Fall 2011 Newsletter

Only Connect!

Greetings from the Chairkathryn

“Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.”  --E.M. Forster, Howard’s End

One of my favorite college experiences was reading E.M. Forster’s 1910 novel Howard's End in a Modern British Fiction course. The novel’s motto, “Only connect!,” seems the appropriate title for our newly-established department newsletter. The newsletter seeks to connect alumni with faculty, students, and other alumni, as well as to inform readers about current goings-on in the department.
The novel’s motto also serves as a reminder of humanistic values in this age of the Internet. Though many of us feel connected via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even this newsletter, none of these electronic experiences substitutes for true human connection. So while I encourage you to read and enjoy this newsletter, I also encourage you to stop by building 47 and say hello to old friends the next time you’re in San Luis Obispo. Nothing pleases faculty more than to hear from and see former students; our doors are always open!

--Kathryn Rummell


Faculty Awards

Dr. Doug Keesey won the College of Liberal Arts’ Richard K. Simon Award for Outstanding Scholarship this spring. Doug has published eight books on film and filmmakers since 2005. His latest book is Neo-Noir: Contemporary Film Noir from Chinatown to The Dark Knight (Kamera Books, 2010).  


Faculty RetirementsBill Feldman

Bill Feldman earned an M.A. in English and a TESL Certificate from Cal Poly in 1997 and began teaching in the department that same year. Over his career he taught freshman composition, developmental writing, advanced composition, and an array of writing classes for English as a second language students.

Barbara MorningstarBarbara Morningstar joined the faculty in 1996 after earning an M.A. in English at Cal Poly. Primarily a teacher of freshman composition, Barbara also served as the University’s Art Gallery Coordinator from 1999-2005.  



Dr. Steven Marx

Dr. Steven Marx, received his Ph.D. at Stanford, joined Cal Poly’s faculty in 1988 and since then has played an integral role in the department. A scholar of Renaissance literature, Steven’s book Shakespeare and the Bible, published by Oxford University Pressin 2000, has earned rave reviews. While at Poly, Steven often produced and directed performances of the Bard’s plays. In his later years at Cal Poly Steven turned to environmental literature, pioneering the campus sustainability movement on campus and serving as lead author of Cal Poly Land: A Field Guide (2003). Throughout his professional career, Steven remained squarely dedicated to his students,teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in Shakespeare, the Bible as Literature, Ethnic American Literature, and EcoLiterature. His enthusiasm for teaching, inquisitive scholarly mind, and commitment to students will be sorely missed.

Evelyn Torres graduated with a B.A. and M.A. in English from Cal Poly, earned a Ph.D. at UC San Diego, and then joined the faculty ranks in 1989. A specialist in Hawthorne and American Naturalism, Evelyn also taught courses in literary theory and in 19th-century American Literature. After serving on the Graduate Committee for several years, Evelyn became Graduate Program Director in 1998. Particularly noteworthy was Evelyn’s commitment to increasing diversity at Cal Poly; to that end, she served on hiring committees for the Ethnic Studies Program and taught Ethnic American Literature. We will miss her in the department and we wish her all the best as she embarks on a new path in life!


Sarah StorelliStudent AwardsBrinn Strange

Sarah Storelli, left, won the College of Liberal Arts’ Award for Contributions to the Image of the University. A graduating English major with a minor in Law and Society, Sarah served as the ASI Student Body President in 2010-2011. To our knowledge, she is the first English major to be elected Student Body President.

Brinn Strange, right, won the English Department Graduate Teaching Associate Award for Excellence in Teaching.


Graduate Program News

Dr. Debora SchwartzDr. Paul MarchbanksDr. Debora Schwartz ably led our graduate program for five years before turning over the program reins to Dr. Paul Marchbanks last fall. The department is extremely grateful for Debora's dedication, hard work, and passionate commitment to our graduate program and our students.

Graham Culbertson presented at Composing Spaces: An Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference, at the University of Cincinnati.

Beth Currie presented at the Significations Grad Conference at CSULA.

Grad conference at CSULA

Susie Kopecky presented at the CSU Fresno Annual History Graduate Student Symposium, the 19th Annual CSU Shakespeare Symposium, and the Western Jewish Studies Association Conference.

Deborah Pirman presented at the 2011 West Regional Conference for Christianity & Literature.

Megan Slocum presented at the Significations Grad Conference at CSULA and at the Far West Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association.

Brinn Strange presented at the Significations Grad Conference at CSULA.

Jen Wiens presented at the Significations Grad Conference at CSULA.

Composition Program News

Now entering its fifth edition, Fresh Voices: Composition at Cal Poly, compiled and edited by composition faculty, has become a staple text for the Composition Program. This collection of essays, written by students enrolled in our first-year writing courses, serves as a textbook for the following year’s courses, allowing students to learn from the accomplishments of their peers. Composition instructors use the essays to model for new students the intellectual and rhetorical engagement expected in Cal Poly’s first-year writing courses. The publication is highly selective, printing only 23 of the 150+ submissions, and affords student writers an opportunity to gain a wider and more sophisticated understanding of audience. The collection has also garnered national attention; last year’s book won an award for design at the New England Book Show.  Other universities around the state are considering adopting this collection because it represents a best practice in composition studies. We’re proud to provide a true Learn by Doing experience for all first-year students in our courses. 
To purchase a current edition of Fresh Voices, please go to the Pearson Store or visit Amazon.com. To take a look at past issues, please visit our web page for Fresh Voices, all issues.
For questions, please contact Dr. Brenda Helmbrecht, Director of Writing.

Creative Writing Program News



Our literary magazine celebrated its 21st edition this year! A big thanks to co-editors Meg Archer and Sam Reynard for producing another fantastic issue.  The winners of the Al Landwehr Creative Writing Contest are published in the magazine each year.  Below are the English major and graduate student winners of this year’s contest:

1st Place Anna K. Bush (graduate student)
2nd Place Kate Malczynski (senior)
3rd Place Jaquelin Sicilia (senior)
1st  Place Jess Zwicker (sophomore)

In other creative writing news, junior Kathryn Sugar won the 2011 Academy of American Poets Contest for her poem “Communion.”

Learn by Doing

Book Project

Renaissance scholar Dr. Dustin Stegner won a Minker Endowment award to transcribe, edit, and publish the first modern edition of Anthony Copley’s Wits, Fittes, and Fancies, an important 16th-century jest book. Dustin turned the project into a true Learn by Doing endeavor: students in his English 204 sections transcribed the text from a facsimile of the original; and students in his Sidney and Spenser seminar prepared the transcription for print. Senior project students who worked on this important publication are: Julie Ecoff, Sandra Gonzalez, Sierra Meffan-Jahoda, Joey Nargizian, Allison Nunez, and Nicole Vaden. University Graphic Systems published the book complete with block prints hand pressed at Cal Poly’s Shakespeare Press Museum. To order a copy of this impressive book, contact the English Department.

Love out loud

Love Out Loud

In conjunction with Dr. Brad Campbell’s winter seminar on madness in American literature, majors Carly Smoot and Rachel Dulaney conceived and coordinated the Love Out Loud Campaign—a humanistic Learn by Doing senior project designed to raise awareness about the mental and emotional health challenges facing their generation. The Campaign was informed by an understanding of how literature has helped to shape the ways we define and treat mental illness, and it culminated in a day-long multimedia event which drew on the talents of majors from across the university and brought together artists, mental health professionals, and other interested constituencies from all over California.  Poets, musicians, guest speakers, and comedy troupes performed at the event (photo above), the proceeds of which were donated to a non-profit organization dedicated to helping those who suffer from mental illness. The students’ efforts garnered a front-page spread in the Mustang Daily, where it was announced that the Campaign will continue under the capable leadership of a new generation of Cal Poly students. For further details, please visit Love Out Loud.

English Club Revival

After several years of inactivity, the English Club rose up like a phoenix in the 2009-2010 academic year.  Led by eager and talented officers, and advised by Dr. Catherine Waitinas and Dr. Sophia Forster, the Club has sponsored game nights, helped with Open House activities, co-sponsored Career Connections events, renovated Limbo, revived the end-of-the-year banquet, and produced the first-ever English Department Yearbook. We’re looking forward to more fun events in the upcoming year! 

Speakers in Fall 2011

We bring guest speakers throughout the year, and we’d love to see alumni at these talks. 
In the meantime, here are two speakers already scheduled for fall quarter:

October 4, 11:10 am, Room 33-286
Dr. Kenneth M. Price is the Hillegass University Professor of American Literature at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Co-director of the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities. Dr. Price will be speaking about his recent discovery of over 3000 Walt Whitman documents. 

November 17, 7:30 pm, Room 33-286
Dr. Jon Cooley is an Assistant Professor of Humanities and Religion at Union College in Barboursville, Kentucky. His talk is titled “The False Dawn of Enlightenment: W.E.B. du Bois and the Critique of Western Progress.”

Newly-Formed Advisory Board

advisory board

In the spring of 2009, the department formed its first Advisory Board. A group of twelve alumni met with Kathryn Rummell and Bill Fitzhenry to discuss ways in which alumni could help the department maintain and promote the excellence of its undergraduate and graduate programs. The Board has met three times since, and is currently focusing its energy on developing a Career Connections program to help our majors and graduate students better understand the vast array of careers available to them. The Advisory Board meets two Saturdays a year (fall and spring) for about four hours each. We would love to have more alumni involved, so if you are interested, or would like more information, please contact Kathryn Rummell.


Career Connectionscareer connections

In an effort to better advertise the various careers our alumni pursue, we implemented a Career Connections program in 2010. Interested alumni fill out a brief profile about their career, email it to us, and we post it on the Career Connections section of our department website. Students can consult these profiles to discover careers they may not have considered, and then possibly contact the alumnus for more information or a meeting. We hope to expand this program so it can serve as a true network of Cal Poly English graduates. If you are interested in participating in the program, please email Kathryn Rummell for a form.

networkingA second aspect of our Career Connections program is our on-going series of career events. The Advisory Board and the English Club have co-sponsored two Speed Networking events. Modeled on the “Speed Dating” phenomenon, Speed Networking is a time-efficient way for current English majors to gain exposure to a variety of different careers open to them. Majors spend 4-5 minutes talking to each alum about career possibilities, and then join them for an informal reception to encourage longer and more in-depth conversations. Additionally, we have hosted two resume and interview workshops led by talented alums Roger Reedy, Ann Neumann, and Sherrie Amido. These career events have been well received by students and alumni alike, and have resulted in at least two job opportunities for current students. If you’d like to be involved in future career events, please email Kathryn Rummell.    
Finally, English alums from Cal Poly now have a presence on Facebook!  We encourage you to join our group: Cal Poly English Alumni.

Website Updates

The department recently completed a major re-design of our website. The new site is much more informative and user-friendly, so we invite everyone to visit it. Cal Poly English Department. Be sure to check out the new  the Faculty and Staff Directory.

Support professor

We know that these are tough times for everyone. Californians in particular have suffered over the past few years. But we hope that if you enjoyed your time in the English department at Cal Poly, you might consider giving a gift, however small, so that we can continue to offer the quality programs that help our students succeed. Small class sizes; one-on-one help in office hours; faculty who know not just students’ names, but also their stories; meaningful interaction between faculty and students; faculty who produce nationally-recognized scholarly and creative work: these qualities are more often found at a private liberal arts college than at a public state university. And yet they represent the very philosophy and practice of our program. Please help us continue our strong legacy of student success; donate to Cal Poly English Department.



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