Her work has been called "spellbinding" (by The New Yorker) and "beautifully written" (by Outside magazine). A big welcome to Kim Todd, a new creative nonfiction addition to the Creative Writing Program faculty roster. Todd has written one book about that vagabond Sparrow, another about a female naturalist who, in 1699, voyaged from Amsterdam to South America to study insect metamorphosis (Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis), and her self-explanatory first, Tinkering with Eden: A Natural History of Exotics in America. It's no surprise she holds masters in both environmental studies and creative writing (from the University of Montana). What led her there? Read on.
Intent on figuring out how to construct solid plots, Professor Julie Schumacher wrote her first book for younger readers in 2004, a decade before young adult fiction became so popular it spawned an abstinence movement. Schumacher's third such effort, The Book of One Hundred Truths (2006), won a Minnesota Book Award for Young Adult Fiction. This summer she shows off her plot chops with the adult comic novel Dear Committee Members, a book consisting only of fictional letters of recommendation--from a single imagined Creative Writing professor--that nevertheless contains classic (and compelling) exposition, conflict, climax, and denouement. Indeed, as an admiring Slate review points out, what finally happens in the tale "turn[s] the book's theme upside down," revealing the moral weight beneath the undeniably funny characterizations. For Schumacher's favorite novel-in-letters and other revelations, read on.
When the New York Times Book Review's thoughtful piece on his book debut described him as "the young author," 37-year-old alumnus Josh Ostergaard (MFA 2011) wasn't about to complain. Just the fact that the august Manhattan newspaper would cover his baseball essay, The Devil's Snake Curve, was thrilling. Especially given that it's a book in which Ostergaard denounces the wealthy, self-confident, and mighty New York Yankees to further, as the reviewer recognized, a larger critique of American hegemony across the globe. The "young" descriptor probably was used to distinguish him from previous baseball writers such as George Will, Ostergaard points out: "Even though I love the game, I'm less reverent." Read on.
As a freshman, Marina Kuperman didn't know that experiential learning in college boosts graduates' job prospects. Nevertheless, she chose an English class featuring community volunteer opportunities--and quickly discovered that she loved helping others develop literacy. Convinced now of both her major and her vocation, she applied as a sophomore to become a peer counselor for English majors, a job in which she excelled through her junior year and will continue this fall. Meanwhile, she enrolled in further experiential learning courses, while completing an independent research project on local education practices. An American Literature survey course left Kuperman a fan of Emerson, and these words of his seem appropriate here: "Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood." Why is literacy so important for Kuperman? Read on.
For BA alumna Mary Nyquist, entry level lecture classes at the U were large, yes, but also liberating: This small town native experienced anonymity as a refreshing freedom. But she wasn't anonymous for long. Encouraged by her professors, Nyquist went on to graduate school and ultimately became a literature professor at the University of Toronto. There she made a name for herself as a fearless scholar of Milton. These days she thinking and publishing about tyranny through the lens of literature and philosophy, among other interdisciplinary explorations. Read more.
The Department of English's opportunities to provide hands-on work experience are noted in an article by BA alum Scott Carlson in The Chronicle of Higher Education, "Want a College Experience That Matters? Get to Work." Ellen Messer-Davidow, chair of the department, also talks about future plans to expand internships and other ways students can gain workplace experience. Carlson, who wrote articles for The Minnesota Daily as a student, notes that his work experience complemented his literature studies and vice versa--his subsequent career in journalism "wouldn't have been as rich without the literature degree."
Our professors don't just go home and read after class: As our profile details, one competes in high-level competitive ice dancing; another spins African music as a radio deejay. But, yes, they also read: Professor John Watkins describes his latest perusals, including Solzhenitsyn and other Russian novelists. Plus a boatload of great summer books from faculty and alums. Check out the new issue of our alumnae/i newsletter, e-Quarterly.
Distinguished McKnight University Professor of English John Watkins first studied at England's Oxford University when he was a young man out of Arkansas by way of Indiana University. A Marshall Scholarship recipient, he was tasked to do exactly what he loved: "read like crazy," think, and write. Watkins has been back to Oxford many times since, as an Elizabethan scholar, but is looking forward to three months there this coming academic year, his longest visit in more than 15 years. He's been invited to be a senior research visitor at Oxford's Keble College--one of three honors he won this spring, along with Guggenheim and American Council of Learned Societies fellowships. With his parents passed, he says, he doesn't go back to Arkansas; in many ways, Oxford has become his place of origin: "It does feel a lot like home." Read more.
Minnesota Teacher of the Year Tom Rademacher teaches high school English at the Fine Arts Interdisciplinary Resources (FAIR) School in downtown Minneapolis. "[H]e teaches us that our thoughts matter," wrote a student who nominated him, "and that we are capable of anything we want to do with our lives." Rachemacher wins a $6,000 prize and will serve as a teacher ambassador in the state for the next year. On his home page on the FAIR website, he notes, "I know I'm doing my job right when a student says I don't act like a teacher." So what's his classroom like? "On bad days, it's a mess," he admits. "On good days, it's a mess with great questions. I have a rule that I will not try to teach my students anything they could look up on the internet, which means we're often pushing each other towards pretty challenging work and conversations." Read more.
PhD candidate--and Army Lieutenant Colonel--Laura Bozeman knew from age nine that she would serve in the military. It helped that she grew up in Colorado Springs, home of the Air Force Academy, and that her dad was career Army before his retirement when Bozeman was two. But, she muses, "I think I was most influenced by the change in law to allow women to attend the military academies. I followed the debate on whether or not women could 'handle' the academies with interest." She was admitted to both West Point and Annapolis but decided to take a four-year Army ROTC scholarship offer to attend Texas Christian University. Many ROTC students of the time ended up serving in the Army Reserve or National Guard, but the Gulf War had happened by the time Bozeman graduated in 1992, and she was commissioned to active duty. Since then, she's served in Germany, South Korea, Alaska, and Afghanistan, among others--and, yes, at West Point, where she taught English for three years after receiving her MA from English at Minnesota in '01. She's returning to West Point to teach after successfully defending her doctoral dissertation this spring. Read more.
New faculty member Kim Todd is interviewed in the 2014 spring Creative Writing Program newsletter, along with Q & A with award-winning alums Ethan Rutherford and Amanda Coplin. Plus news about publications and awards from faculty, students, and alumnae/i!
Tom Rademacher (BA 2004; CEHD M.Ed. 2007) was named Minnesota Teacher of the Year on May 4, 2014. Rademacher teaches high school English at the Fine Arts Interdisciplinary Resources (FAIR) School in downtown Minneapolis. The student who nominated him wrote: "[H]e teaches us that our thoughts matter, and that we are capable of anything we want to do with our lives." Rademacher wins a $6,000 prize and serves as a teacher ambassador in the state for the next year. In an interview with the Star Tribune, Rademacher said, "[T]he ideas behind the literature we read help kids figure out what you are going to do in the world and how to address things that are right and wrong."
Professor Geoff Sirc was honored March 22 at the 65th Annual Convention of the Conference on College Composition and Communication in Indianapolis with a six-speaker tribute panel entitled "Never Mind Geoffrey Sirc." The Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) is the world's largest professional organization for researching and teaching composition. Panelist Victor J. Vitanza, Professor of English at Clemson University, noted: "Sirc is the most dangerous man in writing instruction." The panel, which included Sirc as respondent, inspired a flurry of tweets, compiled here. Congratulations!
Professor Michael Hancher is a winner of the 2014 President's Award for Outstanding Service, becoming "a member of an elite group of faculty and staff of the University community" who have provided exceptional service to the University well beyond the regular duties of a faculty or staff member. Since joining the Department of English in 1972, he has served as Director of English Graduate Studies, CLA Associate Dean for Faculty and Research, Chair of English, and most recently Vice Chair of the Faculty Consultative Committee of the Faculty Senate, which serves as the consulting body to President Eric Kaler and as the executive committee of the Faculty Senate. The award will be conferred at a Board of Regents meeting on Thursday, May 8, 3:30 pm, at 600 McNamara Center. Congratulations!
Congratulations to Distinguished McKnight University Professor of English John Watkins, who has been named a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow. The Guggenheim Foundation supports projects by humanities scholars, creative writers, artists, and scientists: This year, 178 fellows were chosen out of almost 3,000 applicants. Watkins was also recently awarded an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship and a Keble College at Oxford fellowship. Watkins will be completing a book project on interdynastic marriage in European peacemaking from the late Middle Ages to the end of the 17th century. More about Professor Watkins here. Associate Professor of English Peter Campion received the fellowship in 2011.