Along with stewardship of our creative writing program I offer strategic thinking towards the future program we would like to be. Through developing our curriculum, acting as a key member on our committees, and working to help realize the Creative Writing Fellow position I have taken a leadership role towards our future Department of English and Creative Writing.
Through my work on the Provost’s Ad Hoc Committee on Faculty Scholarship and as chair of the Faculty Scholarship Committee I have strengthened the culture of faculty scholarship at Susquehanna, playing a central role in shifting the attention of our community towards recognizing and supporting the inspiring work that our colleagues continue to perform.
Among other things, living in Budapest and teaching at two different configurations of higher education there—ELTE, the large university that hosted my Fulbright lectureship and the Eötvös Collegium Honors College that hosted my sabbatical research—has helped me to see Susquehanna and its structures more clearly. According to my Hungarian colleagues, the notion of "university service" doesn't seem to exist in Hungarian higher education, but this does not mean that it actually doesn't exist. Job searches are preformed. Curriculum is altered. Funding is allocated. Programs are built and dismantled. Much of this is done by individuals in positions of power or by the state and not necessarily by committee or department members.
Working within institutions in Hungary where service was not a concept has helped me to refine my sense of what service is at Susquehanna, and how my work fits into the configuration of a small liberal arts school with structures of shared governance and tradition. If asked prior to tenure what service is, I would have said that it is something one does for the good of the whole. While I still agree with this, I have come to think of service at Susquehanna in a slightly more granular way: as leadership in stewarding inherited structures and strategic cultivation of future structures that serve the students, faculty, staff, and larger institution as a whole.
I accomplish stewardship and strategic cultivation on both the departmental and university level and have organized this portfolio page to reflect these two aspects.
With majors in English literature, English-secondary education, publishing and editing, and creative writing, the Department of English and Creative Writing is a vital hub for the written word. The department has a unique structure: we have co-chairs in English and creative writing: Laurence Roth heads English and the majors under its umbrella; Glen Retief heads creative writing. Faculty work together across the department, but much of the service that we do breaks along disciplinary lines. Creative writing faculty most often do service for the creative writing major and English literature faculty perform service for the majors housed with English: literature, publishing and editing, and English-secondary education.
If we think of service as stewardship of inherited structures and strategic cultivation of future structures this division focuses faculty time and energy into majors and programming that serve specific students. As such, my main service to our large department focuses on the creative writing major (you can view this webpage here) and the Writers Institute (and you can view this webpage here), which is both the physical building that houses our creative writing offices and classrooms and the umbrella under which we put our visiting writers series, our literary journals, and other beyond-the-classroom activities.
Stewardship of Inherited Structures
With the creative writing major and beyond-the-classroom activities of the Writers Institute we have inherited powerful structures that recruit, maintain, cultivate, and empower Susquehanna students. Post-tenure I have worked to provide strategic direction in stewarding these structures through curriculum development, engagement in Writers Institute activities, and recruitment activities.
Curriculum Development: I have developed our curriculum both within the major and as a way of offering creative writing WRIT courses to the central curriculum. Within the major I initiated curricular reform to add an intermediate level workshop to our curriculum and to tighten what our majors would take as creative writing electives. Prior to this reform students took only one intermediate level course and now they take two courses. Creative writing students had also been able to take ENGL 205, a general literature course, to satisfy an elective requirement for the major. To make this more rigorous we restricted the requirement to a higher level course. In addition, I diversified the intermediate level of our poetry track, which had offered only one type of course, to offer genre variety via courses on the lyric poem, the prose poem, and the narrative poem. Both of these curricular changes make our creative writing more rigorous and push students to take a wider variety of courses.
I have also increased the number of WRIT creative writing courses in the central curriculum. I was successful in making a proposal for our intermediate level workshops, the WRIT 350 courses, to count in the central curriculum as literary expression. As all creative writing majors already fulfill this requirement through their required literature courses, and it is very rare for a non-major to take an intermediate level creative writing course, this inclusion of WRIT 350 was less a pragmatic move than it was a systemic move. By including the literary expression learning goals in our intermediate-level course we ensure that creative writing majors get reinforcement of these central curricular values.
The other proposals I have made, albeit slightly less successfully, were for several entirely new WRIT courses to gain course status, to fulfill one of the primary (non-intensive) areas of the central curriculum, and to focus on non-majors. This endeavor is unique within my program: aside from Glen's GO Program (Travel Writing in South Africa), these have been the sole proposals for courses specifically geared towards inviting non-majors to study creative writing for primary (non-intensive) central curriculum credit. WRIT 240, Experimental Writing, which satisfies Artistic Expression, is an example of a successful application and has been taken by both majors and non-majors. The course does not count towards a major requirement, and our majors' artistic expression requirement is already covered by Aesthetics and Interpretation, but the course was taken by interested writing majors for their university elective. The course also provides a unique opportunity for non-majors to experience creative writing pedagogy. Presently and in the future I will continue to strive to find the right balance of ingredients in proposing other WRIT courses for course status and primary central curriculum credit in order to increase non-major access to our discipline and to generate alternative paths for creative writing majors to fulfill their primary central curriculum requirements. Meanwhile: a recent member of the Travel Writing in South Africa team, I am looking forward to taking students to South Africa for travel writing this summer.
Writers Institute Activities: The Writers Institute hosts between six to eight visiting writers through our Seavey Visiting Writers series. Most of our visiting writers come to campus for a 4:15 PM Q and A session followed by a 7:30 PM reading. Each year a writer comes for a week-long visit and works with students in the classroom. To help facilitate this series I provide suggestions for the visiting poets and give feedback on suggestions for the writers in other genres, working to ensure that our series represents the diversity and excellence of contemporary English-language writing. In addition to contributing to planning the events I use visiting writers' books in my classrooms. I require attendance of students at events and attend them myself, helping to host visiting writers through the Q and A sessions, dinners, and the literary readings.
In addition, the Writers Institute hosts a senior reading series and our seniors read their work in the art gallery at six to seven evening events across the course of the year. I support these events by co-hosting roughly three or four sessions, which includes writing and reading out introductions for the student readers, welcoming friends and family, and ensuring that all runs smoothly. The Writers Institute also houses our three main literary journals: The Susquehanna Review, Essay, and RiverCraft along with The Apprentice Writer, a journal of high school writing, all of which I support by attending the annual literary launches. In addition, I am the faculty advisor of the poetry section of RiverCraft. Since spring of 2016 I have also been the faculty advisor-at-large for the journal, overseeing the work of the managing editor as he or she brings the journal to print and plans the public launch.
Recruitment Activities: Clearly essential to the success of our major is recruitment. As such, the creative writing major requires a portfolio for incoming students. This allows us to evaluate student work and presents an opportunity for us to interface with applicants about their work. As part of this process I read and comment on all application portfolios. I also personally contact poetry students about Susquehanna and often host visiting students in my writing workshop, talk with them in my office after, and match them with current creative writing students for lunch or overnight visits. In addition to the portfolio process we run a "Creative Writing Day," fall semester, where faculty give visiting students a literary reading and, with the help of current SU writing majors, run a workshop. An extended version of this program takes place during a week each summer and the entire creative writing faculty comes together to teach a week-long intensive. During this Summer Writers Workshop I teach a group of seven to twelve high school students interested in poetry. This is both a powerful recruitment tool and also an opportunity to provide mentorship to a current student. Each creative writing faculty member selects a responsible current student to teach with them and to chaperone the students in the dorm. This is the first time many high school poets have ever met another person their age interested in poetry and the week provides a rich platform for teaching, writing, mentoring, and recruitment.
Strategic Cultivation of the Future
Recruitment and curriculum development work toward strong future structures. In addition, I offer the creative writing program strategic thinking towards the future program we would like to be and have taken a leadership role towards this future as a key member on our search committees and by working to help develop the Creative Writing Fellow position. Our searches have been fairly straight forward: In the fall of 2015 we held a search for a visiting creative writing professor in fiction for a leave of absence and sabbatical replacement. During the 2016-2017 academic year we did a search for a tenure track creative non-fiction/poetry position. This year we are continuing that search as a position in creative non-fiction. For all searches I was a key member of the committee involved in writing the job ad, weeding through the initial applications, performing interviews, and meeting about candidates.
The idea for our Creative Writing Fellowship was developed during the spring of 2016 and grew organically from discussions that Glen and I were having about our program. We wanted to provide an opportunity for a writer from a group historically underrepresented in academia, and newly out of a master's program, to teach at the college level. The idea was that the position would be a relatively low teaching load and the fellow would team-teach creative writing with the full-time professor in their genre, as well as teach our senior portfolio course, which prepares students for life after the university. This would allow the writer to get his or her feet wet while working on a manuscript and applying for jobs or PhD programs. We believed that this opportunity would be a great stepping-stone for a young writer and that this writer would bring something new and vital to our program. Our first fellow was alumnus Marcus Burke, who held the fellowship during the 2016-2017 academic year. Our current fellow, Monica Prince, is a poet and is team-teaching a section of Introduction to Poetry with me. I have been involved in the process of creating this fellowship from the conception of its idea to its realization and I am glad to have the opportunity to teach with and to mentor Monica.
Upon returning from my Fulbright lectureship as a tenured professor for the 2011-2012 year I completed my third year as a member of the Arts Events Committee. During 2012-2013 I was on sabbatical. Back on campus in fall of 2013 I ran for a seat on the Academic Technology Advising Committee, to begin that semester. Aware of the importance of technology to editing and publishing projects on campus (the literary journals; the publishing and editing program; and our small press publishing course) and in my own scholarship (the Constant Critic and SplitLevel Texts) this seemed to be a committee for which I had something to offer. In addition, early that fall I ran for a seat on the Provost's Ad Hoc Committee on Faculty Scholarship, convened for the 2013-2014 year. The committee was formed by the Provost to conduct a comprehensive review of scholarship expectations, mentoring, resources, and recognition and was composed of the committee chair and Speaker of the Faculty, Michele DeMary, and five elected faculty representatives. The importance I place on scholarship in my life, as well as the knowledge that our teaching is only as strong as our commitment to our scholarship made me keen to be part of this committee. Service on this committee was a turning point for my contribution to university service and has led me to play a leadership role in strengthening the culture of scholarship at Susquehanna.
Throughout the course of the fall semester the Ad Hoc Committee reviewed policies, held open sessions to discuss the review-categories, and collected information from university committees associated with scholarship. During spring semester we analyzed data and gathered a report to present our findings and recommendations to the faculty. We recommended greater clarity of expectations for faculty research; recognition that faculty scholarship is a central component of the Susquehanna University experience; greater support for faculty research in time and money; and a center for faculty research and creative activity. The report can be read here. Some practical results of these findings resulted in a new position for grant support; a revised mission for the Faculty Scholarship Committee to include programming; a presence for faculty scholarship on MySU; and a greater transparency about scholarship expectations.
My engagement with the Ad Hoc Committee led me to run for election to the Faculty Scholarship Committee, which I joined fall semester, 2014. After a year of service on the committee I put myself forward to chair the committee and have served as chair since fall of 2015, gaining re-election to the committee when my initial commitment to the committee was fulfilled last year. As chair of the Faculty Scholarship Committee I continue to hold the findings of the Ad Hoc Committee in mind and see the FSC as a center for both developing stewardship of the structures around scholarship that we have inherited, and to also strategically cultivate future structures that can further enrich the culture of faculty scholarship at Susquehanna.
Stewardship of Inherited Structures
Through the FSC faculty members from Arts and Sciences apply for support for their scholarship in the form of Mini-Grants as well as Faculty and University Research Grants. We receive Mini-Grant applications on a rolling basis and review the larger grants at the beginning of spring semester each year. I lead our review of Mini-Grants, which takes place via email, and I also lead our review of the larger grants, which takes place over the course of a meeting. In addition to leading review, I conduct correspondence with applicants, coordinate letters of reference submitted for the University Research Grants, and convey any queries the committee has about applications. During my first year as chair, 2015-2016, we funded sixteen Mini-Grants, one Faculty Research Grant, and three University Research Grants. During my second year as chair, 2016-2017, we funded fifteen Mini-Grants, four Faculty Research Grants, and three University Research Grants.
Along with conducting reviews of the grants, with the enormous support of Charity Ney the committee has worked to make its processes more transparent, housing all successful grant applications on the WebSU Faculty Scholarship site. The availability of grant proposals not only makes our process transparent, but it also allows the proposals to be resources for faculty members who apply for grants in the future. In addition to the transparency of the WebSU site I make written and verbal announcements to the faculty about our grant opportunities and make myself available to answer specific questions via email and in person. These communications not only make the information more readily available to faculty, but they also reinforce the importance and presence of scholarship in the larger arena of faculty meetings and announcements with the goal of showing that scholarship has a place in nearly everything that we do.
Strategic Cultivation of Future Structures
After the Ad Hoc Committee's review of faculty scholarship practices the faculty voted to amend the Faculty Scholarship Committee's charge to include "the support of faculty scholarship through workshops, colloquia, mentoring, and other occasions for academic interchange." Developing the Faculty Scholarship Committee to meet this charge has been a priority for me as chair, and I have done so in the form of a collaboration with Rob Sieczkiewicz and the library. Since the 2015-2016 academic year, my first year as chair, CFS and the library have co-hosted events in the library, room 104, twice a semester for faculty to present their scholarship. Three faculty present at each event; Rob and I curate the series to include faculty from a mix of disciplines and at various stages in their careers. We advertise the events and I introduce each faculty member with a biography that recognizes their accomplishments. Presentations are short, roughly fifteen minutes each, yet still allow the university community to get a swift sense of the exciting work that faculty are currently engaged in doing. This year Rob and I will continue the series and have added an event, scheduled for November 8th, focused on university resources for faculty research, giving faculty the opportunity to find out about external grant resources, the FSC grant process, the digital commons publishing opportunities, and other valuable resources. This will extend the event series further towards mentoring as we maintain our goal of recognizing the importance of scholarship to the Susquehanna community. These events are well-attended: we draw between twenty to forty audience members. Faculty and staff feedback upon participating and attending these events has been overwhelmingly positive and I feel confident that these sessions significantly enrich the culture of scholarship at Susquehanna.
Work on the Ad Hoc Committee gave me an initial taste of the variety and vitality of our colleagues' scholarship—and our collective hunger for scholarship to be further recognized as central to the university. It is gratifying to work at an institution where I've had the opportunity to play a central role in shifting the attention of our community towards recognizing and supporting the inspiring work that our colleagues continue to perform.
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