Holiday Wishes for 2010 and Beyond

The drab room you see to the left is our department lounge, named for the distinguished GW Professor Emeritus of English John Reesing, Jr. The lounge is small and cramped, a graveyard for the empty water jugs from our water cooler, and not all that inviting, despite the recent addition of a new microwave and our first-ever department coffee maker.

If I had a modest department wish for 2011, it would be a renovated lounge area. In my fantasy, we would knock down the wall that currently divides the lounge from our mailroom–which, being dedicated to paper, verges on obsolescence–and create a more spacious and inviting place for faculty, staff, and students to enjoy a coffee or a microwaved burrito together. A complete rehaul of our lounge likely wouldn’t run us more than $15K, and would pay dividends in lifted spirits and energized student community. We could even host a student competition to design the new lounge.

Why do I bemoan the state of our lounge now, when classes have ended and the final exam period draws to a close? Not because I lack Christmas cheer, but because I’m thinking of year-end giving. Maybe you’re a current student, an alumna/us, a parent (hi, Mom!), or simply a supporter of the department. In any case, as a reader of this blog, you know how creative and vibrant our English Department faculty and students are. You know how hard our office staff–Connie Kibler and Linda Terry–work. You know how many amazing events we hold in any give year–most of them open to the public. You know the dedication of our professors.

Think about it. In 2010:

  • GW English hosted the Jenny McKean Moore reading series, featuring a range of notable creative writers, and welcomed two Writers in Residence: poet Ed Skoog and non-fiction writer Tilar Mazzeo, who celebrates the recent publication of The Secret of Chanel No. 5.
  • We feted the long and distinguished career of Emerita Prof. Judith Plotz with our hugely successful Plotzfest, which brought scores of friends and students out to hear talks by six eminent scholars.
  • Through the generosity of our Wang Endowment, we welcomed Prof. Sara Ahmed of the University of London to talk to students and give a lecture from her recent book on willfulness.
  • We offered popular courses in medieval literature, Shakespeare, U.S. Latino/a literature, African American literature, the American novel and poetry, as well as special topics courses on writers from William Faulkner and Toni Morrison to Don DiLillo.
  • We emailed our first-ever department newsletter to almost 2,000 English alumni.
  • We oversaw the renovation and upgrade of our departmental website.
  • We saw the publication of a variety of faculty books and scholarly articles, from Tom Mallon’s Yours Ever: People and Their Letters to Ann Romines’s cookbook, At Willa Cather’s Tables to Jonathan Gil Harris’s Shakespeare and Literary Theory.
  • We offered the unique GWU course “Jewish Literature Live,” which brought writers into the classroom to talk with students. (On April 7, 2011, JLL will host E.L. Doctorow. Mark your calendars!)

So, please consider GW English when you are making year-end gifts. Your donation will support all we currently do, as well as give us the opportunity to do more in key areas such as graduate student funding and funding for endowed professorships. Or even, more modestly, to update our rather ugly, but enormously important, department lounge.

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