Sunday, October 15, 2017

First Open Mic Night a Success

By Corinne Spisz, Integrated Language Arts major

On Wednesday October 4, 2017, a group of Ashland University students met in Eagles Landing for the first Open Mic Night. Open Mic Night, sponsored by Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society on campus, is a monthly gathering of Ashland University students to read their creative work. On October 4, four out of the six students who gathered read their creative works. Three read short stories that they wrote and one shared a poem. The students discussed what they liked about the works read and what they plan to work on in the future. The intimate gathering was a lot of fun to be a part of. It was a great experience to hear creative work from students that would not normally be heard. Sigma Tau Delta invites all Ashland University students to join us for the next Open Mic Night on November 1 at 9pm in Eagles Landing. Come share your flash fiction, short stories, poetry, creative non-fiction, or a piece by your favorite author. Not only may you read your work, but you also are able to engage in an academic and creative discussion about writing.

Friday, October 6, 2017

100% Pass Rate for Integrated Language Arts Majors on State Licensure Exams

The English Department is pleased to announce that 100% of the test takers in the Integrated Language Arts and Bachelor's Plus programs passed both exams required for licensure by the state of Ohio in the 2016-17 academic year. The Ohio Assessments for Educators required for our teacher candidates include the Assessment of Professional Knowledge, as well as a subject test in Integrated Language Arts. Our Middle Grades Language Arts students garnered an impressive 94% pass rate on the subject test. 

We are proud of our students' achievements, as well as our academic program. We offer preparation for future teachers that is both broad and deep, working with the College of Education to offer students content and methods courses that prepare them not only for exams but also for careers and lifelong learning. 

Click here for more information about Integrated Language Arts at Ashland University. 

Click here for more information about the Ohio Assessments for Educators.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Freshman English Major Strives for Balance in Her Student-Athlete Life

Sophia Davis and fellow freshman student-athlete Maureen McKeown at their graduation from Wooster High School
By Sophia Davis, English major

For some, sports consume our entire being. Whether watching, coaching, refereeing, or competing, some students become so involved in their sport(s) that they compromise time in other aspects of their lives. Though the collegiate level of sports is demanding, coaches make an effort to make sure their athletes maintain the “student-athlete” mindset over the “athlete-student” mantra. Maureen McKeown, a fellow graduate of Wooster High School, is a freshman here at Ashland and is competing on the Cross Country Team under the freshly positioned coach, Jacob Sussman. McKeown is majoring in Early Childhood Education which, like all majors, requires work outside of the classroom. Her interest in the minds of children sparked a passion for teaching and helping children grow through their early years; however, McKeown also wants to continue growing and developing her gift of running.

McKeown ran all four years in high school, developing a love of running in pursuit of continuing at the collegiate level. School for her often came second, a distant second, thus engraving the “athlete-student” mindset into her as well as other friends who were in the same situation, pursuing similar dreams of competing in college. McKeown continues by stressing the importance of finding a balance in order to perform well academically as well as on the cross country course because the level of intensity is much higher when making the transition from high school to college.

I swam all four years in high school, waking up four mornings a week at five to jump in the pool by 5:30 a.m., then continue on with the school day, following another practice from 3:30-5:30 each day. Twelve-hour school days for five months of the school year made for a busy and draining schedule. While not seeking to continue a swim career at Ashland, I am on the cross country team with Maureen, and am majoring in English. To pursue a Division II sport in college as well as focus on your major is a challenge, yet provides structure, friendship, and a balance between working the mind versus working the body.

By competing in a sport, not only are you able to continue a passion for something physical, but it introduces you and allows you to bond with a group of people with similar interests, making the transition into college easy. For Maureen, she especially looked forward to this aspect of coming to Ashland, but was also forcing herself to readjust to the academic workload. McKeown and I, like many others, anticipated more studying, longer essays, and thicker textbooks. By finding a balance with studying, practicing, and hanging out with friends, we realized the importance of being a successful “student-athlete” in college and hope to inspire friends and family at home to find a similar balance in life to be both happy and successful their freshman year in college.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Open Mic Nights Planned

Sigma Tau Delta will be hosting an open mic event each month in Eagle's Landing. Please sign up to read your own creative work or even a poem/short story that speaks to you, even if it's by someone else. Readings for each person will be 5 minutes. Here are the dates: 
  • Wednesday, October 4th9-10pm
  • Wednesday, November 1st9-10pm
  • Wednesday, December 6th9-10pm
Sign ups are on a first come, first served basis here

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Intern Learns Day-to-Day Operations of Department Publications

By Julia Swanson-Hines, English and Creative Writing major
Julia Swanson-Hines (center), along with Emily Wirtz (left) and Amanda Wise (right)

Most people think of publishing as simply just the process of getting a manuscript from screen to a book in print, but there’s much more to it, especially when it’s a journal such as River Teeth ( or a publishing establishment such as the Ashland Poetry Press ( There are the smaller, but just as important pieces to the puzzle, without which the whole picture is lost.

One of the more surprising things when I first started working at my internship was the process of subscriptions. For some reason, it hadn’t occurred to me that, of course, someone would have to manually enter each subscription into a database that then forms a list of who will receive the upcoming issue of River Teeth. There’s the check requests, deposit forms, refiling cabinets, shredding paper, sending out mail, and preparing the large shipments of River Teeth once the issue is ready to be sent out, which involves taking one of the shrink-wrapped books and sticking on a label with an address. Rinse and repeat one hundred times, making sure to keep the books in numerical order by zip code.

For the Ashland Poetry Press, there’s also the printing of hundreds of pages of manuscripts, sifting through lists of submitters’ materials, and its own personal mail account, as well as a current job I’m working on of entering this year’s book contest winner, Michael Miller, in national contests in the hopes of garnering him some awards for his worthy piece, Asking the Names, published by the Ashland Poetry Press.

While that may sound unappealingly menial, I love it. I love being able to contribute to the smaller things that keep the machine whirring but that most people forget about.

As I went through my months working with Cassy Brown, Managing Editor of River Teeth and the Ashland Poetry Press, she eventually could give me more thoughtful work, such as contributing to the River Teeth website in the form of formatting a certain type of post that is popular on the website: the “Beautiful Things” column ( People submit a work under 250 words—so it’s a piece of flash fiction geared towards something they construe as beautiful in some way. It’s a fantastic way at getting a look at what all types of people—not just authors—think, experience, and write.

Being more interested in the copy-editing/proofreading side of publishing, I luckily have been given opportunities by Cassy to proofread many different types of things—from newsletters to article posts.

Again, while my internship may not sound particularly glamorous, it’s composed of working on separate tasks that maintain the foundation of River Teeth and the Ashland Poetry Press alike. Because I’m able to contribute in seemingly small ways while also learning so much surrounding different aspects of the publishing world, I couldn’t possibly ask for a better internship.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

River Teeth Essays on Best American Essays Notable List

From the River Teeth website:

Congratulations to the authors of the four River Teeth essays listed on this year's Best American Essays list of Notable Essays and Literary Nonfiction for 2016. 

"If Woman Is Five" by Sonja Huber (Spring 2016, vol. 18.1)
"Thieves" by Jerald Walker (Spring 2016, vol. 18.1)
"Five Autobiographical Fragments or She May Have Been a Witch" by David Lazar (Fall 2016, vol. 18.2)
"Unpinned" by Heather Gemmen Wilson (Fall 2016, vol. 18.2)

Congratulations also goes to River Teeth Associate Editor and Beautiful Things co-editor Sarah Wells whose essay "The Body Is Not a Coffin" (Under the Gum Tree, April 2016) also appeared on this year's list.

Editors for the 2017 edition of Best American Essays were Robert Atwan and Leslie Jamison.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Dr. Sharleen Mondal Publishes Scholarly Article

Dr. Sharleen Mondal’s article, “Hindu Widows as Religious Subjects: The Politics of Christian Conversion and Revival in Colonial India,” has been published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Women’s History, a publication that accepts only 8% of the manuscripts submitted and is considered to be one of the top journals in its field. 

Dr. Mondal describes the article, which takes an interdisciplinary approach: 

This project examines the social reform efforts of Hindu widows in India who converted to Christianity, and in particular, high-caste Hindu women in Maharashtra associated with widow and convert Pandita Ramabai. Drawing on a postsecularist framework which resists reading the religious as necessarily separate from the secular, the article argues that Ramabai’s reform work, articulated through Christian conversion, contributed significantly to the emergence of feminism in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century India.

Congratulations, Dr. Mondal!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Lindecamp Earns Degree; Reception Planned

Kari Lindecamp, Administrative Assistant for the Departments of English, Foreign Languages, Philosophy, and Religion, has earned her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Educational Technology from the Ashland University College of Education. We will celebrate in the second-floor faculty lounge in Bixler Hall on Monday, October 2 from 3:00-4:00.

When asked what her favorite project was from the program, Lindecamp responded, 

My favorite project from my program was definitely the Capstone course. For this course, I designed a pilot program for an online writing center for incarcerated students in Ashland's prison program. I created an entire website to showcase my research and the development of the online writing center. My web design for the center houses asynchronous tutoring, online resources, videos, web lessons, research support and training, tutor training and professional development, blogging ideas, website development, grammar help, editing and proofreading skills, and examples of great writing.

She added the following thoughts on how the degree enriched her life: 

The Capstone course and my entire M.Ed. educational journey as a whole taught me that life-long learning is one of the most important aspects of our time here on earth. While I do have an end game in sight since I've earned my degree, my love of learning and my drive to succeed will always continue. My former boss used to say, "Find out what is important and then do it." Mother Teresa said, "Do small things with great love." I think I will follow both examples.

Congratulations, Kari! We are proud of you!

Friday, August 18, 2017

MFA Intern Finds Creative Community at Summer Residency

By Julia Swanson-Hines, Creative Writing and English major

I spent my freshman year interning for Cassandra Brown, the administrative director of the Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing. As someone double-majoring in English and Creative Writing with an interest in pursuing publishing as a career, I valued my internship greatly. As such, when Cassy asked whether I would be willing to intern during the MFA residency, I of course said yes.

Fast-forward a few months, and the air is thick and moist, the air-conditioning in my dorm room broken, and I begin to wonder whether I made a smart decision. My fellow interns and others quickly learn how incompatible heat/humidity and I are, but luckily, the Ronk lecture hall in Schar is heavily air-conditioned, and while others shiver or turn blue, I finally reach a stable inner temperature that allows me to focus on the words leaving the lips of faculty, students, and visiting writers alike.

God, am I glad I reach that stability, because the creativity, advice, and wisdom are enough to clog my pores. I buy a notebook within the first few days simply to allow all that I’m learning to find a home for good because the file cabinets in my head are simply overwhelmed. I write poetry at the end of each day, so filled with creativity and the demand to create after the craft seminars that give me tools to expand characterization or ponder point of view choice--after being surrounded by people who care about the same thing as me; we all want to create a piece of decent creative work, whether it be nonfiction, poetry, or fiction. This atmosphere is easily the thing I appreciate the most.

Possibly the second best or worst aspect of interning at the residency are the airport runs. I am not the type to enjoy the hectic rush of I-71 or the Cleveland airport. I’m the girl who has her aux cord plugged into her phone purely to have Google maps resonate through the speakers so she has a lesser chance of making the wrong turns. However, the great thing about the drive is that it’s an hour away, which makes for an hour with either a student, faculty member, or visiting writer--the chance to pick at the brains of geniuses or at least gain a greater insight into graduate school for something I’m passionate about. Whether it’s a midnight run that turns out to be the busiest time at the airport or taking a highly-talented author to a nearby Five Guys for dinner, every time, it’s an adventure worth embarking upon.

The MFA residency is a boiling melting pot (in literal heat, but also symbolically) of creativity and knowledge, and for anyone interested in any sort of creative outlet (though, of course, especially writing), interning at the residency is a great opportunity to learn from dozens of talented people and having them at your disposal for about two weeks. It’s an inspiring experience, and I look forward to interning at many more in my future.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Student Finds the "Real Stories" in English Department Internship

By Bethany Meadows, English and Integrated Language Arts Education major, Creative Writing and Public Relations minor

Bethany Meadows (left) confers with fellow intern Emily Wirtz during the MFA residency
From May to August, I have had the privilege to be an intern for Ashland University’s Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing, which is home to a creative nonfiction journal, River Teeth, and the Ashland Poetry Press. Much of my summer was spent behind the scenes working on the logistics of these three departments.

One of the biggest tasks to pull off logistically was preparing and executing the MFA’s summer residency. Since the MFA is a low-residency program, the students spend most of the year online. However, for two weeks in July, they all come to Ashland’s campus to have on-site classes, workshops, and readings.

This residency became the highlight of my summer. There were faculty, students, visiting authors, and visiting editors all in one place; what more could I, as an English major, want! The faculty’s lectures about the craft of writing, the faculty readings of their own published work, and the visiting authors, such as Terry Tempest Williams, Rebecca Makkai, and Dexter Booth, were all fantastic experiences.

However, in these short two weeks, I was not only surrounded by people who wrote stories, but also people who became the stories for me. For example, I drove two of our faculty members from the airports to Ashland. In the time with them, they cared about me and my interests and connected them to their own experiences, both personal and professional. These conversations allowed me to see beyond their published pages and their lectures because they were the person behind the words—the person that cared about their readers.

Not only were my connections with the MFA faculty becoming the real stories, but so were all my experiences with the MFA students and interns. Over the course of two weeks, I am honored to have become friends with many of them through eating meals together, playing games, having long conversations about life, and so much more. This experiences have allowed me to forge lifelong connections with other people that care about both me and writing. Throughout the two weeks, these connections with the MFA community will be forever ingrained in my memory and in my heart.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Recent Graduates Land Teaching Jobs in Ohio and Florida

Please join me in congratulating the following 2016-17 Integrated Language Arts graduates, all of whom have signed teaching contracts for the upcoming school year.

—Allie (Newhouse) Crossen accepted a job at Bartram Trail High School in Saint Johns, Florida, teaching 12th-grade English 4 and grades 9-12 for Theatre 1-4. She will also be the director of the theatre department.

—Danielle (Wright) Stansbery will be teaching 7th-grade Language Arts at Lima West Middle School.

—Alyanna Tuttle will be teaching 10th- and 12th-grade English at Norwalk High School, her alma mater.

—Marissa Willman has accepted a position teaching 8th-grade Intensive Language Arts at Horizon Middle School in Kissimmee, Florida. Willman did her student teaching at this school.

We are so proud of these graduates!

Send your own job and graduate school news to 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Alumna of AU Undergraduate Program and MFA Wins Prestigious Writing Prize

From the Ohioana Library Association Facebook Page:

Congratulations to Ashley Bethard of Dayton, winner of the 28th Ohioana Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant, a competitive prize for Ohio writers age 30 or younger who have not yet published a book. A graduate of the Ashland University’s Master of Fine Arts Program, Ashley’s writing has appeared in PANK Magazine, The Rumpus, Hobart, Fanzine and others. Her essay, “Of Blood” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. A digital and new media specialist and winner of a Newspaper Association of America’s “30 Under 30” Award, Ashley is currently working on a book that doubles as a love letter to her late brother. Past winners of the Marvin Grant, named for Ohioana's second director and endowed by his family, include Anthony Doerr, Ellis Avery, and Salvatore Scibona. Ashley will be honored October 6 at the Ohio Statehouse, along with the Ohioana Book Award winners, who will be announced tomorrow. To learn more about Ashley, visit her website:

See also articles from and the Norwalk Reflector.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Alumni Spotlight: Sarah (Fugman) Wells

By Sarah M. (Fugman) Wells, class of 2003, Creative Writing major and English minor
Ashland MFA, class of 2015
Director of Content Marketing
Spire Advertising

I started a new position with Spire Advertising in Ashland as Director of Content Marketing in January 2017. In my role, I lead a team of writers, videographers, and social media marketers to tell the stories of small businesses using a variety of media. I set the tone and voicing for each web project and video script. I work closely with our broader team of marketing professionals to plan a content marketing strategy for each of our marketing customers that includes drafting email campaigns, planning social media content calendars, writing series of blog posts, and developing new landing pages.

This isn’t the work I thought I would love as an undergraduate creative writing major, and it isn’t the path I envisioned for myself as a student in the MFA program at Ashland either. And yet here I am - writing all day for over 50 small businesses, leading a team of creative people, and loving every minute of it. People in the everyday world need good writers - just scroll through the comments section of a popular article (if you dare) or your Facebook feed, and you’ll find all of the evidence you need. My current mission in life is evangelizing to MFA graduates and other great writers to convert them to the digital marketing world. Y’all should come hang out over here… it’s so fun!

As both a traditional student in the classroom and an active observer during my time as the administrative director for the MFA program, I deeply value the reading and writing of the human condition taught and practiced in Ashland’s creative writing programs. Besides the essential tools of craft, the program helped me to learn how to see and hear the world. I’ve found this careful listening to be a critical component of leadership and the creative process.

Outside of my day job, I try to make time to write my personal projects. In the early morning hours before I head to work, I’m currently writing a family devotional for Discovery House Publishers. The devotional is under contract and due to the publisher this fall. It will be available for sale fall 2018. I’m only partly kidding when I’ve said I’d like to title the devotional, Not Your Mama’s Family Devotional. These days I spend most of my time working on this project and other faith-based articles for Off the Page, a blog geared toward individuals within or outside of the church who have an interest in matters of faith. I aim to write on my own blog once a month, at

I keep one toe planted in the English Department at Ashland until someone asks me to get on out of here, as co-editor of Beautiful Things with River Teeth. It’s my regular connection to the literary world - and to Joe Mackall and Dan Lehman - and I’m hanging on to that connection with all of the twitchy muscles my big toe has to offer.

It’s been an unexpected journey since I graduated from Ashland in 2003, from working for a landscape architect as an office assistant to managing public relations for a private Christian school, from serving as the administrative director for Ashland’s MFA program for seven years to working as the senior managing editor at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management, to leaving higher education to be right in the mix of small businesses, where I have the chance to tell a new story every day.

I’ve loved all of it.

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.