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

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Changing of the Guard

August 16 is the start date for academic-year appointments here. And that goes, too, for internal administrative positions of the variety filled by faculty members. Today, therefore, marks the changing of the guard. Rob Barrett has been Associate Head of the department since August 16 of 2008 (which is also when my own term as Dept Head began). And, as of today, the department's new Associate Head is Spencer Schaffner.

Today also marks day one of LeAnne Howe's stint as Director of Creative Writing, a post filled last Spring by Alex Shakar and last Fall by Audrey Petty.

English professors, as scholars and even as teachers, typically thrive on single-minded intellectual focus, and so we tend to find administrative work (with its many, sometimes-jostling, simultaneous demands) a bit discombobulating. But people take administrative positions on because they are good colleagues and responsible departmental citizens, and because they acknowledge having a stake in the bigger picture, too (as we all inevitably do): in the well-being of the department and its members, and in the importance of the work we all share.

You can probably tell, if you are reading between the lines, that I have close, personal familiarity with the discombobulation to which I refer above, and I am correspondingly grateful to my colleagues who are willing to accept challenging departmental administrative posts.

I'd like, therefore, to use this space to thank Audrey, Alex, LeAnne, and Spencer for their willingness to work on all our behalves. At the risk of sounding sappy or maudlin, I feel honored to be your colleague (and the same, of course, goes for all of the other departmental officers whose terms are ongoing).

I'd also like to thank Rob Barrett, in particular, for three years of dedicated work in the next office over. He has been a confidante and a sounding-board to me, and he has helped us as a department weather more staffing crises than I care to recall. His (almost!) unshakeable good-spirits have meant a great deal to me and, I know, to the staff in English 208. After all, what other Associate Head would have allowed me to post a picture to the blog of him dressed as Silenus? Seriously, though, Rob has been a superb associate head--patient, meticulous, organized, on top of things--and it has been my privilege work with him.

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