Friday, June 23, 2017

Alumni Update: Scott Hazen

Scott Hazen was one of the first Alumni Spotlight subjects that I profiled on this blog when I became Department Chair. Below is an update of this original profile:
—Hilary Donatini

By Scott Hazen, Class of 1993, Creative Writing major

In June, 2015 I accepted a position with Avita Health System in Galion, Ohio as their IT Applications Manager. I manage all the inpatient systems, business systems, and integration. I have an excellent team of 11 analysts from various disciplines, and we manage over 30 systems, including the top of the line EPIC system, through a collaboration with Ohio State University. I was part of a team of 50 people from vendors and Avita that brought 9 brand new systems live on the first day of operations for the brand new Avita Hospital at Ontario. As the lead IT operations manager for Avita, I was tasked with coordinating support efforts, interfacing, and workflow. I get great satisfaction, knowing I do my part with technology to help the talented care providers at Avita save lives.

Sitting on my desk is the Ashland Eagle. I’m proud of my work and my team, and the root of this success started with Ashland. The collaborative environment, the teaching and coaching mentality of the staff, and the willingness to go above and beyond for student success, imprinted a philosophy that I still use to this day. Leading with integrity and values is an imperative, just like the professors and mentors I had at Ashland.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Terry Tempest Williams to Open 2017 Ashland University MFA in Creative Writing Summer Residency Reading Series

Terry Tempest Williams

from the AU News Center

Ashland University’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program will welcome a host of talented writers to the AU campus for its Summer Residency Program that will be held July 15-29. Evening readings and afternoon writing classes for the program will be open to the public, thanks to support from the Ohio Arts Council.

The first visiting writer on this year’s schedule is Terry Tempest Williams, author of several books including the environmental literature classic, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place and her most recent publication, The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks. Williams’ reading is scheduled for Sunday, July 16, at 7 p.m. in the Ashland University Richard E. & Sandra J. Dauch College of Business & Economics Ridenour Room. The reading will be followed by a book signing. She also will present a lecture and Q&A session on writing Monday, July 17, from 1:30-3 p.m. in the Dwight Schar College of Education Ronk Lecture Hall.

Visiting writer in fiction Rebecca Makkai is the author of the short story collection Music for Wartime, and the novels The Hundred-Year House and The Borrower. Makkai’s work also has appeared in The Best American Short Stories four years in a row. Makkai reads on Wednesday, July 19, at 7 p.m. and presents her craft talk on Thursday, July 20, from 1:30-3 p.m. Both events will be in the Ronk Lecture Hall.

Dexter L. Booth is this year’s visiting writer in poetry. He is currently a contributing editor for Waxwing, and a Ph.D. candidate and Provost Fellow at the University of Southern California. His poetry collection, Scratching the Ghost, received the Cave Canem award and his poems have been included in The Best American Poetry 2015, Blackbird, The Southeast Review, and many other publications. Booth reads on Monday, July 24, at 7 p.m. and presents his craft talk on Tuesday, July 25, from 1:30-3 p.m.

In addition to these featured visiting writers, the award-winning MFA faculty will present readings and writing courses throughout the two-week residency. MFA faculty members are all respected published authors in their genre, who also enjoy teaching. Topics for the afternoon sessions focus on more specific subjects such as line breaks in contemporary poetry, different approaches and forms for nonfiction writing, and considering point of view for fiction writing, timing of scenes, writing good dialogue, researching for memoir and literary.

The Ashland University MFA program is a two-year low-residency program. Students work toward the completion of a manuscript in their chosen genre by attending the summer residency and working with faculty mentors online during the fall and spring semester. Graduating students will read from their work on Thursday, July 27, from 1:30 – 3 p.m. The program will also welcome several of its published alumni back to present a reading on Sunday, July 23, at 7 p.m.

Additional readings and presentations by MFA faculty and visiting writers are scheduled throughout the two-week event.

For more information on this year’s schedule, visit or contact the MFA office at 419-289-5098.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Kaiser Wins Award for Outstanding Undergraduate of the Year

Emily Kaiser, an English and Creative Writing major with a minor in Business Administration from New Bremen, Ohio, won the award for Outstanding Undergraduate Female of the Year at the AU Leadership and Service awards ceremony on April 23. Erin Mitchell, the Area Coordinator for Clayton Hall and the Senior Apartments, nominated Kaiser for her work as a Resident Assistant and Assistant Resident Director in Clayton Hall. Mitchell's nomination letter enumerates Kaiser's achievements in her position: "As a member of the Staff Selection Committee, she has created innovative marketing initiatives to attract strong applicants. Although she will graduate this spring and will not be directly affected by the new team, Emily can see the importance of leaving a strong legacy behind. Emily’s ability to relate to and challenge others makes her effective in policy enforcement, crisis management, and community building. Emily has a unique talent for relating to many different people. When confronting a difficult situation, this allows her to speak to the needs of those involved and still complete the necessary administrative tasks. In community building situations, she can use this same skill to unite others who wouldn’t normally form a team." 

Mitchell continues, "What sets Emily apart is the harmony between the excellent qualities found in both her heart and her mind. Personally, she is a kind, empathetic, and gracious person. Intellectually, she remains diligent in her work, brings innovation where it is lacking, and makes every effort to maintain a positive, success-driven attitude that is infectious. She is taking every opportunity at AU to learn how to become an active, contributory member of her community. We are fortunate to have such a committed, capable individual who is willing to share her time and talents to enrich the Ashland University community."

Congratulations, Emily!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Cardwell Wins Prizes for Senior Thesis

Emily Cardwell receiving the Howard O. Rowe Scholarship from Dr. Christopher Swanson, Director of the Honors Program
Emily Cardwell's senior thesis, "To Dissolve the Barbarous Spell": The Significance of Female Education in Eighteenth-Century English Literature, won two prestigious campus prizes: the Howard O. Rowe Scholarship from the Honors Program, and the Charles E. Parton Award from the Ashbrook Program. According to the Honors Program Senior Cording and Reception program, "The Howard O. Rowe Scholarship is awarded annually to the graduating student whose Honors Capstone Project is considered to be the best among his/her peers." Cardwell shared the award with Grace McCourt, a Mathematics and Integrated Mathematics Education major from Wadsworth. The Charles E. Parton Award, according to the Ashbrook website, is awarded as follows: "Each year, the Director of the Ashbrook Center, in consultation with the faculty from Ashland’s Department of History and Political Science, selects one or more theses to receive the Charles Parton Award for Outstanding Thesis." Click here for a list of all winners, as well as links to the theses themselves.

Emily Cardwell and Dr. Hilary Donatini at Emily's thesis defense
According to Emily's thesis director, Dr. Hilary Donatini, "Emily was a consummate professional throughout the writing process, meeting deadlines and working well independently. The final product shows evidence of careful thought, as well as the ability to synthesize complex information and present it clearly. It was a joy to work with her. Emily opened me up to books in my field I had never read, and she gave me new perspectives on ones I'd read multiple times."

Emily Cardwell was born in Norwalk, Ohio. She grew up in Norwalk and attended St. Paul High School, graduating as valedictorian in 2013. At Ashland University, Emily majored in English and History with minors in Political Science and Religion. She worked as a writing assistant at the Undergraduate Writing Center for five semesters. Emily was a member of the Catholic Campus Ministry leadership team since her freshman year and served as student campus minister in 2016. Academically, she was named to the dean's list every semester and was a member of the Ashbrook Scholar Program, Alpha Lambda Delta, Omicron Delta Kappa, and Sigma Tau Delta.

Emily will attend Kent State University to obtain a master's degree in Higher Education Administration and Student Personnel with the intention of pursuing a career in academic advising.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Department Seniors Defend Theses

Four seniors in the English Department defended theses this semester. The descriptions below are adapted from the Honors Program Senior Cording and Reception program.

Dr. Russell Weaver, Emily Cardwell, Dr. Hilary Donatini, and Dr. David Foster at Emily's thesis defense
Emily Cardwell presented her Honors/Ashbrook Capstone titled, "To Dissolve the Barbarous Spell": The Significance of Female Education in Eighteenth-Century English Literature, on Wednesday, April 26th.

Emily Cardwell was born in Norwalk, Ohio. She grew up in Norwalk and attended St. Paul High School, graduating as valedictorian in 2013. At Ashland University, Emily majored in English and history with minors in political science and religion. She worked as a writing assistant at the Undergraduate Writing Center for five semesters. Emily was a member of the Catholic Campus Ministry leadership team since her freshman year and served as student campus minister in 2016. Academically, she was named to the dean's list every semester and was a member of the Ashbrook Scholar Program, Alpha Lambda Delta, Omicron Delta Kappa, and Sigma Tau Delta.

Emily will attend Kent State University to obtain a master's degree in Higher Education Administration and Student Personnel with the intent of pursuing a career in academic advising.

Dr. Hilary Donatini, Associate Professor of English, served as Cardwell's mentor for the project.

Megan Heckman presented her Honors/Ashbrook Capstone titled, War and Peace: Reason and Religion​, on Monday, May 1st.

Megan Heckman is from Mansfield, Ohio and graduated from Lexington High School in 2013. She attended Ashland University, majoring in English and Political Science, minoring in History. While commuting sophomore, junior, and senior year, Megan was a member of the Ashbrook Scholar Program, Honors Program, and interned for the MFA program for two years. She plans to attend graduate school in the future, eventually receiving her masters in English.

Dr. Russell Weaver, Professor of English, served as Heckman's mentor for the project.

Emily Kaiser presented her Honors Capstone titled, Decidedly Absent: A Memoir of a Totally Average College Student with a Penchant for Drama​, on Monday, April 24th.
Dr. Joe Mackall and Emily Kaiser at the Honors Program Senior Cording
Emily Kaiser is an English and Creative Writing double major with a minor in Business Administration. She hails from a small town in western Ohio called New Bremen, where she graduated from New Bremen Local High School in 2013. She served as color guard captain in the marching band; Assistant Residence Director of Clayton Hall and the senior apartments; editor-in-chief of Odyssey; and was a member of Kappa Kappa Psi, national band service honorary; Sigma Tau Delta, international English honorary. She loves few things more than sarcasm, coffee, and a good book (preferably together).

After graduation, Emily plans to unite her passions by edging her way into the publishing industry, specifically for children and young adults so that she can help improve children's literacy. Eventually, she plans to pursue her Master's and subsequently her PhD in English literature--mostly just so that she can force her friends to call her "doctor."

Dr. Joe Mackall, Professor of English, served as Kaiser's​ mentor for the project.

Bethany Meadows presented her Honors Capstone titled, History Versus Film: An Examination of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Rhetoric and Ava DuVernay's Selma​, on Monday, April 24th.
Dr. Maura Grady and Bethany Meadows at the Honors Program Senior Cording
Bethany Meadows, a 2014 graduate of Buckeye Valley High School, grew up in Ostrander, Ohio. At Ashland University, she majored in English and Integrated Language Arts Education with minors in Public Relations and Creative Writing. Throughout her time at Ashland, she was a member of Alpha Lambda Delta (the freshman honorary society), co-president of Sigma Tau Delta (English honor society), Assistant Editor of the Honors Bugle, and Public Relations officer of the Honors Society.

After graduation in May 2018, Bethany has no idea what she wants to do. Some of her inclinations include graduate school in English Rhetoric and Composition, teaching high school English, or becoming a bartender. With all of the uncertainty, it will probably be the bartending route while she tries to figure everything out.

Dr. Maura Grady, Director of Composition and the University Writing Center, served as Meadows'​ mentor for the project.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Cardona Wins 2017 Department Creative Writing Award

Maria Cardona won the 2017 English Department Creative Writing Award. Below she reflects on her four years at AU and what the future holds.

The Creative Writing program was the reason I decided to come to AU when I was seventeen. I still remember walking into Dr. Brown’s Comp 101 class and being terrified of my assignments because I’d never had to write a “real” paper before. Coming from Puerto Rico, I had never written very many papers in school. My English classes were mostly focused on vocabulary, reading, and speaking. I’d written a few essays for other classes but never anything big.

One of the papers I wrote for the class was interesting because my argument was about how education isn’t really about where you come from, but rather how you apply yourself. One of the things I heard a lot coming from Puerto Rico was “your English is so good!,” “how come you don’t have an accent?” “but, do you speak Spanish?” and other phrases along those lines. They were tiny things but they made me feel like it was expected that because I grew up in a small country, my education shouldn’t have allowed me to develop my English as well as it did.

That paper was interesting because when I first came here I was really shy and introverted. I was also still on my ADD medication which made me so focused I wouldn’t even speak! Writing had always been my means of expressing myself, and that class definitely helped me develop my own voice and allowed me to really start speaking up about issues that interested me.

As my four years continued, I was presented with many intellectual challenges. Postcolonial literature with Dr. Mondal was a remarkable course, but it came with many challenges. I was being asked to analyze even punctuation! Yet, it was the subject matter that really challenged me. Coming from a country that is still a colony, I could relate to the material in a very different way my American classmates did. I had so many things to say, but I also was challenged with really being careful with my wording in order to not make my opinions feel like attacks. Nonetheless, it was amazing being able to make cultural connections and help my classmates understand colonial issues.

It was the Honors section of Modern Drama that was a huge boon for me both intellectually and creatively. I had never really read very many plays. I’ve always enjoyed the theatre, but having to analyze plays was new to me. It was in this class, with Dr. Waterman, that I really made two of the biggest connections I’ve ever made with literature. Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, and Hutton’s I Dream Before I Take The Stand made me think about how great literature can affect people, touch them, and make them think. It showed me how great works don’t need to be long masterpieces necessarily, but that shorter pieces with powerful language can make incredibly strong impacts on the world.

On creative terms, all my classes presented different challenges. When I took the fiction/non-fiction workshop I originally wrote fifty pages of a story that I hated, and I freaked out because I thought maybe this career path wasn’t for me. Then I landed on what ended up being my capstone and the class the earned me the CW Award. It’s titled “Lares” after a town back in Puerto Rico where a revolution happened in 1868. The story is entered around this time period and the complications of a woman’s awakening and falling in love in times of an independence war.

Writing this piece was so challenging because I had so much research to do before I started writing. I didn’t really learn much about it in history class back home, so it was fascinating but exhausting to learn all this new information. It was also challenging to find a balance between history and my own story, but I think I managed to navigate it well by the end.

This story was also a challenge because I was supposed to have a brother who would have been twenty-five this year but my mom lost him before he was born. I wrote this story for him (naming one of the main characters after him). It was hard to write this story and even harder to finish it because how do you end that? How do you find the perfect ending for your brother? Plus, to finish it would mean to finish that chapter of my life and finish his story. I feel pretty good about the story I gave Sebastián.

The other massive challenge for this piece was how I could make the 2017 world care about an 1860s failed revolution in a tiny island. I think that having this love story plus an awakening element helped to shape this story and create a world that people could care about as much as I cared about this topic.

Another creative challenge I faced was in my short story class. Ask around the department— short is not my forte. I am incredibly wordy, so limiting myself presented a challenge for me. It was hard having to cut myself short and having to sacrifice elements of my story that I loved so much (highly influenced by Beckett, actually!) but it also showed me the importance of being open to feedback and being able to transform my story into something I can still love.

Poetry workshop was its own challenge since I am not a poet – at all! I struggled through that class but I learned a new appreciation for the form and it even ended up playing a role in “Lares.” The first line is actually from a couplet I wrote for the workshop. It was a new challenge to have to manipulate my ideas into forms and rhymes.

I’ve been working on “Lares” for three years, and when I was told it was receiving an award I was blown away! It made me feel accomplished and hopeful for my future career. I feel beyond honored to have been given this award, especially for a story I’ve been building for so long and care about so much. I think all the classes I’ve taken and everyone in the department has played a role in the birth of this story. There are so many stories I’ve read and so many assignments I’ve taken parts and pieces from that have influenced this story.

Up next is grad school in Ireland. It will be an exciting experience to go back after my study abroad. I’ll be studying Translation Studies (Spanish-English) in University College Cork. It will be so strange not being an English major anymore, but there will still be elements of literature in my program. My thesis can actually be a translation of a book of my choice, so I’m sure I’ll still be influenced by my time at AU. I’ll surely keep writing, and hopefully I can find a nice home for my novel and continue growing as a writer.

Monday, May 1, 2017

2017 Recipients of English Department Honors

On Sunday, April 23, AU held its annual Honors Convocation in the Jack and Deb Miller Chapel. Three majors from the English department won awards for their academic achievements.
Naomi Sims
Naomi Sims, a Creative Writing and Political Science major from Grapevine, Texas, won the award for Outstanding Sophomore. When asked what her favorite English department memory was so far, Naomi responded, "I got out of a class early one Friday so I stopped by Joe Mackall's office to drop off a piece of writing with him. I was not in any of his classes but he had offered to read and talk about a piece with me. Unknowingly I walked in on him and Dr. Weaver having a chat and they invited me in. It was really special to spend time with two of my professors‎ and just talk about writing and share that time together. I love moments like that because that's where some of my greatest growth as a writer happens."

Maggie Andrews
Maggie Andrews, a Creative Writing, English, and Communications Studies major from Mansfield, Ohio, was named Outstanding Junior. According to Maggie, "My favorite English department memory would have to be the fiction/creative nonfiction writing workshop with Dr. Joe Mackall. It was a great opportunity to work on a piece of my writing and receive feedback. I was critiqued by both my professor and peers, which has really changed my writing for the better. It was hard to choose just one memory because every English class has only strengthened my love for writing, literature, and the English language."

Emily Wirtz
The Outstanding Senior award was given to Emily Wirtz, a Creative Writing, Psychology, and Religion major from Youngstown, Ohio. "When I came to AU freshman year," Emily writes, "my majors were Psychology and Criminal Justice. I couldn't tell you exactly why, but that felt wrong, and I changed my CJ major to Creative Writing during orientation before classes even began. English is like that. Sometimes the literature and the craft and the words pull you in, and you're not sure why. I can confidently say that I have never since that first weekend on campus questioned whether or not I should be a Creative Writing major. The faculty and other students make the English department feel like a family and a home."

Congratulations to these excellent students!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Dr. Joe Mackall Interviewed on Literary Website

"'We Read to Discover What Meaning the Writer Has Made': A Chat With Joe Mackall, Editor of River Teeth" has appeared on the literary website The Review Review. Click here to read the interview. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Recommended Reading from AU MFA Faculty

The AU Master of Fine Arts blog has recently shared several posts in which our faculty offer recommendations on important books for the creative writer. Click on the months below to read the posts. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Ashland Poetry Press Author Wins Award

The following announcement has been taken from the Ashland Poetry Press website. The English Department is proud to house the Press and to share in the joy of its authors' success.
Congratulations to Ashland Poetry Press author Daneen Wardrop! Her collection Life As It has won the Gold Medal in Poetry in this year's Independent Publisher Book Awards, announced Monday, April 10. 

Wardrop's manuscript was the winner of the 2015 Richard Snyder Memorial Publication Prize, selected by contest final judge David St. John. The book was published this past fall and may be purchased through Ashland University's bookstoreSPD Books, or Amazon.
The Independent Publisher Book Awards were conceived in 1996 as a broad-based, unaffiliated awards program open to all members of the independent publishing industry. The awards are intended to bring increased recognition to the thousands of exemplary independent, university, and self-published titles produced each year, and reward those who exhibit the courage, innovation, and creativity to bring about change in the world of publishing.
This year’s contest drew nearly 5,000 entries, with winning medalists in 42 U.S. states plus DC, six Canadian provinces, and nine countries overseas. The medal-winning books will be celebrated on May 10th during the annual BookExpo America publishing convention in Chicago. Read more information and a complete list of winners and finalists here.
Winning poet Daneen Wardrop has published two additional books of poetry, Cyclorama (2015), and The Odds of Being (2007). She has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, and the Robert H. Winner Award from the Poetry Society of America. Her poems have appeared in The Kenyon ReviewThe Southern ReviewAGNIMichigan Quarterly ReviewNew American WritingTriQuarterly, and elsewhere. Daneen has also authored several books of literary criticism, including most recently Emily Dickinson and the Labor of Clothing (2009, University Press of New England). 
This year's Richard Snyder Prize is taking submissions through the end of April. Please see our Guidelines for more information and past award winners.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Beautiful and Conflicted Confessions of an English Major

By Corinne Spisz, Integrated Language Arts major

When I came to Ashland University as a freshman back in the fall of 2015, I thought I knew what being an English major was going to take. I heard it was going to be difficult but that I would be fine in the end. I heard that I will grow as a reader and a writer. What I did not know was the battle that I was going to fight, and will continue to fight, to achieve everything that I was told about my major. It was not until English Composition 102 with Dr. Waterman in the spring of 2016 that I realized what being an English major meant. This is the personal back story that I am unable to fully include in my 12-minute URCA (Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Symposium) presentation about how I discovered this “beauty through conflict” during one of my first interactions with the stories, “Bullet in the Brain” by Tobias Wolff (1995) and “Use of Force” by William Carlos Williams (1938). These the two stories that taught me what being an English major is all about. 

I was first introduced to these stories in the second half of the English 102 course and in no time, I decided to write my compare and contrast essay on these two texts. I had several failed attempts at starting this paper, horrible drafts that were driving me crazy. Fed up and frustrated, I went to one of the study rooms on the first floor of Amstutz Hall. As a sign of my determination to work this chaotic disaster out I left my phone and computer up in my room and I locked the door to the study room. In the isolation, save for the texts, blank sheets of paper, and a pen I began reading “Bullet in the Brain,” and began free-writing on any aspect of the story that stood out to me. After that I took another deep breath and began to read and free-write on “Use of Force.” It was then that I realized that the black ink on the white page was staring back at me, sending me a message that I never thought I would need. I bolted upstairs, crashed into the room, opened my laptop and began to write the very beginnings what I know is my upcoming URCA presentation on April 11.

These stories made me realize that literature is like having a “gun to your head” in the way that the main character Anders experiences in “Bullet in the Brain.” Literature is violent, provocative, seductive, elusive, exciting, inspirational, addicting and mesmerizing; but it is through all this power that I discovered the beauty of language and the beauty that I have within myself. Literature makes you think in ways you never thought possible, and English is so much harder than what I thought it would be, but that is the beauty of this major. This constant war between literature and yourself teaches you more about the world and your place in it than any other major, and I am always humbled by it. This conflict of thinking about literature and writing papers well is hard, but it is this difficulty that I absolutely love. This battle is addictive because you grow as a person, a reader, and a writer with every text you read and with every paper you write, and you want to push yourself and learn more every single day. I wake up every morning excited to get to class and sit through the discussions. A true English major has had an experience like this and has realized that language is beautiful. The conflict that first I faced was the distractions of the world. I was not willing to dive into the text and break it apart. These stories taught me the beauty and the depth of the written language through the conflict of distraction and insecurity. It took “the agony and sweat,” the failed attempts at the original paper for me to discover the beauty within myself and the beauty of the texts. 

My URCA presentation will consider the scholarly implications of this beauty/conflict idea. To do so, it will examine the claim in William Faulkner’s 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature Speech that, “writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about is worth the agony and the sweat” is necessary for English majors, readers, and writers alike. Using the motifs of mind and matter, each story explores the significance of beauty amid conflict. The mind represents the internal recognition of seeing beauty; matter, or mouth, articulates the external representation of realizing beauty. To apply these literary criticism and readings in my own “major” awakening I have realized, that without the discovery of the beauty of the English language there is no point in writing or reading. I fought to find this beauty and I encourage every reader, writer and English major to fight, to find the beauty on the page of every text you are fortunate enough to encounter, because it will change your life forever.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Alumni Spotlight: Dan Ditlevson

By Dan Ditlevson, class of 2013, English major
Dan in front of the colossal statue of Yongchuan’s patron goddess
Working as an ESL (English as a Second Language) instructor for the Chongqing University of Arts & Sciences has been a fulfilling opportunity in helping college-age students improve their foreign language skills in a personalized and relevant application. Additionally, living as an expatriate in Yongchuan, Chongqing, China, I have been receiving invaluable working and cultural experiences, which have been strengthening my adaptability and engagement within the professional and social sphere.
The countryside of Yunnan is lovely break from the continuous, busy city life.
Dating an East Asian Studies & Chinese Language major helped spark and cultivate my interest in China as a culture and country; eventually my partner and I both shared the desire to travel and work together outside the United States, which made China the perfect destination. However, making the decision to live and teach in China initially presented me with a bit of a shock upon arrival—especially without any formal training of the national language or an acute understanding of China’s social norms. Despite the inundation of unfamiliarity outside the classroom, Yongchuan’s citizens have been continually open to including me in their daily life even with the presence of a language barrier. Most notably, families encourage their children to call me “uncle” and offer hugs as a gesture of welcome and endearment. 
At night the ancient towns that surround the modern commercial center of the city look like glowing embers.

 Outside the work environment I take the opportunity in exploring all the facets of culture that my current community offers. With the least amount of effort I am able to come across thousands of years of history that manifests in the traditional food, customs, and ancient ruins in my surrounding community—a bus ride away can take a person to 1,000-year-old fishing towns, or to view massive ancient Buddhist rock carvings.
These pictures are of my favorite places around my university's campus.
Because this fall semester marked my professional teaching debut, facilitating and guiding the progress of the oral language skills of over 200 students for one contracted school year appeared to be a daunting challenge. Combating the impersonal classroom atmosphere, I try to help create a more personalized relationship with the English language and the speaker by placing less stress on grammar in the classroom. The students have been able to forget the anxiety of proper speech, which frees them to explore more creative options in expressing their opinions and emotions more accurately, whether through poetic imagery, iconic quotations, folk idioms, or personal anecdotes. Witnessing these students bringing the English language alive (even to the point of tears and laughter) profoundly affirms the importance of being able to express and perform a language that conveys the true reality of the individual.
These massive 1,000 year old Buddhist rock carvings can be found in the forests right outside Yongchuan’s city limits.
Above all, teaching in China has highlighted and further solidified the importance of communication in expressing and discovering myself—whether through language, cultural exchange, or through displaying emotional and physical expression. Without the engagement and immersive experience within Chinese society I could not fully appreciate and understand their spectacular culture. In regard to my time as a teacher in China, studying as an English major at Ashland University instilled the importance of understanding the English language as a living and multi-layered mode of communication and self expression. Despite not being an Integrated Language Arts major, or having a background in ESL instruction, Ashland University's English department has given me the intellectual resources necessary to facilitate a successful classroom environment, in which college students are able to use the English language as a personal resource for future opportunities of self-expression, communication, and employment. Although I do not see ESL instruction as being a long-term career for myself, yet my work experience of teaching in China has strongly built upon my educational foundation for further career opportunities.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Alumni Spotlight: Maggie (McLinden) Layfield

Maggie with her husband, Daniel
By Maggie (McLinden) Layfield, Class of 2010, Integrated Language Arts major

“English majors can do anything.” I heard that more than a few times (both in college and out), and it sounded like the desperate chant of people trying to convince themselves that they could do something with their degree. Well, something aside from attempting to write a novel while working as a coffee shop barista. I suppose my family was grateful that I declared myself an Integrated Language Arts Education major (after a brief stint as a Math Education major), as it at least meant I could get a job as a teacher. Upon graduating, I did just that, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

At the age of nine I boldly declared to my neighbor that I wanted to be a poor English teacher living in a shack with my husband and many children. He chuckled and patronizingly patted me on the head, which only served to motivate me further. When it came time to graduate and plan my future, I knew I belonged in education and I belonged at Ashland University. From the first moment I visited there, I considered no other colleges. It knew it was the perfect blend of small town feel with the diversity that my own small town decidedly lacked. Not too far from home but not too close, and above all, the home of one of the best education programs in the state.
Maggie with Daniel on their wedding day
What I didn’t know until my first day of classes was how life-changing my time there would be, thanks in large part to the professors and classes. It wasn’t enough to simply learn how to teach and have a general knowledge of your subject; we were expected to push ourselves, expand our ideas, and challenge the material in front of us. I fell in love with reading and literature all over again as I took courses in everything from South African literature to 18th-century English novels. The last two years at Ashland were spent composing my Senior Thesis for the Ashbrook program, a labor of love that is, to this day, one of my greatest achievements and sources of pride.

Through a connection with another education major post-graduation, I found myself interviewing, accepting a position, and moving to New Mexico all within the span of a week. My time as an English teacher was short-lived, as I moved back to Ohio. I intended to get back into the classroom, but the market was incredibly competitive and it never happened for me. However, my time with Sylvan Learning and another fortuitous connection with an AU grad (who also happens to be my best friend), led me to Georgia, where I became an admissions advisor with a university in Atlanta and met my husband, Daniel.

Traveling for work in Sacramento with her coworker, Donna
To end this slightly chaotic journey, I now find myself as an account manager at NetSupport, a software company that specializes in tools for education. The classroom has changed so much with the influx of technology, and my goal is to help equip teachers with tools to make it more manageable so they can spend their time doing what they love—teaching. Most of my days are spent in communication with everyone from classroom teachers to IT directors. This entails a lot of phone calls and emails, and I am able to develop my own templates and work with marketing on campaigns as well. I serve as the unofficial copy-editor for all materials that go out, and occasionally they even let me out of the office for conferences! I’ve had the chance to travel across the country, including California, Oregon, Colorado, Texas, and Florida.

I never expected to end up where I am, and if you’d told nine-year-old Maggie she would end up working for a software company, she would have scoffed. But life has taught me that it has a wicked curveball, and all you can do is prepare yourself for what it will throw at you next. English Majors are critical thinkers and creative problem solvers, taught to examine things closely and look at all possible interpretations. We succeed when others fail because we know what it is to spend 8+ hours up to our eyeballs in books as we research a specific phrase that a character used. I can say with conviction that we can, absolutely, do anything.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Dr. Maura Grady Discusses New Book

Q: Provide an overview of your book The Shawshank ​Experience: Tracking the History of the World's Favorite Movie.

​A: The Shawshank ​Experience: Tracking the History of the World's Favorite Movie features in an in-depth analysis of the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption and its source text, Stephen King's 1982 novella "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption." The movie was filmed almost entirely in the Ohio counties of Ashland, Richland and Wyandot. The book delves into issues such as the significance of race in the film, the film's cinematic debt to earlier genres, the Gothic influences at work in the movie, and the representation of Andy's poster art as cross-gendered signifiers. The book also explores the history of the Ohio State Reformatory, which served as the primary filming location, and its relationship to the movie's fictional Shawshank Prison. The book also examines why this film has been such a popular and critical success, inspiring diverse fan bases online and in person at the filming sites. Lastly, it traces the creation of the local tourism industry surrounding the film, which last year drew over 100,000 visitors to Ohio.

 Q: How did the book project evolve?

A: The original project that led to this book was a collaboration with former Ashland University COBE Hospitality Management professor Dr. Richard "Robby" Roberson, Jr. (now at College of Coastal Georgia) in 2013. Dr. Robby (as ​his students call him) and I were looking to do some kind of project together, as I have a professional history in the tourism industry and he is a huge film fan! We decided to combine our official disciplines -- film history and fan studies (on my part) + tourism/hospitality (on his). We knew the Mansfield Convention and Visitors Bureau was organizing a "reunion" for cast, crew, and extras involved in the 1993 filming of Shawshank and that many people would be visiting the filming sites. We approached Jodie Puster-Snavely of the CVB in the summer of 2013, simply to ask if we could get permission to survey and interview fans. She not only said the CVB would be happy to have us do that, she asked us for help in planning the event. The CVB knows tourists, but they said they didn't know fans. What would fans want to do during the Reunion weekend? What kinds of activities would we recommend? We collaborated with the CVB to help plan several events, using Fandom Studies research to suggest possibilities. We designed a survey to measure what people were looking for and how happy they were with the activities on offer. The students of the Fall 2013 HN 390 course were our data collectors, having done a 4-week unit on Shawshank and Fan Studies with me. We gathered over 225 surveys and used the data to recommend changes to the marketing, merchandising, and attraction design for the Shawshank Trail (a collection of filming sites). We published the data in a peer reviewed Tourism journal called “The Shawshank Trail: A Cross Disciplinary Study in Film Induced Tourism and Fan Culture.” Link to article here:

By 2014, Dr. Robby and I were on the planning committee for the 20th Anniversary Celebration event. The committee was hoping to invite Stephen King to the event. I contacted Dr. Tony Magistrale, a professor with whom I had studied at University of Vermont who is a scholar of Gothic literature, and who has written a number of books and articles on Stephen King, to get King's contact information. I knew King was an intensely private person who rarely attends public events, but I thought I could at least try (he never responded!). In chatting with Tony, I asked if HE might be interested in coming to give a keynote talk at Ashland University to kick off the weekend's events. I asked-- do you have a talk on Shawshank ready to go? He said, yes, he had just given a talk in Boston. We raised the funds to bring him out to give the talk (much of which ended up in chapter 3 of the book) and appear on a panel prior to the film's screening at the Renaissance Theater in Mansfield. He was so impressed with the Shawshank Trail that he suggested we write a book on Shawshank. Dr. Robby's contributions are noted for Chapter 4, where some of the data from the 2013 survey was used. The book came out in 2016. The book is available in hardcover, eBook format and print-on-demand paperback. The regular paperback will come out in December 2017.

Q: What was the most challenging aspect of writing The Shawshank Experience? The most rewarding?

​A: I wrote ​most of chapter 2, which is a history of the Ohio State Reformatory, and finding out definite information on that place is so much more challenging than you might think! I interviewed a number of people who are connected with the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society and even visited some state archives for information. There is still a lot of mystery surrounding that building and to a large extent, it depends who you talk to what sort of history you get!

​The most rewarding part has absolutely been all the people I met working on the project, most of whom were interviewed for the book. A group of us from Ohio were invited to attend the 20th Anniversary Celebration at the Oscars theater in LA in 2014. We were 20 feet from Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, and Frank Darabont. A number of other cast and​
​crew were in attendance and it was pretty amazing. ​Also getting to work with the students on this project has been great-- the 2013 HN 390 class and the 2014 Marketing Research class that did another survey-- getting students out doing applied research is so fantastic.

Q: Who are the audiences for The Shawshank Experience? Who might be interested in this book?

​A: The audiences for the book include of course fans of the novella and the film, but also students of film history, fan studies, tourism studies, Gothic literature​, prison history, and Stephen King. We focus quite a lot on the shift in prison philosophy in the 20th century, so people interested in the issue of mass incarceration may find something in it for them. Ava DuVernay's Oscar-nominated documentary The 13th was not out while we were writing the book, but it's very relevant to understanding some of the changes that have occurred in our country's attitude toward the purpose of Corrections.

Q: What else would you like to share with the readers of this blog?

A: I want to urge everyone to get out to visit all the sites on The Shawshank Trail! Two sites are in Ashland and many more are in nearby Mansfield. The Ohio State Reformatory is a must-see. Check out the Trail's interactive website here:
​I especially encourage everyone to make the slightly longer trek out to Upper Sandusky to see the Wyandot County Courthouse (Andy's Trial) and The Shawshank Woodshop. The woodshop is featured in several key scenes and the owners, Bill and April Mullen, will give you a personal tour of the location and their extensive collection of posters, photographs, costumes, and props from the film. You can see the prison bus that brings Andy to Shawshank and the ambulance that takes Boggs away from it, along with many other goodies.

This film continues to find new fans through repeated showings on cable television and it is really an excellent piece of writing, directing, and film craft. The screenplay is widely regarded as excellent, it's a fascinating case of an adaptation success, it has the best (in my view) Director of Photography (aka cinematographer) in the business, Roger Deakins, to light the film. The score is haunting and beautiful. The film was nominated for 7 Oscars and took home zero but is arguably more durable as a cultural object than Forrest Gump, which won most of the awards that year. The 1990s were a fantastic period for American films and this film is a prime example of what was going right in Hollywood at the time.​

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Fall 2017 English Department Course Descriptions

ENG 201 A&B Introduction to Creative Writing--Poetry Section
Dr. Deborah Fleming
MWF 10:00-10:50
Requirement for Creative Writing Major & Minor, Requirement for the Integrated Language Arts Major

In this seminar class we will discuss students' own poems as well as learn about poetic forms.

Requirements: During each week devoted to poetry, students will write one or several poems to be discussed in class; portfolio submitted at the end of the semester.

Text: Mark Strand and Eavan Boland, The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms

ENG 301 Writers' Workshop: Poetry
Dr. Deborah Fleming
MWF 1:00-1:50
Requirement for Creative Writing Major & Minor, Elective in the Integrated Language Arts Major

In this seminar class we will discuss students' own poems as well as review poetic forms, technique, and style.

Requirements: One poem per week, reaction papers most weeks on assigned poems, one paper on an Ashland Poetry Press book; portfolio submitted at the end of the semester.

Text: Ferguson, et. al., Norton Anthology of Poetry, Shorter Fifth Edition or similar Norton Anthology of Poetry; one Ashland Poetry Press book.

ENG 314: Literature and Gender
Dr. Sharleen Mondal
MWF 2:00-2:50
Core Humanities, elective in the English and Integrated Language Arts majors, elective in the English and Creative Writing majors and minors

Our course theme for spring 2016 will be "Narratives of Cross-Cultural Encounter." The central question of our course will be: how do gender, race, class, and other such factors shape how literature is produced, reviewed by contemporary readers, and discussed in our current culture? Our readings will include essays, two novels, and relevant films. Students will write several short literary analysis papers and two longer literary arguments. There will also be two exams and two presentations. Readings are likely to be chosen from the following:

Short Essays:
John Ruskin, "Of Queens' Gardens"
John Stuart Mill, "Statement Repudiating the Rights of Husbands"
Virginia Woolf, "Professions for Women"

Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah

Literary criticism on each novel

ENG 316: Postcolonial Literature
Dr. Sharleen Mondal
MWF 1:00-1:50 PM
Core Humanities, elective in the English and Integrated Language Arts majors, elective in the English and Creative Writing majors and minors

This Honors course will focus on postcolonial literature and film from South Asia, specifically India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. We will begin with the late colonial period, examining the end of British rule and struggle for independence, decolonization, modernity, and postcolonial nationhood through the perspective of poetry, short stories, essays, novels, and film. We will consider the nuances of everyday life under British rule, what it meant for colonized Indians to seek independence (inspired the Irish "Home Rule" movement), and the religious and linguistic tensions that led to the formation of Bangladesh.

Likely texts include:
Timothy Corrigan's A Short Guide to Writing about Film
Rudyard Kipling's "The White Man's Burden" (poem)
Rudyard Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King (novella)
Tahmima Anam's A Golden Age (novel)
Selections from letters and speeches by Mohandas K. Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru
Gandhi (film, 1982, directed by Richard Attenborough)
Earth (film, 1998, directed by Deepa Mehta)
Mulk Raj Anand's Untouchable (novel)
Literary criticism and historical materials as relevant

Class activities include regular discussion, reading quizzes, three exams, short close reading papers, two longer literary argument papers, and two presentations.

ENG 317: Studies in Shakespeare
Dr. Naomi Saslaw 

TTh 10:50 a.m.-12:05 p.m.
Core Humanities, requirement in the English and Integrated Language Arts majors, elective in the English and Creative Writing majors and minors

Students will read examples of Shakespearean histories, comedies, romances, and tragedies, exploring language and dramatic technique to develop an understanding of the structure and themes.

ENG 319: Modern Drama 

Dr. Jayne E. Waterman
TTh 1:40-2:55 p.m. (Hybrid)

Core Humanities, elective in the English and Integrated Language Arts majors, elective in the English and Creative Writing majors and minors

This course will begin with the close reading analysis of some powerful one-act plays from the late nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. We will also consider a range of full plays from, for example, Ibsen’s realism to Quiara Alegría Hudes’ triumph in trauma. All of the course texts will help the class explore key issues, ideas, texts, and contexts of European and American modern drama. The main focus of the course will be to examine plays from different periods and styles. Attention will also be paid to the cultural, historical, political, sociological, and dramaturgical aspects that surround and inform the works. Themes of gender and race, the tension of illusion and reality, and the crisis of the individual and the family will also be of significance as we explore modern dramatic sensibilities and discourse. In addition to the texts, the course will, where relevant, consider the adaptations and interpretations of the plays in performance and film.

Assignments: Two essays, a presentation, in class and online projects and participation.

ENG 333: American Studies – Nineteenth Century: The American 1890s
Dr. Linda Joyce Brown
MWF 12:00-12:50
Core Humanities; Elective in the English major, English minor, and Creative Writing minor

This course will provide an in-depth look at a pivotal decade in American cultural history: the 1890s. We will frame the course by examining the World’s Columbian Exposition, a fair held in Chicago in 1893 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival. With this fair as our touchstone, we will consider many of the significant shifts in America’s cultural and political landscape that occurred in the 1890s, such as the United States’ increasing colonial power, the supposed “closing” of the frontier, the expansion of Jim Crow policies, and changing social and political roles of American women. Our reading assignments will include fiction and nonfiction texts that represent and respond to the significant events of the era.

ENG 338: Themes and Topics: Utopian and Dystopian Literature
Dr. Linda Joyce Brown
MWF 2:00-2:50 

Core Humanities; Elective in the English major, English minor, and Creative Writing minor

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election to the United States’ presidency, there has been a marked increase in sales of dystopian texts such as George Orwell’s 1984 and Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here. To what extent are such texts relevant to our current social and political environment?

In this course, we will explore how writers have imagined ideal and far-from-ideal worlds. A premise of this course is that by studying utopian and dystopian fiction and thinking deeply about the ideas these texts pose, we can gain new insight about contemporary social and political problems. Thus, in addition to addressing texts within their specific historical and cultural contexts, we will also connect them to contemporary issues, such as environmental degradation, technological dependence, and debates surrounding sexuality, marriage, and family.

ENG 360: Literature of Crime and Retribution
Dr. Naomi Saslaw
Wednesday 6:30p.m.-09:10 p.m.

Core Humanities; Elective in the English major, English minor, and Creative Writing minor 

This course emphasizes close analysis of literature on themes including evil, faith, insanity, racism, and motiveless malignity.

ENG 365: Greek Literature
Dr. Russell Weaver
MWF 9:00-9:50

Core Humanities; Elective in the English major, English minor, and Creative Writing minor

In this course we will read some of the great masterpieces of Greek Literature. This particular semester we will be reading Homer’s Odyssey along with ten plays by Sophocles, Euripides, and Aeschylus. Sophocles: Antigone, Oedipus the King, The Women of Trachis, Ajax and Philoctetes

Euripides: Medea, Hippolytus, Iphigenia at Aulis, Electra. Aeschylus: Agamemnon.There will be two take-homes, one on either Antigone or Medea and one on The Odyssey and one presentation on two of the other plays.

ENG 406: Seventeenth-Century English Literature
Dr. Hilary Donatini
TTh 12:15-1:30
Elective for English major and minor, Creative Writing major and minor, and Integrated Language Arts major

The seventeenth century was a time of political and religious conflict in England, when Catholic extremists came close to blowing up Parliament in the 1605 “Gunpowder Plot” and civil war gripped the nation mid-century. King Charles I was publicly beheaded in 1649, leaving the throne empty until the 1660 Restoration of his son, Charles II. Out of this dissonant and dissenting culture came some of the most vigorous and energetic voices in English literature. Seventeenth-century authors engaged with topics as various as religion, politics, philosophy, and the workings of the human heart. We will read poems and prose works by authors ranging from John Donne to John Milton, who wrote Paradise Lost, one of the greatest epic poems in the history of literature. Throughout the semester, we will investigate the relationship between form and content—how a range of genres allowed authors to respond to or influence contemporary debates.

Format: Heavy emphasis on class discussion with occasional lectures
Assignments: one quiz, three essays, exam, and a presentation

Required Text: The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 9th Ed.: Volume B: The Sixteenth Century/The Early Seventeenth Century

ENG 410: Romantic Movement
Dr. Russell Weaver
MWF 11:00-11:50
Elective for English major and minor, Creative Writing major and minor, and Integrated Language Arts major

In this course we will read some of the great masterpieces of the Romantic Movement. This semester we will be read some of Blake’s “Songs of Innocence and Experience,” Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey,” Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “The Eve of St. Agnes,” “Ode to a Nightingale,” and “Lamia,” Bronte’s Jane Eyre; and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. There will be two take-homes, one on either Blake or Wordsworth and one on Keats, and two presentations, one on Coleridge and one on Jane Eyre and Frankenstein.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Writing Center Renovations Completed

By Emily Cardwell (majors: English & History) and Susanna Savage (majors: English/PR & Strategic Communication/Health & Risk Communication)

Over winter break, the Writing Center received a much-needed renovation in order to accommodate the growing number of students who use the Writing Center. The two smaller rooms were combined to make one larger room, and glass doors were also installed. The update created a more open and inviting space, thus increasing the work space and allowing students and Writing Assistants (WAs) to work more comfortably. “We’re really trying to create a space that’s inviting for students, including WAs, returning visitors and those who are new to the Writing Center,” said Dr. Maura Grady, director of the Writing Center. “The old layout was a bit confusing for people-- they weren’t sure if they were in the right place and felt awkward going into the front room of the center because it just looked like a small office from the outside. Actually, we had a lot of space, but that wasn’t visible from the door. With the central wall removed from the middle of a large window, there is a lot more light in the space and the whole area is visible from the lobby. The new glass double doors have clear lettering with our hours and online schedule ( so everyone has a better sense of where they are supposed to go!”

Features of the Writing Center include fifteen computers, many helpful reference books, and access to a printer. The Writing Center is open to all students and offers quiet space to work on writing assignments, even if you don’t have an appointment with a WA.

Although the renovation is the most visible, the new year has also brought other changes to the Writing Center. Drop-In tutoring started on February 6th and will take place every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night from 7:00 – 9:00 pm. Drop-In tutoring allows students to stop by the Writing Center and get help on a writing project without making an appointment. During Drop-In hours Writing Assistants are ready and waiting to help anyone who comes through the center’s doors. This program is especially valuable for students who are heavily involved on campus or in athletics, and might not normally be able to make appointments during the day. Its also useful when students don’t realize they need help on an assignment until the last minute. “The drop-in tutoring is a brilliant idea for students who don't have a lot of time to make a full, 30-minute appointment,” noted Writing Assistant Sophia Leddy. “They can come in just to have a few quick questions answered and stay for as long as they need. For those with a busy schedule and sports, this makes sense and will hopefully help those who need it!”

This semester the Writing Center has new extended hours. It opens at 9:00 am, Monday through Friday, which is an hour earlier than previous semesters. In addition, the Writing Center is now open until 5:00 pm on Fridays. Extended hours make it easier for students to fit a visit to the Writing Center into their schedules.

More improvements may be in store for the Writing Center in the upcoming months. “Dr. Grady, along with all of the WAs, have really stepped up and made an effort to make the Writing Center more available to students and ensure that it has a greater presence on campus. There are really great attempts being made to really form the Writing Center into a place where students feel comfortable going in order to work on papers of any kind,” said Ally Massimi, one of the center’s Writing Assistants. “This is just the beginning though, I know that Dr. Grady, and all of the WAs are really gung-ho about making the Writing studio more welcoming and more accessible to all AU students.”

The Writing Center will be offering special sessions on APA formatting the Week of February 20th. Interested students should check the online schedule, stop by the Writing Center or call x5670 for more information

When you get the chance, stop by the Writing Center to work with a Writing Assistant, or individually on your writing assignments. You can use our computer lab and printer even if you do not have an appointment. While you’re there, check out the Center’s new look and help yourself to a warm cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.

Visit the Writing Center web page for more information about our services: