Updates from the English Department Office of Undergraduate Studies
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Click here to see this online
 
 
 

A note from the director...

 
   
 
 
 

Dear Students:

We hope you have been enjoying this lovely weather! Although we hope it sticks around for spring break, we place no bets.

This week we have a lot of information for you! First, if you are looking for something fun to do this weekend, consider attending The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame's (virtual) honoring of author Sandra Cisneros. Details are below. 

Looking ahead, we have an array of exciting courses for Fall 2021, an Open Mic Night on March 31, 2021, news of a new course at the Newberry Library and more! Scroll down to learn what else is happening! 

  • What it's Like Working with Public Interest Research Group, with Jillian Gordner!
  • Fall 2021 Courses
  • Department of English Awards for Students
  • The Chigago Literary Hall of Fame Honors Sandra Cisneros
  • BGSA Rise Mentor Hotline for Underrepresented Undergraduates
  • Unlocking the Future of Undocumented Students
  • The Write Stuff Now Accepting Submissions
  • Spring 2021 Open Mic Night
  • Center for Renaissance Studies' New Undergraduate Seminar
  • Present Your Research at UIC's Virtual Impact and Research Week
  • Share Your Research at the Richard Macksey National Undergraduate Humanities Research Symposium
  • Calls for Writing, etc.
  • Upcoming UGS Events

Keep reading, stay safe, and be in touch!

Sincerely,

Prof. Robin Reames, Director of Undergraduate Studies
rreames@uic.edu

 
   
 

Working with Public Interest Research Group

 
 
"Make Polluters pay" Campaign Associate Jillian Gordner 
 
Tavon Sanders

In previous newsletters, we've talked about the Illinois Public Interest Research Group (Illinois PIRG for short), an organization that recruits interested students to become activists for issues that they're passionate about.  To get more information on what working at Illinois PIRG is like, UGS intern Tavon Sanders interviewed Jillian Gordner, a University of Michigan graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English language and literature and international studies who has been working with PIRG for eight months. She had a lot to share about her experiences. 

Jillian works as a campaign associate for PIRG, specifically for the "Make Polluters Pay" campaign, in which she leads a campaign to reinstate taxes for polluting industries to pay for the cleanup of toxic waste sites. When asked what initially drew her to working with PIRG, Gordner cited two primary factors that stood out to her. The first was the transpartisan nature of the organization. Jillian states, "when we live in a very politically divided world right now, the goal of PIRG was to get the job done, to bring people together, on issues that everyone can agree on." Jillian also stated she was enticed by the description of the campaign associate position stating that she would be able to get her hands dirty and hit the ground running when it came to building her campaign. "When you're learning about social change...it feels a little big. It feels a bit too big to tackle," Jillian stated, when discussing how students can sometimes feel overwhelmed when learning about important issues and wondering what they can do to change them. She went on to say that working with PIRG let her get a bite of how it feels to be at the forefront of activism and work towards bringing true change through raising awareness and even getting bills passed. 

As previously mentioned, Jillian graduated with a dual major in English and international studies. Jillian says her knowledge in both of these subject areas greatly assist her in the day-to-day tasks of her job. Gordner says that her studies in English gave her the professional writing skills necessary for the kind of work she does, whether it be writing up a comprehensive report or writing to the editor of a major publication for an op-ed. "My international studies major really taught me how to analyze an issue from different viewpoints," which is quite a crucial skill whether she is trying to persuade an audience to support a bill she is proposing, or speaking with public officials directly on important issues.

Furthermore, Jillian says that working with PIRG has aided her in developing skills that would translate to any career, and any student can benefit from building those skills. She stated that the frequent feedback she gets on the quality of her writing due to the amount of publications she must prepare has greatly sharpened her professional writing skills. In addition to developing organizational and managerial proficiency, Jillian says that she can now boast about several successful projects she's completed, including articles she has gotten published in news sources and educational seminars she has conducted. She states, "I'm organizing a webinar right now. That's a challenge I wouldn't even know how to begin with six months ago." Jillian is confident that wherever her career takes her, the skills she's gained will easily translate and be a great boon to her.

When asked why students should apply to work with PIRG, Jillian exclaimed, "you can't learn more in a single minute than you do in this job." She spoke of how working with PIRG has shown her so many creative ways that people could use their interests to enhance their campaigns. Jillian states that she has even been able to incorporate coding, a skill which she had an interest in prior to her position as a campaign associate, into her work by digitally mapping toxic waste sites near different communities. "You really get a chance to use your creativity and your skillset to advance your campaign," Jillian advises. Speaking of her campaign, one of Gordner's most rewarding experiences in her time with PIRG was the release of her "Superfund Underfunded" report, which explained the environmental consequences, as well as the consequences on taxpayers, when companies that pollute the environment are not held accountable for performing or financing the cleanup of the waste they generate. The report gained quite a bit of media attention, has been used to support recommendations for amendments to public policies, and has even gotten Gorder interviewed for an article in Bloomberg Law

Working with the Public Interest Research Group is an opportunity that Jillian highly endorses, in no small part due to the rewarding experiences that it has provided her. The opportunities to bring change to underserved communities, and put one's studies and soft skills to good use bring immeasurable job satisfaction. Most of all, Jillian extolled the virtues of all that she got to learn in such a short time, and the strength of the team she works with, saying, "you're doing so much. You're learning so much. You're taking on so many incredible roles with a team of experienced advocates supporting you along the way." 

Illinois PIRG is looking to recruit students. For more information on jobs at PIRG, go to:  https://illinoispirg.org/page/ilp/jobs

 
   
 

Fall 2021 Courses

 
 

Registration begins soon! Check out some of the awesome courses on offer for Fall 2021. 

 
 
 
 
English 428: Working Class Experience in the U.S. and U.K.
 
Prof. Lennard Davis

Do you come from a working-class family?  Are you a first-gen student?  Do you want to know more about how working-class people, poor people of color, immigrant families are depicted in literature?  There is much energy given to courses on identity politics, but often poor and working-class people are neglected in reading lists. This course will focus on the lives and experiences of people living in poverty or hovering precariously near poverty.  Reading through the lens of US and UK writers, we will see the variety of narratives as experienced by writers who come from the working class and creating what was called “proletarian literature” and writers coming from other classes but writing about the lived experience of people who were poorer than themselves.  Writers include Jack London, Michael Gold, George Orwell, Richard Wright, Piri Thomas, Tillie Olsen, James Agee. Other media include “Moonlight,” “Nomadland,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Shameless,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

Interested to learn more? Email the professor.
Ready to enroll? Click here.

 
 
English 400 
 
English 400: The History of the Idea of English & the Politics of Language
 
Prof. Robin Reames

"This is a country where we speak English. It’s English. You have to speak English!” During Trump’s term as president, we heard words like these repeated numerous times, and with the end of that administration we might hope that the sentiment is now obsolete. It isn’t: in February 2021, a month after Trump’s term ended, a bill was introduced to congress proposing to make English the official language of the U.S. and English proficiency a prerequisite for citizenship.

In a nation of over 41 million Spanish speakers, such policies seem at best nativist and anti-immigrant—reflective of a larger movement to restrict not just the languages that can be spoken in the public sphere, but also the very people who can work and participate in public life. But nativism and xenophobia are far from the only questionable aspects of the issue.

A larger question is: What is English? When people promote “English-only” policies, whose English do they have in mind? Where did that version of English originate? How has it changed over time, and where is it going? 

This semester, we explore the history of the English language in order to define the hegemonic concept of “English” against a larger backdrop of what English has been in the past and how it became what it is today. In so doing, we examine the historical and ontological stakes of phenomena like the “English-only” movement and “English-only” policies. We also examine emerging linguistic phenomena like internet slang and variations on Standard American English, such as African American Vernacular English and Chicano/a English. We consider these transformations in English in light of the long view, examining how English evolved from Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman roots in the Middle Ages. And we consider how questions of class have always inflected the idea of “correct” language use. 

Interested to learn more? Email the professor.
Ready to enroll? Register here.

 
 
 
 
English 440: The Freshwater Lab
 
Prof. Rachel Havrelock

The Freshwater Lab course is a project of the UIC Freshwater Lab, launched in 2015 through support from the Humanities Without Walls Initiative.  Rather than a traditional lecture course, it endeavors to put the pressing issues surrounding the Great Lakes before students in order to support their knowledge of the issues and their innovative approaches to addressing them.  In this Humanities “lab” setting, we will study and discuss social and environmental dimensions of the Great Lakes, meet with leaders in the Great Lakes water sector, visit relevant Chicago area sites, and work individually and in groups on projects to advance existing initiatives and pioneer new approaches.  Students will be paired with professionals working on issues relevant to their project and Professor Havrelock will help to suggest avenues for advancing student projects during the semester and beyond.

Have a question? Email the professor.
Ready to enroll? Click here

 
   
 

Department of English Awards for Students

 
 
 
 

UIC's Department of English offers a number of end-of-academic-year awards for undergraduates. Below you'll find a list of our offerings and links to apply. The deadline is Monday, April 5 at 11:59 pm

As you can see, these awards come with hefty checks. Make certain you take a moment to apply. You may apply for more than one award. Help us celebrate you and your work!

Awards Requiring Student Applications:

Anne Hopewell Selby Critical Essay Writing Award: $500
This award recognizes outstanding achievement in critical writing by undergraduate English majors. Each student may submit a sample of no more than five pages of critical writing.  Excerpts from longer works are welcome as long as they do not exceed the five-page limit. Neither the student’s name nor any other identifying information should appear on any of the pages of the submission. Winners and finalists for these awards will be selected by the Department of English’s Undergraduate Studies Committee.
Application form: Anne Hopewell Selby Critical Essay Writing Award
Submit application for Anne Hopewell Selby Critical Essay Writing Award

Paul Carroll Creative Writing Award: $250
This award recognizes outstanding achievement in creative writing by undergraduate English majors. Each student may submit a sample of no more than five pages of poetry, fiction, or creative non-fiction. Excerpts from longer works are welcome as long as they do not exceed the five-page limit. Neither the student’s name nor any other identifying information should appear on any of the pages of the submission. Winners and finalists for these awards will be selected by the Department of English’s Undergraduate Studies Committee.
Application form: Paul Carroll Creative Writing Award
Submit application for Paul Carroll Creative Writing Award

Robert and Corinne Silver Award: $500
The Robert and Corinne Silver Award is a prize for a continuing undergraduate English major concentrating in the study of literature (Concentrations: British and Anglophone Literature, American Literature or Media, Rhetorical and Cultural Studies.) Preference will be given to applicants who can demonstrate academic ability. Financial need may also play a role in the award decision.  To be eligible for this award, students must have a declared concentration in literature and achieved sophomore standing or above. Graduating seniors are not eligible.
Application form: Robert and Corinne Silver Award
Submit application for Robert and Corinne Silver Award

Anne Hopewell Selby Undergraduate Research Award: $500
In honor of the late professor Anne Hopewell Selby, the English Department offers this award to an outstanding undergraduate student pursuing scholarly activities outside the classroom.  The purpose of this award is to help cover expenses such as trips to conferences or special libraries or the purchase of books not required for classes.
Application form: Anne Hopewell Selby Undergraduate Research Award
Submit application for Anne Hopewell Selby Undergraduate Research Award

Outstanding Sophomore in English Award: Two winners, each receiving $500
The Outstanding Sophomore in English Award is intended to highlight sophomore students who have demonstrated dedication to their studies in English through the breadth and depth of their coursework and have excelled in their studies within the major. Preference will be given to applicants who can demonstrate academic ability. Financial need may also play a role in the award decision.  To be eligible for this award, students must have a declared concentration in the English major and achieved sophomore standing during the semester in which they are applying (e.g. over 30 earned credit hours, but no more than 60 credit hours, including in-progress courses).
Application form: Outstanding Sophomore in English Award
Submit application for Outstanding Sophomore in English Award

Faculty Nominations (Student Application not Required)

Raymond and Wilma Campion Award: $1800
and
John and Jeanne Newton Scholarship: $1800
The Campion Award and the Newton Scholarship are awarded to outstanding English majors who have graduated from Chicago Public High Schools.  Students must have at least 30 but not more than 90 semester hours at the time of application and a minimum GPA of 3.0.  The selections will be made based upon faculty recommendations. All eligible applicants will be considered for both the Campion and the Newton Scholarships.

Ernest C. Van Keuren Award: $200
Each year, the faculty chooses one outstanding graduating senior for the Ernest C. Van Keuren award. The winner is chosen by the faculty from among those students who are graduating with highest distinction.

 
   
 

The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame Honors Sandra Cisneros

 
 
 Sandra Cisneros
 

The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame (CLHOF) announced that it will present its prestigious Fuller Award to Sandra Cisneros for her lifetime contribution to literature. A virtual ceremony will take place on March 13, 2021 at 7:00pm. Ms. Cisneros will participate in a conversation with Booklist editor Donna Seaman, Chicago poet Carlos Cumpian will serve as master of ceremonies, and there will be short tributes by local artists and an audience Q&A. The event is free and open to the public, but attendees must register at the CLHOF website (chicagoliteraryhof.org). The American Writers Museum and the Chicago Public Library will serve as co-presenters for this major event.

Ms. Cisneros, a world-famous novelist, short story writer, poet, essayist, performer, activist, and artist first achieved acclaim with her international bestselling novel, The House on Mango Street. Published in 1984, the novel has since sold over 6,000,000 copies, has been translated into 20 languages, and, according to the author’s website (sandracisneros.com) is “taught everywhere from inner-city grade schools to universities.” Set in Chicago, where she was born and raised, The House on Mango Street won the Before Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award in 1985.

Ms. Cisneros’s award-winning writing has since included 11 books ranging from poetry and fiction to essays and memoirs. She has been awarded NEA fellowships in both poetry and fiction, the Texas Medal of the Arts, a MacArthur Fellowship, Chicago’s Fifth Star Award, the PEN Center USA Literary Award, the Fairfax Prize, the Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellowship, and the PEN/Nabokov Award for International Literature. In addition, she was recognized among the Frederick Douglas 200, and President Barack Obama awarded her with the National Medal for the Arts in 2016.

Ms. Cisneros earned a B.A. in English at Loyola University of Chicago, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing at the University of Iowa. In an essay published as the introduction to a 2009 Vintage Contemporaries edition of The House on Mango Street, Ms. Cisneros wrote, “Chicago still makes its home in me. I have Chicago stories yet to write.” (“A House of My Own,” 2008.)

The CLHOF’s Fuller Award was inspired by Henry Blake Fuller (1857-1929), author, editor, poet, critic, and composer, one of Chicago’s earliest novelists, and the author of The Cliff-Dwellers (1893) and With the Procession (1891). It is awarded annually to a writer with strong Chicago roots who has made an outstanding lifetime contribution to literature.

Ms. Cisneros will be the ninth illustrious Chicago writer honored with the Fuller Award. Previous winners include Gene Wolfe, Harry Mark Petrakis, Haki Madhubuti, Rosellen Brown, Angela Jackson, Stuart Dybek, Sara Paretsky, and Sterling Plumpp.

The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame was founded in 2008 to honor, celebrate, preserve, and promote the development of Chicago’s great literary heritage—past, present, and future. This is achieved through such projects as educational programming, awards, exhibits, community events, a Chicago Literary Map, and an annual induction ceremony.

 
   
 

BGSA "Rise" Mentor Support Hotline

 
 
BGSA "Rise" Support Mentor Hotline 
 

Relationships to Inspire Success & Excellence (RISE) program was designed to provide holistic one-on-one mentoring by Black graduate students, who were paired with interested undergraduate students. In light of the pandemic, we have decided to shift our approach to a “Mentor Hotline” system. 

With this, undergraduate students need only send us an e-mail or message via Discord with a request for assistance, and one of our volunteering graduate students will respond to coordinate support. While we understand that our Hotline cannot take the place of the relationships that develop between individuals under normal circumstances, we nevertheless wanted to reaffirm our stance on supporting our community of students in whatever ways we can.

 
   
 

Unlocking the Future of Undocumented Student Resources

 
 
 
 

The Office of Diversity is proud to announce that a remarkable student group of six UIC undergraduates has established a new website to aid in the undocumented community’s pursuit for higher education. This site houses a network of universities, colleges and organizations that provide financial, academic and other supportive Illinois resources for undocumented students. Please contact tcabrera@uic.edu to receive the link. 

 
   
 

The Write Stuff

 
 

Have you submitted your work to UGS intern and The Write Stuff editor, Tavon Sanders? If not, why not? Tavon wants to publish your work whether it's poetry, fiction, non-fiction, written for a class, not written for a class, short, long or in between. The same is true of your visual work. Photography, painting, cartoons, drawings, etc. Tavon wants your work! (And your friends' work!) All submissions (or questions about submissions) to WriteStuff@uic.edu. As we are still seeking to include even more quality work to include in our first edition, we will extending the deadline to March 19th. 

 
   
 

Spring 2021 Open Mic Night

 
 
 
 

Open Mic is a venue for you - and your friends so spread the word - to present original work (whether or not it is for a class) to an audience of your peers.

Past Open Mic nights have featured work in poetry, prose and the moving image. Former presenters say that Open Mic nights help them hone their presentation skills and get great feedback from their peers. Work presented has led to extended conversations about art, race, writing and the challenges of planning for the future.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021 4:00 - 5:00 pm

Sign up here to share your voice! You may present multiple pieces of work.

Just want to attend without presenting? Click here for link. 

Have questions? Please email english@uic.edu.

 
   
 

Center for Renaissance Studies' New Undergraduate Seminar

 
 
 
 

The World in the Book: 1300-1800

CRS Undergraduate Seminar
Fall 2021: Online via Zoom

CRS is thrilled to announce that applications are now being accepted for its first-ever undergraduate seminar, which will take place virtually in Fall 2021.

Hosted by the Newberry Library’s Center for Renaissance Studies (CRS), this 10-week, three credit hour course will use the multidisciplinary field of book history to explore how medieval and early modern people used different media—theological texts, maps, travel narratives, reference works, literature, and more—to make sense of a changing world. Through lectures, discussions, and interactive workshops with faculty from CRS consortium institutions, participants will learn how book history can illuminate the ways in which premodern people used religion, science, art, and technology to grapple with new economic, intellectual, and cultural challenges in a rapidly-expanding global community. In so doing, students will develop a framework for using the past to help illuminate and guide their own contemporary experience.

This seminar is free and open for undergraduate students in any field of medieval or early modern studies, but space is limited. Priority will be given to undergraduates from CRS consortium institutions. Accepted students must make arrangements with their home institutions to receive credit for the course. Please direct any questions to renaissance@newberry.org.

For more information about the course, including guest speakers and a link to apply, please visit the course website here: https://www.newberry.org/09282021-world-book-1300-1800

 
   
 

Present Your Research!

 
 
 
 

Are you a CURA (Chancellor's Undergraduate Research Award) student? We encourage you to register to present your work during UIC's Impact and Research Week April 5 - 9, 2021. 

Students will prepare a short presentation (7-10 minutes) and use a medium like PowerPoint or Google Slides to guide their presentation. Presentations will take place via panels of four students; opportunities for students to sign up as a group (e.g., for students working in the same research lab) will be made available. Each presentation panel will last one hour; each student will present their research and time will be allocated for a question-and-answer period with the judges assigned to the panel. 

Click here with any questions or to register.

 
   
 

Share Your Research!

 
 
 Author Anthony Doerr with his 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "All the Light We Cannot See."
 2021 Macksey Keynote Anthony Doerr with his 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning "All the Light We Cannot See."
 

Do you - or your friends - have research in the humanities that is ready for a larger audience? If so, apply for Johns Hopkins University’s second annual Richard Macksey National Undergraduate Humanities Research Symposium. The symposium offers students across the country the chance to gather together and disseminate their humanities research on a national scale. COVID turned 2020's symposium into a virtual event, but that was a great success! There were 359 participants and more than 10,000 visits to the conference site to date. Held live on April 24 and 25, 2021, this year’s event will be virtual as well. The application portal is open through April 1, 2021

This symposium is open to undergraduate students from any two-year or four-year college or university who would like to present their original scholarship in the humanities. We hope to have 400 participants this year. In addition to the multiple panels of student papers and presentations (including original creative works), we will also have a wonderful keynote delivered by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anthony Doerr and multiple professional development panels featuring Johns Hopkins graduate students and faculty and editors from Johns Hopkins University Press. Students studying all areas of the humanities are welcome to attend. Attendees will also have the opportunity to work with our student editors to revise their presentation into a journal-length presentation for our journal of proceedings, the Macksey Journal.

For questions or to apply, click here.

 
   
 

Internships, Scholarships, Fellowships & Jobs

 
   
 

Summer Internships with Oak Park Festival Theatre

 
 
Oak Park Festival Theatre's 2021 Season 
 
Oak Park Festival Theatre
NOW ACCEPTING 2021 INTERNSHIP APPLICATIONS
(Deadline: March 15, 2021)

At Oak Park Festival Theatre, our summer interns are the very lifeblood of our company. Every year, 10-15 young people from across the nation are accepted into the Internship Program at Oak Park Festival Theatre. These Theatre Arts majors and recent college graduates join us to learn first-hand about working for a professional outdoor theatre company. Interns:

  • participate in professional development workshops
  • perform their own Shakespeare scene study showcase
  • understudy our mainstage productions
  • work on every part of our summer production from set construction to assistant directing to box office and concessions to development.

In 2020 interns met virtually and built the core of our COVID-19 Action Plan which we will use to welcome artists and guests back to Austin Gardens this summer. 

Oak Park Festival Theatre provides a unique opportunity for burgeoning professionals. Deadline to apply is March 15, 2021. For more information and application, go to https://oakparkfestival.com/internship-program/ 

 
   
 

Calls for Writers, etc.

 
   
 

Black Lawrence Press Seeks Submissions

 
 
 Black Lawrence Call for Submissions
 

Mamas, Martyrs, and Jezebels: Myths, Legends, and Other Lies You've Been Told about Black Women revisits notions of Black womanhood to include the ways in which Black women's perceived strength can function as a dangerous denial of Black women's humanity. This collection addresses the stigma of this extraordinary endurance in professional and personal spaces, the Black church, in interpersonal partnerships, and within the justice arena, while also giving voice and value to Black women's experiences as the backbone of the Black family and community.

Black Lawrence Press is now accepting submissions for a new anthology of essays. Writers and scholars living in the United States and abroad are invited to submit essays of between 700-5000 words for the anthology on any of the following broad themes. (Other themes will be considered.)

  1. Black Women and Justice
  2. Black Women and Self-Care
  3. Black Women and Spirituality
  4. Black Women at Work and at Home
  5. Black Women and Sex (and Sexuality)

Essays can be creative or academic. However, essays have to be accessible since the anthology is for a general audience.

Drs. Jan Boulware, Rondrea Mathis, Clarissa West-White, and Kideste Yusef of Bethune-Cookman University will serve as editors.

Submissions will be accepted through June 30, 2021. Contributors will receive a copy of the anthology as payment.

Previously published essays are welcome. Please contact Dr. Clarissa West-White at whitec@cookman.edu with questions.

 
   
 

Other Upcoming UGS Events

 
 
Mark Your Calendar for these Upcoming Events:
  • Open Mic 
    March 31, 2021 from 4:00-5:00 pm
    Share your creative work and hear your peers' creative work
    Click here for Zoom link  

 

  • Grad School Workshop
    April 14, 2021 from 4:00-5:00 pm
    Current grad students talk about what grad school is really like and how to get into the program of your dreams
    Click here for Zoom link

 

  • Thesis Presentations
    April 30, 2021 at 3:00 pm

    Hear what students in ENGL 398 and ENGL 399 have been working on all semester
    Click here for Zoom link
 
   
 

Finally ...

 
 

Do you have questions or feel like chatting with UGS? Email english@uic.edu to schedule an appointment. 

 
   
 
 
 
 
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