Thursday, May 30, 2013

What Can You Do With a Degree in English?

Scott Sanders is a former Chair of the English department, who gave this speech at Graduation Convocation, 2013, a speech pertinent to all English majors:

Thank you, Professor Houston. 

What a great pleasure it is to be back at this podium, here at Woodward Hall, and looking at you, the graduates of our department for this Academic Year, 2012-13. 

I’m sure you know the commonplace (and completely mistaken) assumption that anyone who majors in English can only become a teacher. Certainly teaching at any level is a high calling, an absolutely vital profession, and teaching English is centrally important in every curriculum at every level in every school in our country. 

But teaching most certainly is not the only profession your English degree has prepared you to enter.

More than 40 years ago the major professional organization for post-secondary English faculty, the Modern Language Association, began a focused study of what undergraduate English majors did with their degrees after graduation. 

Fewer than 25% ever taught at any level for any length of time over the several years of that study, which extended for more than two decades. That means 75% never taught, and neither were they unemployed.

The study confirmed that English majors have many skills, and that many different professions value those skills.

In my own experience over the past 30 years, I’ve talked with hundreds of managers, owners, and supervisors at dozens of businesses and organizations and corporations large and small in New Mexico, our neighboring states, and beyond.

For the most part, these are the people who mentored our interns in their workplaces, and, in many cases, also hired our graduates. You can see a snapshot, a slice, of the range of employment available to English majors by looking at the list of internship placements available today on our departmental web site.

One person I corresponded with at length was a senior manager for a large national corporation headquartered in Ohio. He told me his company actively sought English majors as the “most skilled” of the liberal arts graduates his company was seeking to recruit and hire more and more in recent years. It seems they were becoming disenchanted with business majors.

He wrote a one page document with a catchy title and sent it to me:

Why XYZ Company Hires and Promotes People with English Degrees

He listed six categories of skills, which were somewhat repetitive (the document needed editing at the sentence, paragraph, and headings levels, making his point about their need for English majors). His six categories really came down to three familiar core skills: communication skills (writing and speaking); research skills (the ability to find information); and critical thinking skills (the ability to assess the value of information for different users). Let’s consider these three skills a bit further.

Communication Skills

My correspondent wrote, “[English majors] are rarely intimidated by deadlines and the prospect of creating multiple documents.”

New hires in their the first 3-6 months at XYZ were routinely asked to write two to three 150 to 250 word abstracts of information they could find about new clients, and these one-to-three-paragraphs-long documents were due on rolling deadlines about every 1-2 weeks. All but the English majors found this amount of writing and the associated deadlines daunting. The English majors thought, “Hey, this is less work than I used to do years ago in English 101. No sweat.” Echoing Oliver Twist, I imagine that they all but said, “Please sir, may I write some more?”

Research Skills

My correspondent wrote, “[English majors] are organized and experienced in the methodology of retrievable storage activities that result in research and information compilation.”

Translation:  English majors know how to search more sites than just Google; they keep accurate records of the URLs they consult; and they know how to cut and paste. 

Supervisors reading the abstracts produced by English majors not only found the information they wanted, but they could follow the path taken by the writer, and then branch off of that path confidently on their own to find still more information of use. Good stuff, my contact told me.

Critical Thinking Skills

Again, my correspondent wrote, “[English majors] execute a disciplined approach to situation analysis while implementing a critical thinking approach to problem resolution.”  I suspect one has to have a business degree to write a sentence like that.

Translation: English majors actually thought about what information would be more important, more useful, for their supervisors, and they placed that information in more prominent positions in their abstracts. Finally, they offered explicit conclusions about the significance of that information, about how it might affect their employers’ future actions with their new clients. 

More good stuff, and very, very rare among new hires, my contact told me.

I’m here today to tell you that you made the right choice about your major a few years back, that you are on the right track, and that your study of English has prepared you for a wide range of meaningful professional careers.

You have the skills you need to succeed.

You have the will you need to succeed.

And, more important than any skill, you have been building something my corporate correspondent never directly addressed, although I see it everywhere in everything he praised about English majors.

You have a measure of character, of maturity, and of wisdom that, no matter how many years you may actually have now, is certainly beyond any norm associated with that number of years.

This is so because you have read widely and you have read well the stories that really matter, the stories that the writers of great literature have given to us, stories about lives and worlds real and imaginary that you have lived and inhabited and shared in the fullest sense in your own generative imaginations that you engaged in the act of reading.

Although it is not so easily recognized, and it is far too often taken for granted, reading is the one true foundation for all of those other skills.

From the time you were first read to, and then eventually began reading on your own, you started on a path that has led you to where we are today, in Woodward Hall, at your graduation.

You are more than ready, and, finally, it is time.

Go out there beyond the classrooms where you have done so well and make something great and good happen for yourself and all of us in the new worlds that, through your actions, you will create.

Congratulations to you all.

Linwood Orange, English: The Pre-Professional Major, 1972; 4th edition 1986.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Keleher and Wertheim Awards for 2013: Greg Martin & Melina Vizcaíno-Alemán

Please congratulate the winners of the Departmental Keleher and Wertheim Awards for 2013:
*The Keleher Award is given to “An Assistant Professor who demonstrates a strong commitment to teaching done primarily at the undergraduate level.” This year the Keleher Award goes to Melina Vizcaíno-Alemán.

*The Wertheim Award is for "tenured faculty who have made outstanding contributions to the profession." This year the Wertheim Award goes to Greg Martin.

Many congratulations to Melina and Greg!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

“Rebel,” will premiere on PBS, Channel 5, at 10 p.m. Friday, May 24

Actress Romi Dias as Loreta Velázquez/Harry T. Buford
in PBS’ Rebel, premiering Friday

 Loreta Velázquez has a role in history – and it’s a significant one.

The Cuban immigrant was one of the estimated 1,000 women who secretly served as soldiers during the American Civil War.

Velázquez is the subject of director María Agui Carter’s new film, “Rebel,” which will premiere on PBS, Channel 5, at 10 p.m. Friday, May 24. It’s part of the Voces series.

This film relies on literary and historical scholarship, such as the book by our own Professor Jesse Alemán, based on rich original resources, such as The Woman in Battle: A Narrative of the Exploits, Adventures, and Travels of Madame Loreta Janeta Velázquez, her 1876 autobiography.

The Woman in Battle: The Civil War Narrative of Loreta Velázquez, Cuban Woman & Confederate Soldier
by Velázquez, Loreta Janeta and Alemán, Jesse
Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press

Agui Carter’s documentary focuses not only on the extraordinary circumstances of Velázquez’s military service, but emphasizes her much more dangerous act — publishing her memoir. The narrative’s importance is theorized by interviews with U.S. Latino literature and history scholars Jesse Alemán and Vicki L. Ruiz, who note that Velázquez’s critique of the Confederacy influenced Civil War print culture and the ideology of the Lost Cause, which cast the Confederates as brave and noble, overcome by sheer force rather than the Union’s superior martial skill.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Andrew Mara wins Peltier Award

R&W PhD Alumnus Andrew Mara, associate professor of English, was acknowledged with the Peltier Award at North Dakota State University.
The Peltier Award was established by Joseph and Norma Peltier to recognize outstanding innovation in teaching. Mara was nominated by Kevin Brooks, professor and head of the English department.

Brooks noted that Mara gives new media assignments that “challenge, engage and prepare students for 21st century citizenship and workplaces.” He also said Mara practices “public, practice-based pedagogies that result in students engaging with the community” and he provides support and innovation for the department’s online courses.

Mara, who came to NDSU in 2006, earned his doctorate in Rhetoric and Writing at the University of New Mexico.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Oliver Baker Chosen for Newberry Library Summer Seminar

Oliver Baker been chosen to attend the "Competing Narratives: Native American and Indigenous Studies Across Disciplines NCAIS" Summer Institute from July 8 through Aug 2.

This four week summer institute will compare competing narratives as they relate to indigenous studies.The seminar will address the theoretical models produced by various disciplines in the humanities and social sciences in order to engage in comparative analyses. Students from across academic disciplines will engage works of autobiography, literature, history, anthropology, and visual studies among others. Our work will also allow participants to become familiar with the extraordinary resources of the Newberry Library.

The seminar will be led by Prof. Erin Debenport, Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico and Dr. Scott Stevens, Director, D’Arcy McNickle Center.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Faculty and Graduate Student Appearances for March 2013

   American Association for Applied Linguistics, Dallas, TX. March 16-19, 2013.
Pisarn Bee Chamcharatsri. “Expressing emotions through writing in Thai and English.”
J. V. Jeffery and P. K. Matsuda. “Examining conceptions of voice: An analysis of writing teachers’ constructs and processes.”

   Conference on College Composition and Communication, Las Vegas, NV. March 13-16, 2013.
Andrew Bourelle and Tiffany Bourelle. “Digital Environments, Public Writing, and Student Needs: Using Instructional Assistants to Facilitate Learning in Online Classes.”
Genesea Carter. “You Want Me to Write What? Encouraging Working-Class Student Voices through Discourse Analysis.”
Pisarn Bee Chamcharatsri. “Expressing emotions through narrative: Second language writing perspectives.”
Bethany Davila. “What's Identity Got to Do With It?: Instructors' Talk About Writing and Identity.”
Cristyn Elder. “WPA-GO: A Model for the CWPA Diversity Project?”
Brian Hendrickson. “A Public Affair: The Intermediate Expository Writing Course as Community Writing Center Practicum.”
Mellisa Huffman. “Getting on the Same Page: Using an Ethnolinguistically-Informed Heuristic Within Collaborative Writing Situations.”
Lindsey Ives. Panel Participant. “’Basic’ Writers, ‘Multilingual’ Writers, and ‘Mainstream’ Writers: the Contested Terms of Transitional Writing from the Student Perspective.”
J. V. Jeffery. “Rethinking secondary-postsecondary writing transitions in a time of Common Core Standards: What FYC instructors need to know about new high school writing standards.”
Anna V. Knutson. “Digital Bridges: Negotiating Metacognition in a Digital Lanscape.”
Charles Paine. Panel Participant. “The CWPA Diversity Project.”
Todd Ruecker. Panel Participant. “The Public Work Ahead of WPAs: Developing Effective Programs for Linguistically Diverse Students and Multilingual Writers in Transition: Improving Cross-Institutional Agreements and Collaborations.”

   TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo. Dallas, TX. March 22, 2013.
Cristyn Elder. “Implementing the Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing with Multilingual Writers.”
J. V. Jeffery and P. K. Matsuda.”Voice in secondary and postsecondary rubrics.”

   Medieval Association of the Pacific. University of San Diego. March 21-23, 2013.
Megan Abrahamson. “Sir Gary-Stu”: Le Morte D’Arthur as Malory’s Self-Insert Fan-Fiction.”
Justin Brock. “A Dual Remedy for the Chaos of Babel: Examining John Trevisa’s Dialogue Between a Lord and a Clerk On Translation and Late Medieval English Vernacular Culture.”
Justin Brock. Session Chair. Medieval Manuscript Studies.
Emilee Howland-Davis. “Morgan le Fey: Sister, Savior, Sorceress.”
Anita Obermeier. “Henry II’s and Cunegund’s Sanctity: Chastity or Disability?”
Anita Obermeier. Session Chair. Saints and Mystics.
Anita Obermeier presided over the entire conference as president of MAP.
Doaa Omran. “The Correspondences of Princess Wallāda bint al-Mustakfī: a Medieval Harlot, Muse and Poet.”

Cristyn Elder, Dan Cryer, Beth Davila, Lindsey Ives, and Charles Paine. “Creating and Assessing Locally-Responsive Student Learning Outcomes.” New Mexico Higher Education Assessment and Retention Conference, Albuquerque, NM. March 1, 2013.

Natasha Jones. “Re-imagining Technical Communication as Activism.” Association for Teachers of Technical Writing, Las Vegas, NV. March 13, 2012.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Faculty and Graduate Student February 2013 Appearances

South Central Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Conference, Austin, TX. Feb. 21-23, 2013.

Calinda Shely. “An Ailing Body Politic: Gouty Gentlemen as Cultural Metaphor in Sarah Fielding’s The Countess of Dellwyn and Smollett’s The Adventures of Roderick Random.”

Carolyn Woodward “Jenny and the Silk Weavers.”

Southwest/Texas Popular Culture and American Culture Associations, Albuquerque. Feb. 13-16, 2013.

Daoine Bachran. “From Recovery to Discovery: American Ethnic Science Fiction and (Re)inventing the Future.”

Vincent Basso. “The Devil, My Friend: Milton’s Satan as Anti-hero in Modern Comics.”

Ann D’Orazio. “Ancient Warriors, Insular Hands, and Monster Fights.”

Nichole Neff Gauntt. “Shark Representation in Nineteenth-Century Texts: into the Belly of the Beast.”

Scarlett Higgins. Session Chair. Poetry and Poetics (Critical)

Scarlett Higgins. “The Blaze and the Tyger: Vatic Poetry and Apocalyptic History in George Oppen’s Late Work.”

Matt Hofer. “‘Single / Notes / Sung’: Larry Eigner's Equilibria at the Margins.”

Monica Kowal. “Beyond the Hypothetical: Putting the “Real” in Real-World Application with Service-Learning in Technical and Professional Writing.”

Joe Serio. “Is What You See What You Get? Flip Wilson and the Civil Rights Movement.”

Stephanie Spong. “Should There Arise Any Objection to Candidness”: The Censor and Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven’s Globalized Body.”

Diane Thiel. Session Chair. Creative Writing (Poetry, Fiction)

Diane Thiel. “Poetry and Translation.”

Sharon Warner. “Not Too Long, Not Too Short, but Just Right: The Novella Workshop.”

Julie Williams. “Discourses of Hygiene and Homemaking in “Stiya: A Carlisle Indian Girl at Home.”

Greg Martin:
Interview and podcast. Late Night Library, Portland, OR. Feb 11, 2013.
Reading from Stories for Boys. Portland State University, Portland, OR.12 Feb 12, 2013.
Reading from Stories for Boys. Barnes & Noble, Bend, OR. Feb 8, 2013.

Carmen Nocentelli. “Empires of Love: Race, Sexuality, and the European-Asian Encounter.” School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe, NM. Feb 20, 2013.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Luci Tapahonso honored as Navajo Nation Poet Laureate

After having put on the wonderful "My Favorite Poem" celebration in honor of Poetry Month, sponsored by IAIA and the UNM English Department, Luci Tapahonso has been named the first Poet Laureate of the Navajo Nation. Congratulations on another kudo in your long list of awards and recognitions!

Dan Cryer and Lindsey Ives Garner OGS Awards

Dan Cryer is a recipient for the OGS Future Faculty Award. The Future Faculty Grant awards up to $2,000.00 for summer coursework, research, or professional development opportunities directly related to preparing the nominee for a career in higher education. The award supports educational, research, or professional development opportunities not normally available as part of the student’s degree program. Dan received this award to participate in the 2013 Rhetoric Society of America Summer Institute as well as to do research in the archive of the Foundation of Aldo Leopold for his dissertation, "Inventing the Citizen: Narratives of the Vita Activa in Aldo Leopold's Conservation Rhetorics."

Lindsey Ives is a recipient of the OGS Graduate Research Supplement. The Graduate Research Supplement awards up to $2,000.00 to facilitate completion of the MFA or PhD dissertation. These awards support direct expenses incurred for archival or field research. This summer Lindsey will conduct research in Mississippi and Tennessee for her dissertation "Case Not Closed: Whiteness and the Rhetorical Genres of Freedom Summer."