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Program News


Graduate students at John Hampsey’s house
Graduate students at John Hampsey’s house.

This year the graduate program focused on planning for the future. The faculty voted to make several curricular and programmatic changes to improve the program, including the introduction of a new graduate project, which will take the place of the M.A. examination as the culminating experience for graduate students; the elimination of the foreign language requirement; and the elimination of mandatory conditional coursework for applicants who do not hold a bachelor’s degree in English. At the same time, the faculty proposed several exciting new courses. Professor Chelsea Milbourne, director of the Technical Communication program, proposed a graduate seminar on technical writing, and the composition faculty put forward a graduate seminar on special topics in rhetoric and composition. These courses are meant to provide a greater range of graduate-level rhetoric and composition courses for students interested in pursuing careers related to these fields. Finally, the Introductory Research Methods course (English 501) has been retitled Introduction to English Studies in order to reflect the scope of the discipline. The graduate program is excited about these upcoming changes, which, pending curricular approval, will begin in fall 2017.

This year was not only about the future, though. Four students received Graduate Presentation Awards to present at the National Conference of Peer Tutoring in Writing: Holly Tang-Quan, Natalia Rossi, Hajera Ghori and Sarah Wishnewsky. Natalia (Nikki) Narvaez was awarded a Graduate Presentation Award to deliver her paper at the 2016 Humanities Education and Research Association (HERA) Conference: The Nature of Humanity. The program’s faculty are very proud to have these students representing Cal Poly at such well-respected academic conferences. In the spring, eight students passed the M.A. examination: Crystal Herrera, Eric Liewald, David Llamas, Narvaez, Savannah Pignatelli, Phillip Schierer, Tang-Quan and Wishnewsky. Pignatelli also received the College of Liberal Arts Outstanding English Graduate Student Award, which was based on her excellent graduate academic performance. On the department level, Liewald and Pignatelli were awarded the Graduate Excellence Award based on their cumulative graduate academic coursework as well as their performance on the M.A. examination. The department wishes our graduate students all the best in their future academic and professional endeavors.


Technical and Professional Communication faculty workshopping ideas
Technical and Professional Communication faculty
workshopping ideas

Students and faculty working in the Technical and Professional Communication Program are excited about new projects and initiatives started in 2015-16. Technical communication students Amanda Jenkins and Malama Wilson joined Cal Poly’s newly created Cybersecurity Case Library, an undergraduate research journal started by Chief Information Officer William Britton that explores how cybersecurity issues impact students across Cal Poly’s campus. Jenkins and Wilson worked as copy editors for the pilot issue and created a style guide for future contributors. Based on their positive experiences working for the Case Library, three new technical communication students will join the project next year.

In addition, faculty in the Technical and Professional Communication Program piloted the 2014-15 curriculum redesign for English 149 – Technical Writing for Engineers. This new curriculum asks students to explore composing technical communication documents in multiple genres for diverse audiences. Sample projects include interviewing engineering professionals and sharing insights with peers, creating how-to instructional videos and translating research innovations for public audiences through podcasts and websites.


TESL students with John Battenburg
TESL students with John Battenburg

A total of 60 students are pursuing the Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) certificate from various majors: childhood development, communication studies, English, history, journalism, liberal studies, modern languages and literatures, political science, psychology and recreation administration.

Those earning the TESL certificate have served as Peace Corps volunteers, English language and culture assistants in Spain, English language teachers at various schools in the U.S. and abroad, and graduate and credential students. Interest in the Cal Poly TESL certificate program is at an all-time high with students tutoring at Cuesta College, the San Luis Obispo County Jail, and various other institutions in the area. These individuals gain valuable experience in English language teaching, and many are also compensated for their work.

Professor John Battenburg, director of the TESL certificate program, has been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to teach and conduct research in Morocco in 2016-17.


Disney animator Tom Sito
Disney animator Tom Sito

This year the creative writing program invited a number of novelists, writers and poets to visit classes and speak on campus. Among our guests was Nathan Deuel, a journalist previously stationed in the Middle East. Deuel was a former editor at Rolling Stone and The Village Voice and has written essays, reviews and criticism for The New York Times Magazine and GQ, among others. With students, he discussed paths to editorial internships and the process of assembling feature articles for magazines. Another of our standout visitors was poet Wendy Barker, author of nearly a dozen books and recipient of the Mary Elinore Smith Poetry Prize from The American Scholar.

Along with traditional visiting writers, the creative writing program and the English Department also participated in bringing Disney animator Tom Sito (“Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid”) to campus to discuss visual storytelling as it relates to traditional and computer animation. With these (and other guests), the creative writing program not only introduced students to significant writers and storytellers but also assisted them in finding a path to transition from their undergraduate efforts to meaningful careers or post-graduate experiences.


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