Updates from the Chair: English & Creative Writing – a department on the move - The University of Tulsa
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Updates from the Chair: English & Creative Writing – a department on the move

Photograph of Dennis Denisoff
Dennis Denisoff

My position as the chair of English & Creative Writing started only six months ago but, gosh, has a lot been going on since then! I first wish to thank Laura Stevens for her exemplary leadership of our department for the previous three and a half years. To a community as small as ours, change so often comes from outside forces, Laura had to deal with drastic shifts at The University of Tulsa in leadership and administrative structures, new developments in student demographics and governmental educational policies, and of course the radical disruptions caused by COVID-19. The structural and technical upheaval our department went through with this pandemic was wrenching, but it also gave us fresh confirmation of our students’ and teachers’ resilience and commitment.

Perhaps the most substantial change for E&CW during the past six months has been what I called “the great northward migration” our move to a new physical home (well, new to us!). In December, we said goodbye to our old friend Zink Hall that had served us well for many years and began settling into Chapman Hall, with its minimalist, mid-century design and lovely sense of space and light. The English Graduate Student Association graciously hosted a festive housewarming party on Feb. 2!

Our departmental assistant, Jissell Robles-Acosta, and Kendall College’s manager of special projects, Stephanie Boulden, have gone above and beyond in helping everybody get things in order up on the third floor. We have new offices and furniture, amazing sunlight, and gorgeous views of Dietler Commons to the south, the distant Osage Hills to the northwest-and in a couple of lucky offices the downtown skyline. Faculty now even have a kitchen! Fresh offices have also been incorporated for our journals James Joyce Quarterly, Nimrod, and Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, while a new space is being developed in the west wing of the floor for digital humanities initiatives.

The past six months have seen wonderful energy around our creative writing ventures. In the fall, thanks primarily to the efforts of student Ila Thornton, the undergraduate CW workshop group, RAW, received official recognition from TU’s Student Association. The funds coming from this new status have allowed RAW to host events, such as the hugely successful RAW Horror art and writing evening in October. RAW just held their first meeting in our new home this past week. With our real estate in Chapman, the students also have a new home for their regular workshop sessions. Meanwhile, our much loved Stylus, the student-run journal of art and writing, continues to move forward at full steam, and our graduate students have become more involved as editors and contributors, gaining important experience with the practical side of our literary field. Ph.D. student Grace Cosby is currently working with Nimrod, which just published Awards 45, featuring the winners, honorable mentions, and finalists of Nimrod’s 45th annual national literary competition.

Still on the CW front, we were able to hire three Tulsa Artist Fellows Carl Antonowicz, Kaveh Bassiri, George Henson, and Visiting Associate Professor Quraysh Ali Lansana for the year. Along with our presidential professors, Jennifer Croft and Boris Dralyuk, they have helped us address the growing demand for our CW offerings. Thanks to all these instructors, new courses on the menu this year include Contemporary Asian and Latin American Literature and Film, Economics of Greenwood, Literary Translation, and Reading and Making Comics. I especially want to thank Kaveh for taking on the organizing and managing of our mentorship relationship with the Tulsa Artist Fellows program, where undergraduate students with creative-writing projects are paired with Fellows. We can’t wait for the students to share their work at a celebratory evening at the Oklahoma Centre for the Humanities in the spring.

I am also grateful to Interim Dean Kirsten Olds for her continued support of all of our other CW events. These include our usual poetry reading series, which, this year, thanks to the efforts of Grant Jenkins, Kaveh, and Quraysh—brought in Jordan Stempleman (author of nine books of poetry) and New Orleans poet (and TU alumnus) Carolyn Mikulencak during the fall. This spring, we’re giving our students more opportunities for community engagement by hosting three more authors: Tarfia Faizullah, Geoffrey Brock, and Christopher Stewart.

Meanwhile, we continue to see our undergraduates go off to various careers and graduate programs across the country. We were honored this past year to be able to bring two recent graduates—Bryant Loney (class of 2019) and Claire Scott (class of 2021)—back to campus to read their creative work and talk about their flourishing literary careers. And congratulations as well to our December graduates from the MA program—Shelli Castor and Veronica Goss.

For more friendly snippets of news and events, please follow us on Instagram and Facebook. You can find longer news stories on the department website.  Thank you to all of our alumni, students, and friends for your support and encouragement. Our energy, influence, and creative flourishing couldn’t happen without you.

Warm wishes,