Skip to Main Content
Mobile Menu


English Department Newsletter: April 21, 2017

Michelle Payne


I am very pleased to welcome you to the first edition of our alumni newsletter! I’m grateful to the faculty and staff who are making this newsletter a reality now that the department is finally in a position to share our story in a more public way. Each semester, you’ll learn more about the innovative, creative, and engaging work going on in the English department. You’ll hear stories about some of the amazing accomplishments of current students and faculty. You’ll also catch up on the newest chapters of our alumni, who are all over the world, making a difference. That means we will be asking you to share YOUR stories with us as well!

One of our goals is to keep you abreast of the many lectures, readings, events, and activities associated with the Department of English, happenings that give you an opportunity to reconnect with faculty and classmates, to meet current students, and to engage with the intellectual life of the department in as many ways as you can.

Michelle Payne
Department Chair

Year in review

Here is just a small peek at what has been happening this academic year.

We welcomed Dr. Amber Warrington, Assistant Professor in English Education. Watch for full a spotlight on Dr. Warrington in a coming newsletter!

Our faculty have been publishing and sharing their work across the country and around the world; I invite you to explore those accomplishments on our department website (where you can browse by individual faculty) or on Boise State’s ScholarWorks site (where you can browse by years). We have significantly increased our research profile in the past decade, and several of our faculty have received honors for their teaching, research, and service–much more than I can list here!

In addition, we have significantly revamped our website to highlight each of our academic programs, our outstanding faculty, our many events, and our significant contributions to the Boise community. We also have a new page, “Meet Our Graduates,” where we feature profiles of our alumni. We plan to add a page where employers of our graduates offer advice, discuss the attributes they seek in new hires, and illustrate the ways the English majors they’ve hired have demonstrated those. These features are part of our efforts to bust the myths about English majors!

Literature faculty member, Dr. Samantha Harvey, continues to host her wonderful Ideas of Nature lecture series with a final lecture on April 20th titled, “The Ghostly Language of the Ancient Earth: The Idea of Nature in Deep Time,” featuring Professor Scott Ashley of Newcastle University. A reception follows. Join us!

The Hemingway Literary Center brought in several nationally-recognized scholars this year, following its tremendous success with Shakespeare’s First Folio Exhibit last spring. The Literary Center also continued its relationship with the Ketchum Community Library and the Hemingway House during the annual Hemingway Festival in September.

The Boise State Refugee Alliance, under the supervision of Gail Shuck, has been very active this academic year. The students in this peer support organization, founded by former refugees from Bosnia, have visited several high schools to recruit multilingual students to Boise State, spoken at a number of refugee-related events, created a short video for the #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign last week, held two informal “Show the Love” events in the SUB, held two receptions linked to the Conference on Language, Identity, and Culture, and led a series of workshops for first-year and prospective college students on strategies for college success, financial aid, and English language and other support resources.

Working under the direction of Professor Steven Olsen-Smith and former English faculty member Jessica Ewing, English students Adam Brimhall, Bridget Howley, Lisa Shanks, and Lexy Smith encoded the text Herman Melville marked and annotated in his 7-volume set of the Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare, and they are now at work on a quantitative study of word frequencies in the marginalia that will be submitted for publication to Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies. Melville’s Marginalia Online is preparing to feature the Shakespeare markup when it publishes its new search tool, which was developed by the project’s technical developer Boise State English alumnus Jeremy Jensen in consultation with Olsen-Smith and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Elisa Barney Smith and her students.

Matthew Hansen continues the work of “Shake It Up After School“, an innovative service-learning project he began in 2006. Students in Hansen’s ENGL 345 class each spring teach Shakespeare to fourth through sixth grade students at local elementary schools by coaching the elementary students in an abbreviated version of a Shakespeare play. The approximately 20 individual productions of Shakespeare, performed by elementary-aged students in Boise Schools, the 4,000 plus hours of student service hours, and the more than $22,000 in external grant funds secured for and invested into this program over a decade mark it as a substantial form of what Ernest Boyer labels “the scholarship of engagement.”

In March, we hosted a special reception for English alumni, students, staff, and faculty following an event that exemplifies English majors making a difference in the world: the Ethos Project symposium.The Ethos Project, created by two English majors and faculty advisor, Kelly Myers, is part of a campus-wide movement toward interdisciplinary collaboration and community engagement. This year’s symposium topics included: education and rehabilitation in Idaho prisons, international student involvement and inclusion, legal services for non-English speaking people, maker culture and student retention, sexual assault awareness and prevention, transgender health care, and vision care for Boise’s refugee population.

In the Fall, we redesigned one of our former computer labs into a vibrant and dynamic collaborative learning space, one that facilitates a more active, robust, and engaging class experience.

We’re also pleased to announce that longtime colleague, Bruce Ballenger, received a COAS (College of Arts and Sciences) Faculty Excellence Award. You can read more about Bruce’s career and many contributions to English department student life in this newsletter. Bruce is the second English department faculty member to receive the COAS Faculty Excellence Award: he also joins Jacky O’Connor, who received this honor last year. According to COAS Dean, Tony Roark, “These awards recognize the overall excellence in contributions of their recipients, who exemplify the inspiring and dedicated work done day-in and day-out by all of our faculty.”

And last, but certainly not least, we’re getting ready to graduate 56 undergrad and 10 graduate students during Spring Commencement on Saturday, May 6th at Albertsons Stadium (on the Blue turf). Congratulations to each of our graduates! We’ll miss them, but look forward to keeping in touch as they continue their achievements and contributions in other communities and professional settings.

We’re so pleased to connect with you through this newsletter, and we hope to see you at our department events scheduled for the 2017-2018 school year. Please watch for news about the 2017 Western Conference on Linguistics, hosted here on campus in October, as well as other activities you won’t want to miss.

April Spotlights:

Rachael Renk – Student

Kelsey Montzka – Alumni

Bruce Ballenger – Faculty