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, February 14, 2011

English Students' Resource Week

If you've been in the English Building lately you've probably seen the posters for last week's English Students' Resource Week, a series of events set up by members of the English Student Leadership Council along with Lori Newcomb and Adrienne Pickett. A great idea, really: a set of events designed to spread information about campus and departmental resources specifically of use to our majors and also to spark conversations about how to get the most out of the undergraduate English major experience.

I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in one of the events, on Wednesday afternoon. Billed as a panel session on "Faculty Advice for English Majors," this was an event at the UIUC bookstore in which a panel of 5 English faculty members (including yours truly) spoke informally with students about teaching and learning in English. What this means in practice is that we all spoke about our teaching and research lives a bit, and discussed topics about the major and the discipline raised by student questions: how should students best use office hours? What is a professor's work week like? What makes a good student paper? What is the future of the job market for English PhD's looking like? What classes do professors enjoy teaching and why? That sort of thing. If you have a Facebook account, you can see a very short snippet of the event here, just to get the flavor. The picture at the top of this post is a shot of the panelists from this event, as is this one:

If you can watch the clip, you'll see that my colleagues (J.B. Capino, Janice Harrington, Justine Murison, and Kate Vieira) were totally charming (of course!). And I thought it was especially valuable for some of our students to have the chance to hear how their teachers think and talk about their classes.

The faculty are, of course, one resource for our students. Other events highlighted other kinds of resources for students, including each other. One of the events, accordingly, was designed to give English majors a chance to share each other's advice and experience without any faculty or advising office involvement at all. There was also a session designed to bring undergrads and graduate students into dialogue, and another more purely informational session designed to let students know about pre-professional and other resources available to students on our campus.

I think the members of the English Student Leadership Council have done something really wonderful here. Not only because of all the sage and practical advise that was given and taken last week, but also, and more generally, because these events all have the potential to adjust the way all sorts of people in the department understand what it means to be part of a large department. That is: we are all resources for each other, because none of us can teach or learn in a vacuum. Thanks to the members of the ESLC, thanks to Lori and Adrienne, and thanks to everyone who participated in one or another of these events. Let's do it again sometime!

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