Ashley Lauren Samsa’s (06) blog posting, “Say no to armed guards in schools,” was published in the prominent progressive London newspaper The Guardian on February 20. ”I pitched it to them and they accepted it,” writes Ashley. ”I work as a freelance writer in addition to teaching, so I pitch a lot of pieces to various outlets. Aside from the HuffPo article a few years ago, this is the first major publication to accept a pitch of mine, so it is very exciting.”
Responding to calls in the wake of the Newtown shooting by the NRA and congressional Republicans to increase the presence of armed guards in schools, Ashley writes, “After seven years of teaching high school in the south suburbs of Chicago, I know that the presence of police does not enhance the educational experience; in fact, it can diminish it. . . . I want to protect the safety of the students in my classroom more than anything else, but adding guns to our schools is not the way to do it. A society that polices its schools like it does its prisons can only lead to students with lives more like convicts than children.”
Congratulations, Ashley–keep up the fine work!
Eric Gardner (89) received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for the 2012-2012 academic year. Eric will use the prestigious fellowship, which includes a $50,400 award, to write a book on the Christian Recorder, a periodical of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The Recorder rose to prominence during the Civil War era and was an important outlet for African-American voices.
Eric is a professor of English at Saginaw Valley State University, where he teaches American literature, in particular 19th Century African American literature. His book Unexpected Places: Relocating Nineteenth Century African American Literature, was named a 2010 Choice Outstanding Academic Title and won the 2010 EBSCOhost/Research Society for American Periodicals Book Prize.
An op-ed piece by Ashley Lauren Samsa (06) was published on the Huffington Post on November 3, and remains as of this writing the lead story on the Women’s page. In her piece, Ashley discusses the pressure to have children that she and other women face. ”The bottom line is that when we pressure women to have children, even if we are just innocently asking ‘when’ it will happen, what we are really saying is that women aren’t worth much without them,” she writes. “Men aren’t asked this question incessantly.” Noting that the human population has reached seven billion, Ashley continues, “I’d venture to say that the pressure is off. Humankind will not end because you did not give birth.”
Writing to Professor Kathleen O’Gorman about her accomplishment, Ashley thanked her for being supportive. ”Knowing you believed I could do whatever I wanted…was invaluable. Undergrad is such a tumultuous time,..and if you don’t have someone to back you up, you may never realize your full potential.”
Ashley teaches high school in the Chicago suburbs. She has published in blogs such as The Mamafesto and the Ms. Magazine Blog and is a regular contributor to Gender Across Borders.
“Frank,” a short story by Betsy Phillips (96), will be published next month by Apex Magazine, one of the preeminent sci fi/fantasy/horror magazines in the US. ”When I pitched the story to them,” she writes, “I told them it was the story of an evil doctor’s zombie henchman teaching a woman to drive. But it’s also like what would happen if a woman had to go rescue her husband from Wade Davis, if Wade Davis went bad.” (Wade Davis, for those not up on their zombies, is the ethnobotanist whose controversial book The Serpent and the Rainbow claimed that Haitian zombies were people witchdoctors maintained in a trance state by pharmacological means.)
In her interview with Stephanie Jacob to be published in the same issue, Betsy spoke about the uses of horror and fantasy genres. ”I told her…that while none of us are going to have to rescue our husbands from zombie-henchmandom, a lot of us will have to deal with loved ones whose personalities change when they some form of dementia. Horror and fantasy, I think, lets us focus on an exaggerated portion of the Truth in order to better understand it.”
Check out “Frank” in the September 2011 issue of Apex. In the meantime, you can read more of her insightful and often hilarious writing on her blog at tinycatpants.wordpress.com.
9/8/11 update: the story is now available online at http://apex-magazine.com/2011/09/06/frank/.
Molly McLay (’06) is organizing a Homecoming event for English majors.
Join faculty, staff, and your favorite alums during Homecoming weekend on Friday, October 8, for a “meet, greet, ‘n’ eat” at Mugsy’s Pub. Everyone is invited to gather at 5 p.m. at the English House, which you all better remember is on the corner of Main and Graham! Then everyone will walk over to Mugsy’s. It’s totally informal, but Molly would appreciate an email (email@example.com) if you’re planning to attend so she has an idea of how many will be coming. Even if you can’t do that, still drop by.
Rachel Slough (’07) writes that this January she was named an Emerging Leader by the American Library Association, which is a semester-long, national leadership program. She worked with a team of six from across the country to plan sessions for the ALA annual conference in June, prepared materials to help first-time conference attendees, and blogged on topics relevant to first-time attendees or early career professionals.
Rachel graduated from Indiana University in May with a master’s in library science, and in August started her in a tenure-track position as the E-Learning Librarian for the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Her job includes supporting online and distance learning and working with faculty and students to create digital learning objects to support teaching and research.
Mike Whitfield (’10) writes that he’s currently training in Phoenix to be one of 150 Teach for America 2010 Colorado Corps members. This fall he will teach English Language Learning students at Manny Martinez Middle School in Denver. The Teach for America commitment is two years, and this fall more than 8,200 corps members will teach in 39 regions across the country. A new study from the University of North Carolina found that a young person gains up to an extra half-year of learning for every year they are in the class of a Teach for America teacher. On the other side, of the 20,000+ Teach for America alums, two-thirds remain in education, including 450 who are school principals or superintendents.
“I would not be where I am today without the amazing support of the entire English House faculty, staff, and student body,” Mike writes. “Every professor I had taught me something new about myself, and I have not taken for granted the gift of the great education I received in the Illinois Wesleyan English Department. However, I want to give a special shout out to you, Dr. Chapman, Dr. Theune, and Dr. Bray. Thank you!”
Sarah Boulanger Chavkin has been in publishing since she graduated from IWU in 1988, first at a development house, then McGraw-Hill, then Houghton Mifflin, and now National Geographic in their School Publishing Division.
“I started out my career as an editor, but moved pretty quickly into operations work, and now direct a staff of managing editors as well as the Intellectual Property department,” she writes. “My official title is Director, Publishing Administration and Operations, but my day-to-day work includes managing the company’s product development budget, all project management functions, all contractual and legal agreements, and all intellectual property rights. And the best part is that the office is in Evanston, about a mile and a half from home, so I can walk to work. We also have offices in Monterey, Calif., and Washington, D.C., so I get to travel to fun places.”
Sarah credits Professor Kathleen O’Gorman for making an impact on her life and encouraging her to follow her dreams. Pictured is Sarah (left) and her family, including two daughters who “love literature as much as I do and would rather be reading than watching TV.”
Molly McLay (’06) has received the Marietta Stevenson Award from the University of Illinois School of Social Work. The award is given to a graduate student with a policy interest who’s displayed strong leadership in class projects, student organizations, and/or community/internship experiences. Molly was honored on a plaque in the School of Social Work and received her award at a ceremony yesterday, when she was also inducted into the U. of I. chapter of Alpha Delta Mu, the national social work honors society. A double major in English-writing and women’s studies while at IWU, Molly is currently pursuing her MSW with a mental health concentration and an interest in sexual health policy.