Fundraising Priorities

Below is a copy of a document I’ve just sent along to our dean and Advancement Office. Each department chair has been asked to come up with a Wish List. This dream of financial salvation will apparently be kept in mind should an eager donor or a genie who grants wishes suddenly materialize. I thought that this blog’s readers might be interested in what we’ve put forward and why.

What have you used donor money for this year?

Donor money has been used to fund faculty research (especially travel to conferences; publishing books; and money for archival visits). We will also used these funds to send an undergraduate (Alex Frank) to his first scholarly conference. We have employed donor contributions to sponsor a series of events for undergraduates, events aimed at increasing their sense of intellectual community and allowing them to get to know faculty outside of the classroom. One such event was a “Futures of the Field” symposium in the fall, in which faculty conversed with English majors about what they felt was the most exciting research being done in literary and cultural studies, and what directions literary study was heading towards in the years ahead. About 35 English majors attended.

What would a single annual donation of $1,000 be used to fund?
With $1000 we would host a one day “In and of Washington” literary symposium for all CCAS undergraduates which would focus on DC as a literary city. We’d emphasize how Washington has been a historic location for the flowering of African American literature, and continues through the Folger to be a world class resource for the study of Renaissance England, especially Shakespeare. We’d also emphasize how this multicultural city is the perfect setting for the department’s engagement with literature within a global frame.

What needs do you have that could be met with amounts of:


This amount of money, especially if promised for a span of years, would allow us to continue our ambitious series of literary readings, the Jenny McKean Moore series and its avant garde counterpart, the Jenny 2. Both of these series — beloved of our undergraduates, our alumni, and the community more generally — are currently being run a shoestring budget. $5K per year would allow a healthier, more ambitious program.


This amount of money per year would enable us to continue our hugely successful GW-British Council Writer in Residence. Now in its inaugural year and off to a smashing start with Nadeem Aslam, we have funding for the program for only two more years. In the absence of a donor we will have to terminate this extraordinarily valuable program.


This amount of money would allow the English Department to renew its physical space, now in need of renovation. We are especially interested in refurbishing our lounge to make it a place where undergraduates and faculty can interact . Currently we have no space conducive to the kinds of informal conversation over which community is formed. We would also like to purchase new chairs and tables for our heavily used seminar room, and bring some artwork to our halls. All in all we would like to give the department a better sense of place.


This amount of money would enable a ten year run of a high profile, named lecture in literature. A scholar of wide interest and international fame would deliver to a general audience a lecture about literature and the arts. A reception and formal dinner would follow. Most wealthy American universities have such an annual event, eagerly anticipated by alumni. We suggest that this lecture have a Shakespeare theme, to emphasize our connection to the Folger, but we are happy to have a more general literary focus as well.


This amount of money in a lump sum would enable us to continue indefinitely our hugely successful GW-British Council Writer in Residence (see notation at $25K).


About this amount of money needs to be added to the Jenny McKean Moore endowment in order to ensure its longterm viability. Our “Writer in Washington” residency does not have an adequate salary attached to it, and we cannot pay the surrounding expenses (such as rent at Lenthall House) as well as we would like. Boosting this endowment would allow us to attract a much higher profile writer for a year at GW. The JMM has been successful in its current modest form, but the endowment is now showing strain; an influx of funding would allow us to create something nationally visible, something great.

What endowed faculty positions do you need?

We need an endowed chair in Jewish American Literature. The English Department has long had deep strengths in the study of ethnic and minority literatures. Our faculty our internationally known for their teaching and scholarship in African American, Asian American, Caribbean, Irish, South Asian, and other literary traditions. Given these strengths, we desire to expand and better integrate our teaching of Jewish literature in English. We have many undergraduates who wish to take courses in the area, but no faculty member solely devoted to Jewish American literature. We hope, through the generosity of a committed donor, to be able to hire a faculty member who will bring this vibrant tradition of writing permanently into our curriculum. Students at GW, English majors and non-majors alike, deserve to have the chance to experience the richness of this field.

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