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Park Hall Monitor: Spring 2024

Head's Note, Spring 2024

Dr. Roland Végső

VegsoDear Colleagues, Students, Alumni, and Friends of English,

Since the end of my first academic year at UGA as the Head of the Department of English is coming to close, I want to start this message by thanking everyone for making my transition such a smooth and rewarding experience. The most important thing I need to say upfront is that I felt strongly supported by my colleagues, our students, as well as the friends of the English Department at large on and beyond UGA’s campus. The least we can say is that we were very busy over the last year. We worked together to image new futures for the department. I am happy to report that we have a few exciting plans, and we have already set a good number of projects in motion that, hopefully, will bring even more positive change for us in the forthcoming years.

Throughout the last academic year, we were busy working on the renovation and expansion of the Jill and Marvin Willis Center for Writing. The Writing Center will have its new central location on the third floor of the Miller Learning Center. But this change does not mean that we need to say good-bye to the old location. The original Park Hall facility will still remain part of the Center but will fulfill more specialized roles in the teaching of writing. In addition to the donation from the Willis family, President Jere W. Morehead also generously committed resources toward the renovation and the staffing of the Center, which will allow us to reach even more students and implement new programs for the promotion of the cause of writing on campus. We plan to have an official ribbon cutting ceremony sometime in the fall. More information about that even will be disseminated later in the summer.

We certainly have a productive year behind us. At times, it felt like the good news just kept coming and coming. Since our last newsletter, several of our students and our faculty received major awards and recognitions. I will highlight only a few of them here. Éric Morales-Franceschini, Associate Professor of English and Latin American and Caribbean studies, won the MLA’s thirty-third annual Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize for an outstanding book published in English or Spanish in the field of Latin American and Spanish literatures and cultures for his book, The Epic of Cuba Libre: The Mambí, Mythopoetics, and Liberation. Rebecca Hallman Martini, the Director of the Willis Center for Writing, won the 2024 CCCC Advancement of Knowledge Award for her book Disrupting the Center: A Partnership Approach to Writing across the University. Professor Cody Marss was asked to be an editor of The Norton Anthology of Literature. He will be responsible for putting together the next three editions of the volume devoted to the 19th century. Saurabh Anand, a graduate student in our program, was recently named as one of the recipients of the 2024 “Champion of Equity Higher Education” award by the American Consortium for Equity in Education. Aruni Kashyap, the Director of our Creative Writing Program, received a fellowship from Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for the 2024–2025 academic year. Finally, we must mention that LeAnne Howe received the 2024 Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book Board of Directors. This fantastic recognition places Professor Howe in the same literary company as N. Scott Momaday, Joy Harjo, and Rilla Askew.

In addition, we are also looking forward to welcoming a few new colleagues in the fall semester. James W. H. Howard accepted our offer to become a lecturer with primary teaching duties in the First-Year Writing Program. While he will be new to Park Hall, he is not moving too far from his current location, as he will be joining us from the University of North Georgia, where he has been the Interim Director of Tutoring Services. Furthermore, we are also eager to welcome Joseph Wei in the fall, who will be Assistant Professor of Asian American literatures. His scholarly interests include Asian American literature, critical refugee studies, literature and sociology, and oral history. Last but not least, we are truly excited to announce that we hired a new colleague to fill the distinguished position of the Helen S. Lanier Professor of English. To our great delight, Chigozie Obioma, an internationally celebrated novelist, will be joining the English Department in the fall. His next novel, The Road to the Country (published by Penguin Random House), is set to be released in the US on June 4, 2024. Please make sure to order a copy and put it on your summer reading list!

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