All posts by Sarah E Merryman

Purdue Journal of Service Learning

How can I use the skills from my major to help my community? This is an important question every student should ask themselves, and is, in fact, central to Purdue’s identity as a public land grant university dedicated to training and serving the residents of Indiana. It is also a way of measuring the quality of a student’s college education. The Association of American Colleges & Universities (AACU) identifies service learning, or combining classroom instruction with community activities, as one of eleven “high impact” educational practices that provide undergraduate students with an engaging and meaningful educational experience. AACU says that “working with community partners is good preparation for citizenship, work, and life.”

Purdue English not only integrates service into its curriculum, but the university also offers students the unique opportunity to share their experiences through the Purdue Journal of Service Learning and International Engagement. The Journal enhances student learning by providing a platform for students to write about their service-based research projects. The process of becoming a published author in a peer-reviewed journal enhances a student’s writing abilities, and lets them collaborate with peers and mentors – all skills that will open doors to internships, jobs, and further education.

Prof. Jenny Bay, editor of the Purdue Journal of Community Engagement and International Service Learning
Prof. Jenny Bay, editor of the Purdue Journal of Community Engagement and International Service Learning

“The journal is an opportunity for students to reflect on and articulate the kinds of learning that they have experienced either in a specific service learning class or another community engagement opportunity, whether that’s domestic or international.” says Dr. Jenny Bay, Associate Professor of Rhetoric & Composition in the Purdue English Department, a community engagement scholar, and the Journal’s new editor. Prof. Bay’s strong belief in connecting students with community needs led her to incorporate service learning into her teaching. Through English 203, “Introduction to Research for Professional Writers,” she formed a long-term partnership with the Lafayette chapter of Food Finders.

The Purdue Journal of Service Learning accepts submissions from graduate and undergraduate students in all disciplines, but undergraduate research is the primary focus. Students are welcome to submit as individuals, or as part of a team.

Published articles fall into four categories:

  1. Student reflective essay: Reflection of the author(s) service or engagement experience, which includes a description of their project, what they learned, and the impact of their service (approximately 3,500 words).
  2. Research with reflection: A reflection of the author(s) service-focused scholarly research project supported by a literature review (approximately 3,500 words).
  3. Community partner snapshot: A description of a partner agency’s or organization’s mission, as well as suggestions for how students or members of the public can engage with them (under 1,000 words).
  4. Faculty profile: An overview of a Purdue faculty member’s use of service-learning projects in the classroom, and their personal commitment to community engagement (approximately 1,500 words).

Why should English majors submit to the Purdue Journal of Service Learning?

2017 cover of the Journal
2017 cover of the Journal

As one of only two peer-reviewed publications dedicated to Purdue undergraduate research, the Journal offers English majors the opportunity to demonstrate how their “soft skills,” such as strong communication, analysis, empathy, cultural sensitivity, and storytelling abilities, apply in real-world contexts. For instance, in the Journal’s 2017 issue, a graduate student investigated ways teachers can use storytelling to instruct English language learners. As an experiment, she instructed seventh graders in a local junior high school to write their own autobiographies and observed how the exercise benefitted their learning outcomes. In the Journal’s upcoming 2019 publication, an article will describe the ethnographic research undergraduate students in English 203 completed to help create programs for Lafayette’s new North End Community Center.

Prof. Bay says, “Having English majors use skills gained from the major to impact the local community is really important. I also think that employers really look highly on the fact that you have an example of your writing that has gone through peer review that has been published for people to read. To me, especially for English majors, this can only help your prospects.”

Peer review demonstrates that submissions have received feedback for revision from experts in the fields of community engagement and service learning. This seal of approval demonstrates that the author’s work has been rigorously vetted and deemed to be of high quality. Peer review is usually conducted by Purdue professors, but Professor Bay is working to recruit more reviewers from outside of campus. Diversifying the reviewers adds further rigor to the peer review process. It also gives authors the opportunity to network with various experts, and exposes them to a wider range of mentorship experiences, which further enhances their writing.

Submission

The Journal accepts submission on a rolling basis, but spring is the cutoff for annual publication in the fall. Graduating seniors are still welcome to apply, although their articles won’t be published until the next semester. Not every submission to the Journal will be accepted, but the application process is so simple that English majors have nothing to lose by applying. All that is required is an abstract of at least 250 words. If an abstract possesses the needed balance between community service and immersive learning, the editors will notify the author(s), and advise how to revise and craft the manuscript for incorporation into one of the four featured categories.

The Journal strongly encourages students to work with a mentor throughout the writing and publishing process. This mentor is usually the instructor of the author’s service-learning class, but the Journal is happy to assign a mentor if the author’s instructor is unavailable. Of course, the Purdue Writing Lab is always an available resource for writers, if needed.

Both Prof. Bay and Journal Coordinator, Weiran Ma, are “willing to work with anybody who wants to get feedback or develop ideas” as they work on their revisions. Prior to becoming Editor of the Purdue Journal of Service Learning this January, Prof. Bay served as a longtime member of its editorial board, and worked closely with Lindsey Payne, Purdue’s Director of Service Learning. Prof. Bay also won the 2018 university Service Learning Award from the Office of Engagement. Likewise, Weiran Ma has extensive experience working with service-learning journals. Together, Prof. Bay and Weiran Ma are a valuable resource for authors and prospective authors.

Before they graduate, most students participate in a service-learning class. Relatively few, however, will publish their experiences. Stand out from the thousands of other students; take your research to the next level and publish! The opportunity is here.

Tutoring in the Purdue Writing Lab: Empathy & Expertise

Interested in helping students improve their writing while simultaneously sharpening your own? Working as an undergraduate tutor in the Purdue Writing Lab might be the perfect job for you.

Portrait photograph of Harry Denny, Director of the Purdue Writing Lab.
Harry Denny, Director of the Purdue Writing Lab

Prof. Harry Denny, Director of the Writing Lab, describes it as “a space where we work with writers from across the university…on any aspect of their writing, from getting started, to revising, to editing. You name it, we do it.” Tutors work with undergraduate and graduate Purdue students from all disciplines on every form of writing. From essays and research reports to resumes and graduate school applications, no genre is off limits.

The Writing Lab offers one-on-one, in-person writing consultations or e-tutoring sessions, while its world-famous OWL provides a treasure trove of online resources. In 2017-18, the Writing Lab saw approx. 6,000 visits from Purdue students. The OWL had 515M page views from around the world.

Perks of being a tutor

All employment with the Writing Lab, whether in the form of tutoring or research, is compensated; however, according to Prof. Denny, the biggest perk is the “opportunity to work in an environment that truly values learning and collaboration.” The Writing Lab promotes an atmosphere of innovation and strongly encourages tutors to explore the impact writing has in real life settings.

Companies like employees who can write clearly, but they especially like those who can help other people to write better too. Tutoring with the Writing Lab gives you a chance to practice both. Interacting with Purdue students from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds also provides experience with intercultural collaboration. In survey after survey, employers list writing and collaborating as their most desired skills, ahead of technical expertise. 

Writing Lab tutors and staff also write all of the material found on the OWL. A section of the site is even devoted specifically to research conducted by lab personnel. Undergraduate tutors are welcome to add to this growing body of writing center research.

What professional qualities does tutoring cultivate?

In-lab tutoring session.
In-lab tutoring session.

Want to become a Writing Lab tutor but afraid that your writing skills aren’t good enough? No worries. While having a grasp of basic writing techniques is essential, no one expects you to be an expert. Part of being a tutor is learning with your client. Prof. Denny says that a good tutor isn’t someone who knows everything about writing, but rather a “person who is willing to say, ‘I don’t know. Let’s figure that out together’.”

While knowledge of composition and grammar is an asset, the most important quality for a tutor is strong people skills. For this reason, the Writing Lab looks for applicants who demonstrate empathy for students from all backgrounds and writing abilities.“We can teach you how to respond to student writing, [and] we can teach you the mechanics. The hard part is meeting such a wide variety of writers, meeting them…where they are, and being respectful of them,” says Prof. Denny. “The thing that I really care about when I am looking at undergraduates, is making sure…that we work with a whole, wide range of writing.”

It can be easy to forget that sharing one’s writing is a very personal experience; when someone judges our writing, it can feel like a judgement of us. Being respectful and connecting with writers on a human level creates a safe environment where students are free to be vulnerable. Only with trust can writers learn and improve. In this way, the role of a tutor is less like an instructor and more like that of a peer counselor.

“I think alot of times students struggle with writing because they have been shut down at some point,” says Prof. Denny. “I think people [should be] allowed to have a voice, and to cultivate their voice and their prose in an environment that’s not going to make them feel bad about themselves.” To demonstrate his point, he cites Steven North, an important writing center scholar: “We are about making better writers, not necessarily better writing.” Prof. Denny echoes this sentiment in his own words, “If you make someone feel more confident as a writer, effective writing will come along.”

Another important part of becoming a tutor is understanding how to help students within the parameters of the Lab. Like most college writing centers, the Purdue Writing Lab is not an editing service. A tutor’s job isn’t to “fix” students’ papers, but rather to give them the skills to revise their own writing, and to help them apply these skills to future assignments.

Tutors also learn to balance student needs with time restrictions. “We try and respectfully negotiate with a client, ‘What is realistically possible in 25 or 50 minutes?’” says Prof. Denny.

If a writing lab client has a 50-page research paper, it will be impossible for the tutor to read and give feedback on every page. Therefore, helping the client prioritize their needs and set a goal for what can be accomplished in one session is an important skill tutors learn.

How to apply to be an undergraduate tutor?

Tutors working in the staff room of the Writing Lab.
Tutors working in the staff room of the Writing Lab.

Until this year, the application process involved submitting a writing sample, a resume, and a letter of recommendation. To make the process less daunting, the application is now simpler. Students email the writing.lab@purdue.edu with a notice of interest. From there, they meet with Prof. Denny to discuss why they want to become a tutor and the skills and experiences they feel make them a good candidate.

The last step is enrolling in ENGL 390: Tutoring Practicum, a required internship course that teaches students how to work in the Writing Lab. Students learn writing center theory and gain hands-on experience with strategies for tutoring writing. If, at the end of the class, they seem like a good fit for working at the Lab, students become paid tutors. If students turn out to not be good fits, they still get course credit.

Some final advice

Prof. Denny’s advice for tutor applicants? “Be open to working with your peers. Be open to being challenged about how you learn and how your peers learn…. [I]f you want a really exciting environment where collaboration…reflection, and pedagogical research is valued, we are a cool place.”

The bottom line? Whether you are a tutor or a client, writers of all skill levels and backgrounds are welcome at the Purdue Writing Lab. No Pulitzer required.

Advice: Literary Awards Submissions

The deadline for the Purdue 2019 Literary Awards is fast approaching! All entries must be submitted by noon on Monday, February 25th.

Here are a few last-minute tips for submitting:

1. Check out the categories

Categories for undergraduate submissions include creative writing, literary criticism and journalism, interdisciplinary and CLA Awards, and Kneale Awards. There is an extensive variety of genres that can be submitted, ranging from plays and poetry, to essays and literary critiques. Whether you’re revising a class paper or working on a novel for fun, nearly any type of writing will fit into one of the award categories, so start digging through those old drafts!

2. Know the Rules

Read through the eligibility guidelines at least twice, then double check that your entries comply. Don’t be the person who spends hours perfecting a submission only to have it disqualified over a technicality.

Also remember that your entries must be submitted as PDF files and that your name should not be listed anywhere on your entries.

3. Get Feedback

Get fresh perspectives by sharing with friends, family, and professors. Having at least one other pair of eyes on your writing is a great way to correct errors or catch the little details that you may have missed.

The Purdue Writing Lab is another a great resource for feedback. Tutors are trained to help writers in every stage, and it’s free! If you can’t make it to the writing lab in person, consider trying their online or E-tutoring options.

4. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread

You’ll want to surprise the judges with your creative genius, not your typos. Here are two tricks that make it easier to catch errors.

First, read your writing aloud. Hearing how your words sounded aloud gives you a much clearer idea of the pace and flow of your writing. Or, better, yet, read your work aloud to a friend (combine with # 3 above).

Second, change the font of your document. Changing to a different font than you have used for drafting will encourage you to read more closely, making it easier to spot problems.

Best of luck on your submissions!

“Beyond English”

It’s time to answer “The Question”: What is the point of an English degree?

When faced with this query, English majors sometimes find it difficult to verbalize the value of their education. That’s where ENGLISH 39900: Beyond English comes into play. This capstone course is designed to answer “The Question,” and all the other pesky uncertainties English majors face on a daily basis. The course is broken up into distinct segments, each designed to help students better understand where they fit in the world as English majors. Writing exercises help them articulate their interests, the readings showcase the many different ways English skills apply in the workforce, and peer discussions build up confidence.

So, was the class helpful? Here’s what three students have to say.

Grace Morris
English Literature Major Dance Minor

Grace describes Beyond English as a space to discover how English applies to real life. She loved the diversity of the readings, with materials ranging from news articles, such as “Why America’s obsession with STEM education is dangerous,” to novellas like The Little Prince. However, it was the commencement speeches by notable figures such as J. K. Rowling that Grace enjoyed the most, because they explored ways her degree could open doors later in life.

Every unit of the course offered Grace something useful. She gained resume writing and networking skills, discovered ties between her major and minor, and even learned tips for “adulting.” Beyond English gave her the language to explain her major to skeptics and helped her take pride in her studies; she now has a fuller appreciation of how English promotes empathy, creativity, and perspective-taking.

Scattered throughout the course were writing assignments such as journaling and creating career maps. These exercises helped students consider what they wanted out of life and brainstorm ways to get there. Like many of her classmates, Grace’s path to English started in a completely different major. She began in Management, but, eventually, switched to English. Journaling allowed Grace to reflect on her journey at Purdue and to map out potential paths for her future.

In addition to being reading-intensive, Beyond English was very discussion-based. Every student had to contribute to the daily conversation, and, with only 11 students in the class, no one held back. Everyone enjoyed the honesty of the discussions and shared their thoughts without judgment.

However, the highlight of the course was a visit by Purdue English alumni Kristi Brown, Project Manager at Capital Program Management. Kristy had worked her way into the construction business from the ground up. She shared that knowing how to learn and taking the initiative to teach herself propelled her into important roles, such as managing the State Street Project and the construction of the new arch in front of Purdue Memorial Union – all without an engineering degree. According to Grace, Kristi’s experiences revealed the vast opportunities available to English majors. “[T]he English major is not a linear career path,” Grace says, “If we wanted a linear career path we would be in Engineering . . . I think that is what attracted me the most because I have so many options.” Although she intends to pursue graduate school in communication and dance, Grace isn’t ruling out other careers now that she knows, “If I want to, I can also lead a huge city project.”

Filled with dreaming and planning in equal measure, Beyond English offers a judgement-free space for English majors to assess where they are and where they want to be. Grace’s advice to students? “Be willing to find yourself within the course, and find your passions, and find where your future could lie.”

Liz Walker 
English Literature and Professional Writing Major
Political Science and Theater Minor

Liz Walker entered Beyond English discouraged and frustrated. Constantly trying to prove the value of English to others had left her disheartened, and the negativity was taking its toll. After three years of people questioning her major, she had started to doubt herself: “Had majoring in English been the right choice?”

Although she was initially skeptical, Beyond English turned out to be the right experience at the right time. Liz credits the course’s more philosophical readings, like “What Is the Point of College?,” with getting her back on track. She also credits the class with revamping her love of English and effecting a tangible change in her mentality. Looking at the bigger picture reminded her that the purpose of college is more than just landing a job. It is also about learning and growing as a person.

Liz recommends Beyond English because it helped her realize that there is no one definition of success, and that life does not transition predictably from point A to point B. Until her junior year, Liz had her life neatly mapped out with the intention of becoming a lawyer. It wasn’t until after attending a law seminar that she realized law was not the career for her. “Life is very fluid, and it’s not linear” she says. She admits to initially having a hard time grasping this, but that Beyond English helped her come to terms with it. The course provided Liz with practical tools to market her skills to the fullest extent. Participating in required Center for Career Opportunities (CCO) events offered her experiences she would not have pursued otherwise. She also found the down-to-earth advice in Adulting: How to Become a Grownup in 535 Easy(ish) Steps useful.

Liz also enjoyed the course’s different thematic sections. One section focused on the purpose of life, or as Liz put it, “being a basic human being.” Another delved into the practical questions every English major worries about: How can you use your degree? What place does Liberal Arts have in a tech-based society? How does the study of English fit into the modern world? A third looked toward the future: What comes after college? What does adulting look like?

“It was a unique class,” Liz says, “because even though it did deal with deeper theories and concepts . . . it was very relationship-based.” She enjoyed hearing from her peers and forging close relationships with them. Talking with other English majors reassured her that she was not the only one worried about the future. Months later, Liz and her classmates still chat over GroupMe and are trying to start a book club. Although she is still unsure where life is heading, Liz is okay with that. She no longer feels the need to justify herself to others: “I feel like I’m leaving Purdue very confident in my abilities.”

Rachel Muff
English Literature Major
Spanish Minor


For Rachel Muff, the highlight of Beyond English wasn’t just the content; it was also the people she got to know, starting with the class instructor. “[Prof. Pacheco] puts a lot of himself into the class and he encourages, like, a comfortable atmosphere . . . he makes it feel casual without being unprofessional.” This made it easy to for Rachel to get to know her peers to the point where she feels like she “could pick out a present for every single person in that class.” As a non-traditional student, she was inspired by the excitement of this new generation.

The course readings were another source of inspiration for Rachel. She especially loves this quote from Martha Nussbaum’s book, Cultivating Humanity:

“A child deprived of stories is deprived, as well, of certain ways of viewing other people.  For the insides of people, like the insides of stars, are not open to view. They must be wondered about. And the conclusion that this set of limbs in front of me has emotions and feelings and thoughts of the sort I attribute to myself will not be reached without the training of the imagination that storytelling promotes.”

Filled with texts like this, the course helped Rachel articulate the value of reading, writing, and interpreting stories. The same skills needed to tell a story are also extremely valuable in the workforce. Employers want workers who connect with other people, and are disciplined, self-reflective, and able to take criticism – all skills found in English majors.

Prior to Beyond English, Rachel didn’t know what she wanted in a career. But, after spending the semester discussing the readings with her classmates, exploring career paths through research exercises, and verbalizing her experiences through a group podcast project, she emerged with a clearer understanding of her career interests. Rachel is currently applying for a marketing positions at the Wildlife Habitat Council and Utah Department of Natural Resources. She is also exploring the possibility of writing for medical journals. Rachel’s career interests are diverse, but she feels confident about her prospects and she expects that her classmates feel the same. “I think everyone walked out of that class with a higher self-esteem,” she said, “Everyone loved that class.”

Less

February is almost over, which means our Books and Coffee series is sadly coming to an end. Don’t miss the last meeting! Professor Brian Leung will be speaking on Andrew Sean Greer’s Less on Thursday, February 28 from 4:00 – 5:00 pm in STEW 302/306.


About Less

Who says you can’t run away from your problems? You are a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail: your boyfriend of the past nine years is engaged to someone else. You can’t say yes–it would be too awkward–and you can’t say no–it would look like defeat. On your desk are a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world.

QUESTION: How do you arrange to skip town?

ANSWER: You accept them all.

What would possibly go wrong? Arthur Less will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, accidentally book himself as the (only) writer-in-residence at a Christian Retreat Center in Southern India, and encounter, on a desert island in the Arabian Sea, the last person on Earth he wants to face. Somewhere in there: he will turn fifty. Through it all, there is his first love. And there is his last.

Because, despite all these mishaps, missteps, misunderstandings and mistakes, Less is, above all, a love story.

Reviews

Less is the funniest, smartest and most humane novel I’ve read since Tom Rachman’s 2010 debut, The Imperfectionists….Greer writes sentences of arresting lyricism and beauty. His metaphors come at you like fireflies….Like Arthur, Andrew Sean Greer’s Less is excellent company. It’s no less than bedazzling, bewitching and be-wonderful.” ―New York Times Book Review

“Greer is an exceptionally lovely writer, capable of mingling humor with sharp poignancy…. Brilliantly funny…. Greer’s narration, so elegantly laced with wit, cradles the story of a man who loses everything: his lover, his suitcase, his beard, his dignity.”―Ron Charles, Washington Post

“Greer’s novel is philosophical, poignant, funny and wise, filled with unexpected turns….Although Greer is gifted and subtle in comic moments, he’s just as adept at ruminating on the deeper stuff. His protagonist grapples with aging, loneliness, creativity, grief, self-pity and more.”―San Francisco Chronicle

“I recommend it with my whole heart.” ―Ann Patchett

“A piquantly funny fifth novel.” ―Entertainment Weekly

“Greer, the author of wonderful, heartfelt novels including The Confessions of Max TivoliThe Impossible Lives of Greta Wells and The Story of a Marriage, shows he has another powerful weapon in his arsenal: comedy. And who doesn’t need a laugh right about now?”―Miami Herald

“Greer elevates Less’ picaresque journey into a wise and witty novel. This is no Eat, Pray Love story of touristic uplift, but rather a grand travelogue of foibles, humiliations and self-deprecation, ending in joy, and a dollop of self-knowledge.”―National Book Review

Educated: A Memoir

End your day with some caffeine and a good book. Come out and hear Professor Janet Alsup speak on Tara Westover’s Educated: A Memoir on Thursday, February 21, from 4:00 – 5:00 pm in STEW 302/306.


About Educated:  A Memoir

An unforgettable memoir about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University.

Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University.

Reviews

“Westover has somehow managed not only to capture her unsurpassably exceptional upbringing, but to make her current situation seem not so exceptional at all, and resonant for many others.”The New York Times Book Review

“A heartbreaking, heartwarming, best-in-years memoir about striding beyond the limitations of birth and environment into a better life.”USA Today

“A coming-of-age memoir reminiscent of The Glass Castle.”O: The Oprah Magazine

“Heart-wrenching . . . a beautiful testament to the power of education to open eyes and change lives.”—Amy Chua, The New York Times Book Review

Homegoing

You won’t want to miss it! Professor Sam Blackmon will speak on Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing at our second Books and Coffee event on Thursday, February 14 from 4:00 – 5:00 pm in STEW 302/306.


About Homegoing

The unforgettable New York Times best seller begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indeliably drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day.
            
Effia and Esi are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

Reviews

“Homegoing is an inspiration.” —Ta-Nehisi Coates
“Spectacular.” —Zadie Smith
“Powerful. . . . Compelling. . . . Illuminating.” —The Boston Globe
“A blazing success.” —Los Angeles Times
“I could not put this book down.” —Roxane Gay
“Devastating. . . . Luminous.” —Entertainment Weekly
“A beautiful story.” —Trevor Noah, The Daily Show
“Spellbinding.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Dazzling. . . . Devastating. . . . Truly captivating.” —The Washington Post
“Brims with compassion. . . . Yaa Gyasi has given rare and heroic voice to the missing and suppressed.” —NPR 
“Tremendous . . . Spectacular. . . . Essential reading.” —San Francisco Chronicle 
“Magical. . . . Hypnotic. . . . Yaa Gyasi [is] a stirringly gifted writer.” —The New York Times Book Review

Have dog will travel

Join us for the first books and coffee session of 2019! Professor Maren Linett will speak on Stephen Kuusisto’s Have Dog Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey on Thursday, February 7, 2019.
4:00- 5:00 pm in STEW 302/306.

About Have Dog, Will Travel

In a lyrical love letter to guide dogs everywhere, a blind poet shares his delightful story of how a guide dog changed his life and helped him discover a newfound appreciation for travel and independence.

Stephen Kuusisto was born legally blind—but he was also raised in the 1950s and taught to deny his blindness in order to “pass” as sighted. Stephen attended public school, rode a bike, and read books pressed right up against his nose. As an adult, he coped with his limited vision by becoming a professor in a small college town, memorizing routes for all of the places he needed to be. Then, at the age of 38, he was laid off. With no other job opportunities in his vicinity, he would have to travel to find work.

This is how he found himself at Guiding Eyes paired with a Labrador named Corky. In this vivid and lyrical memoir, Stephen Kuusisto recounts how an incredible partnership with a guide dog changed his life and the heart-stopping, wondrous adventure that began for him in midlife. Profound and deeply moving, this is a spiritual journey, the story of discovering that life with a guide dog is both a method and a state of mind.

Editorial Reviews

“Kuusisto…give[s] readers and animal lovers terrific insight into not only his experience with blindness, but also the unshakable bond between a guide dog and its owner.”—Publishers Weekly

“Never before has the subtle relationship of a blind person to a guide dog been clarified in such an entertaining way. That Stephen Kuusisto enables us to see the world through his blind eyes as well as through the ‘seeing eyes’ of his dog is this book’s amazing, paradoxical achievement.”—Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate (2001-2003)

“A perceptive and beautifully crafted memoir of personal growth, and a fascinating example of what can happen when a person and a dog learn to partner with one another.”—Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human

“Have Dog, Will Travel is both an intimate memoir of one man’s particular experience of blindness and a beautiful tribute to the devotional, unconditional love of a dog. Funny, moving, and joyful.”—Dana Spiotta, author of Innocents and Others

 “I fell in love with Corky, of course, with her goofiness and boundless affection and heart-stopping wisdom. Truth be told, I fell in love with Steve too for how he dove into his new, broken open, adventurous life with her, and the way he processed his experiences through the lens of his reading life, and his compassion for others and for his own late-blooming self.”—Ona Gritz, author of On The Whole: A Story Of Mothering And Disability 


Books & Coffee 2019

Everybody knows a great book from the past, whether it’s Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.  But what are the great books of the present?  That’s the question the English Department’s Books and Coffee series has explored since 1951.  Every Thursday in February, a faculty member discusses a recent book that’s made some waves, something you may have heard of but haven’t gotten around to reading.  This is your opportunity to hear expert commentary on a new book that is a vital part of contemporary print culture.  Talks are in STEW 302/306 at 4:30 pm, but stop by as early as 4 pm for free coffee and pastries, as well as a chance to socialize with other book lovers. The talks last no more than 25 minutes.  Afterward, there’s a raffle with a chance to win some fun prizes.  And if you like, there’s an opportunity to meet the presenter and share your ideas about the book.

Speakers for 2019 will be:  Professor Maren Linett (Week 1);  Professor Sam Blackmon (Week 2); Professor Janet Alsup (Week 3); and Professor Brian Leung (Week 4).

The Big Read: The Underground Railroad

Looking for a good book? The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead has something for everyone. Rich in history, suspense, and emotion, the compelling characters will draw you into the surreal world of fiction even while the true-to-life horrors make you feel like you are caught in a nightmare. Read with friends and discuss your thoughts as you journey with Cora to freedom from the slavery of the deep South.

2019 Literary Awards

The fun and festivities of the holidays are over and there isn’t anything to look forward to between now and summer vacation. Or is there?  Indeed there is, because the 2019 Literary Awards celebration is right around the corner!

In a few short weeks, Boilermakers will have the pleasure of hearing from Colson Whitehead, award-winning author of The Underground Railroad (which just so happens to be the “Big Read” pick for this year). Mr. Whitehead will be the guest speaking for the Literary Awards Banquet on April 11th at 5:30pm in the North Ballroom of PMU. The banquet will be followed by a reading and book signing by Mr. Whitehead at 8:00pm in Fowler Hall.

Does April still feel like a long ways away? Use the time between now and then to prepare your literary award contest submissions. Genres range from poems and short stories to screenplays and nonfiction essay, with different contests for grad, undergrad, and highschool students. Oh, and did we mention there are cash prizes for the winners?

The submission deadline is noon on Monday, February 25, 2019. See the submission requirements for more details. And for those who haven’t read the book, there’s still time to grab a copy and get reading!