Faculty Highlights

Vancouver Faculty Host “Constructing Coalitions at the Intersections”

Two English faculty members on the WSU Vancouver campus, Desiree Hellegers, director of the Collective for Social and Environment Justice, and Julian Ankney, coordinator of the Native American Program, hosted a social justice conference over Zoom on April 21 and 22 that featured speakers and roundtable panels investigating the intersection of Native, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and environmental justice issues, especially in the Pacific Northwest.

The goal of the conference was to create a space for public dialogue concerning the enduring effects of the 19th century Morrill Act, which has “redistributed nearly 11 million acres” of Indigenous land, resulting in “turning land expropriated from tribal nations into seed money for higher education,” according to High Country News.

Panel program topics at the conference included:

  • Salmon Scam: Criminalization and Exoneration of Native Fisher People
  • Indigenous Traditional Ecological and Cultural Knowledge: Decolonizing Academia and Nurturing Healthy Futures Through First Foods and Plant Relatives
  • Missing and Murdered Indigenous People: Fossil Fuels, Man Camps and a Case for Divestment, Reinvestment and Reparations
  • Indigenous/Black Solidarity: From AIM and the Black Panthers to Standing Rock and the George Floyd Uprising
  • Speaking to the Gap: Health Disparities and Death in Indian Country
  • “Atomic Bamboozle”: a screening and discussion of a documentary that follows activists as they expose the true costs of new small nuclear reactor designs
Desiree Hellegers
Julian Ankney

The conference was co-sponsored by more than 15 organizations and units across the WSU system, including Fossil Free WSU, which is spearheading a systemwide student-run fossil fuel divestment campaign.

2023 University Awards

President’s Distinguished Teaching Award for Career-Track Faculty

Vanessa Cozza.

Vanessa Cozza
Associate Professor, Career Track
WSU Tri-Cities

Vanessa Cozza enjoys working with community partners, non-profit organizations, companies, and businesses, particularly in her 400-level technical writing class, and she is well known among her colleagues and students for her innovative teaching.

According to Cozza’s students, her curriculum incorporates real-world opportunities that not only provide tangible experience for students’ professional careers but also offer insight into the value of building community with peers and employers.

Shannon Horne, a student in Cozza’s 400-level technical writing course, said: “I definitely felt motivated to create a quality product since I knew they (the team’s employer) trusted us with such a key element of their organization. The skills taught in this course are highly valuable and applicable to professionals in all fields.”

Cozza says she really loves building the kind of Cougar community she sees when she attends WSU football games and sees the crowd: watching the students and alumni come together in one space. Being a part of any community, Cozza explains, but especially the WSU community, is “so great.”

Chancellor’s Award for Advancing Equity

Thabiti Lewis.

Thabiti Lewis
Associate Vice Chancellor and Professor of English
WSU Vancouver

In the quest for a more equitable world, Thabiti Lewis has made a difference personally and professionally. A faculty member at WSU Vancouver since 2007, he has risen rapidly from an assistant professor to his current title as professor of English and associate vice chancellor for academic affairs. Lewis is known among his colleagues for always being collaborative and focusing on uplifting the human condition and racial equity.

In his current role as a co-chair of the Student Success Council, Lewis seeks to understand the factors in students’ success and improve retention. He has worked collaboratively to revise the curriculum for the student success seminar to include identity, race, and culture. He also co-chaired the Enrollment Council and works with faculty to create a more inclusive learning environment. However, according to Lewis, “The research, reading, teaching, enrollment—the work I do on campus—I don’t even see it as doing equity work.”

In advancing equity, Lewis’s goals are far-reaching: “What I would like to see changed is whenever discrimination and bias occur, people are not silent, but they have the courage to speak up and stand up and resist. I would like them to stop being silent when discrimination and bias occur,” so “when you meet someone different, you see it as a gift, not a threat.” Quoting Gandhi, Lewis contends, “No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive,” and he believes that true progress and freedom will thrive once we allow diversity of opinion and voice to challenge our reality.

Lewis has written widely on issues of literature, history, and popular culture with a critical race lens that explores diversity and equity. His article “The 1921 Tulsa Massacre—What Happened to Black Wall Street,” published in Humanities magazine in 2021, sheds light on a little-known tragedy in American history. His 2011 book Ballers of the New School: Race and Sports in America focuses on Black athletes of the hip-hop generation who insist on acceptance on their own terms. His most recent book, Black People Are My Business: Toni Cade Bambara’s Practices of Liberation (2020), explores how Bambara made way for innovations in Black women’s fiction. Along with Pavithra Narayanan, professor of English and academic director for the College of Arts and Sciences at WSU Vancouver, Lewis co-directed and co-produced a documentary film, BAM! Chicago’s Black Arts Movement, which explored Chicago’s political and institutional contributions that are often overlooked. With the assistance of his wife, physician Marie Theard, Lewis has developed and presented workshops about curing institutional racism in academia and medicine.

The Chancellor’s Award for Advancing Equity honors a faculty or staff member for excellence in contributing to a community of equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging at WSU Vancouver. The award recognizes the individual for helping to infuse equity-mindedness throughout the campus and/or helping to build and maintain a safe, welcoming campus environment.

MLK Spirit Distinguished Service Awards

Advancement and Community Service

  • Thabiti Lewis, professor, WSU Vancouver

Inclusive & Equitable Practices

  • Julian Ankney, assistant professor, career track, and coordinator of Native American Programs, WSU Vancouver

2023 College of Arts and Sciences Awards

Distinguished Faculty

Donna Campbell.

Donna Campbell
Tenure Track

A nationally recognized scholar of late 19th- and early 20th-century American literature and a vanguard of digital humanities, Donna Campbell is a talented professor who skillfully blends scholarly research with intelligent pedagogy.

With two award-winning books, four keynote addresses, and more than 60 published articles and chapters in top journals and presses, Campbell and her research are shaping modern conversations about naturalism and gender in American literature and cinema. Among her many works in progress are invited essays on Barbara Stanwyck and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

A noted scholar of women writers, Campbell is an associate editor for The Complete Works of Edith Wharton, a 30-volume, first-of-its-kind set under contract at Oxford University Press. In addition to editorial responsibilities, Campbell is leading implementation of the project’s digital component, a role perfectly matched to her rich experience with technology.

Named as a WSU Humanities Fellow and twice honored as a Buchanan Distinguished Professor, Campbell is a devoted student mentor and advocate of liberal arts education. She is collaborating on an experiential literature course for architects and engineers and teaches a graduate course on digital editing.

Campbell is an esteemed colleague whose remarkable range of scholarship and admirable service to the profession continues to bring honor to Washington State University.

Early Career Achievement Award

Lauren Westerfield
Assistant Professor, Career Track

Writer and editor Lauren Westerfield is an engaging and innovative professor who has had a tremendous impact since joining the WSU faculty in 2018.

An Honors Faculty Fellow, Westerfield teaches a wide range of courses—from digital storytelling (DTC) to contextual understanding in the arts (Honors) to advanced professional writing (English). She also developed a popular new course, Creative Writing Now, which explores contemporary craft and conventions across genres.

Her administrative skills span a similarly broad scope. As the editing and publishing certificate coordinator and editor-in-chief for the WSU and English department-supported journal Blood Orange Review, Westerfield connects students with valuable internships and alumni networking opportunities. In the role of interim director of undergraduate studies last fall, Westerfield participated in student recruitment events, submitted UCORE courses approvals, and maintained a stellar internal assessment program.

Westerfield is the recipient of a 2022 Fellowship in Literature from the Idaho Commission on the Arts. Her first book of essays and autofiction, Depth Control, is due out in 2025.

A delightful colleague with extensive talents in teaching, creative activity, and service, Westerfield has become an invaluable member of the College of Arts & Sciences.

Ashley Boyd

Fellowships and Awards

2023 Arts and Humanities Fellowship

Ashley Boyd, associate professor, is the most recent recipient of a David G. Pollart Center for Arts and Humanities faculty fellowship for her “Palouse Reads” project. The fellowship will support Boyd’s research to advance professional development of reading. In addition to making a public presentation of her work, Boyd will meet monthly with this year’s cohort of faculty fellows for discussion and feedback, as well as mentoring and networking. Previous English faculty recipients of a David G. Pollart Center for Arts and Humanities fellowship includes Donna Campbell, Patricia Wilde, Melissa Nicolas, and Carol Siegel.

WSU Smith Teaching and Learning Grant

Ashley Boyd, along with English department collaborators Jeff Jones, Kate Watts, and Rachel Wolney, received funding for their project, “Integrating Social Justice and Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies Across English Education.” The Smith Teaching and Learning grants are awarded with the goal of addressing equity gaps in student performance and experiential learning, as well as eliminating differences in student achievement across multi-section courses to help meet employment criteria. Boyd and her colleagues contend their project will streamline social-justice content and pedagogies across the four required courses in WSU’s English teaching program. The grant will support efforts to ensure the success of all students, including those who are first-generation, students of color, and/or students who are differently abled; and establish coherence in instructors’ engagement with materials, texts, and teaching activities to cultivate teacher-candidates’ knowledge and application of inclusion, diversity, equity, and access (IDEA) principles. The grant is funded by the Samuel H. and Patricia W. Smith Teaching and Learning Endowment, established in honor of retired WSU President Sam Smith in 2000.

Four English Faculty Earn Core-to-Career Fellowships

Four members of English faculty—Tomie Gowdy-Burke, Laura Kuhlman, David Martin, and Rachel Sanchezare among the 21 WSU faculty named to the newest Core-to-Career Fellowship cohort to learn about integrating curriculum that ensures undergraduates’ career readiness.

Clif Stratton, director of UCORE, the University’s common requirements general education program, said, “As their predecessors have done, this third Core-to-Career cohort will work as a team to intentionally incorporate career-themed lessons into their UCORE courses.”

Throughout the fall 2023 semester, the members will learn about and intentionally build career competencies as identified by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) into class and assignment designs for spring 2024. Employers have identified desired competencies for new hires, such as thinking critically, understanding diversity, and being adept at communication. 

“With two previous cohorts having completed their programs, hundreds of students have already benefitted from general education courses across multiple disciplines that inherently address career readiness,” Stratton said.

2023 LIFT Faculty Fellowship

Lift logo: Learn. Inspire. Foster. Transform. WSU Transformational Change Initiative.

WSU English faculty are particularly passionate about their work in classrooms and one-to-one interactions with students; moreover, the faculty are continuously seeking to improve the WSU student experience. The WSU provost’s office offers the LIFT Fellowship (Learn, Inspire, Foster, Transform) which is designed to assist faculty to develop teaching methods that have been shown to improve students’ engagement, connection, and learning, as well as decrease course withdrawal and fail rates, and increase retention. LIFT Faculty Fellows explore and integrate evidence-based active learning and behavioral interventions in their teaching plans.

This year, Tomie Gowdy-Burke was invited to join the LIFT cohort. Past fellows from the English department include Vanessa Cozza, Gibran Escalera, Jaime Flathers, Leeann Hunter, Laura Kuhlman, Meagan Lobnitz, David Martin, Robin Ebert Mays, Wendy Olson, Anna Plemons, Michael Thomas, and Kate Watts.


Carol Siegel
Professor, WSU Vancouver

A Lawrentian, Victorianist, culturalist, and feminist scholar with formidable knowledge in gender and sexuality studies, Carol Siegel started her distinguished career at WSU Vancouver in fall 1990, a year after WSU formally established the Vancouver campus. Siegel was awarded early tenure and promoted to associate professor in 1994. Six years later, she was promoted to full professor. Siegel’s outstanding research record includes six monographs, 11 edited books or journal issues, 35 journal articles or book chapters, and her work as the co-founder and co-editor of Rhizomes, an interdisciplinary journal featuring experimental approaches to cultural studies. Her many contributions to WSU range from developing the humanities and English programs and introducing women’s, cultural, and Asian American studies courses at WSU Vancouver to helping build the American studies program at the Pullman campus. Her honors include the Buchanan Distinguished Professorship, Woman of Distinction award, Mentor of the Year award, and awards for outstanding support of graduate students as well as gay, lesbian, and bisexual students.

Leisa McCormick
Academic Advisor

Leisa McCormick began working at WSU in 2008 at the Registrar’s Office and accepted the advising position in the English department in 2010. She received the 2019 Outstanding Achievement in Academic Advising award from the WSU Academic Advising Association. Initially she advised for both English and DTC programs, but at the time of her retirement, she was advising more than 300 students from the English and WGSS programs.  Before joining the English department, she worked 10 years for the Pullman School District as the case manager for Eclipse, Pullman’s alternative high school established to help meet the needs of students at risk for dropping out. During that time, McCormick earned her secondary teaching certificate.

A long-time educator, Leisa McCormick holds a bachelor of arts degree in English literature and a master of arts degree in English from the University of Idaho.

McCormick is hoping retirement will allow her time to ride her bike around the Palouse and elsewhere, travel a bit, putter around her flowers and garden, visit children, grandchildren, and friends, and read a lot.