WU English in the Community


Faculty and Community Engagement


Several instructors participated in scholarly and creative WTEs with English students. These instructors included Corey Zwikstra, Erin Chamberlain, Vanessa Steinroetter, and Ben Beier. Ben and Erin took four students to the Undergraduate Literature Conference in Utah.

In October, the department held its Annual Klemmer Lecture Series. This year’s Klemmer Lecturer was Dr. Stanley Lombardo. Lombardo is a Professor of Classics at The University of Kansas and is an acclaimed translator of Homer. His public lecture was well attended and the celebration following allowed English faculty an opportunity to have extended conversations with Lombardo. Lombardo also visited several classes and had lunch with English majors.

In March, the Writing Emphasis organized an event to celebrate the 100th birthday of poet William Stafford. The all-day event brought poets from all over Kansas to read their favorite Stafford poems as well as their own. Kansas Public Radio recorded the event and aired a special on April 27.

On April 23, Melanie Burdick organized an event that brought Topeka High School students to campus to celebrate William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday in Ben Beier’s Shakespeare course. Dr. Beier gave a lecture on the Tempest. Following this, the high school students interacted with the college students while eating birthday cake! Channel 13 News filmed the celebration.

In September, Erin Chamberlain spearheaded the English Department’s participation in Washburn’s Majors Fair. English faculty volunteered and took shifts at the table where they shared with students information about becoming English majors. It has been a long time since the English department participated in the Majors Fair.

In May, Melanie Burdick organized the University Critical Thinking SLO training. English department faculty worked with her to identify Anchor papers to assess Critical Thinking. Once this was done, English faculty trained other instructors across the university on how to assess using the Critical Thinking Rubric. The training was sponsored and paid for by University Assessment (Nancy Tate and Donna Lalonde).

Danny Wade and Melanie Burdick conducted an all-day inservice in February for Seaman High School and Middle School teachers. The inservice provided training on the Non-Fiction aspect of the Common Core standards. The training was well-received. 

The department has many faculty members serving the university on important committees. Danny Wade and Mary Sheldon serve on the faculty senate. Mary Sheldon served as the Faculty Senate Secretary this past year and served on the College Faculty Council, Sabbatical Committee, Phi Kappa Phi, and CAS Tenure and Promotion Committee. Wade served Academic Affairs Committee, New Student Orientation Committee, and continued his collaboration with the Education department as a UTEC member. Brad Siebert served on the General Education committee and First Year Experience Committee. Eric McHenry served on the Honors Advisory Board, CFC, and Faculty Senate. Erin Chamberlain served on the Undergraduate Probation and Reinstatement Committee, the Library Committee, Faculty Senate, and as Chair of the Apeiron Print Committee. Corey Zwikstra served on the Interdisciplinary Studies committee, First Year Experience Committee, and became the new chair of the Humanities Division. Melanie Burdick served as the Director of Composition and CEP Liaison. Vanessa Steinroetter continued to serve as a member of the CAS Dean Search Committee. Vanessa also helped organize the Lincoln Lecture series. Tom Averill served on the Faculty Handbook committee.

Three faculty were involved in the search for a lecturer position. Karen Baron (chair), Erin Chamberlain, and Eric McHenry. There were 48 applicants. 

Melanie Burdick continued to oversee the implementation and assessment of EN 101 and EN 300 SLOs and assessments. She provided training to faculty and made adjustments as needed. Several Washburn and high school faculty participated.

In addition, the department continues its record of service to the community, state, and nation:

The entire writing faculty, both tenured/tenure-track and lecturers, have given numerous readings on campus, in local venues, and in formal and informal gatherings across the state and nation.  Tom Averill gave numerous readings and presentations with regard to novel, rode. Tom also read and conducted workshops in local schools. Eric McHenry was also active reading and sharing his book, Peggy of the Flint Hills. Karen Barron, Dennis Etzel, Izzy Wasserstein and Liz Derrington—far beyond what is expected of lecturers—have given and organized readings and have helped bring writers to campus.

Israel Wasserstein guest edited North Dakota Quarterly's William Stafford Tribute Issue.

Dennis Etzel,  Karen Barron, Eric McHenry, and Israel Wasserstein have taken on time-consuming responsibilities for the Woodley Press; they read manuscripts, make selections, publish books, and distribute them for sales.  Although the Woodley Press has existed for over three decades now, it has an anomalous position vis-à-vis the English department—no official connection or support, yet the seeming management rests here.  Thus, it is especially notable that our faculty members do this work, since there is no pay or release time for their efforts.

Danny Wade continues his collaboration with the Topeka and Shawnee County Library Young Adult Literature Department. He has helped the library identify and select YA authors to bring to Topeka. Wade continued his role as co-chair the Fountain of the Muse annual poetry reading and workshop held annually at the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention. Wade continues to serve as chair of the NCTE-CEE Commission on the Teaching of Poetry. Wade also reviewed manuscripts for the prestigious English Education journal. 

Erin Chamberlain has been the department’s point person for the literature emphasis. She has done an amazing job organizing events including social gatherings and graduate school workshops. She has also coordinated monthly meetings with the literature emphasis faculty where they collaborate on projects, assessment, and curriculum

Corey Zwikstra continued to review manuscripts for the prestigious Journal of English and Germanic Philology. This is an indicator that we have one top scholar in medieval studies!

Melanie Burdick continued to make several visits to high schools in our CEP program. She worked with CEP EN 101 instructors and have brought them into the WU composition dialogue. She also brought CEP students to campus this year to work with our faculty and learn about the resources they have available to them. The CEP instructors and the CEP Director are very pleased with Melanie’s work. She has begun very important work in bridging undergraduate and graduate curriculum as it relates to composition. Burdick was awarded assessment and research grants.

Tom Averill’s novel rode was selected as this year’s iRead book. He conducted readings, made presentations, and visited classrooms. Tom also continues to organize and lead the popular and well-received Faculty Colloquium.     

Vanessa Steinroetter was invited to give a presentation on “Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month: Exploring the History and Literature of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States” at the Veterans Affairs Office in Topeka for a Lunch and Learn event in May 2014.