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Dr. Bob Nowlan receives Poorman Award for LGBTQ+ advocacy

| Gary Johnson

Photo caption: The Poorman Award is given annually to 13 LGBTQ+ people or their allies who have helped create a safer and more inclusive climate for LGBTQ+ people.

Dr. Bob Nowlan, professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, is among the recipients of the 2023 Dr. P.B. Poorman Award for Outstanding Achievement on Behalf of LGBTQ+ People from the Universities of Wisconsin.

Bob Nowlan, English

Dr. Bob Nowlan, professor of English

The honor is given annually to 13 LGBTQ+ people or their allies who have helped create a safer and more inclusive climate for LGBTQ+ people. The award celebrates the memory and legacy of Dr. Paula B. Poorman, a highly regarded faculty member at UW-Whitewater dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTQ+ people.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the award. Recipients were honored during a ceremony in Madison on Nov. 9.

“Honorees are helping build a better experience for our students, faculty and staff,” says UW President Jay Rothman. “The award recognizes their achievements in creating a safer and inclusive climate at our universities.”

Nowlan says he is honored to be included among the many people who do outstanding work across the UW.

“I conceive of my contributions as part of a much vaster and longer ongoing collective effort to enable LGBTQIA+ people to lead our best possible lives, freely and openly as whom and what we are, so that we can make our best possible contributions to the communities and cultures of which we are a part, and to the betterment of everyone's lives and everyone's well-being,” Nowlan says. “LGBTQIA+ people have long and often faced considerable discrimination and exclusion, prejudice and denigration, and violence and abuse — on account of whom and what we are.”

Nowlan says the award “encourages me to continue seeking to do what I can to be of use, in active support of values of diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging and mattering, even when and where it is difficult to feel hopeful about the prospects for success in these efforts.”

“This award signals to others that these same struggles can and should be yours too, that they do matter, that they do make a difference, and that they are and will be appreciated for the difference they do make even if at times the odds against you feel overwhelming and even if at times you feel isolated and alone,” Nowlan says.  

Nowlan has been a professor of critical studies in English since 1997 and a university faculty member since 1985. Nowlan teaches classes in critical theory, television and film, popular music and popular culture, and 20th- to 21st-century British literatures and cultures. In recent teaching Nowlan has not only continued his long-standing emphasis on engagement with intersectionality as critical inquiry and praxis in terms of race, class, gender and sexuality, but also in terms of disability and mental health/illness.

Nowlan has a long history of LGBTQ+ and progressive activism as the first out faculty member in UW-Eau Claire’s history and was the first UW-Eau Claire faculty member to teach courses focused on LGBTQ+ film and queer theory. He founded UW-Eau Claire’s first LGBTQ+ staff and faculty organization and was a longtime faculty advisor for campus LGBTQ+ student organizations.

Nowlan has advised more than 15 other UW-Eau Claire student organizations as well as been a leader and active contributor to many Eau Claire-area community organizations with strong interests in and commitments to social justice.