Department of English Newsletter: June 2019

in this issue

Writing Faculty and Student Awards/Adventures in Alt-Ac/Faculty Notes/Autism in Picture Books/Alumni News/Graduation 2019

Writing Faculty and Student Awards Announced

by Martha Schaffer

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 first winner is Frank Ernst, the Leonard Case Jr. Professor of Engineering and Chair of Materials Science & Engineering.

Professor Frank Ernst & Dean Timothy Beal

Professor Ernst developed a new graduate course entitled, “Scientific Writing in Materials Science,” which addresses the wide range of skills needed by graduate students as they prepare theses, dissertations, and journal articles for publication. This course emphasizes reading as well as writing scientific articles. His students spent a lot of time discussing relevant research literature, learning how to become critical reviewers of the scholarship in their fields of study. From formatting of mathematical formulae to overcoming writer’s block, the course provides much-needed scaffolding for developing scientific writers and scholars.As one of his many student nominators wrote, “Prof. Ernst developed a welcoming and collegial environment for students to gain a deep understanding of the scientific writing process and to cultivate their own skills.”

This year’s second winner of the Jessica Melton Perry Award is Jonathan Sadowsky, the Theodore J. Castele Professor of History.

Professor Jonathan Sadowsky  & Dean Timothy Beal

Professor Sadowsky works with students at all stages of their writing development and their educations, from humanities students to biomedical engineers. Over the last three years, every single student in his course (nearly 100 of them) has reported becoming a better writer by the end of the semester.Much of the credit for the students’ progress is attributable to Professor Sadowsky’s patience and thoroughness as he reads and responds to weekly analytical papers from every student and meets writers outside of class to continue discussing their work.

One of his doctoral students explained, “The right question asked at the right moment can have a profound impact on one’s intellectual trajectory. Jonathan Sadowsky has a knack for asking the right questions…. I credit my growth as a writer and historian to the questions [he] has asked, year after year, milestone after milestone.”

The SAGES Excellence in Writing Instruction Award recognizes outstanding commitment to and success in teaching academic writing to CWRU undergraduates in SAGES.

 Dr. Eric Chilton & Dean Peter Whiting

This year’s first winner is Eric Chilton, a Lecturer of English and SAGES Teaching Fellow. “Transformative” is a word Dr. Chilton’s students use about his courses.  One student wrote, “[he] taught me how to write a more effective research paper and gave me a new perspective towards my surroundings, ultimately transforming me into a completely different person than who I used to be.””Passionate” and “dedicated” are words that Dr. Chilton’s collaborators use to describe his teaching style. “One of the things that most impresses me about Eric’s approach,” writes one faculty collaborator, “is how effectively he introduces the idea of developing a compelling counter-argument when writing papers, as it creates an environment where students genuinely need to consider and weigh opinions that run counter to their own. This develops both critical thinking and empathy in the students.”

This year’s second winner of the SAGES Excellence in Writing Instruction Award is Kristine Kelly, Lecturer of English and SAGES Teaching Fellow.  One of Dr. Kelly’s faculty collaborators wrote, “I must admit that I have learned as much as our students have about writing and writing instruction from Kris.” This is a consistent theme in Dr. Kelly’s evaluations – she is a collaborator who is generous with her knowledge and who challenges everyone to learn and grow, including herself.

Dr. Kristine Kelly & Dean Peter Whiting

As a demonstration of her love of learning and growing, Dr. Kelly has developed new and creative projects that engage students in digital and multimodal writing. She has brought classes year after year to the Celebration of Student Writing and Research, often with innovative multi-media presentations of their work. Her students rave about these experiences and about how much Dr. Kelly has done to improve their writing and learning.

Dr. Kimberly Emmons & Dr. Anthony Wexler

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 Anthony Wexler, Lecturer of English and SAGES Teaching Fellow. One student who nominated Dr. Wexler for this award noted that he was always a “helpful and kind resource,” while another noted his “very calming energy.”  Yet another student wrote that Dr. Wexler “gives focused, tangible and direct feedback on writing during appointments, which I think is very important — it’s easy to say ‘make your writing more like …’ but to put forth the effort to give specific feedback, every time, is so helpful. “Dr. Wexler’s approach to consulting focuses on the student as a developing writer, and his remarks emphasized the value of working one-on-one with student writers. In his consulting philosophy, he described one student encounter: “after multiple sessions, [the student] came to see how the writing process could help her to better understand why she wanted to become a doctor. In this way, she realized just how much the act of writing could help her to think through a given issue or question. These encounters, and others like them, have made the WRC a wonderful place to work.”

The Celebration of Student Writing & Research is a university-wide showcase of student writing and research projects. It encourages students to present and display their scholarly and creative work in formats other than word-processed letters and lines on the printed page. The Celebration is held each semester in conjunction with Research ShowCASE and Intersections: SOURCE Symposium and Poster Session; it is sponsored by SAGES and the Writing Program. The following students were recognized at the Awards ceremony:

Fall 2018
Best Individual Research Presentation Winner: Anna Giubileo (FSSY 185R: Oh the Places You Will Go!, Instructor: Cara Byrne)

Best Individual Research Presentation Runner Up:  Bill Ding (USSO 286L: Exploring Nonprofit Organizations, Instructor: Barbara Clemenson)

Best Class Presentation: FSCC 100: International Student Wellness (Instructor: Mary Assad)

Bill Ding & Dr. Barbara Burgess-Van Aken

Spring 2019
Best Individual Research Presentation Winner: Nick Charles (USSY 291H: Radical Children’s Literature, Instructor: Cara Byrne)

Best Individual Research Presentation Runner Up: Prerna Mamileti (USNA 287P: Woman and Science, Instructor: Barbara Burgess-Van Aken)

Best Class Presentations: FSCC 100: Defining Community (Instructor: Mary Assad) and USSO 290B: Contemporary American Rhetoric (Instructor: Martha Schaffer).

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 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:

Jessica Bumgarner, Isabella Pua, & James Kristell

“Space for LGBTQ+ Children in Jessica Love’s Julian is a Mermaid” by Jessica Bumgarner Written for FSSY 185R: Oh the Places You’ll Go; Cara Byrne (Seminar Leader)

“Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: A Revolutionary(?) Musical” by Kehley Coleman
Written for FSSY 185M: Hamilton and American Identity; Caitlin Kelly (Seminar Leader)

“Time to Get out of the Margins” by Tatiana Pavlides
Written for FSSO 185F: Reading – Past, Present, Future; Barbara Burgess-Van Aken (Seminar Leader)

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:

“Social Context and the Popular Reception of Poetry: The Examples of Dickinson and Longfellow” by James Kristell
Written for USSY 293I: High Art and Guilty Pleasures; Steve Pinkerton (Seminar Leader)

“Redefining Health: Peyote, Ritual Healing, and the Concept of the  Soul” by Isabella Pua
Written for USNA 287H: Plants in Medicine; Erika Olbricht (Seminar Leader)

“The Needle and the Damage Done: Needle Exchanges and the AIDS Epidemic” by Grace Schaller
Written for USSO 291A: “We’re Dying in America”: The History of the US AIDS Crisis; Andrea Milne (Seminar Leader)

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

The Jessica Melton Perry Award was established in 2009 by Edward S. Sadar, MD (ADL ’64, SOM ’68) and Melinda 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.

Adventures in Alt-Ac

by Jessica Slentz (’17)

It is no secret that navigating the academic job market can be stressful, complicated, and transformative (with all of the positivity, discomfort, and full-on anxiety that world-upending change and growth can bring).  Through the fog of uncertainty, those of us who embark on that journey hope for a firm place to land where we can teach, write, create, grow, and find fulfillment in our work.

I am so grateful to share that I have landed in that place.

What I did not expect was that that landing would happen two years and three jobs after graduation, and only after making the hard choice to give up tenure for the hope of something infinitely trickier to define… happiness.

In 2017, I finished my PhD and accepted a tenure-track position as Assistant Professor of Professional Writing in the Department of Writing at Ithaca College. This was a dream position, a 3-3 teaching load of classes I wanted at an established SLAC (Small Liberal Arts College) with a great reputation. I should have been overjoyed in a position that can be a unicorn in today’s job market.  And in many ways, I was. I loved my students, I loved the work, I had wonderful, supportive, and inspiring colleagues. But when the glow of grad school faded and I really dug into the work of building a career and a life together, it became very apparent that Ithaca, New York, was NOT my forever home. A somewhat sleepy college town tucked into the beautiful hills of rural New York is a lot of people’s idea of paradise. I thought it would be mine. It 100% was not.

Added to my ennui was the fact that, while I was closer to my family, two hours away in Rochester, NY, I was still not close enough to really participate in life with them in the ways I wanted. And there was so much happening in the Rochester community that I longed to be a part of.

I was faced with a painful decision – Do I stay in a job I love with the potential for security if I am miserable in other areas of my life or do I prioritize those other things and rethink my career? Am I willing to give up tenure for the ineffable? Can I take that risk?

I officially left my tenure track job last August, taking a position at the Rochester Museum and Science Center as Grants and Government Relations Manager. This was a brand-new position for the museum, and with the subsequent resignation of the VP of Advancement, I had a lot of leeway to create my role from scratch. I made salient connections in the community and in local government very quickly, and learned the inner workings of grant management and non-profit development in trial by fire. I found the work fascinating and challenging, I loved being in Rochester, and I was quickly able to answer the question that had haunted me from the moment I applied – would moving to a different city really make that much of a difference in my life? Would it be worth it? It did, and it was.

Now the Universe can be…let’s say playful…at times. At the same time as I had applied for the position at the museum, I had also applied for the position of Director of Sponsored Programs and Faculty Research at my alma mater, Nazareth College, which was a higher, leadership-level position and more in line with my long-term career goals in the realm of higher ed. Long story short, academic hiring follows its own calendar, and our initial timing was not aligned. But when I  received an offer to come back to my alma mater in this role, I could not say no. (Note: I loved my time at the museum, and still have a close relationship with them as a consultant and volunteer).

I started as Director of Sponsored Programs and Faculty Research (now Research, Scholarship, and Innovation) at Nazareth College in February 2019! I am now almost three months into this role, and I can safely say that feeling of landing and of finding fulfillment in your work and your life is irreplaceable. It was worth every bit of the anxiety, the transition, and the risk.

I am loving Alt-Ac (Alternative-Academic) life! I report to the VP of Academic Affairs who has given me a lot of leeway to innovate and build a research administration office that supports and champions the work of faculty and students. I am rebranding the office; we’ve changed the name now from Sponsored Programs and Faculty Research to the Office of Research, Scholarship, and Innovation to more accurately reflect the work we do and allow us room to grow. The position is perfect for me. No two days are the same. I work one-on-one with faculty to help them design projects, strategize goals, create budgets, seek internal and external funding, brainstorm for publication, and troubleshoot their data. My office organizes the annual Creative Activity and Research Showcase; this year nearly 400 undergrad and grad students presented at this full-day conference in April! I will be research advisor to a handful of student researchers this summer and will be teaching Oral Communication for the English and Communication Department in the fall. I am able to work with the Deans and to consult on and speak to interdisciplinary and interprofessional projects all across campus. And I get to do something that I didn’t fully realize I loved to do – I get to build…projects, programs, ideas, processes, and opportunities. It is exhilarating work! I am beyond excited about the initiatives we are developing for next academic year, which will include workshops on grant writing, faculty development opportunities, new student research initiatives, new internal awards, and a communication plan to share the exciting work being done by faculty, staff, and students with the greater campus community.

While my journey post-PhD has had its share of twists and turns, I am grateful for every detour. Because I understand the faculty position (particularly as junior faculty), I have been able to quickly build trust with the faculty I work with. My trial by fire experience at the museum has been invaluable; every day I have used something I learned there, even though I was there only six months. All of the detours were important, all of the lessons irreplaceable.

Leaving the tenure track for Alt-Ac was a difficult decision, but it was the right decision. I am thriving in a way I never have before, and I am able to give back and speak to others’ lives in a more salient way because of that. I am consulting on the side, as a career coach to job seekers, particularly clients in career transition, and to non-profits on strategic planning and grant management. I am getting more involved in the Rochester community. And I’m starting a Case Alumni Chapter in upstate NY! We have our first event June 29th, so if you’re an alum in the area, you should come (contact me for more info)! There are times I still feel unsettled and in transition (it’s been a LOT of change in a short time), but I feel more and more truly at home every day.

As academics, often our work can be so connected to who we are, and as a graduate student it can be scary to envision all of the different career paths that might be available to us that are not the traditional academic track. To anybody contemplating life on the Alt-Ac side of things (or any kind of career leap), I’d like to share these tips:

  1. Dive into your work right now, even if you see yourself eventually pursuing alternative paths. I use my PhD work EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I would not be able to approach this job the way I do without the incredible mentoring I received from faculty at Case, without my experience as a researcher and teacher, without my knowledge and practice of rhetoric and writing, without the classes I was able to teach at Ithaca. Show up. Lean in. Celebrate your successes. Admit and learn from your failures. Be proud of the work you do. And let it inform your path going forward even if that path is different from how you may have imagined it at first.
  2. Get to know your strengths. It is awkward work to do, but such a powerful feeling when you can articulate what you are good at and where and when you feel alive.
  3. Pay attention to every connection and every opportunity that comes your way. I always tell my students, your network is one of the most powerful tools in your toolbelt. Network, make (and maintain) relationships across disciplines and academic, non-profit, and commercial sectors. You never know what link might open up a door you never imagined.
  4. Someone else’s unicorn can be your…what’s a horrible animal? Spider, scorpion, evil squirrel? and vice versa. I am the exception, not the rule, in my circle, in my one-hike-a-year nature quota and my preference for creative happy hours, fundraising galas, and networking meetups over woodland trails and idyllic college towns. Eventually, it’s better to be honest with yourself about what you need.
  5. Sometimes self-care means making things harder before they can get better. Self-care is not always the easy path. Think of it as a long-term investment.
  6. Hard decisions will be hard. It’s okay to feel yucky about something even if you know in your heart it’s ultimately the right choice for you. It will get better.
  7. Ask for help. Any change is difficult, it can be lonely, and it can be overwhelming. Don’t try to navigate it all alone. Someone in your world has experienced what you are experiencing and probably knows how important the help they received was. We want to pay it forward. Don’t ever hesitate to ask.

If anyone ever wants more deets from the Alt-Ac front, my new email is, and even if we’ve never met, please don’t hesitate to reach out!


Mary Assad‘s presentation at the 2018 College English Association conference was selected as “Best of Section” and published in the March 2019 issue of The CEA Critic: “A Wellness-Centered Approach to First-Year Composition: Curriculum Design and Course Management Strategies for Promoting Students’ Rhetorical Knowledge and Personal Self-Awareness.

Cara Byrne presented a paper, “Dismantling Prisons & Building Bridges: Children’s Revolutionary Architecture in Gloria Anzaldúa & Edwidge Danticat’s Picture Books,” at the annual MELUS conference in March.

Michael Clune has been named a Guggenheim Fellow for 2019.

Susan Dominguez presented “The ‘tiny horrors’ of Cultural Genocide: Indigenous Children in Residential and Boarding Schools, 1870-1970” at the Social Justice institute Research Lunch Series in February.

Kim Emmons won the Outstanding Faculty Award for Student Development, given to a faculty member who works with students and/or student groups outside of the classroom to support the Office of Student Affairs mission and enhance the student development experience at CWRU.

Sarah Gridley has a poem called “Custody of the Eyes” forthcoming in Image.

Megan Griffin‘s article, “Dismembering the Sovereign in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko,” has been published in ELH.

Mary Grimm‘s story “Back Then” will appear in the July 24 issue of The New Yorker.

Denna Iammarino, Caitlin Kelly, and Kristine Kelly have been selected to lead an interactive workshop on digital writing at the Digital Pedagogy Institute 2019 hosted by the University of Waterloo, July 31-August 1.

Megan Jewell presented a paper titled,”Writing Centres, Human Capabilities, and Collaborative Well-being” at the Writing & Well-Being Symposium at the National University of Ireland, Galway on April 5th.

Kurt Koenigsberger gave a presentation on outcomes and assessment in humanities partnerships at the University of Michigan/Henry Ford College 2019 Transfer Bridges May Institute in Ypsilanti.

Shaofei Lu‘s paper, “‘You should force us to talk.’—Symbolic power, national rhetoric, and oral English in China,” has been published in the Asian EFL Journal (Volume 23, issue 3.1).

Dave Lucas, poet laureate of Ohio and full-time lecturer in Case Western Reserve’s Department of English, celebrated the writings of Cleveland poet Hart Crane at Kelvin Smith Library.

Michelle Lyons-McFarland presented her paper, “Edward Burney’s Gothic Imagination and Illustrations” at the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies 2019 annual conference in Denver, CO, on Friday, March 22nd.

President Snyder hosted a reception to recognize Marilyn Mobley‘s 10 years as the university’s inaugural VP for inclusion, diversity and equal opportunity in April.

Brad Ricca read at Kirtland Public Library in April.

Martha Schaffer and Michael Householder have been accepted as Freedman Fellows for 2019-2020.

Thrity Umrigar was on a panel for AWP in March: “Scattered: Homes Throughout the Asian Diaspora.”

Maggie Vinter‘s book, Last Acts: The Art of Dying on the Early Modern Stage, is now available.

Autism in Children’s Picture Books

by Cara Byrne

As the Research Advisor on Diverse Children’s Literature for the Schubert Center for Child Studies, I help lead community-focused events and discussions about children’s books and facilitate the center’s participation in Cleveland Book Week events. I also create resource guides and recommended book lists that complement the Center’s events.

In February 2019, as part of the annual Kessler-Freedheim lecture for the Schubert Center, Dr. David Mandell discussed the implications of the disparities in the diagnosis and care for children with autism. In a 2018 CDC survey, 1 in 59 children was identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). While more children are being diagnosed with ASD than ever before, “Latino and black children are less likely to be diagnosed with ASD than white children, are more likely to be misdiagnosed, and, on average, are diagnosed at an older age than white children” (Mandell).

When curating a list of recommended picture books that feature characters with autism, I began by reviewing about fifty titles that were either classified with autism as a subject (like Russell’s World: A Story for Kids About Autism or Slug Days) or were books that I had previously read or taught (like Ada Twist Scientist or Noah Chases the Wind). I found that many of the titles were published in the last four years, likely linked to the fact that more authors and illustrators are exploring inclusive themes and perspectives as part of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement. I also found that a majority of these titles feature white boys as the central character with autism. As Mandell’s presentation spoke to the need for more resources supporting children of color with autism, I tried to create a list that reflected diversity in gender, race, and socioeconomic status in characters with autism.

Picture books like Benny Doesn’t Like to Be Hugged and My Brother Charlie feature black boys with autismDespite these picture books celebrating Benny and Charlie, both books come from the perspective of a child without autism instead of making the child with autism the protagonist or narrator. Why Johnny Doesn’t Flap: NT is OK! flips the stereotypical narrative of someone trying to understand the idiosyncrasies of a friend with autism to the narrator with autism trying to understand the bizarre habits and speech of his “NT” (neurotypical) friend. Similarly, We’re Amazing 1,2,3, produced by the Sesame Street Workshop, provides more complexity in its portrayal of Julia, a muppet with autism. Created as part of Sesame Street’s “See Amazing in All Children” initiative, this book is available as an open access e-storybook.

For more information about these titles and additional recommendations, please see a PDF version of the resource guide.


Iris Jamahl Dunkle (’10) has 3 poems in talking writing.

Alum (’16 ) Kristin E. Kondrlik’s article,”Caroline Matthews’s Experiences of a Woman Doctor in Serbia: Advocacy for Women Doctors in Early Twentieth Century War Writing,” was published in English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920.

Jamie McDaniel (’10) received the CEA Joe D. Thomas Distinguished Service Award at the 50th Annual CEA Conference in New Orleans.

Christopher Urban (’07) has a story in this issue of n + 1.

Graduation 2019

From left to right: Megan Griffin, Maggie Vinter, Chris Flint, Michelle Lyons-McFarland, Ellen Liebenguth, Annika Weder, Ciarra Bona, Garrett Graber, MaryHanna Stephenson.


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. 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.
Case Western Reserve University