In Praise of the English Department

Finals are finished, and students can now – hopefully – relax.  Faculty, on the other hand, are in the massive time crunch to grade all papers and projects and get the grades in before their deadline.

Wake Forest is filled with terrific faculty members, true talents on both the teaching and scholarly research fronts.  They give both in and out of the classroom, in countless ways.  I was an English major (and graduate student) and came to know a lot of the faculty there – and they are tremendous people.  There are a lot of new faces in the department since my graduation 20 years ago.

The current chair of the department is Scott Klein, who was my thesis adviser.  He has the difficult but fascinating task of helping the works of James Joyce (among others) come alive for our students.  As department chair, Dr. Klein sends out an English department newsletter to alumni of the English program.  This most recent issue is available online here, and I recommend it to you for this reason:  the articles in it have all been written by current students and/or feature the reflections of current students.

I know two of these students well – one is a former advisee of mine, the other I know through her mother.  Both of these women are remarkably well-rounded, talented, active on campus, and I am proud to see their work here.

Most of the time for parents and family members, I suspect you don’t ever really get to see the work your students are doing.  Unlike high school, where you might see papers or test scores (and post them proudly on the refrigerator), college isn’t that way.  There is both a physical distance in college, but also students are beginning to form their own separate identities as young adults – sometimes sharing fewer of those details.  So it might be interesting today to let you take a peek behind the curtain and see the writing of these students in the newsletter.  You can get a glimpse of what they are thinking about these authors, texts, and/or lectures they attended.  Not all are English majors or minors, by the way.

I am proud of the English department for featuring these students’ reflections.  It’s a wonderful opportunity for these students to practice their scholarly writing and also think about how one writes differently for publications vs. classwork.  This is part of our “education of the whole person” mentality – where students can grow outside and inside the classroom, and practice some important real life skills along the way.

And in the interest of full disclosure: I am very proud of the two writers I know in here, and hope their parents might read this!

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