Welcome Message from Department Chair Susan Williams
Dear Alumni and Friends,
It’s graduation season as I write — a time of joyful recognition of our students who have completed their degrees and of the faculty and staff who have supported them on their journeys. On April 17, the English department held a celebration for our graduating students and award recipients that was marked by hugs, applause, and animated conversation. Below you will find a copy of the program for that event, which includes the names of the almost 200 English graduates in this academic year who are joining our alumni ranks.
In this newsletter, we feature stories on two alumni — one from the PhD program and one from the MFA program — who this spring have released books that you will want to put on your summer reading list. (We are eager to know what else you’re reading through this summer reading survey.) Julia Keller’s Quitting: A Life Strategy and Maggie Smith’smemoir You Could Make This Place Beautiful are both timely and humane reflections on life changes, self-love, and the search for beauty and meaning in the face of disruption. Their books and strong voices remind us that reading and writing can help us see, in Keller’s words, that “accepting the vicissitudes of life, and the randomness, brings solace and ultimately joy.”
Our amazing faculty help students navigate those vicissitudes before and after graduation. This spring we have been particularly active in helping students navigate ChatGPT and the quickly changing landscape of Artificial Intelligence; below we feature a story on how two members of our creative writing faculty are approaching AI as they practice their craft. We also feature a story on Professor Kathy Fagan Grandinetti’s recent receipt of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a prestigious national award whose mission is to support “exceptional individuals in pursuit of scholarship in any field of knowledge.” Maggie Smith studied with Fagan Grandinetti as a student in our MFA program, and they have stayed in touch since graduation. Similarly, Julia Keller has maintained connections with her PhD advisor, Professor Frank Donoghue, who conducted the interview in this newsletter.
I suspect and hope that many of you were also challenged and inspired by faculty mentors. As always, we’d love for you to share your story about them or any other aspect of your experience as English students and graduates.
I wish all of you a happy summer of reading and re-charging and will be back in touch in the fall.