Much has happened in the Department of English & Creative Writing and the university these past few months, and much more during the preceding three years. I am delighted to report that almost all this change has been for the better. Many of you, being familiar with program cuts at TU that were implemented in 2019, will share my joy in learning that President Carson and TU’s Board of Trustees have announced the reinstatement of the bachelor of arts degree in philosophy & religion and the bachelor of music degree, along with three graduate programs. While English never suffered program closures, the cutting of other arts and humanities fields was a source of discouragement and worry for our students, faculty, and alumni. Like many of us, I am relieved and proud to work at a university that recognizes the centrality of the liberal and fine arts to the work of educating our students, preparing them for lives of intellectual boldness and inquiry, fulfilling engagement in their communities, and pursuing satisfying careers.
I am also delighted to share that our graduate students on assistantship received a much-deserved raise this year, and they will receive another one starting next year. Along with Director of Graduate Studies Jeff Drouin and Jennifer Airey, who was recently named dean of the Graduate School, I look forward to an era of flourishing for our graduate programs, especially our doctoral program.
As department chair, I am personally delighted to announce one more change in the office that promises to improve my daily life a great deal: After several months of operating without a departmental assistant following the departure of Naomi Armington, née Orcutt, for a position in the law school, we now have a new departmental assistant, Jissell Robles-Acosta. It is a great pleasure to welcome this year’s postdoctoral teaching fellows: Steven Maulden, Lily McCully, Laurel Taylor, and Laura Thomas. Welcome is also due to the newest member of our department: George Justice, who was appointed university provost and executive vice president for academic affairs on July 1. Provost Justice is a widely respected scholar of 18th-century British literature, especially Jane Austen, Frances Burney, and other novelists, and – as a columnist for the Chronicle of Higher Education and author of the book How to be a Dean – is a leading thinker in higher education. Although his administrative duties will prevent him from teaching courses right now, he has been generous in joining in the academic mentoring of our majors and is available to serve on doctoral examination and dissertation committees.
This has been a year of much activity around creative writing, with four Tulsa Artist Fellows — Kaveh Bassiri, George Henson, Quraysh Ali Lansana, and J. Preston Witt — teaching for us this year through an initiative sponsored by the Office of the President. Students have been excited to work with so many talented and established writers, and the Tulsa Artist Fellows have been enriching department life in many ways. Bassiri, who is also an Oklahoma Center for the Humanities Fellow for this year, has organized a visiting writers’ series for the spring semester, with upcoming readings by Susan Briante, Paisley Rekdal, and Nomi Stone. The department is working with TU’s Office for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion to host a poetry reading by Lansana and three of his current TU students on Feb. 8 for Black History Month. The fourth year of the TU-TAF mentoring program, a collaboration with OCH in which TU students are paired with Tulsa Artist Fellows to advise them while they revise one work of writing to present publicly next April, is now accepting applications, and the new editorial team for Stylus – Madeline Fossett, Ruben Paredes, Eva Salas, Isa Curran, and Abby Fakhoury – are at work on this year’s collection of student writing and art.
This newsletter is the first to appear without the partnership of Morgan Holmes, who has left his position in TU’s Office of Strategic Marketing & Communications to pursue another opportunity. I am so grateful for the work Morgan did mentoring new undergraduate interns every semester, teaching them about the profession of public relations writing, and indeed mentoring me as I learned to work with a student in producing a departmental newsletter. I wish Morgan all the best in his future endeavors, even as I welcome and thank Mona Chamberlin, who generously stepped in to work with the department in producing this newsletter. Thanks are also due to our MarCom intern Cara Grant, who has done fantastic work this semester with our Facebook feed and newsletter. I would also like to thank Danika Bryant, a master’s student in our program who has a graduate assistantship this year, with support from the Office of the President, to develop publicity and programming for creative writing. One of Danika’s many projects will be activated soon, with a departmental Instagram account.
This fifth issue of our newsletter casts a spotlight on Bryant Loney (BA ’19), who was just named a finalist in this year’s Austin Film Festival, about his flourishing writing career; converses with Carol Kealiher, managing editor of The James Joyce Quarterly, about her many years as a beloved participant in department life; describes how some of our faculty have pursued research travel after the shutdown phase of the pandemic; and details the TV Writers Speakers Series, which featured several of our alumni and was organized by Grant Jenkins in connection with his fall course on TV Writing. We hope you enjoy reading these pieces and wish you a happy new year. To our alumni especially, I hope you will reach out when time permits, and let us know how you are. We always love to hear from you.