Recent News

Marissa Ahmadkhani wins Academy of American Poet's Contest.

May 15, 2017

English graduate student, Marissa Ahmadkhani won Cal Poly’s Academy of American Poets Contest for her poem “Only Half,” which investigates her Iranian heritage. She will receive a $100 award from the Academy.

Judging this year’s contest, nationally renowned poet Maggie Anderson said, “Through precise description and gentle repetition, Marissa Ahmadkhani has made a deeply moving poem of origins. The delicate fruit of the pomegranate (apple of many seeds) is a brilliantly realized metaphor for the poet’s half-heritage."

First honorable mention goes to English major Morgan Condict for "The Shimmer of the Turning Rabbit," a poem that renders our own mortality through the metaphor of a rabbit turning on a spit over an open flame. Second honorable mention goes to Jacob Lopez, for his poem, "Light on Breathing," depicting the experience of exploring underwater reefs.

Marissa Ahmadkhani
Academy of American Poets Prize
Winner—Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

Only Half

Pomegranates are native to Iran.

Much like my father—

who peeled them on our kitchen counter,

liquid pooling, thinner than

the blood-

red you’d expect.

Much like my blood—

half-steeped in that same soil

and somehow not thick enough.

And I run my fingers through

my coarse hair, half-curly,

and I think about those pomegranate trees.

How they

dig those deep roots,

how I half-cling to those

thin branches.





Catherine Waitinas earned a 2017 Learn by Doing Scholar Award.

May 10, 2017

Catherine Waitinas earned a 2017 Learn by Doing Scholar Award. The annual awards, administered by Kennedy Library and a cross-college faculty committee, recognize outstanding scholarship within Cal Poly’s signature Learn by Doing pedagogy.

Waitinas received $1,000 for her in-progress research, “Flipping Whitman: Collaborative Learn by Doing in the (Digital) Humanities.” Her work explores how digital manuscripts give students unique historical insights into Walt Whitman’s writing, comparing manuscripts with published poems. The unification of digital humanities with hands-on literary study has already received praise from the Modern Language Association and promises to expand applications for other new instruction methods.

Rebecca Gates is this year's American Scholar Prize winner!

May 8, 2017

The English department is pleased to announce that Rebecca Gates was chosen as the winner of the department's American Scholar Prize. She will be presented with her award at the English Department Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, June 17.

The American Scholar Prize award was created by Dr. Linda Halisky, former English Department Chair and College of Liberal Arts Dean, to recognize an English major whose passion for literature is palpable. The $500 prize is awarded to a Cal Poly English major who exhibits an interest in literature and language – someone who is “lit up” by literature. Rebecca's essay was chosen from among the many outstanding entries we received; thanks to all who submitted applications.

In her short essay, Rebecca writes that literature “is not the mere gathering of words. It is the creative mind with its hands dirty, finding the figure in the stone. It is the union of the original, the beautiful, and the prophetic.” Her essay demonstrates that she understands the power of literature and its ability to help us understand the human condition.


An Afternoon With Author T.C. Boyle

Apr 24, 2017

The PEN/Faulkner Award-winning novelist and “short-storyista” will discuss his extensive career and the immense joy he finds while creating his work. The author will then perform a new story… which will remind us all  of the elemental pleasure of hearing a single voice in a darkened auditorium, taking us to new places.
Location: Performing Arts Center, San Luis Obispo
Date: Sunday, May 7, 3:00 pm
*Special fundraising event – VIP reception and meet the author 1:30 pm
Tickets available at or at the Cal Poly ticket office.

English Department Announces Academy Of American Poets Contest

Apr 19, 2017


Cal Poly's English Department has announced that the 2017 Academy of American Poets contest is now open. All registered Cal Poly students are eligible to enter.

The winning poet will receive a $100 first prize and a chance to win the $1,000 Aliki Perroti and Seth Frank Most Promising Young Poet Award. The judge will also select an honorable mention.

Students are asked to submit up to THREE poems totaling no more than 150 lines.

Students should email up to three poems as a single .docx or .pdf attachment to the English Department at, and they should write the term “Academy of American Poets contest” on the subject line.

Students must submit their work by Friday, April 28 at 4PM.

Each year the Academy of American Poets and the English Department sponsor the contest. The judge is typically an off-campus poet or editor whose name is announced when the decisions are made public.

Some previous winners have gone onto prestigious graduate programs in creative writing—and are publishing on the national level.

The winning poem will appear in a campus venue (to be determined).

The Academy of American Poets is an organization that promotes poetry all around the country and sponsors individual university contests. In order to maintain the award, Cal Poly’s English Department contributes to the Academy annually.

For more information, please contact Mira Rosenthal, Dept of English, 756-2411

Dr. Chelsea Milbourne chosen as 2016's Best Article Reporting Historical Research or Textual Studies in Technical Scientific Communication!

Apr 3, 2017

Congratulations to Chelsea Redeker Milbourne, whose recent article in Technical Communication Quarterly was chosen by NCTE as 2016's Best Article Reporting Historical Research or Textual Studies in Technical or Scientific Communication! For a limited time, the publisher is providing free access to this excellent article--read it today!  

For more information visit:

2017 Al Landwehr Fiction Writing Contest and Kevin Clark Poetry Writing Contest Winners

Mar 23, 2017

Cal Poly’s English Department is pleased to announce that English major Maria Woodson has won the 2017 Kevin Clark Poetry Writing Contest and psychology major Emma Sturm has won the 2017 Al Landwehr Fiction Writing Contest.

Woodson’s poem “Devotion to the Small Hours of November and Sturm’s story “Expiration Date” both took first-place honors.

Despy Boutris and Marissa Ahmadkhani won second and third places in the poetry contest. Charlotte Kunde and Conor Walsh earned second- and third-place awards in fiction.

All six winners will receive prize money.

Anonymous submissions were read by two separate judging committees. These committees were comprised of English Department faculty members who very generously donated their time. This year, Catherine Waitinas, Leslie St. John, and Kristin Sanders judged poetry, while Sean Green, Marin Smith, and Jonathan Gotsick judged fiction.

The co-editors of the 2017 issue of Byzantium, Valentina Sainato and Becky Zieber, also made Editors’ Choice selections. Poems by Jacob Lopez, Laura Parker, and Kiki Cazares were chosen in poetry, and stories by Alison O’Neill, Cecilia Grimaldi, and Olivia Peluso were selected in fiction.

The students will read from their winning works at the annual Creative Writing Contests Awards Reading, held in spring quarter. Their poems and stories will be published in Cal Poly’s literary annual Byzantium, which will be available for free that night.

Speed Networking Event

Feb 9, 2017

Come to the English Department's Speed Networking Event taking place on Saturday, February 25th from 1-3PM. Located in Building 7, ATL.

Take this opportunity to engage with alumni and and learn about exciting careers. 

Please RSVP to: by noon on Thursday, Feb 23rd with your name, year and Cal Poly email address.



Continue reading Speed Networking Event...

Unite Cal Poly!

Jan 19, 2017

Attend the first annual celebration of diversity and inclusivity!

Tuesday, January 31st in the Performing Arts Center. Doors open at 6PM.

For more information:

Continue reading Unite Cal Poly!...

English Career Week Feb. 22-25

Jan 11, 2017

Cal Poly Career Services presents English Career Week Feb. 22-25, 2017. 

Continue reading English Career Week Feb. 22-25...


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