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

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Student Leadership Council

Late yesterday afternoon I had the opportunity to attend a meeting of our department's Student Leadership Council, a group of about 20 undergraduate English majors who are generously giving of their time and energy this year to help us think of ways to enhance the student experience within the major. This is an idea created by our Director of Undergraduate Studies, Ted Underwood, but very much led by the student volunteers themselves.

At the meeting, a number of interesting ideas were floated and discussed--ranging from various informal kinds of intellectual conversations that might be held between interested students and faculty members, to purely social events that the department might hold for its undergraduate constituency, to services that the department might (and in some cases, does) provide. One funny (to me) suggestion was that the students might hold some kind of protest to build camaraderie--and though I did not hear any suggestions as to what might be protested against, I did volunteer to do something wicked and oppressive for them to mobilize about if it would help! Always looking for ways to help, I am.

Kidding aside, there were some really terrific ideas, including a suggestion that really interested me for an informal session in which (over food) some faculty members and students might share thoughts about what makes for good teaching in an English classroom. Speaking personally, I think I could learn from hearing students' serious thoughts on that subject, and I suspect that motivated students might be interested in hearing the behind-the-scene thinking of faculty members about how and why we make the pedagogical choices we do. There were a number of variations on this proposed, and it will be up to the members of the Student Leadership Council to settle on a final form for such an event, but I hope to participate in it and I'm pretty excited about what such a conversation could mean both for interested faculty and students alike.

More generally, I'm really delighted to see this kind of development taking place in the department, and grateful to Ted and the Council members for their initiative and general goodwill. Keep up the good work, everyone!

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