Department of English Newsletter: June 2017

in this issue

Post Retirement Life/Faculty Notes/Writing Program Awards/Alumni News/Past Faculty:Lyon Norman Richardson/Graduation 2017

Post Retirement Life

by Judith Oster

When Mary Grimm asked me to write “about [my] post retirement life—teaching and living in another country,” flattered though I was, something in her request sounded a strange note and I soon realized it was her term “another country.” I am of course in a country other than my almost native USA, where I will always feel at home, but having worked so much in the field of “others” and “othering,” I had to ask myself is Israel really “other” to me? Well, yes and no. My Hebrew is barely survival level, and I’m grateful for so many English speakers. I have to learn a few cultural differences, get used to phone menus I can’t quite catch. I have to get used to the honking of impatient drivers, but also to people jumping up to give me a seat on the bus (am I that old?) or asking if I need help schlepping shopping bags. I take pleasure in getting used to hearing Hebrew, Russian, Arabic, French AND English on the street—a bit more cosmopolitan than Cleveland, though this makes me feel a bit of a foreigner as well.

On the other hand, there is something about being a part of the majority culture that I never realized before, something as simple as the calendar: the holidays  for which I always had to miss school  in Cleveland are here the national holidays. “Happy Holidays” is everyone’s greeting here—just as it is in the United States around Christmastime—except that the holidays are Rosh Hashanah or Passover. My colleagues will remember the salads I ate in any restaurant because I was only willing to eat cooked food that was kosher, but here I’d be happy to take you to the finest restaurants, be they French or Vietnamese or Italian because they are kosher. The Jerusalem that is in every Jewish prayer is now also the place where I buy groceries and take a bus, and visit the doctor, and try to park my car, and go to the mall or the university library. I walk streets that sport luxury hotels and high-rises a stone’s throw from antiquities.

So my post retirement life includes having learned more Hebrew than I learned in Hebrew school; it also includes choosing a class from an astonishing array of brilliant, intellectual lectures and courses in Judaic studies taught by PhDs who also give courses in English. (The one I attend regularly is on Prophets, taught by a woman with a PhD in Bible, who uses a literary approach.) It includes more time for museums and lunch dates.

But I have to admit that besides missing my students and colleagues, I missed teaching, and looked for opportunities where I could satisfy both my desire to teach, and to make some kind of contribution to the society. Teaching is what I knew I could do best, and really wanted to do—but where? My literature teaching outlet is in an organization we also belong to: AACI—Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel. In reality it includes just as many from the UK, Australia, South Africa—in other words, English speakers. There one can find many cultural and arts-related events, courses, tours, help in getting acclimatized to Israeli life, libraries in English, just to skim the surface. In this venue I offer courses attended by very smart people who appreciate literature—much like those in Senior Scholars. Examples of what we’ve done: Shakespeare, Kafka, Hawthorne, Faulkner, poetry (much Frost here!) that ranges from Milton and Chaucer to contemporary, short fiction, classics—you get the idea. Over the years the list has grown pretty long.

This is all well and good, but not giving help where it is more urgently needed, and to do that as well I have been teaching English to Ethiopian girls who are attending a Judaic studies program in their gap year—gap between army or national service and college or university. There is a terrific corps of tutors in the program, and after one year I was “promoted”—at the same volunteer salary of course—to coordinate the tutoring and advising on materials and methods, assessing levels and doing the placements—sound familiar, colleagues?

All this is not to mention the joy of being near my ever-growing family—being on hand, and not just flying in—for weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, and more recently, new babies born to my grandchildren. I feel truly blessed in both my homes—Cleveland and Israel—in having had such a rich experience with students and colleagues at CWRU—and now in enjoying life here as well. Do come and visit—it’s a wonderful and varied country with so much to offer visitors. Come on over for dinner at our new home!


Sarah Bania-Dobyns was one of the co-authors of a paper presented at the IEEE Integrated STEM Education Conference (ISEC) on March 2nd. The paper, titled “Radio Sloyd: An Amateur Radio Approach to the University-Level Critical Thinking and Writing Class,” was also published in the same conference’s proceedings.

Lucy Biederman is the Grand Finalist for the 2017 Vine Leaves Press Vignette Award. Her book, The Walmart Book of the Dead, will be published.

Matthew Burkhart presented “The Anthropocenotaph: Structures of Mourning a Transforming World,” on Friday, March 31st, as part of the department’s colloquium series.

Cara Byrne has an article titled “Call-and-Response in Troy Andrews’s and Bryan Collier’s Trombone Shorty” in First Opinion, Second Reaction out of Purdue University.

Robert N. Calton will be giving a presentation on June 9-10 at the CCCC Summer Conference titled: “Mobile Learning as Pratt’s Linguistic Utopia: Leveraging Mobile Devices to Democratize Composition Instruction.”

Michael Clune‘s piece, “Ways of Seeing,” appeared in Harper’s Magazine.

Gusztav Demeter, Ana Codita, and Hee-Seung Kang presented “Using corpus linguistics in teaching ESL writing” at the TESOL 2017 Conference in Seattle, Washington, on March 22nd.

Susan Dominguez presented “The Native American Land Acknowledgement” at the 27th Annual Unity Banquet & Scholarship Benefit, Office of Multicultural Affairs, CWRU, April 7th.

T. Kenny Fountain gave a talk on May 25th titled “Political Persuasion & the Problem of Fake News” as part of the Eastside Conversations sponsored by CWRU’s Seigal Lifelong Learning Program.

Sarah Gridley has two poem forthcoming in Bennington Review.

Mary Grimm‘s story, “The Curse of Knowledge,” is up at Slippery Elm.

Caitlyn Kelly’s article, co-authored with Karen Head (Director, Georgia Tech Communication Center), “An Approach to Serving Faculty in the Writing Center,” has been accepted for publication in WLN: A Journal of Writing Center Scholarship.

Kurt Koenigsberger gave a paper in March at the 2017 International Conference on Narrative titled “Sideways Narrative: Adjacency, Allegoresis, and Beginnings in J. M. Barrie.”

Dave Lucas‘s poem “Love Poem for an Apocalypse” will appear in an anthology called Resistance, Rebellion, Life: 50 Poems Now, edited by Amit Majmudar (Knopf).

James Newlin is the recipient of the SAGES Excellence in Writing Instruction Award.

Brad Ricca‘s new novel Mrs. Holmes was reviewed at The National Book Review.

Thrity Umrigar‘s new book Everybody’s Son will be published on June 6th. Thrity will give a reading at the Barnes and Noble at Eton Place that same day.

Writing Instruction and Essay Awards Announced

by Martha Schaffer

The Writing Program Awards Ceremony honors award-winning teachers and students at the end of each year. The celebration is a recognition of writing faculty at CWRU which includes full- and part-time lecturers, SAGES Fellows, English graduate student assistants, disciplinary faculty, and other friends of writing at CWRU.

The English Department, SAGES, and the Writing Program are pleased to recognize this year’s winners of teaching awards and student writing prizes.

The Jessica Melton Perry Award for Distinguished Teaching in Disciplinary & Professional Writing recognizes outstanding instruction in writing in professional fields and/or disciplines other than English. This year’s winner is Vanessa Hildebrand, Professor in the Department of Anthropology.

Dean Cyrus Taylor and Vanessa Hildebrand

No stranger to accolades, Dr. Hildebrand has been nominated for the Carl F. Wittke Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and the J. Bruce Jackson, M.D. Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Mentoring. Dr. Hildebrand has been described as “an unsung hero” in the Department of Anthropology in part due to her teaching and mentorship of student writers on both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

One of her capstone advisees explains that the power of her mentorship is in part rooted in her belief in each student’s capability: “Dr. Hildebrand helped me through countless revisions of a fellowship proposal so I could go abroad for my research. Her immense patience, support, and above all encouragement have served as great motivation over the last year and a half. Part of what makes her such a wonderful advisor is her approachability and faith in her students.”

Another student describes Dr. Hildebrand’s “unwavering commitment to her students, and her ability to foster a distinct desire to learn in her classes.” The student continues, “At the end of each course I took with Dr. Hildebrand, I was able to see a distinct change in the style, tone, and voice of my writing. More than just technique, however, the information I gained from Dr. Hildebrand’s class readings directly influenced my viewpoint on a number of issues, and pushed me to look at my older writing through a new framework.”

Dr. Hildebrand encourages her students—whether undergraduates, graduate students, or the graduate teaching assistants that work closely with her— to view writing as central to the work they do and to their budding professional identity. Her colleague, Eileen Anderson-Fye, praises Dr. Hildebrand’s ability to foster “communities of writers” both in her classes and among her advisees: “Students read each other’s work and learn how to assess good writing, which in turn makes them better writers. This process also teaches them how to be productive colleagues for a lifetime.”

The SAGES Excellence in Writing Instruction Award recognizes outstanding commitment to and success in teaching academic writing to Case Western Reserve University undergraduates in SAGES. This year, the winner is James Newlin, a Lecturer in the Department of English.

James Newlin and Peter Whiting

One of Dr. Newlin’s students praises his ability to understand his students and respond to their questions in engaging and effective ways. Dr. Newlin, the student explains, “invites the class to look at both sides of an argument thoroughly. Instead of just quickly answering a student’s question, he can teach an insightful lesson stemming from it and help students lead themselves to the answer.” The student continues, “his writing advice is incredible. He is always supportive, but not afraid to provide criticism where it is due. Dr. Newlin is the best writing teacher I have ever learned from.”

Dr. Newlin’s teaching embodies the philosophy of the SAGES program—a seminar-approach to writing instruction that challenges students not just to be better communicators but better thinkers who ask urgent, complicated questions about the world.

The WRC Excellence in Consulting Award recognizes outstanding writing instruction for students of the University and exemplary service to the Writing Resource Center during the academic year. This year, the winner is John Wiehl, Lecturer in the Department of English.

John Wiehl and T. Kenny Fountain

Many of John’s students were very enthusiastic about his instructional style. According to one of his students, John “took a million and one steps to make sure that my writing actually improved over the semester. He didn’t just tell me what he wanted, he inspired me to be better.”

Another student writes that “Dr. Wiehl has routinely provided me with reliable and straightforward advice on my writing for both his class and my other classes. He has helped me to greatly improve my style and I’ve grown into a better writer and student.”

Yet another student writes that “Appointments never feel nerve-wracking with John. He does a great job of guiding [you] while not doing too much so that it never feels like the work isn’t yours. He’s also just really funny and sweet and it makes writing fun, even [kinds of] writing that really shouldn’t be fun.”

The SAGES First and University Seminar Essay Prizes recognize the best writing that students produce in their First and University Seminars. These essays are chosen from those nominated by SAGES seminar leaders each semester.

Yiyang Wang, Zhihan Wang, Claire Howard, Jessica Nash, and Ondrej Maxian

The University Seminar Awards are judged in September – and recognized at the Celebration of Student Writing in December of each year. The winners for Academic Year 2016-2017 are:

Katherine Steinberg for the essay, “Translation in Paradise: The Intersection of Languages and their Impact in Gurnah’s East Africa” written for USSY 285V: Castaways and Cannibals: Stories of Empire, led by Kristine Kelly.

Erin Camia for the essay “RBF and the Reluctance to Accept Women’s Anger” written for USSY 289J: Beauty Myths Today, led by Megan Jewell.

Jessica Nash for the essay “Re-fashioning the Field: On Gender and Computer Science” written for USNA 287P: Women and Science, led by Barbara Burgess-Van Aken.

Ondrej Maxian for the essay “Conserving Culture: CBPR as a Framework for Group Research” written for USNA 287K: Human Research Ethics led by Michael Householder.

 The First Seminar Awards are judged in January and recognized at the Celebration of Student Writing in April each year. The winners for Academic Year 2016-2017 are:

Zhihan Wang for the essay “Myth Dismissed: A Case Study on College Students’ Perceptions of Sleep Deprivation” written for FSCC 100: Social Meanings of Health, led by Mary Assad.

Yiyang Wang for the essay “Two Sides of a Coin – Analysis of An Unquiet Mind” written for FSCC 100: Social Meanings of Health, led by Mary Assad.

Claire Howard for the essay “Unethical Behavior in the Wounded Warrior Project” written for FSSO 119: Philanthropy in America, led by Barbara Burgess-Van Aken.

You will be able to read all of these outstanding essays this summer when the Writing Program publishes them online at

The Writing Awards Ceremony also provided the opportunity to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of a dear friend and colleague, Dr. Hee-Seung Kang. After five years of directing the ESL Writing Program in SAGES, Dr. Kang is moving on to a new position.

Peter Whiting, Hee-Seung Kang, and Christopher Flint

During a time of rapid increase in the number of international and multilingual students at CWRU, Dr. Kang has been tireless in her curriculum development efforts to support them, and she has recruited a dedicated and expert team of faculty to lead the ESL seminars. In addition, she has served as a mentor to faculty at all ranks, who have approached her for advice on how to support multilingual writers in their classrooms.

As a source of knowledge and a vital advocate for multilingual students both in and out of the classroom, Dr. Kang has transformed the ways we think about and talk about writing instruction at CWRU. She is also an award-winning teacher—last year’s recipient of The SAGES Excellence in Writing Instruction Award.

The Jessica Melton Perry Award was established in 2009 by Edward S. Sadar, M.D. (ADL ’64, SOM ’68), & Melinda Melton Sadar (FSM ’66) in honor of Melinda’s mother, who worked in the Center for Documentation and Communication Research at Western Reserve University from the late 1950s into the late 1960s.


Currently, and through spring 2018, Kent Cartwright (’79) is a Visiting Researcher at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, where he is working on a book on Shakespeare and Renaissance Comedy.

Shelley Costa (’83) was a festival author at the 2017 Ohioana Book Festival.

Iris Dunkle (’10) will be a guest speaker at the Dominican University of California MFA Program this summer.

William Heath ( ’71) edited Conversations with Robert Stone, now published by the University Press of MIssissippi.

Thayer Juergens (’13) has been accepted to The American Film Institute Conservatory to be a Producing Fellow in Fall 2017.

Amy Kesegich (’01) received the Distinguished Faculty Award for 2017 at Notre Dame College.

Jamie McDaniel (’10) has accepted a position at Radford University in Radford, Virginia, beginning in the fall of 2017.

Felicity Shoulders (’02) has a story in Haunted Futures, the Ghostwood Books anthology that has gotten a Publisher’s Weekly starred review.

Jennifer Swartz-Levine (’02) is now Dean of the School of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, as well as the Director of the Writing Center, at Lake Erie College.


If you have news you would like to share in a future newsletter, please send it to department chair Christopher Flint (

The department also has a Facebook page on which several hundred of your classmates and profs are already sharing their news. Just use your Facebook locator to find “CWRU English Department” and see what they’ve been up to. Become a member of the community and post your own news. We want to know. The department will be posting here regularly too—news of colloquiums, readings, etc.

Faculty of the Past:

Lyon Norman Richardson

b. 20 July 1898, Andover, Ashtabula County, Ohio
d. 16 August 1980, Laguna Hills, Orange County, California

Lyon Norman Richardson graduated magna cum laude from Western Reserve University, Phi Beta Kappa, in 1921, briefly returning to his hometown of Andover, Ohio, to edit The Kinsman Journal and serve as principal of the local high school. In 1923 he became an English instructor at WRU, earning a Master’s degree there in 1925. For the rest of his career, with the exception of several years at Columbia University where he earned his PhD in 1931, Richardson worked at Reserve.

From 1929 to 1935 Richardson served as Assistant Dean of Adelbert College and was active in overseeing fraternity life on campus. He was promoted from Instructor to Assistant Professor of English in 1935 and to Associate Professor in 1943. Around this time, he served as the Editor of the WRU Press (1936-1945), overseeing the issuance of books and bulletins, and also as the faculty advisor of the Reserve Tribune. In 1946 he was named Director of WRU libraries and concurrently Professor of English.

After 1946, he pioneered American Studies and was instrumental in establishing it as a major at the University. In the post-War years, Richardson simultaneously taught and published in the Department of English; directed American Studies; and directed the University Library system. He stepped down as Director of Libraries at the point of Federation with Case Institute of Technology in 1967. He retired from the University in 1969 as Professor Emeritus of English and American Studies, after more than four decades of service to Adelbert, Western Reserve, and Case Western Reserve. Lyon and Helen Hartman Richardson resided at 3303 Ormond Road in Cleveland Heights during their long tenure at the University, where they raised their daughter Cora Ella.

Richardson’s publications include A History of Early American Magazines, 1741-1789 (1931), a facsimile edition of The American Magazine (1937), a selected edition of Henry James (1941), and a two-volume college text book titled The Heritage of American Literature (1951), as well as articles in places such as American Literature and South Atlantic Quarterly.

Richardson’s scholarship focused primarily on American Studies, specifically Nineteenth Century American Literature. He taught courses on American literature, the modern American novel, and research methods.  He was a long-time member of the American Studies Association, serving on their National Executive Council from 1958 to 1961. In 1965, he also served as Chairman of the American Literature Section of the Modern Language Association. Throughout his long career he was also active in the chief library organizations, most notably the American Library Association.

As Director of the University Library system, Richardson oversaw the construction of Freiberger Library and brought together the Adelbert, Mather, and Cleveland College libraries, along with parts of the Case Tech and other WRU libraries. These consolidations anticipated the Federation of Case Institute of Technology and WRU in 1967.

Entry by Molly Zacour and Kurt Koenigsberger, from records in University Archives, CWRU, and from public documents. Photo courtesy University Archives, CWRU.

Graduation 2017

Kurt Koenigsberger, John Rooney, Joseph Rooney, T. Kenny Fountain, Jessica Slentz, Scott Weedon, Michael Parker, Ray Horton, Christopher Flint, and Kimberly Emmons.

Case Western Reserve University