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A Letter from the Chair-Summer 2021

| Jan Stirm

Dear Friends, Alums, Colleagues, and Students,

As I write this, I've been the department chair for a year now, and what a year it's been.  For most of us, this has been the most challenging year in our academic lives.  We've worked hard to teach and learn in a variety of modes.  Many in our community have lost loved ones to the pandemic; others have fallen ill themselves.

When I wrote in June 2020, Covid made things feel pretty bleak.  And things promise to be challenging in the coming year.  For one thing, paid deposits for first year students are lower than we'd all hoped.  Since UWEC depends on tuition money (along with state support) for our programs, this means there's a tighter budget.  And the budget was plenty tight last year, too.

On the other hand, we have reason for optimism as well.  Many of us have been vaccinated, and hope that further vaccinations in our community and around the world will help protect people from further illness.  That can't come soon enough.

Last winter, I announced three $1000 scholarships for incoming students in English, thanks to the generous support of John Magliocco.  These scholarships are for entering English students from underrepresented backgrounds, and renewable for a second year.  We have three entering students in the first cohort of the scholarship, and they'll be meeting with Dr. Sarita Mizin, who will mentor and advise them.  I'm excited to announce that an anonymous donor has enabled us to award a second round of John Magliocco Scholarships next year.  These Scholarships will be awarded through admissions, so please make sure to encourage students interested in English Studies to apply for admission! 

This past year has been difficult for our students; they've had to negotiate a wide variety of class modalities, from in person, to partly online, to fully online, from livestreamed in real time to fully asynchronous learning.   Many have dealt with additional challenges due to Covid.  Despite the difficult year, our students continue to impress me with their willingness to work hard and set their sights high.  In this newsletter, you'll read about some of the students who've been awarded scholarships in English for their hard work and accomplishments.  You'll also get to read about three of our graduates who are going on to highly competitive MFA programs in creative writing.   We're so proud of them all!

As always, I'm grateful for alums and family members who continue to contribute to the department both financially and by getting in touch and letting us know how you're doing.  We're looking forward to fall semester, and being back in mostly face to face classes, with a full slate of activities in the planning stages for our student groups, including NOTA (our student run literary magazine which publishes student works and sponsors a variety of readings and open mic opportunities), Sigma Tau Delta (the international English honor society which seeks to promote the love of literature and the English language, and to give back to the local and international community), English Fest (a student group which organizes events for students and community members interested in English Studies, including authors' readings, alumni panels, and scholarly presentations). 

If you're in the area and willing to talk to our current students about your experiences using your English degree, we'd love to hear from you.  We'd also love to see you at some of our events!

I'm excited for you to read here about our faculty accomplishments this year, and about some upcoming and exciting news.  In July, BJ Hollars will lead the first Midwest Artist Academy for 50 student artists from 14 to 18; the artists will practice dance, theater, music, art, or writing, and showcase their works at the Pablo Center.   And during the next academic year, we are excited to offer an office to Cedar Marie (from Art + Design), who will serve as the 2021-2022 Center for Writing Excellence (CWE) Faculty Writing Fellow. In this newsletter, you’ll read more about this important interdisciplinary collaboration.   My colleagues in the department and across the university continue to impress me with their scholarship, creative activities, and community engagement.

I hope you enjoy reading about the English Department's activities in the past few months and into the summer.  Please keep in touch!

Best wishes, Jan