About the Department

Faculty and staff at department meeting
English and Modern Languages faculty and staff 2018

Who We Are

Our faculty and staff is committed to the department’s mission statement and is dedicated to the futures of our students. Our specialties range from the medieval to the contemporary, the graphic novel to the epic poem, and the creative to the rhetorical, giving students ample opportunities to explore all that English Studies has to offer.

“My overall goals are to empower students within and outside the classroom.”–Dr. Tena Helton, Department Chair (2011-2017)

What We Do

Our diverse curriculum, hard-working faculty and staff, and unique attributes all come together to prepare our students for a variety of career paths. We aim to send our students confidently into today’s job market with an edge on the competition: communication, analysis, presentation, editing, and both creative and professional writing are highly desired skills by employers from many different fields. We believe that we are creating more versatile and adaptable employees by giving our students these skills.

Our Mission Statement: The UIS English Department emphasizes the humanistic endeavors of reading, writing, and studying texts in a variety of genres across cultures and times; the connection between critical and literary reading and a range of academic, professional, and creative pursuits; students’ participation in the creation of knowledge in many literary modalities and media; and the connection between civic life and the study of composition and literary texts. We offer Bachelor of Arts (Online and On-Campus) and Master of Arts degrees, an undergraduate minor in English, and a Graduate Certificate in Teaching English. Students may study a range of courses in British, American and World Literature, and Linguistics. They may also take a variety of writing courses.

To learn more about our department from one of our past students, watch below:



English Department Feature Stories

Online English student Cheryl Sabas presents at research conference

Cover Art- Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Taken from goodreads.com

UIS online undergraduate English student Cheryl Sabas recently presented her paper, “Purity and Passion in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles,” at an Illinois English research conference.

Hosted by the English Graduate Organization (EGO) and the Sigma Tau Delta (ΣΤΔ) Phi Delta chapter of Western Illinois University, the conference explored the role of empathy and anger in literature and contemporary literary theory.

Sabas initially wrote “Purity and Passion” for Dr. Sara Cordell’s ENG 311: Literary Study and Research, a course that introduces English majors to discipline-specific theories and practices.

Although Sabas, a recent inductee to the UIS chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, thought her paper did not meet the conference criteria, she submitted a paper. She said, “I’ve got nothing to lose by submitting a paper just to learn more about the process.” To her surprise, Sabas was accepted to present her paper.

Reflecting on the experience, Sabas said, “I was impressed by the friendly welcome I received from students and faculty . . . this open and welcoming atmosphere meant a lot to me.”

The conference provided an excellent networking opportunity, Sabas said, and she has remained in contact with fellow conference presenters.

After the conference, Sabas said that the experience taught her “about new areas in the field of English literature.”

English students experience knighthood and weaponry at Chicago’s Deering Family Galleries

lunch with students
Lauren McPherson, Cheryl Sabas, Angela D’Onofrio, and Dr. Donna Bussell

In the UIS English and Modern Languages department, English Studies extend beyond the classroom.

To augment traditional literary studies, students in Dr. Donna Bussell’s Arthurian Literature class recently attended a gallery talk about medieval weaponry and armor. Through ceremonial armor exhibits, students learned about pageantry, knighthood, and chivalry.

The talk, held at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Deering Family Galleries of Medieval and Renaissance Art, Arms, and Armor, featured a museum educator presentation. Attendants immersed themselves in the gallery’s interactive technologies and themed exhibits.

Two swords from exhibit
Viking sword (950-1000)

Lauren McPherson, an English pedagogy graduate student, especially enjoyed a particular Viking sword display. The sword contained traces of foreign metals, causing researchers to speculate its exposure to ceremonial fire.

McPherson found it “powerful to see how history and very human ritualism is uncovered in the things left behind.”

After the talk, Dr. Bussell and students shared lunch and dialogue about Medieval craft.

Through gallery talks and other extracurricular opportunities, UIS English students consistently meld English studies and materiality, expanding learning beyond written texts.

Professor Jennifer Whalen new to UIS campus; named finalist for poetry fellowship

College Writing and Civic Engagement (ENG 102) class taught by Jennifer Whalen

UIS composition instructor Jennifer Whalen’s short story collection “Eveningful” was recently named a finalist for the 2017 Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowships.

Through imagery the collection navigates “the transition between day and night” and the speaker’s reflections, all while negotiating a relationship to the reader as the “destination of the writing.”

Whalen was nominated by Brenda Shaughnessy, author of Interior with Sudden Joy (1999), Human Dark with Sugar (2008), Our Andromeda (2012), and So Much Synth (2016). The Poetry Society of America offers the chapbook fellowship to support emerging authors and broaden poetry’s audience.

Professor Meagan Cass wins Katherine Anne Porter Prize for her fiction

UIS Creative Writing professor Meagan Cass has just won the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for her short story

Dr. Meagan Cass

collection “ActivAmerica,” which will be published in November of 2017 by University of North Texas Press.

Dr. Cass teaches a range of classes at UIS, from women’s literature and feminist theory to creative writing and publishing. Her short fiction has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Pinch, DIAGRAM, Joyland, and Puerto del Sol, among other places. She also won the UIS College of Liberal Arts and Sciences teaching award for 2015-16.

You can read more about Dr. Cass’s accomplishments and forthcoming book at UIS’s blog.

English and Modern Languages Faculty after a department meeting.