Yesterday, our Undergraduate Recognition Reception, hosted by Undergraduate Studies Director Dan Philippon, celebrated graduating seniors, honors students, and award winners with praise, cake, and Reddit jokes. Among the honored was senior English major Edward Chappell, who has received a Beinecke Scholarship, one of 20 awarded nationally from 125 undergraduates nominated; he receives $34,000 toward future graduate education. Chappell completed an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program project with Professor David Haley entitled "'Till thou applaud the deed': Milton as a Reader of Macbeth." Meanwhile, major Julie Sinn won one of ten CLA 2015-16 Talle Family Scholarships, which provide full-time tuition scholarship support. And major Laura Schmidt won one of 19 2015-16 Selmer Birkelo Scholarships offered through CLA. . . . In other news, three of our PhD graduate students will be supported in 2015-16 by the Graduate School's competitive Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships: Jessica Apolloni, Hyeryung Hwang, and Katie Sisneros. Congratulations to all!
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The University of Minnesota's top student leadership award for undergraduates, the Donald R. Zander Award for Outstanding Student Leadership, is given to two students each year. The 2015 recipients are both English majors: Marina Kuperman and Ian Taylor, Jr. Kuperman (left, with President Eric Kaler) is a peer counselor in our advising office, a UROP participant, and a Community Engagement Scholar; she is enrolled in the College of Education's DirecTrack to Teaching Program. Taylor is the founder of student group Black Men's Forum (winner of the SUA 2014 Rookie Student Group of the Year), a long-time Assistant Admissions Counselor at the U's Admissions Office, and a Harvard Public Policy and Leadership Conference Fellow; he plans to attend law school. Taylor and Kuperman receive $1000 scholarships from the University of Minnesota Alumni Association. Congratulations!
Diane Richard (BA 1985), Director of Human Resources for medical device design and manufacturer Minnetronix since 2008, did not expect to land in HR. Indeed, her career path looks like more of a zigzag. After college, she copyedited for Honeywell, quit to work at an art gallery, then decamped to Paris to write for an artist. After a move to Washington D.C., Richard got a job as an exhibition assistant for the National Gallery of Art in part because she spoke fluent French. The head of design there ignored her lack of finance experience and hired her as a budget analyst; he also liked her French, she recalls. From there, she turned to office administration while earning an MBA at St. Thomas; degree in hand, Richard became Director of Human Resources at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. Undergirding all the serendipitous turnings, she argues, was the training she received in English. What's her advice for graduating majors? Read on.
Twenty years ago, Regents Professor Madelon Sprengnether wrote and shepherded the proposal for the MFA in Creative Writing through various levels of University approval so the Program could begin granting the degree in 1996. What about the MFA Program is she most proud of? "The accomplishments of our graduates," she answers quickly. "The proof is in the pudding." The growing number of alumnae/i publications parallels the feverish output of Creative Writing Program faculty: This spring, Professor Sprengnether publishes (and reads from--see listing below) both a memoir, Great River Road (New Rivers), and a prose poetry collection, Near Solstice (Holy Cow!). What does this all have to do with lab research on memory? Read on.
Senior English major Mason Nunemaker is a poetry editor for our annual undergraduate literary arts journal Ivory Tower, created by students in a two-semester English magazine production class. According to Nunemaker, this year's content has just been finalized (from over 600 student submissions!). "I'm very excited to see how the pieces all converse with each other," he reports, "especially across the different genres of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and visual art." A poet himself, Nunemaker won a poetry award from the University's Steven J. Schochet Endowment for GLBT Studies awards program, and he's also an officer for USlam, the U's spoken word poetry team. How does he see printed and performance poetry differing? Read on.
In the last three years, Associate Professor Dan Philippon has researched and taught in Germany, Italy, and France, buoyed by a Fulbright and a fellowship at the Rachel Carson Center in Munich. The travel has widened his thinking about food writing and the sustainable food movement, subject of his current research. "Although my specialty will always be American environmental literature, I can't think in isolation anymore," reports Professor Philippon, who serves as Director of Undergraduate Studies. "Now, when I think of American writers, it is always in a global context. And when I think of global processes, like climate change, I think of their effects on particular places and particular people--like the Italian rice grower I met, whose paddies depend on meltwater from the Alps." How does that book-in-progress involve Alice Waters, Wendell Berry . . . and a certain Italian rice grower? Read on.
When Golden Gopher football players take the field against Missouri in the Citrus Bowl, three English majors will be among them, reveling in Minnesota's first New Year's Day bowl game in 50 years. Junior defensive back Eric Murray is a starter who made the coaches' All-Big Ten Second Team. Sophomore wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky played in seven games this fall. Offensive linebacker Luke McAvoy (right) this year won the Gophers' Tony Dungy Character and Community Service Award and was Academic All-Big Ten. In the midst of finals week, we grabbed McAvoy, a senior, for a quick download on the life of a football-playing English major. Read on.
The largest literary conference in North America lands in the Twin Cities April 8-11, and our Creative Writing Program faculty and alums are all over it. English Chair Ellen Messer-Davidow recommends Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century--and a thriller or two. Plus an annotated list of the latest fiction, poetry, and nonfiction from professors, alums, and students, and information about our unique collaboration with Penumbra Theatre in February. Read the winter 2014 e-Quarterly!
"There continues to be a large segment of the population that believes overcoming addiction is a matter of willpower," says Mark Mishek (summa cum laude BA 1974; JD with honors 1977), CEO and President of the recently merged Hazelden and Betty Ford Foundations. The former, which he's led since 2008, has of course been a pioneer for 65 years in defining addiction not as a crime or character flaw but as a disease. Changing minds is still difficult. "The thing that's helped right now in a sad sort of way," Mishek notes, "is that with the opioid crises affecting young males more than any other population, more parents are realizing that it's not a matter of willpower, it's not a matter of more education, more self-knowledge, and so on. While that stuff's important, it can't get you well in and of itself." How did Mishek come to lead the nation's largest nonprofit addiction treatment provider? Two words: liberal arts. Read more.
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.
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.
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.
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.