Wednesday, February 10, 2016

新年快乐 Chinese New Year of the Monkey

Happy Lunar New Year!
Many thanks to Yiming for her masterful organization of the Chinese Spring Festival on February 8th, 2016.  Musical performances, poetry, tai chi and scrumptious food were enjoyed by a large crowd of Sinophiles.  

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The First Thursday Open Mic Publication has been awarded a grant from the Missouri Humanities Council. Mary Stone, project director, hopes to have an April release for the collection. Special thanks go to Roxanne Chase, who wrote the grant and Michael Charlton, who provided direction.

January Accomplishments
Mike Cadden presented his paper “Drawing in and Pushing Back: The Verse Novel and the Problem of Distance” at the Modern Language Association Conference in Austin, TX.

Marianne Kunkel's poem "Abish Teaches me to Run" has been accepted for publication in the Chicago Quarterly Review.

Mary Stone had six poems published in the winter issue of Menacing Hedge. All of the poems are from her forthcoming third poetry collection, Deficiency, due out in 2017! 

Liz Canon’s article "Buried Treasure: What Makes the Tyndale Corpus Different" was accepted for publication by the International Journal of Language and Literature. She also taught a mini-course entitled, "Thriving as an Early Career Faculty Member" at the Linguistic Society of America annual meeting in Washington, DC. 

Michael Charlton presented a paper titled "Teaching Japan Through Visual Texts" at the 2016 Japan Studies Association conference in Honolulu, HI.  He chaired a panel on Japanese religions at the same conference.

Susan Martens gave a presentation titled "Writing in Place to Weave Community-School Connections: Leveraging the Writing Marathon" at the Annual Convention of the National Council of Teachers of English in Minneapolis on November 21.  

Jeanie Crain completed a course, Open/Standard Pathways Peer Reviewer Training. It included training devoted to the central AQIP Pathway processes: the Systems Appraisal, Comprehensive Quality Review and Action Project Review. The training also includes sessions on writing to the Criteria for Accreditation, the Federal Compliance program and analysis of institutional finances.

Several PLWP Teacher Consultants and leaders from schools involved in the College Ready Writers Program attended the Annual Meeting of the National Writing Project in Minneapolis Nov. 18-20.  

They included:
Tom Corrington (Osborn)
Ron Franklin (Trenton
Lisa Codding (Winston)
Jane Frick (MWSU, retired)
Tom Pankiewicz (MWSU, retired)
Amy Miller (MWSU)
Janet Jelavich (Maryville, retired)
Terri McAvoy (SJSD, retired)
Susan Martens (MWSU)

Friday, January 15, 2016

Congratulations to Dawn Terrick

Dawn Terrick is the 2016 recipient of the MLK Drum Major for Justice Award. This honor recognizes her extraordinary acts of service and her commitment to social justice. She received the award at the MLK Banquet on January 20th.  Dawn, you make us proud!  Those who attended were also moved by Kay Siebler's introduction of Dawn, included here.

If you don’t know Dawn Terrick, Director of ENG100, I’m surprised. If you don’t know Dawn Terrick, you should. She is the Queen Pin of working for students who are here despite the odds. You can’t have a long conversation with Dawn without being drawn in to thinking about students at MWSU. But not the privileged-class students. Not the over-achiever students who come from affluent families with their pristine 4.0 GPA. The struggling students. The students who went to high schools that didn’t prepare them for university work. The students without ACT scores, or scores so low you can’t imagine what happened. The GED students. The students who are here – by hook or by crook – to get out of poverty, to escape traumatic families, to make their first generation immigrant parents proud. These are the students Dawn champions. These are the students she works to help succeed.

Dawn understands that a student will not succeed without being able to read and write well. She understands, also, that students who do not connect with the curriculum, who feel they are “outside” the Ivory Tower, a-sea in a place that does not reflect any part of their day-to-day reality, will not succeed. So she works to make sure those things don’t happen. She has created a writing program that focuses on academic rigor and making students stronger readers and writers. I have always said that if a student makes it through ENG100, they will have the tools to succeed academically at this university.

In addition to the rigor of the program, Dawn also has created a text book for ENG100 filled with the voices and perspectives of African Americans, Latino/a Americans, and other perpetually marginalized voices. It is a tragedy of the dominant culture that we – professors across the curriculum – do not all teach diverse texts, voices of the marginalized. In ENG100, students read the words of James Baldwin, Zora Neal Hurston, Alice Walker, Richard Rodriquez, Fredrick Douglas, Maya Angelou, Amy Tan, among others. Dawn selects these authors intentionally so that the students in ENG100 can hear the voices of people who have struggled as they do; hear the voices of people writing openly about race, gender, and class oppression. How is it that we live in a culture where a young person can make it out of public education and not know who James Baldwin is? Furthermore, if you didn’t take ENG100, you may get out of your college education without knowing.

In the spring of each year, Dawn makes a call to gather the best essays of ENG100 and publishes them in a book. She invites the selected authors and their families to a reception. It is my all time favorite thing to attend. I always weep. I weep because there, in a single room on this campus, there are students who have never been recognized for academic achieve and here they are receiving a university writing award. The room is filled with their voices, telling their stories and they read their own words: abuse, neglect, barriers to learning, the horrors of poverty. Students read and babies and children and aunties and mothers and fathers and grandparents and professors and administrators listen. We all listen to these voices of diversity and struggle that have managed to succeed, to be recognized, to be heard. The room is filled with people who had been told they couldn’t succeed at college. It is filled with people who were told they were not college material. It is filled with older generations in awe of what they thought was impossible: a child, a grandchild, succeeding at university.

The only sure hope people have of escaping poverty is education. Helping this population of students to achieve is the most important social justice work we do on this campus. Dawn Terrick works every day to make sure these students, those seemingly with no preparation and little hope, have a voice, a path, a way. That is why she is a Drum Major for Social Justice. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

A Tribute to Betty Sawin, by Bill Church

My acquaintance with Dr. Betty Sawin began, literally, in a prior century. It began in 1983 when I came here as a non-trad construction worker / cowboy bumpkin with all the sophistication of Huck Finn. Between classes, I'd sometimes be sitting with other students on the hallway benches in what is now Eder Hall but was then called the SS/C Building.  We'd talk about books we didn’t understand or ideas we understood even less or other frivolous topics such as art, politics, and philosophy that students once discussed before Facebook and Snapchat.

When faculty approached, we'd lower our voices and our gazes as if we feared being corrected for our naïve interpretations of anything from Aristotle to Aerosmith.  Most faculty passed with the required degree of gravitas and professional distance. A few smiled with an air of professional obligation. A few offered genuine cheery greetings.  A few lowered their eyes, too, to match ours, or else found focus on distant objects, like the walls.

But one tall young blonde female professor always zoomed by with an energy and sense of purpose that blasted us with the force of a speeding 18-wheeler passing bicyclists. Her hands cradling books or papers, her eyes floating over us like the shadow of a soaring eagle, she'd swoosh past with such speed that all the air seemed to part and we students, like bicyclists sucked into the after-waves of a speeding semi, would lean despite ourselves into the void left by her passing.

"Who is that lady?" I one day asked an English major who'd befriended me.

"Professor Sawin," he said. Lowering his voice he confided, "She's tough."

"I'll bet that at least she ain't boring," I said.

So, as soon as the next registration period came, I signed up for her English 210 course titled, "Sex Role Stereotypes in Literature." 

At that time I couldn't define stereotype, much less know that I epitomized one. “Literature,” to me, still included brochures they handed you at car dealerships and gun shows. But "Sex Roles," I thought I understood. My mistake. Big mistake. I was about to discover how little I knew. I was about to discover what it meant to have my own identity and values and thinking ability challenged. I was about to learn what it meant to be a man -- as experienced by women. And as experienced by other men. Or what it meant to be a woman as defined by men. To be a human. A writer. A reader. I was about to learn the tremendous role literature plays in forming empathy.  And that overly energetic lady prof who always walked too fast was about to take a role in my life that she's held all the way to this day, over three decades later: mentor, teacher, and friend.

In Dr. Sawin’s lit class, she patiently corrected us hayseeds who tortured her name: (“Sawin rhymes with fawn and dawn,” she’d coolly chastise us.)  But from our plebeian tongues her name sounded as if it were part of a wood-chopping tale that began, “So I sunk my saw-in the old honey locust tree down by the crick . . .”  Without the slightest air of condescension, and with more tolerance for our pathetic misreading of texts than we deserved, this lady whose energy never waned conveyed a love of --- and a sensitivity for --- printed words that led many of us into our English major or else confirmed the accuracy of our choice for those of us already committed.  I will always remember how she led us through intense (read: “heated”) discussions of Ibsen’s Doll House, Hemingway’s “Indian Camp,” and MacBeth’s soliloquy.

As adept as Dr. Sawin was at making literature meaningful for us, she was equally adept at seeing the diamond in a chunk of coal. To me, that latter quality is what separates great teachers from good ones.  At the end of that semester, Dr. Sawin invited me to join a small team of students she’d hand-picked to help with a cutting-edge project called Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC), which would bear her personal stamp for its entire lifespan at Western.   She had personally solicited private funding from a prominent benefactor for part of her salary that brought WAC into being.

As one of her WAC interns, I was charged with helping Dr. Sawin prepare for the friendly but spirited debate with Dr. David Ashley, then a young biology professor. As a means of promoting the presence of WAC, Dr. Ashley had good-naturedly agreed to a public debate on the pros and cons of allowing class time for writing in “content-based” courses, such as the sciences. I cannot recall who “won” the debate. What mattered most to Dr. Sawin was that WAC won. She and Dr. Ashley had increased awareness of the program and helped it grow into the thriving program it became. For over a decade, our WAC program --- often dubbed “Betty’s Baby” --- drew national attention and respect as she co-authored papers and co-presented at conferences with colleagues from, literally, all across our curriculum. 

The most encompassing and ambitious offspring to grow out of WAC was Outdoor Semester, a study-away program that linked five courses with intensive writing and some time off campus traveling to historic sites involving Native Americans and national conservation efforts.  Although not officially labeled a “Learning Community” when Learning Communities settled on our campus by administrative mandate, the Outdoor Semester epitomized the essence of a Learning Community.

It brought national recognition to MWSU, but, moreover, it gave tangible presence to the intangible energy I’d first --- and rightly -- sensed in Dr. Sawin those times she’d zoomed by groups of us students in the hallway.  Years later, when budgets shrank and administrators elected not to fund the program any longer, Dr. Sawin battled for WAC with the passion of a mother lion defending her cub.  Though she lost the budget battle, she never lost her passion, and with it that passion to promote learning at the highest level. Soon her passion found a new cause to champion when she accepted the role of Director of the MWSU Honors Program.

The Honors Program carried a special meaning for me. In 1989 I was one of the first students to be graduated with Interdisciplinary Honors in the fledgling program. Afterward, I sped through an M.A. degree and began teaching at Western as Dr. Sawin’s junior colleague. Naturally, I was honored when Dr. Sawin asked me to teach a section of HON 195, the required colloquium for incoming Honors freshmen. She granted me free rein to design the course any way I chose, so long as I engaged students in critical thinking and gathered evidence (written, of course) of said thinking. Still, despite her trust in me (or perhaps because of it), I thought it best to inform her of a class session during which students would interact with a YouTube site posted by an edgy writer, Deb Olin Unferth, reading her “F-bomb-laced” short story. I need to emphasize here that the F-bomb was the focus of the piece, repeated like a mantra in lines that began “Deb Olin Unferth is (or is not) f---ed up,” with constant slight variations regarding how other figures – from historical to pop culture – viewed her.  The theme I’d chosen for that class was “Moral Art”; therefore, I intended to expose students to controversial works and cause them to form their own judgments of the works as either quality art or pulp or even porn.

To say that many all-too-recent high-school students were a bit subdued after experiencing such a piece in an academic context would be understatement.  That class, as with most classes, contained a broad spectrum of students. Some had been home schooled by devout parents. Others had attended religious schools. Still others --- or so I would learn --- could have (and may have) written and published their own versions of profanity-laced pieces.  I do feel it prudent to clarify that I’d cautioned the students regarding the material well beforehand and, in fact, told them that I’d invited Dr. Sawin to join us. 

After the spirited class discussion on “moral art” that ensued, Dr. Sawin and I walked back to our offices. I wasn’t quite sure what her response would be, though I knew she would be honest and insightful. The evolution from our initial student-teacher relationship had led to what was by then a colleague-to-colleague alliance, though her wisdom and experience kept me grounded in what I viewed as mentor-apprentice roles.  She reassured me that even though she wouldn’t have chosen that exact piece, she deeply respected my judgement and my rapport with the students. Then she paid me what I knew to be her greatest compliment: “You really made them think.” 

To grasp the full meaning of that comment, I will share an anecdote Dr. Sawin often told of her own teaching, specifically regarding student evaluations of professors. To appreciate the following anecdote, one needs to understand that Dr. Sawin punctuates her dialogue with animated gestures, expressions, and shifts of voice and tone that could surely land her the female lead in any Shakespearean play.

“I was a young faculty member at Western intent on doing a good job teaching because I knew that would be an important part of earning tenure. I taught from a book called Influence, Belief and Argument that I had used as a grad assistant in the Rhetoric Program at The University of Iowa. Believing my choice of text was unassailable, I was surprised by some resistance. One student, in particular, showed his irritation in countless little ways in class until one day he brought me a drop slip. Worried that students dropping my class wouldn’t look good to my superiors, I told him, ‘I’ll sign your withdrawal, but I’d like to know why.’ ‘This isn’t English,’ he said. ‘You’re trying to teach us how to think.’  He raced down the corridor to the Registrar’s office. I wanted to call after him, ‘Oh, please, head to the Dean’s office. Do tell him what I am doing.’ His criticism was unintended praise. I walked with relief back into my classroom.”

That’s partially why I accepted it as Dr. Sawin’s highest praise when she told me I’d made my Honors students think.  Moreover, she knew I’d made them think about life in the mythical “Real World,” the Big Bad World beyond the cozy confines of our classroom walls. In the trademark Betty Sawin fashion, I’d dared students to consider the controversial work as if they were deciding its merits as future members of school boards, of library boards, of judges rendering decisions on obscenity cases. In the context of the “F-bomb” literary work, I’d challenged them to position themselves in the roles of power that many of them are destined to fill.    

I will close by confessing that Dr. Sawin made me an academic thief. I stole from her. Shamelessly. I stole classroom demeanor from her. I stole assignments from her, especially the “three letter” task that requires composition students to draft and snail mail one letter of praise or thanks, one letter requesting information, and one letter expressing a complaint or demanding action. Students remain amazed by the responses they get, by the power of language well used. I never assign the project without crediting it to her.

And I stole profound comments Dr. Sawin made in class thirty years ago that live on in what I tell my students:

“In the middle class you work for your money. In the upper class your money works for you.”

“When you are choosing a paper topic say to yourself, So what? Who cares?  Prove it!’” 

“You reputation dictates how you behave when you think your actions will be known.  But it is your character that dictates your actions when you think you will never be found out.”

With that last quote Dr. Sawin gave me and all my classmates a quote by which to live. It is so rich it must be shared and, more importantly, practiced. Within the first couple weeks of each new semester, I will claim an “emergency” that causes me to leave the classroom just as my students have begun their quiz over the day’s assigned reading. I’ll saunter in the halls for a few minutes, allowing plenty of time for forbidden “collaborative” quiz-taking, then re-enter the room noisily so as not to surprise any students “collaborating” on answers.

With rare exception, a few students will exchange conspiratorial glances, and a few others will send me meaningful looks as if there’s something they wish they could tell me.  I’ll smile knowingly at all of them, seeking eye contact with each, and say, “Know what I just did?  When I left the room, I gave you the most important and revealing test you’ve ever taken. I gave you a character test. I really don’t care about today’s quiz. In the course of the entire semester, one perfect score or a zero isn’t likely to change your final grade. And I never want to know whether you cheated. But what you learned about yourself and about your classmates, as well as what they learned about you --- that’s the test that matters.”  Then I deliver Dr. Sawin’s quote and tell them its source.

We who choose the teaching profession in the Liberal Arts, or who are chosen by it, will from time to time find ourselves questioning the worth of our work, the practical value of it, its staying power --- and our own staying power.  If we succeed as teachers, we will somehow change the thinking of our students: how they appreciate and engage the world that will be theirs to tend after we are gone.

Whether it was Writing Across the Curriculum, Outdoor Semester, our Honors Program, environmental causes, or simply the stimulating classroom experience, Betty enriched our campus for decades through sheer force of her will, intellect, and character.  My students even sometimes mention her passed-down quotes in their evaluations of me. And sometimes, when the Eder hallway lies in an empty quiet on a weekend or of an evening, I swear I still hear her hurried steps on the carpet and feel the wind rush as she passes on her way to class.    

Sunday, December 13, 2015

December sweets

Thank you, Morale & Motivation, for organizing a cookie exchange on the last day of classes. The sugar will come in handy during finals week!  Folks came by for sweets but they stayed for a little sweetie: two-month-old Arlo made a guest appearance.  Never before has such cooing been heard in the department library.  Thanks, Marianne, for sharing him.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Publications, poetry, prizes and the press

Literary News
Miguel River’s article “Recuperación de la ciudad y de la fiesta en Antonio José Ponte” was published in Chasqui: Revista de Literatura Latinoamericana.

Mary Stone’s poem "Perhaps Too Many Poems End with Hangovers" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by the I-70 Review. 

Mike Cadden presented “Peritextual Elements in Children’s Chapter Books” at the fall meeting of the Northwest Missouri Council of the International Literacy Association in St. Joseph.  

The submission period for The Mochila Review's undergraduate writers' contest, the Undergraduate MoRe Prize, was Oct. 1, 2015, to Dec. 1, 2015. The journal's editor-in-chief, Dr. Marianne Kunkel, and its staff are pleased to announce that national interest in the contest increased this year, the contest's second year in existence. Seventy-one undergraduate writers across the country submitted to the contest, which is 12 more than last year's submission total. This year's contest is exclusively open to fiction writers and the winning story will be selected by guest judge Ellen Hopkins ( The winner (and possible runners-up) will be announced January 1, 2016, on The Mochila Review's website ( and be featured in the 2016 issue of the journal.

In the media
Liz Canon was recently asked “Why is elder a good word, but elderly a bad word?”  Her reply will appear in the Venice Gondolier Sun newspaper. Here it is, for your erudition:

Liz: Tell me about the process through which the connotation of some words changes. 

Pejoration is what linguists call the process by which a word’s meaning becomes less positive. This is something that happens quite a bit in language. For instance, the word,lewd, originally had the meaning of "layperson." It moved a bit toward "ignorant," and then "common," and then "obscene." Over time, the positive nature of the word eroded and it went from something you wouldn't mind being called to something you definitely would not want to be called.

Does the process require individuals in a society to undergo personal, long-term change in their thought process about a certain word? Or does it happen more quickly than that? 

The speed at which the change occurs will happen based on attitudes of the speakers toward what they are talking about. It really all comes down to frequency and usage - if the term is used often by a lot of people, the change may occur more quickly. If the word is fairly obscure, the change will probably happen more slowly. Human events can cause a rapid shift in meaning. The word, swastika, was a Sanskrit word that meant "well-being," but human events very quickly change the meaning of the word. The Oxford English Dictionary dates its first English usage in 1871 - and at that time it had no negative connotations. But usage by the Nazis changed the meaning of the word. It no longer has the meaning of well-being, but now means the symbol on the Nazi flag - something far more negative.

Does the media play a role? Current events?

The media can play a role. Input in general plays a role. In other words, the more we hear a word used in a particular way, the more likely we are to admit that it no longer means what it used to and we have to adjust. Consider the word "gay." Our grandparents used it to mean "happy." But it is now used even by our grandparents to mean "homosexual." I can't think of a context where it is still used to mean happy.

I believe the current events part of the question was answered above.

Pejoration was happening long before political correctness, but has PC sped up the process for some words?

Not exactly. The sad thing is that focusing on language usage and not addressing the underlying attitudes that affect the usage of particular words just perpetuates the cycle. Consider the notion of replacing "housewife" with "domestic engineer." Does anyone really think that that will elevate the status of a person who works only in the home? Consider also the word "retarded," which was regularly used to identify a person with a learning disability of some sort - a person whose learning was delayed. In other words, it had a concrete, object meaning with no negative connotation in and of itself. Ultimately, it was used as an insult to describe people without any sort of learning disability, and "retarded" became a victim of pejoration. So in order to avoid causing offense we began to call people with learning disabilities "special." And then the cycle repeats. The underlying attitude toward those who fall in the category described by that word has not changed and so every substitution you make will likely suffer the same fate as "retarded" did.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Fall Faculty and Student Accomplishments

Susan Martens’ chapter, “Move the Writer, Move the Pen, Move the Mind, Change the World: Writing Marathons for Place-Conscious Teaching in Suburbia” was recently published in the edited collection Writing Suburban Citizenship: Place-Conscious Teaching and the Conundrum of Suburbia by Syracuse University Press. 

Mary Stone’s third collection of poetry, tentatively titled Deficiency, has been accepted by ELJ Publications. 

Cynthia Bartels attended the Oral History Association meeting in Tampa.

Liz Canon presented "Buried Treasure: What makes the Tyndale corpus different," at the Tyndale Society Conference, Hertford College, Oxford University.

Ms. Claudine Evans participated in the Greater Kansas City Chapter of the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) meeting held in Kansas City.

Cynthia Bartels received a compass award from Alpha Chi for most influential teacher.

On October 3, the Prairie Lands Writing Project held its Teacher Consultant Gathering at MWSU, hosted by Advisory Team members Dawn Terrick (MWSU), Heidi Mick (Platte County), Valorie Stokes (Platte County), Amy Miller (MWSU), Christie Jackson (Carden Park, SJSD), Mya Ezzell (Parkhill), Josie Clark (Bode Middle School, SJSD), and Susan Martens (MWSU). At this event, eight scholars from the PLWP 2015 Invitational Summer Institute were certified as National Writing Project Teacher Consultants.  Congratulations to the following:
Quinn Whitaker (Indianola, IA)
Brandi Atha (Savannah)
Roxanne Chase (MWSU)
Stephanie Haenni (Central High School, SJSD)
Tess Kram (Central High School, SJSD)
Rachel Daniels (Lathrop)
Jamie Duddy (Osborn)
David Stroud (Union Star)

Student Excellence
EML would like to congratulate Jess Voelk.  Jess is a senior majoring in English with a Technical Communication concentration and is scheduled to graduate in December.  She recently earned a “Polished” score on her senior portfolio, which is a collection of documents created during her work at Missouri Western.  This is the highest rank possible for a portfolio student.  Her evaluator was Dawn Armfield, an assistant professor at Frostburg State University.  Dr. Armfield described documents in Jess’s portfolio as “exemplary,” “well developed,” and showing proficiency in multiple areas of technical communication, from report and research writing to visual design.  Ms. Voelk is currently looking for jobs in technical communication.

The second edition of the Study Abroad and Exchange Photo Contest garnered talented photographers. The pictures, currently on display at Blum Union, were taken in Costa Rica, France, and Ireland. Jury members were Rebbeca Foley, Laura Taylor and Miguel Rivera-Taupier. For more information, visit
Nature & Architecture:  1st place Miranda Migletz, 2nd place Rosie Lammoglia, 3rd place Mallory Prygon
People & Culture: 1st place Chloe Martin, 2nd place Mallory Prygon, 3rd place Chloe Martin
Griffon Wings: 1st and 2nd place Rosie Lammoglia, 3rd place Lanie Barnfield