classes have been important to his success, he notes that his extracurriculars and outside interests at Ashland were helpful too.  In addition to his work experience with Ashland's IT support, he learned of the job at 3E through his brothers in the TKE fraternity.  His work with On the Lamb allows him to follow his long-held passion for creative writing and gaming.  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

AU Low-Residency Program Ranked in Poets & Writers MFA Index

From the Ashland MFA blog: "The annual MFA issue of Poets & Writers is out, and Ashland University's MFA program is listed among the 26 low-residency programs featured.

Of the 47 low-residency MFA programs currently available in the United States (Association of Writers and Writing Programs), AU ranks second in job placement, fourth in fellowship placement, and 11th in selectivity.  While the program did not place in a six-year popularity survey, it placed 19th in the popularity survey for 2011." 

Read more here

English Course Offerings for Spring 2014

English 217: British Literature
Dr. Hilary Donatini
MWF 10:00-10:50
Humanities Core

This is a twelve-week, three-credit hybrid course. Contact Professor Donatini for details.

Have you ever wondered about the origins of the famous British sense of humor? Get ready to laugh and raise the occasional eyebrow over some silly, sophisticated, and satirical texts. This section of English 217 will explore humor and wit in British literature in a range of works from Shakespeare to the present day. Texts will include the following: William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part I; W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, The Pirates of Penzance; and Zadie Smith, White Teeth, in addition to selected comical poems and short stories.
Assignments: Two essays, two exams, quizzes, a presentation, class participation, as well as online discussion posts and participation.

English 303: Writer’s Workshop Screenwriting
Dr. Maura Grady
TTh 3:05-4:20 PM
Elective for the Creative Writing major and minor

This course familiarizes students with various approaches and techniques for writing feature film screenplays. Focus will be on dramatic structure, character, and dialogue, with the goal of producing a screenplay sample, a presentation treatment of the film, and shorter analytical assignments.  May be repeated once for credit.
Required text: Duncan, Genre Screenwriting: How to Write Popular Screenplays that Sell

English 304: The Short Story
Dr. David FitzSimmons
Humanities Core; Creative Writing elective

An intensive study of the short story, with particular attention paid to the narrative construction of representative short stories. Text(s) will draw from a variety of Anglophone authors. Although the course is primarily a study of the writings of others, students may have some opportunity to compose their own short fiction as part of the examination and interrogation of the short story genre. Course texts will include one or more short story anthologies. Written papers will be requisite in this 300-level course.
Probable Text: The Longman Anthology of Short Fiction: Stories and Authors in Context. Ed. Dana Gioia and R. S. Gwynn.
On Reserve: The Captive Imagination : A Casebook on The Yellow Wallpaper. Ed. Catherine Golden. New York: Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 1992.

English 308: The Poem  
Dr. Deborah Fleming
TTh 9:25-10:40
Humanities Core; English Major and Minor elective; Creative Writing Major and Minor elective

Required Text: Ferguson, The Norton Anthology of Poetry, shorter fifth edition
Catalogue Description: An extensive analysis of poetic form on the basis of metrical, structural, and thematic elements. Discussion of representative poems from various literary periods.  Analysis of both open and closed poetic forms.
Course Objectives: The course objectives are to enable students to learn how to read and to write about poetry, to enhance their critical thinking ability by discussing the meaning of poetry, and to refine their analytical writing ability by writing about poetry. We will discuss poetry from throughout the periods of literature in English.     
Instructional Approach: The regular class format will be lecture and discussion.
Assignments: Two Midterm Exams, 15% each (30%); Paper One, 5-6 pages, 15%, an explication of the meaning of a poem, its imagery, and its figurative language ; Paper Two, 4-6 pages, 20%, an in-depth discussion of a poem, its imagery, its figurative language, and its metrical structure; Comprehensive Final Exam, 20%; Class Participation, 15%

English 309: African American Literature
Mr. Jay Robinson
MWF 12:00-12:50
Humanities Core and elective in Integrated Language Arts and the English and Creative Writing minors

We will read texts from a variety of genres. These texts focus on the experiences of African Americans in the contemporary urban environment of the middle to late 20th and early 21st centuries. Our critical analysis in a discussion/seminar format will examine how these works portray the lives and cultural practices of African Americans in such a context and how these texts comment on significant issues such as racial identity and race relations.

English 310: Literature for Adolescents
Dr. David FitzSimmons
Spring 2014
Integrated Language Arts requirement

Beginning with Jay Hosler’s highly publicized graphic novel Clan Apis (New York Times, NPR, Discover Magazine), we will examine a variety of young adult texts, always asking how they work (or, of course, how they don’t work!). Such rhetorical analyses will cover the genres of graphic novels, traditional novels, short stories, and poetry. We will underpin all our literary endeavors with Peter Rabinowitz’s theoretical text Before Reading. Individual papers will accompany in-class studies.

Course Texts: cummings, e. e. Selected Poems; Faulkner, William. Collected Stories; Hosler, Jay. Clan Apis; Johnson, Angela. A Cool Moonlight; Rabinowitz, Peter J. Before Reading; Silverstein, Shel. A Light in the Attic.

English 314: Gender Across Borders
Dr. Sharleen Mondal
MWF 11:00-11:50
Humanities Core; elective in Integrated Language Arts and the English and Creative Writing minors

In this section of ENG 314, we will explore the theme of crossing the borders which divide people by class, race, gender, sexuality, and religion.  Through exploring writing from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by authors from England, the U.S., and India, we will expand our understanding of how diverse writers tried to understand the norms which governed their societies and alternatives to those norms.  Assigned texts will likely include Sarah Grand's The Tenor and the Boy, Rokeya Sakhawat Hossein's "Sultana's Dream," E. M. Forster's A Passage to India, and Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye.
Assignments: Regular classroom participation in class discussion, short in-class presentations, regular reading quizzes, short literary analysis papers, and two longer literary arguments incorporating multiple sources.

English 315: German Literature in Translation
Dr. Maura Grady
TTh 1:40-2:55
Humanities Core and Border Crossings (GPS)

Through the reading of literary texts in English translation this course provides an overview of the literature and culture of the German-speaking countries during the period of what we usually call “modernism” and a little bit beyond.

Texts will be selected from the following: T. Fontane, Effi Briest; A. Schnitzler, Fräulein Else; T. Mann, Death in Venice (& possibly Tonio Kröger); F. Kafka, The Trial; G. Grass, The Tin Drum; H. Hesse, Steppenwolf; M. Frisch, Homo Faber; and H. Böll, The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum

English 324: The Modern Novel
Dr. Linda Joyce Brown
MWF 12:00-12:50

Humanities Core; elective for English major and minor and the Creative Writing major and minor.

This section of English 324 focuses on novels of modern multicultural America. We will read four or five novels that all engage (in different ways) with the question of what it means to “belong”—to a nation, to a culture, to a place.
Texts are likely to include some of the following: Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers (1925); Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952); John Okada, No-No Boy (1956); Chang-Rae Lee, Native Speaker (1995); Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (2002); and Diana Abu-Jaber, Crescent (2003).

English 325 N: Major Writers Seminar: Jane Austen
Dr. Russell Weaver
MWF 1:00-1:50
Meets Requirement for the English Major

This course will cover Austen’s five greatest novels:  Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion.
Assignments: Take-home exams on Pride and Prejudice and Emma; presentations on Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility/Persuasion.

English 370: Russian Novel
Dr. Russell Weaver
MWF 2:00-2:50
Humanities Core and English Elective

In this course, we will be studying arguably the two greatest novels of all time, Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. I certainly know of no novels, apart from Moby-Dick, perhaps, that can stand with them. I will ask you to read 300 pages of War and Peace over Christmas break so that you will not have so many pages during the semester.
Texts: Tolstoy, War and Peace (Norton Critical Edition); Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (Norton Critical Edition)
Assignments: Two take-home exams and two presentations.

English 371:  Literature and Film                                                                                
Dr. Gary Levine
MWF 11-11:50
Aesthetics Core (Note this is NOT Humanities Core).

An intensive examination of film with particular stress on visual narrative as it compares and contrasts to written literary narrative.  The course focuses on a close reading of both classic and contemporary motion pictures, with particular attention paid to shot composition, editing techniques, lighting, sound, and other technical elements of film, including casting and art direction.  Students will consider how these elements create a visual narrative that can be studied as an artistic and cultural expression. Each student will complete two extended essays (8-10 pages) due at the midterm and final examination periods of the course.  Students also will be required to complete 1-2 page response papers on the assigned date for each film/book combination. We will study 4-5 novels and their adaptations.  I’m a big fan of Alexander Payne and the Coen Brothers; I also like to include some of the up and coming women directors such as Lone Sherfig (An Education) or Deborah Granik (Winter’s Bone).  Note that while this is a core course open to all AU students, it will be taught at a fairly rigorous level to accommodate those students seriously interested in film; those looking just to satisfy a core requirement, while welcome, are strongly encouraged to use the S/U option.

English 411: Victorian Secrets
Dr. Sharleen Mondal
MWF 1:00-1:50
Meets upper-level requirements for English majors and minors, Creative Writing, and Integrated Language Arts

In this section of ENG 411, we will examine Victorian novels which have in common a narrative built around a provocative secret.  From detective fiction to imperial adventure to tales of wives with more than just one husband, the notion of the well-kept secret was central to some of the most popular novels of the nineteenth century.  We will investigate how these secrets--and the tales woven around them--enabled Victorian writers to work through some of the most pressing social issues of the period, including gender and marriage law, racial and class hierarchies, and British imperial power.  In addition to several shorter pieces, assigned texts will likely include some of the following texts: Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone, Rudyard Kipling's Kim, Arthur Conan Doyle's The Sign of Four, Sarah Grand's The Tenor and the Boy, and Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret.
Assignments: Short literary analysis papers, regular classroom participation in class discussion and occasionally leading discussion, regular reading quizzes, and two longer literary arguments incorporating multiple sources.

English 417: English Grammar and Usage
Dr. Deborah Fleming
TTH 12:15-1:30
ILA requirement; English major elective; Middle Childhood Generalist Endorsement requirement; English Language Arts Concentration major elective; English Minor elective

Required Text: Koln, Understanding English Grammar sixth or current ed.      
Instructional Format: Regular class format will be lecture, workshop, discussion.
Course Objectives: This course provides students with knowledge of grammar, syntax, and mechanics and fulfills NCATE requirements for teachers of English and Language Arts.  We will also study ways to use the vocabulary of grammar in the teaching of writing.
Assignments and Grades: Two midterm exams; final examination given at our scheduled final exam time; homework, quizzes, class participation; paper, five to seven pages

English 428: American Literature IV
Dr. Dan Lehman
Monday nights: 6:30-9:10
Meets upper-level requirements for English majors and minors, Creative Writing, Integrated Language Arts

English 428 aims to provide students with an in-depth understanding of major themes of American literature since the end of World War II. Against the backdrop of contemporary literary theory, the course offers an in-depth look at a rich variety of recent American literature: experimental novels, neo-realism, literary journalism/creative nonfiction, and contemporary American poetry. A recent offering of the course featured writing by Joan Didion, John Hersey, Paul Auster, Tim O'Brien, Toni Morrison, John Berryman, Raymond Carver, Lorrie Moore, Kate Braverman, and others. Texts for Spring 2014 are likely to change substantially, but will feature a similarly savory potpourri. The course is a seminar and features in-depth reading, spirited conversation, and deeply analytical writing.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Haven Awarded Djerassi Foundation Residency

From the AU News Center: "Dr. Stephen Haven, professor of English and director of the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Ashland University, has been awarded a residency in poetry for the fall of 2014 by the Djerassi Foundation, the largest artist residency program in the Western United States and considered among the best in the country." Read the full article here

Congratulations, Steve!

English Professor Takes Honors Class on the Shawshank Trail

Dr. Maura Grady with the Honors 390 class at the Ohio State Reformatory
By Erika Gallion, English and Creative Writing major
Props from The Shawshank Redemption

During the first section of Honors 390 this semester, Dr. Maura Grady introduced the class to the study of fan culture. The timing couldn’t have been better for this section: Mansfield and Ashland would soon be teeming with fans because of the Shawshank Trail’s 20th Reunion. The Shawshank Trail is an annual opportunity for fans of the film The Shawshank Redemption to gather in certain filming locations around Mansfield and Ashland. The trail was expected to be extremely busy this year because of its 20-year reunion, therefore inspiring Dr. Grady to conduct research on the basis of The Shawshank Redemption’s fan culture.
Touring the Reformatory

On the first day of the Shawshank Trail, I went with three other classmates to survey fans visiting the Ohio State Reformatory. The survey asked fans questions regarding their interests in visiting filming locations, their topmost desires for visiting Mansfield and/or Ashland, and how important the film was to the fan’s everyday life. During my research, I met a family from Illinois who were die-hard fans, locals who were simply interested in the prison itself, and a man who acted as an extra in the film (he had a folder full of pictures from the set—so cool!). The fans I met did not seem to be like one another; rather, Shawshank fans were widespread and unpredictable. This movie spoke to all kinds of fans, therefore attracting both genders, multiple age groups, and people from any profession.

Through this project, I discovered that fan culture is stereotyped way too often. The word fan has a connotation of being nerdy, introverted, and obsessive, but as I got to know Shawshank fans, I discovered the truth: fans are anyone who have a passion for a specific thing that has impacted their lives. I think it’s a good thing to be a fan- I know I’m a fan for a lot of things, The Shawshank Redemption being one of them!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dr. Weaver's Russian Novel Course Featured on Core Curriculum Blog

Dr. Russell Weaver's Russian Novel (English 370) course has been featured on the AU Core Curriculum blog. Read about it here

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Alumni Spotlight: Jillian (Messner) Kitts

Advice for Future Teachers from Someone Who's Been There…
By Jillian (Messner) Kitts, Integrated Language Arts Major

Stressed about student teaching? Not sure where your future in education is heading after graduation? Well, let me tell you about my experience.

During my very first lesson as a student teacher at Wooster High School, I had the privilege of working with two senior British Literature classes. The first lesson I taught was how to write a Shakespearean sonnet. For homework, the students had to write a sonnet of their own about anything they wanted.

To my surprise, when I collected the sonnets the next day in class, three senior boys had written me love sonnets. My all-time favorite sonnet included a line about how this particular senior boy had been “Messner-ized” by me. I then proceeded to congratulate this student on his clever pun.

For some student teachers, this may have been an embarrassing moment. But for me, I couldn’t help but find it anything other than comical. There is definitely a fine line between the student/teacher relationship. This line is even trickier when a teacher is young and just starting his or her career. However, the key here is to humor the students for a brief moment and then move on with your lesson.

This is something I learned during my very first lesson as a student teacher. I know it seems like student teaching is the most intimidating aspect of the impending future. But in all honesty, it is what you make it. If you go into student teaching with a terrified outlook, scrutinizing over your every lesson plan, then yes, your students will be able to tell, and they will pick on you. But, if you learn to enter into teaching with an open and flexible mind, then you will find that you learn just as much as your students.

In terms of my experiences at AU, I learned that teachers serve as bridges for their students. Nikos Kazantzakis once said that “true teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their own.”

By acting as this metaphorical bridge, my AU professors gave me the scaffolding I needed to progress until I could take the next step on my own. However, taking that next step meant that I had to reach out to my professors outside of class.

Do not be afraid to approach your professors before or after class. Email them, call them, stop by their office, utilize them in any way you can. Ask them to proofread your papers, write you a letter of recommendation, recommend possible graduate schools, or share about their own personal experiences. Overall, professors are there to help you whether it’s in relation to your education or your future career.

In terms of my job search process, I was blessed enough to land a teaching position three weeks after graduation. I attribute my success to extensive networking with any possible connection I could find within my teaching district. While not everyone will find a job three weeks after graduation, you have to be proactive in your job search. It’s often more about who you know rather than what you know. In addition to networking, it’s important to make sure you’re well prepared for the interview.

During my time at AU, I found many helpful resources provided by the Career Center that benefitted me in my interview. I attended a presentation on how to conduct oneself in an interview. During this presentation, I took extensive notes which I referred back to when I prepared for my teaching interview. After reviewing these notes, I felt more confident and prepared to answer any and every question my interviewers threw at me.

 Additionally, I did a mental recap of all the pertinent classes I took throughout my time at AU. I tried to pick out at least one or two important aspects of each class that I could relay in an interview. These mental bullet points proved to be a huge help in the interview process.
So in closing, here’s my advice: be a bridge for your students; act as a scaffold until they are ready to leave the nest and build bridges of their own. And lastly, network, network, network! It will land you a job in the end!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Alumni Spotlight: Scott Hazen

By Scott Hazen, Class of 1993, Creative Writing major
Scott Hazen enjoying the Firestone Golf Championship in Akron
Since graduating I have worked in Supply Chain for Sprint, Medcentral, Summa Health in Akron and OhioHealth in Columbus.  My specialty has been Enterprise Resource Planning systems and integrating processes and third part systems. ERP systems are large multi-functional software applications used in business to integrate processes, such as Human Resources, Supply Chain, Finance, Accounting, Inventory, Payables, etc.  These business applications would normally operate independently with interfaces trading data from application to application.  ERP systems put all those processes together and reduce or eliminate interfacing.

Third party systems are called bolt on systems for ERP, mainly for functions not fully developed in the ERP system.  I work primarily with PeopleSoft, an Oracle product, and while it is a good system, there's not a robust application for things like receiving, transportation, or inventory usage.  So third party systems are brought in to enhance that functionality.  My role is to coordinate all the technical and functional resources to make those third party systems work for Supply Chain.

In 2004 I was appointed to Mansfield City Council and won two elections, in 2005 and 2009.  The tools and experience I gained through Ashland have been invaluable in my professional and community service.  The ability to clearly communicate my positions, speak publicly, and clearly articulate business requirements have given me an edge with my goals and  ability to complete intricate projects.   In 2008 I completed my M.A. In Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga.  

So many of my professors at Ashland made a great impact on my life and future that looking back it is amazing to me how prescient and forward thinking they were.  I spent so much time in Dr. Stein's class, I think I read more than I wrote.  I got a kick out of his dry sense of humor and his quirky viewpoints.  He was really a nice guy and turned me on to a lot of authors I read to this day. Dr. McGovern was also a tremendous influence.  He was a gifted teacher, and could easily engage his classes in conversation.  Looking back we thought we spent more time chatting than working, but it was by design.  When the class was over we dissected the subject matter and dove headlong into the thought processes of the writer.  He was both challenging and inspiring.

I remember my classmates and the cameraderie we had together, along with the conversations, banter, and the excitement of new classes, new books, and new challenges every semester.  We had a fun group—we worked hard, but we also enjoyed our time at Ashland.

I hope that current students will be shaped by the department in the same way it has influenced me.  The lifetime love I have for literature has served me well, and has translated nicely into critical thinking and research skills in a professional environment.