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Dr. Dorothy Chan receives UW System’s Poorman Award for LGBTQ+ advocacy

| Denise Olson

Photo caption: Dorothy Chan’s fifth collection of poetry, “Return of the Chinese Femme,” is under contract with Deep Vellum Publishing and is expected to be published in fall 2023 or spring 2024.

Dr. Dorothy Chan, assistant professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, is the recipient of the UW System's 2022 Dr. P.B. Poorman Award for Outstanding Achievement on Behalf of LGBTQ+ People.

This annual award is presented to one individual from each UW System campus. This year's recipients were honored at a UW System Board of Regents event on Nov. 10 in Madison.

The Dr. P.B. Poorman Award is given to LGBTQ+ people or their allies who have helped to create a safer and more inclusive climate for LGBTQ+ people on UW System campuses. The award was established to honor the legacy of Dr. Paula B. Poorman, a former faculty member at UW-Whitewater, who died in 2007 and who dedicated her life to improving the lives of LGBTQ+ people.

Chan joined the UW-Eau Claire faculty in 2019, the same year they completed their doctoral studies in creative writing and poetry at Florida State University. Chan earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Cornell University and a master’s degree in creative writing from Arizona State University.

The author of five collections of poetry and a chapbook, Chan co-founded Honey Literary magazine in 2020, now expanded to Honey Literary Inc., a 501(c)(3) literary arts organization run by women, femme and queer editors of color.

“At Honey Literary, we exist to disrupt the entire literary community by publishing the groundbreaking work of QTPOC, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ and disabled writers,” Chan says. “We exist to publish anti-canonical work. We exist to make readers question genre and these arbitrary genres that have ‘defined’ literature for far too long. We exist to celebrate and support the work of especially QTPOC, BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ and disabled artists, especially when they are living.”

“I am very lucky to run Honey Literary with my partner, Dr. Rita Mookerjee, and our fierce staff. In fact, my former creative writing student and mentee, Blugold alum Aja St. Germaine, is our new essays editor,” Chan says. “Issue 5 is coming for Valentine's Day in February 2023.”

Outside of campus, Chan is actively involved in supporting creative writing through their work with Chippewa Valley Book Festival and the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild Weekend Writer’s Retreat. They are also connected to Barstow & Grand, an annual print journal highlighting writers connected to the Chippewa Valley.

Among recent recognitions for Chan’s work are the following:

  • 2023 Finalist for the Theodore Roethke Memorial Prize for “Revenge of the Asian Woman.”
  • 2022 finalist for the Sheila Margaret Motton Book Prize from the New England Poetry Club for “BABE.”
  • 2021 Resident Artist for Toward One Wisconsin.
  • 2020 and 2014 finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation.
  • 2020 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Bisexual Poetry for “Revenge of the Asian Woman.”
  • 2019 recipient of the Philip Freund Prize in Creative Writing from Cornell University.

Working in direct mentoring roles with students at UW-Eau Claire is a passion that Chan says gives them important tangible ways to foster community.

“My biggest passion here is mentoring, especially QTPOC students, and helping them achieve their dreams,” Chan says. “I am honored to be the faculty advisor of Leaders Igniting Transformation (LIT) and the QTPOC Student Group.”

Using their own life experiences as a queer femme of color, Chan hopes to both teach and inspire students to pursue their passions and embrace the joy in life and community.

“QTPOC power comes through QTPOC joy and QTPOC ancestry. Such an integral part of being a queer person of color is thinking about power through our ancestors and honoring them,” they say. “I love working with my students, but the poetry I teach is deeply personal to me, given my identity as a queer femme of color, who is the product of immigrants from Hong Kong.”

In looking to the future as a writer and educator, Chan says they have much on the list of goals, particularly in campus advocacy work.  

“On this campus and beyond, we need to seriously prioritize the needs of our QTPOC students,” Chan says. “It has always been my goal to see a much more diverse campus, especially attracting more BIPOC and QTPOC students. We need to retain our faculty of color, especially queer faculty of color, and highlight their national-level accomplishments.”

One way to retain those faculty, Chan says, is to “recognize the minority tax is a bare minimum.” Chan describes this “tax” as the amount of mental and emotional labor required of BIPOC and QTPOC faculty in meeting the challenges of teaching at a predominantly white institution.

The nominations for the Poorman and other UW System awards are selected by committee, and Jodi Thesing-Ritter was pleased to draft the nomination of Chan on behalf of the UW-Eau Claire committee.    

“I am continually impressed by the many talents of my colleagues at UW-Eau Claire, so it is an honor to serve on our campus committee that makes the nominations for this prestigious award. Dorothy’s intersectional lens makes her an incredible professor, poet, writer and editor. The diverse perspectives she brings to her scholarship, teaching and writing enhance both our campus and the Chippewa Valley literary community,” says Thesing-Ritter, director of the Center for EDI Training, Development and Education.