in this issue

Siebenschuh’s Last Class/ Writing Awards/ Faculty Photo:1980/Faculty Notes/Past Faculty: Robert LeFevre Shurter/Alumni News/Graduation 2018

Siebenschuh’s Last Class

Writing Instruction and Essay Awards Announced

The Writing Program Award 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, 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 Wanda Strychalski, Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, and Statistics.

Pictured: Dr. Wanda Strychalski and Dean Cyrus Taylor

Nominated by one of her undergraduate mentees and research assistants, Dr. Strychalski emphasizes the connection between research skills and communication skills, and she encourages students to take ownership of their ideas and their work. By doing this, Dr. Strychalski assists students in making and communicating new knowledge in their fields—which is, without a doubt, a core goal of higher education.

In her student’s own words: “During the editing process, Dr. Strychalski explained that we had to weave a cogent narrative that addressed the background of possible reviewers and demonstrated how the research fit into and filled gaps in those areas. We spent a few weeks reading and understanding papers in fields related in ours, so we could tie our research into what was already out there.”

Rather than simply correcting the student’s drafts, Dr. Strychalski offered instruction that guided the student through drafting and revising. She did this by explaining her feedback and inviting him to make the sometimes multiple revisions himself.  It is this commitment to student learning and this hands-on approach to mentorship that allows Dr. Strychalski, in a student’s words, to transform “in-the-classroom writers into scientific writers who can write for professional audiences.”

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 Cara Byrne, a Lecturer in the Department of English.

One of Dr. Byrne’s students praises her skills as a teacher and her dedication to “helping students become better writers.” This student and others describe being impressed by “how much preparation, thoughtfulness, and time” Dr. Byrne puts into planning her courses and ensuring her students’ success.

Pictured left to right: Dr. Cara Byrne and Associate Dean Peter Whiting

Another student describes Dr. Byrne’s “almost scientific approach to writing essays,” which balances precise instruction with “providing students the necessary room for creativity.” Her feedback at all stages of the writing process, as one student characterizes it, “provides us valuable insight into just how important editing and the writing of multiple drafts can be.” In the words of another, “Professor Byrne has a dedication to society, helping us not only to be better academic writers, but to care more about the world we live in, and to want to change the problems we see.”

Dr. Byrne’s teaching embodies the philosophy of the SAGES program – a seminar approach to writing instruction that challenges students to be better communicators and better thinkers who ask urgent, sophisticated 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 Higgins, Lecturer in the Department of English.

Dr. Higgins received numerous nominations from students who consulted with him at the WRC over the course of the year. His philosophy about consulting and the writing process emphasizes how excellent consulting can encourage the writer’s agency and independence.

Pictured: Dr. John Higgins

In his own words, Dr. Higgins explains, “the process of writing begins in various intellectual encounters that precede this moment – classroom discussions, reading, and even library and scientific research – and lingers on afterwards in the conversation between the draft of an essay and its various readers. With this goal in mind, I try as much as possible to structure Writing Center consultations as a conversation about the writing process and the ideas behind the paper, rather than as an editing session in which the consultant works to improve the drafted essay of the student. At the end of a session, I hope that students will feel more at ease with the writing process than when they began, that they will feel as though they have generated ideas in conversation with a reader, and finally that they will feel as though their development as a writer and a thinker continues after the session ends.”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.

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

Dina Benayad-Cherif for the essay “Investigating Women in Computer Science”
written for USNA 287P: Women and Science led by Barbara Burgess-Van Aken

Michael Neuhoff for the essay “Post Early Modernism: A Humoral View of Barton Fink” written for USSY 292U: Problems of Genre in Shakespeare and Film led by James Newlin

Halle Rose for the essay “Adding Insult to Injury: How Physicians Fail Women in Pain” written for USSO 234: Questions of Identity led by Gail Arnoff

Pictured left to right: Michael Neuhoff, Dina Benayad-Cherif, Halle Rose, and Dr. Kenny Fountain

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 2017-2018 are

Katherine Jordan for the essay “Regretting Silence” written for FSSY 135: The Rest is Silence led by Sarah Gridley

Hae Weon Lee for the essay “Songs of Freedom? The National Anthem and Black Oppression” written for FSSY 185F: Religious Belief in Secular Society led by Scott Dill

Meghan Parker for the essay “False Memory: Silence’s Work in ‘The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World'” written for FSSY 135: The Rest is Silence led by Sarah Gridley

All of these outstanding essays and information about the Essay Prizes and are available online at Writing@CWRU.

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.

Faculty of the Past: 1980


Lucy Biederman‘s The Walmart Book of the Dead is a finalist for the Foreward Book of the Year (in the Fantasy category).

Barbara Burgess-Van Aken‘s article, “Contexts of Fear: Edward Ravenscroft’s Adaptation of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus” was recently published in the March Bulletin de Société Française Shakespeare.

Cara Byrne is the 2018 recipient of the Children’s Literature Association’s Judith Plotz Emerging Scholar Award for her article “Every Tongue Silenced So One Voice Resounds: Redefining Zora Neale Hurston’s Legacy in Adapted Picture Books,” published in Children’s Literature Association Quarterly.

Michael Clune‘s essay, “Judgment and Equality,” is forthcoming from Critical Inquiry.

Sarah Gridley has a poem forthcoming in the climate change issue of the UK journal Magma.

John Higgins has won the WRC Excellence in Consulting Award which recognizes outstanding writing instruction for students of the University and exemplary service to the Writing Resource Center during the academic year.

Denna Iammarino discussed her work preserving and transcribing John Derricke’s “The Image of Irelande, with a Discoverie of Woodkarne,” a 16th-century manuscript, at a Freedman Fellow Showcase in March.

Megan Jewell presented a paper entitled “Categorical Engagements: Innovative Women’s Poetics and Writing About Writing” at the National University of Ireland in Galway’s “Academic Writing and Innovation” Conference.

Kurt Koenigsberger gave a conference paper, “Allegorical Vehicles: Format and Passages in Forster,” at the 2018 International Conference on Narrative, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Dave Lucas will be speaking on August 3 as part of the City Club of Cleveland’s “Friday Forum.”

William Marling accepted the Nancy Dasher Prize on April 14, at Ohio University, awarded to the best scholarly book published between 2014-2017 by faculty at an Ohio English Department.

Luke Reader‘s article about the crisis over antisemitism in the British Labour Party was published by the UK think tank Progress.

Martha Schaffer co-led a Special Interest Group for Directed Self-Placement at the March 2018 College Composition and Communications Conference (CCCC) in Kansas City, Missouri.

On April 17, James Sheeler provided the formal introduction for author and New Yorker staff writer David Grann, at the Maltz Center, as part of the Cuyahoga County Public Libraries Writers Center Stage Series.

Robert Spadoni is one of this year’s winners of the Carl F. Wittke Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. The Wittke is presented each year to two Case Western Reserve University faculty members who have demonstrated excellence in undergraduate teaching.

Thrity Umrigar has been named a Distinguished University Professor. Of the 37 faculty members who have been honored since this designation was established, Thrity is only the third from the Humanities and the first from English.

Maggie Vinter was a guest on The Sound of Ideas discussing the art of dying.

Faculty of the Past: Robert LeFevre Shurter

Robert LeFevre Shurter
b. 22 October 1907, Ellenville, NY
d. November 1974, Sarasota, FL

Robert Shurter received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Amherst College in 1928 and his Master of Arts degree from Columbia University in 1929. After a brief period at Chase National Bank in New York City, Shurter began pursuing his PhD at Western Reserve University and worked as an Instructor in English at Case Institute of Technology starting in 1930. He completed his PhD at WRU in 1936, with a dissertation on “The Utopian Novel in America 1865-1900.”

In 1937, he was promoted at Case Tech to Assistant Professor of English, and in 1940, to Associate Professor of English. In 1938, Shurter left Case for a semester to work as an Exchange Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. From 1942 to 1945, he was first the Assistant Director and then the Director of the Case Engineering, Science, Management War Training Program, which trained over 13,000 men and women for positions in industry. In 1946, Shurter became Professor and Head of the Department of Language and Literature at Case Tech, and in 1949, he was named Director of the new Division of Humanities and Social Studies, which represented the combined sum of the Department of Language and Literature and the Department of Social Studies. From 1957 to 1959, Shurter was again Head of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. In 1959, he received the Meritorious Award of the Case Alumni Association. He was Secretary of Faculty at Case from 1959 to 1963.

After Shurter resigned from his post as Head of the Department he took a year’s sabbatical leave for travel and study. His travel plans came to an abrupt halt, however, after he and his wife were in a hotel fire in Stalheim, Norway. Mrs. Shurter was badly injured and hospitalized. After several weeks, they were able to return to Cleveland, and Shurter resumed his teaching. After his retirement in 1971, he was appointed Professor Emeritus of English at the new Case Western Reserve.

Shurter’s field of academic specialization was American literature, but he also taught courses in English Composition, Types of Literature, Contemporary Literature, Professional Writing, and others. He devoted much of his time at Case to planning and developing a program of general studies in an engineering institution, with the aim of including more instruction in the humanities and social studies in the engineering program. He served as the faculty advisor to the Case Tech student newspaper for 18 years. In 1958, he became the first faculty member ever chosen to give the Commencement Address at Case. In 1965, the Robert L. Shurter Prize was established by the Class of 1915, to be awarded each year to a senior for outstanding achievement and leadership in extra curricular activities. The Shurter Prize continues to be offered through the School of Engineering at CWRU.

In addition to his work at Case, Shurter served as a consultant on business communications for various companies in the Cleveland area, including the American Steel and Wire Company, Standard Oil Company of Ohio, and Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company, to name a few.

Robert Shurter married Mae Frances Porter in 1928. They had two children, Peter and Marilyn. Shurter and his wife, who lived to be 106 years old, are both buried in Fantinekill Cemetery in Ellenville, New York, the town in which Shurter was born.

Shurter’s publications focused mainly on American literature, effective business writing, and the humanities in engineering education. His most notable publications include The Utopian Novel in America (1936, dissertation), Argument (1939), Effective Letters in Business (1949), Written Communication in Business (1959), and A Concise Grammar Reference, A Guide to Good English (1959). He also edited Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward for the Modern Library (1951), and published many scholarly articles and encyclopedia entries.

Entry by Annika Weder, from records in University Archives, CWRU, and from public documents.
Photo courtesy University Archives, CWRU.


Danny Anderson (’12) had a piece published in Sacred Matters about The Big Lebowski and Twitter.

On Wednesday, May 16th, Iris Dunkle (’10) read in Miami, Florida, as part of the Women’s Poetry Series Supporting Women Writers in Miami (SWWIM).

Lauren Fierman (’82) has been appointed principal of Green Mountain Union High School in Chester, Vermont.

Donna Gessell (’95) Professor of English at the University of North Georgia, was named a 2017 UNG Distinguished Professor.

Jamie McDaniel (’10) has been promoted to Associate Professor at Radford University.

Graduation 2018

Kurt Koenigsberger, Kim Grogan, Sarah Forner, Sabrina Skelly, Blaire Grassel, Evan Chaloupka, and Christopher Flint


 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.

 Be sure to add to your address book to make sure these messages appear in your inbox.