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To: John Magerus, Dean, College of Liberal Studies University of Wisconsin LaCrosse From: Estella Lauter, Professor Emerita all w Souk Ww University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Re: Extemal Review of the Department of English Tune 2004 1am pleased to report that, in my view, the Department of English at LaCrosse is doing very well. As you know, I had access to the "Department of English Report to the APRC: Self-Study, August, 2003," and to several other sets of written materials that I requested to bring the document up to date. These materials included a list of current faculty and staff, vitae for all but four of these persons, syllabi for many classes, enrollment figures for classes offered in Fall 2003, advising documents for the current majors and minors, templates for the new major with its two tracks in liberal arts and writing, Department By-Laws and tenure and renewal guidelines for the Department and the University. I did not receive any data from students concerning their opinions about instruction. I visited the campus on May 4-6, beginning with an informal meeting with Dr. Schoen on Tuesday evening and ending with another meeting in his office on Thursday moming after my appointment with you, On Wednesday, I met with three members of the group that had worked on assessment of the writing program (Professors Beck, Crank and Kopp). Five students joined me and professors Crank, Pandit and Scholze for discussion of the program over pizza, and in the aftemoon I met with several members of the team that successfully proposed the revised curriculum (including Professors Beck, Crank, Gray, Jesse, Morzinski and Sullivan). I talked with Kathy Sonsalla, the Program Assistant who has been with the Department for six years. I spoke with Dr. Pribek in his office for a few minutes and met two or three others in passing, and I met with Dr. Schoen several times during the day and in the evening. These are the bases for my estimation that the Department is running smoothly. In the following report, I have combined some of the categories you suggested in your guidelines in order to treat related issues together. Because I come from a sister campus of similar size and composition, I often refer to my experience as Chair of the Department of English at Oshkosh; I offer such comments in the spirit of sharing information and establishing my own basis for understanding rather than in a competitive vein. In fact, I see the two Departments as following parallel courses, and I hope that they will be in touch with each other over the coming years as their programs continue to develop. ' | | CURRICULUM, PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT ‘The Department's most impressive achievement in the program review period is the new major with its double tracks in literature and writing. The field of English Studies has changed substantially since the 1960s when most English departments across the country offered only British and American literature. Expository writing was consigned to staff members or TAs Who ‘taught only General Education courses, or it was handled by other departments such as Journalism, and creative writing was often relegated to separate schools. Literary criticism and thetoric were reserved for graduate education and linguistics was taught in a variety of departments as a social science. Although the interdependence of these disciplines is now generally acknowledged in contemporary English departments, no standard structure for the major has emerged. Each department has to decide for itself what part of this interdisciplinary field it can best express. ‘The new major reflects developments that have taken place over the past decade at LaCrosse and elsewhere, bringing these elements together into manageable sets of courses for those who wish to study literature and those who wish to pursue careers in professional writing. The tracks overlap sufficiently so that students in each track can understand the others’ work. Since professors of literature also teach writing courses and vice versa, students are likely to learn that reading and writing are two sides of the same coin. In the literature track, the new requirements include three new categories of study and revised course lists in all other categories to make an entirely new program. The changes also involve a new set of course numbers and titles. The decision to allow students to choose either British or American literature is a mark of maturity for the Department. The decision to include so-called “minority” literatures as part of the major is extremely important, since these bodies of work are on the cutting edge of literary achievement. The introductory course (301) is absolutely necessary, since entering students are unlikely to have been exposed to the new shape of the field. The decision to give four credits for the introductory course from the outset is brilliant; it should allow time for the introduction of close reading, multiple approaches to reading, writing about literature and English Studies. This is not an easy course to teach, but with broad departmental support, itis likely to become the lynchpin of the curriculum. At Oshkosh, students often credit it in their exit interviews with having convinced them that English is a real discipline (like Biology or Math) and not just an excuse to continue reading for enjoyment. In addition, they credit the course with opening their eyes to the many ways one may read a text~a perspective that is helpful no matter what one intends to do with the major but especially to future teachers and managers. The two-credit capstone course focused on research provides an exeellent Way to encourage students to put their own stamp on the major. The writing track is similarly comprehensive. Building on the present writing minor, it includes the study of language and literature and hones both creative and analytical skills in relation to writing. The number of writing courses on the books is enviable, and the sequence of courses on style is particularly impressive. Both tracks seem to have been very well thought-out in an inclusive process that provided room for informed dissent. Plans to modify the Education major are in process; particularly support the idea of removing 200-level courses from that major. No doubt other adjustments will be necessary over time, but the template for the new program is first-rate and congratulations are in order. ‘mentioned one concem in my meeting with the committee that had proposed the new major: without a required course in literary theory and criticism, it may be difficult to achieve the goal of engaging students in research that is fully informed by the discipline(s) of English Studies. The Department may want to add a required course to the major at some point in the future; in the meantime, it might be helpful to include panels of faculty members who take different, approaches to the same text in the introductory course or in the new Department Colloquium series. I notice that several syllabi for upper-level courses already include theoretical elements; my experience indicates that this will help, but only if the instructors label them clearly and encourage students to use them in other contexts. As Valentine Cunningham says in Reading After Theory (Blackwell, 2001), however critical we may be of the abuses of theory (and he is very critical), students cannot read any longer without being conscious of the questions raised by post-World War Il thinkers who have opened up whole new territories of texts and meanings. Talso mentioned to Dr. Schoen the noticeable absence of a course in Asian American literature and one in Latina/o literature. While some departments have decided to pursue a multi-ethnic, comparative approach rather than focusing on texts from one cultural complex, this does not seem to be the case at LaCrosse, where separate courses are devoted, for example, to African American texts and even to single authors. The multi-ethnic courses seem at present to be arenas where faculty members can experiment before proposing a more specific permanent course, and this is a good idea, especially when the Department is hiring new people. I hope, however, that a position in Asian American literature will be defined and that new permanent courses will be proposed to sponsor the continuing exploration complex cultures within the American multicultural experiment. In addition to the majors and minors, the Department also successfully offers courses for the General Education program, notably 110 and several 200-level literature courses. The syllabi I have seen for the 110 course are ambitious, highly competent and remarkably different from each other. The fact that the assessment committee has been able to calibrate grading across such differences in content is an indication of faculty and staff dedication to the teaching of writing. These teachers are being asked to accomplish in one course what we do in two at Oshkosh, where all students are required to take a second course after the completion of 60 credits. While faculty and staff at LaCrosse may send students to a second course by giving them grades under B, they are reluctant to do so because they do not believe that this action produces the intended results; it seems to be a punishment rather than an opportunity, and it makes the upper-level writing courses very difficult to teach. Syllabi from the 200-level courses are similarly rich and diverse. The self-study document notes that many of them are manifestations of cultural studies--an umbrella term for approaches that present literature in dialogue with or resistance to other cultural practices, and question how knowledge is produced, disseminated and consumed, even to the point of being critical of one’s