English Matters. College of Arts and Sciences, Washington State University.

Faculty & Staff Achievement

Anna Plemons named WSU’s 2019 Woman of the Year

Anna Plemons.

Anna Plemons, a clinical assistant professor of English at WSU Tri-Cities, was named WSU’s Woman of the Year for 2019. She was honored at the WSU Women of Distinction Celebration in March on the Pullman campus.

Plemons teaches classes in composition, rhetoric, and digital technology and culture. She also serves as director of the Critical Literacies and Achievement and Success Program (CLASP) for the College of Arts and Sciences. In that capacity, she works with WSU faculty, staff, and students on issues of retention and persistence, paying particular attention to the relationship between pedagogy and retention for underrepresented students. Working in partnership with other student support services, CLASP is designed to address the retention and degree completion rates of first‑generation, multicultural, low‑income, or otherwise underrepresented students.

Since 2009, Plemons has also held a grant-funded teaching position with the California Arts in Corrections Program, which allows her to teach creative nonfiction classes at multiple prisons in northern California. The position also entails overseeing a research-based literacy project aimed at empowering incarcerated students to be literacy mentors for their family members.

Linda Russo earns CAS Mid-Career Achievement Award

In May, Linda Russo, clinical associate professor and director of the Creative Writing Program, received the Mid-Career Clinical and Instructional Achievement Award from the College of Arts and Sciences. Russo teaches Introduction to Creative Writing and Intermediate and Advanced Poetry and engages beyond the classroom in many ways, including Open Mic at Café Moro, a forum that’s popular with students and the Pullman community. Her collaborative digital mapping, ecology, and arts project, “EcoArts on the Palouse,” also brings together students and community members and is forging valuable connections between the arts, humanities, and sciences, which allows her to connect with an even wider range of students.

Russo’s books are excellent teaching texts and her teaching, research, and service embody the mission of a land-grant university.

Megan Kaminski, a poet at the University of Kansas who nominated Russo for the award, wrote: “Linda’s three recent books, Participant, Meaning to Go to the Origin in Some Way, and To Think of Her Writing Awash in Light, have had a significant impact on the poetry world. From poetic inquiry through the “worn-out angry eyes” of the last Columbia River Pygmy rabbit, to lyric essays that re-illuminate the writing of women writers—such as Hettie Jones and Dorothy Wordworth, whose work languished in the shadows of their more famous literary relations—to critical work on Larry Eigner, Joanne Kyger, and others, Russo’s work has shaped and expanded the growing field of ecopoetry and ecopoetics through her exploration of inhabitance. Moreover, her co-edited volume Counter-Desecration: A Glossary for Writing Within the Anthropocene assembles a rich conversation that expands and re-visions current understandings of the ecological in literary studies. In addition to challenging the anthropocentric view that has traditionally seen the natural world and its inhabitants as scenery or metaphor in human-centric poems, the collection she edited does important work in decolonizing the often very white male world of nature writing.”

Aaron Oforlea’s debut book wins prestigious honor

Aaron Oforlea with his award plaque.

Associate Professor Aaron Oforlea’s new book, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and the Rhetorics of Black Male Subjectivity (Ohio State University Press, 2017), won the 2018 Award for Creative Scholarship from the College Language Association (CLA).

In his book, Oforlea explores how Baldwin and Morrison—two of his favorite authors— conceptualized the challenges their black male characters navigated. Inspiration for the book arose from his interest in “how African American men achieve their dreams and goals despite racism,” he said. “I wanted to know—intellectual curiosity, I guess—what helps us be successful, and how black men, specifically these fictional characters, are imagined to be successful by these authors.”

Oforlea’s debut book drew interest from prominent university presses and praise from colleagues and scholars. The international CLA honor recognizes excellence in literary criticism, but the nominations are blind, so Oforlea’s guard was down, and he was taken by surprise, when the honor came his way, he said.

“You submit so many different things—articles, grants, proposals—and you learn not to hang too much on one thing. To win the award is validation that I’m on the right track, that my work is making an impact in the field.”

Leisa McCormick lauded for outstanding academic advising

Leisa McCormick

Leisa McCormick, academic advisor for the English department and Digital Technology and Culture Program since 2010, received the 2019 Outstanding Achievement in Academic Advising award from the WSU Academic Advising Association. McCormick was recognized for exceptional work with students and contributions to the field of academic advising in the “primary role” category.

McCormick holds a bachelor of arts degree in English literature and a master of arts degree in English from the University of Idaho. Before becoming an advisor for the Department of English at WSU, she worked 10 years for the Pullman School District as the case manager for Eclipse, Pullman’s alternative high school. Eclipse was established in 1993 to help meet the needs of students at risk for dropping out. During that time, McCormick earned her secondary teaching certificate.

The WSU Academic Advising Association is the University’s primary organization of professional and faculty advisors and student support personnel. It annually recognizes the outstanding work of its members through a competitive awards program. –Evie Caldwell

Desiree Hellegers to use Buchanan award toward academic, community projects

Desiree Hellegers.

Desiree Hellegers, who teaches, writes, and conducts research at WSU Vancouver, received the English department’s 2019 Buchanan Fellowship for Associate Professors to support two of her original projects. Beginning this summer, Hellegers will teach a new iteration of English 341, Native American Literature, with nearly half of the 10 class meetings to be held on the Columbia River in a 15-person tribal canoe helmed by the chairman of the Chinook Indian Nation, Tony Johnson. The course merges community-based, experiential learning, oral history, and scholarly research, and focuses on Linda Hogan’s novel Solar Storms and the theme “Water is Life.” The course will engage students in a comparative analysis of the impacts of the colonial fur trade and hydropower on tribes in Minnesota, Canada, and the Columbia River basin, while providing the students an intimate introduction to Columbia River ecosystems and related cultural traditions of the Chinook and other Columbia River tribes.

The Buchanan award will cover honoraria for Johnson and other guest speakers, along with related costs, such as transporting the canoe. Hellegers plans to integrate the course into the regular fall/spring course rotation by 2021. Her Buchanan funding will also support a staged reading of her play The Eye of the Needle: Women’s Stories of Homelessness, Life, Death, and Resistance, based on her monograph No Room of Her Own: Women’s Stories of Homelessness, Life, and Resistance (Palgrave, 2011). Nationally renowned, Portland-based August Wilson Red Door Project will co-produce the play.

Hellegers will also use a portion of the funds to support her sabbatical in 2020-21, when she will work toward staging full productions of her play in Portland, Seattle, and other cities. The play, like the book, focuses heavily on chronic health issues among—and violence against—homeless people. Both also highlight the organizing work of homeless and formerly homeless women activists with Seattle’s Women in Black vigils. Since the turn of the millennium, Women in Black activists have stood vigil to honor the lives and mark the deaths of more than a thousand people who died homeless on the streets of one of the nation’s most “livable” cities.

Will Hamlin receives Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award

Will Hamlin.

English Professor Will Hamlin was awarded WSU’s Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award for Research, Scholarship, and the Arts in spring 2018. More recently, he was appointed the first recipient of an endowed two-year distinguished professorship in the WSU Honors College.

For 30 years, Hamlin has studied how major writers and intellectual traditions from classical and continental Europe were incorporated into the literary life of early modern England. He has published many scholarly articles along with three monographs, the most recent being Montaigne’s English Journey (Oxford University Press, 2013), which traces the influence of the French essayist Michel de Montaigne upon Shakespeare and other English writers.

Hamlin is a faculty fellow in the WSU Honors College. His previous awards include the WSU College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Faculty Award, the Edward R. Meyer Distinguished Professorship, and the Lewis E. and Stella G. Buchanan Distinguished Professorship. He also received multiple external grants—among them fellowships from the British Academy, the Huntington Library, the Lilly Library, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2008, Hamlin was honored as a national Guggenheim Fellow, the first ever at WSU in the humanities. He is currently at work on two more books, both scheduled for publication in 2020.

In addition to his scholarship and writing, Hamlin is committed to the success of his students. He has served on more than 40 graduate committees and teaches a wide range of undergraduate courses in both the English department and the Honors College. He twice was named “Most Supportive Faculty Member” by the graduate students in English and twice won the award for “Best Graduate Seminar of the Year.”

Ashley Boyd, Susan Ross awarded Smith Teaching & Learning grants

Ashley Boyd.

Associate Professor Ashley Boyd and Professor Susan Ross submitted winning proposals for Samuel H. and Patricia W. Smith Teaching and Learning Awards for AY 2018-19.

The Smith Teaching and Learning grants recognize and reward innovative ideas to enhance learning and teaching at WSU. They directly and indirectly impact the educations of students, educators, pedagogy, and practices around the world.

Boyd’s project, titled “Washington State Senate Bill 5433 and English Teacher Education: Redesigning Curriculum for Inclusive Education,” is developing a capstone experience for teacher candidates comprising content and pedagogies that address indigenous history, culture, and governmental relations. She is partnering with regional tribes and the Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation at WSU to support the creation of culturally responsive materials and approaches.

Boyd joined the WSU faculty in the fall of 2014 to teach and continue her scholarship into how teachers can become social justice advocates for developing students’ critical literacy. Her early research theorized Shulman’s Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK), which has become the standard for teacher preparation, fails to account for social justice in the preparation of teachers. In response, she and a colleague developed the social justice pedagogical and content knowledge (SJPACK) theory, which argues educators’ political stance can never be separated from instruction, but teachers can be empowered to be social justice advocates in their classrooms.

Susan Ross.

Ross’s project, titled “Dialogic and Multimodal Student Engagement with War Literatures,” is designed to help students engage in difficult dialogues about sensitive subjects and will include students’ creative multimodal projects on literatures and experiences of war.

Ross’s early research explored the role of media and law in differential power and voice in the United States. A Fulbright Scholar and the 2008-09 University of Calgary Research Fellow in Peace Studies, she has been a Visiting fellow in Greece, Israel, and North Cyprus. She has taught a range of writing courses, seminars on social change and identity, classes on freedom of speech, the cost of free speech, qualitative and critical discourse methods, and the means and meaning of texts across different media. She is co-editor of Images that Injure and author/co-author of two textbooks on media law.

Diane Gillespie earns Emeritus Society Legacy of Excellence Award

Diane Gillespie at the lectern.

Professor Emerita Diane Gillespie received the 2019 Emeritus Society’s Legacy of Excellence Award. She is an internationally recognized scholar, editor, and expert on the work of Virginia Woolf and figures connected to Woolf’s Bloomsbury Group.

Gillespie delivered the Emeritus Society Legacy of Excellence Lecture, “What’s Left to Say about Virginia Woolf?” during WSU Showcase events in March.

Gillespie joined the English department in 1975 and retired in 2001. She continues to make outstanding contributions in her academic fields, to WSU and its reputation, and to her community.

Donna Campbell’s proposal wins Buchanan award, book wins CHOICE recognition

Donna Campbell.

Donna M. Campbell won the English department’s Buchanan Fellowship for Full Professors for her proposed project, “Editing Lab: Edith Wharton in a Digital Age.” The project focuses on establishing a learning workshop for graduate students to learn digital and conventional editorial practices. Students will learn about editorial theories (eclectic, documentary, etc.); how to apply contextual clues when working with optical character recognition (OCR) text; how to transcribe handwritten manuscripts for textual comparison; and how to prepare texts using modern digital methods of collation with digital techniques such as Juxta Commons, PocketHinman, and Traherne. They also will be introduced to the principles of textual encoding initiatives (TEI). Developed in 1987, TEI provides international and interdisciplinary standards for describing and preserving humanities data in an electronic form.

Students will develop their editing expertise by working on The Complete Works of Edith Wharton, a 30-volume series under contract at Oxford University Press, notably The House of Mirth and unpublished Wharton manuscripts under the direction of Campbell, who serves as associate series editor and volume editor for The House of Mirth.

In addition, Campbell’s book Bitter Tastes: Literary Naturalism and Early Cinema in American Women’s Writing (University of Georgia Press, 2016) was named an Outstanding Academic Title of 2017 by CHOICE, a publishing unit of the Association of College & Research Libraries.

According to CHOICE Reviews: “Campbell’s analysis of the interplay between women authors (including screenwriters) and the medium of cinema is nothing less than astounding. The author covers a broad scope, including neglected writers such as Evelyn Scott as well as famous novelists such as Edith Wharton. Yet, despite the incredible range of Campbell’s discussion, the book’s treatment of each element is meticulous in detail and gripping in presentation. Bitter Tastes should be required reading for any serious student of naturalism, women’s writing, or early film.”

Patty Ericsson makes the most of her retirement

Patty Ericsson.

After spending a few months assessing how her abilities fit into a small, mountain town (Sandpoint, Idaho), Professor Emerita Patty Ericsson “jumped in with both feet.” She is now a member the Youth Accountability Board, which works to keep juvenile first offenders out of the juvenile justice system. She’s also working with the local performing arts community—something she loved in the past and has the opportunity to enjoy again.

Meanwhile, Ericsson hasn’t left research and writing behind; currently, she is writing for and editing a collection designed as a learning resource to help prevent sexual harassment.

Last, but not least, she enjoys the flexibility to visit her family more frequently, which means traveling within the United States as well as Germany, France, and Australia.

“All around,” she says, “it’s a good gig!”