Updates From The Chair

I want to give you the inside scoop on what’s happening at UK English. 

Your English Department is buzzing with energy, and this newsletter showcases some highlights.  Over this last year, our two new student groups – Graphite, the creative writing association; and SEA, the Student English Association – brought creative writing and literature out of the classroom and into everyone’s daily lives through film screenings, Words With Friends game nights, and campus readings.  Graphite also partnered with Lexington’s Carnegie Center for Literacy to host a reading by present and past UK creative writing faculty, which included an open mic for students.  Graphite and SEA sponsored our annual twelve-hour National Poetry Month marathon reading and a joint reading by legendary Kentucky authors, Ed McClanahan and Gurney Norman.

The department is also immensely proud and thrilled to announce that a decades-long goal of offering Kentucky’s only residential MFA in creative writing has finally been achieved!  With the leadership of MFA Director Julia Johnson and all the creative writers, we received final approval this past spring and will welcome our inaugural MFA class in the fall.  Huzzah!  We will launch our new degree program with readings by visiting writers, tremendous new classes, and exciting opportunities for students. 

Along with launching the MFA, we have hired three sensational young fiction writers:  W. Andrew Ewell, Manuel Gonzales, and Hannah Pittard.  We will be highlighting them in future editions, but for now let me just say that Hannah’s second novel, Reunion, is due out this fall and that Manuel’s The Miniature Wife and Other Stories won a major award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters this past spring.  These talented authors are tremendous additions to our faculty and also honor the long tradition of inspiring creative writing at UK. 

Creative writing wasn’t the only field that experienced a hiring boom this past year.  We created three new tenure-track jobs in the Linguistics wing of the department for Andrew Byrd (a specialist in Proto Indo-European Language), Jennifer Cramer (a specialist in Sociolinguistics and dialectology), and Fabiola Henri (a specialist in the morphology of French-based Creole languages).  Together, they bring dynamic new areas to our Linguistics Program and complement the world-class senior linguists teaching at UK.

The next time you find yourself on your 12th-floor POT stomping grounds, you will also notice a considerable upgrade to our environment.  With the generous assistance of Mr. Larry Owen, we have been able to convert physical space in the heart of the English Department into the Betty Combs Owen '57 Center for Student Enrichment, named in honor of Mr. Owen’s late wife.  This attractive new area offers students an inviting and attractive space to socialize, chat with friends, and meet with professors.  We’ve featured the reception we held to open the BCO in a story below. 

The few items I’ve highlighted here are just the tip of the iceberg.  Working side-by-side with our students, English professors are committed to providing the intellectual tools to live full lives, to develop creative thinking, and to prepare students for vibrant professional lives.  Literature, as we all know, helps us see outside ourselves, to see things from perspectives we didn’t even know existed.  But reading literature in a serious way not only prepares us for a wide variety of careers in disparate fields and industries.  It makes us into wiser, more thoughtful, more interesting, more humane people.  I can’t imagine a better way to spend your undergraduate years. 

I encourage you to support the department and its vision.  If you’re in Lexington, come by the department and reintroduce yourself.  Please also consider a gift to the department.  Gifts allow us to enrich our students’ experiences and to provide honors and awards.  Our scholarships and endowments are explained below.  I would also like to encourage you to stay in touch with us.  Please use the form in this letter or on our department website to let us know about important personal or professional developments in your lives.  We’re keen to know what’s going on once you leave UK, and I look forward to hearing from you. 

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