Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois

Illinois Department of English Blog


Welcome to the Department of English blog.

My name is Vicki Mahaffey and I took over as
head of the department on July 1, 2016. I'll be using this site to post updates and information of interest to our faculty, students, and alumni,
along with reflections about our discipline(s) in particular and the humanities in general. As anyone who has ever worked or studied here knows, the Department of English is a vibrant place. If you have something you'd like to see posted here, or if you want to contact me about the content of this blog, drop me an email at

Monday, December 1, 2008


As students and faculty return to campus after the Thanksgiving holiday, today seemed like a good opportunity to express some thanks of my own. If you like your English Professors to be all edgy and cynical, this is not the post for you. One thing about being head of a large department, though, is that it makes you acutely aware of how many people it takes to make things run well: it takes a village, it turns out, to teach a great class or write an important scholarly book. It is good to be reminded of this, too, since professorial work often feels solitary—for every hour of class time there are hours of solitary prep work, and that's not even counting the innumerable hours of solitary reading and writing that go into acquiring the expertise upon which one draws to do the class prep—and also since our cultural ideas about brilliance and intellectual work often de-emphasize the importance of context and community.

So: first on my thanksgiving list this year are all the faculty members (and by this I mean those in tenure stream ranks as well as NTTs and graduate students) whose efforts in the classroom and on committees have kept the place afloat this Fall. That's pretty much everyone, of course, but that's precisely the point: the opportunities some faculty members have each year for released time or sabbatical or to create and teach innovative new classes necessarily depend directly on the labors of others in the department, and so the depth of talent we have working here is a big part of what makes all of the singular achievements of our faculty possible.

I'd also like to express my gratitude to the department's award-winning advising and administrative staff. I think most faculty members here are aware of our reliance on their competence and professionalism, and will nod their heads when and if they read this. Speaking more personally, I work closely with Becky Moss, Amy Rumsey, and Deb Stauffer in EB208 and so I'm aware on a day-to-day basis of how much they take care of for us all. I can say, too, that I have a harder time asking for help than they have offering it. Thanks!

Last but not least, I'd like to thank the many alumni (and others) whose donations basically enable us to survive. Large donations have of late allowed us to do things like establish endowed professorships, fund graduate scholarships, and provide much-needed research support for faculty and graduate students traveling to academic conferences. But the smaller donations we receive are also indispensable, making possible the day to day operation of the department and allowing us to pay for recruitment of tenure track faculty, for example, or to cosponsor exciting events on campus. As I have had occasion to say in this forum already, it means a great deal to me to discover that I am part of something that has meant so much to so many for so long. Now, though, I want to offer my thanks to all of you who have made the large and small gifts to the department in the past year. We couldn't do what we do without you.

No comments:

Blog Archive