Letter from an English Major

As many of this blog’s readers will have heard, beloved professor of English and longtime director of undergraduate advising Lee Salamon retired at the end of the school year. In recognition of her scholarly achievements and distinguished record of service, Professor Salamon was awarded emerita status at commencement. We hope to see her around the department frequently … and we hope that she is able to enjoy some leisure time and travel as well.

Professor Salamon was recently cleaning out her electronic files and came across this note. I haven’t been able to track down the author, but thought I would at least share it anonymously. I think the email captures well how many of our majors feel about the Department of English … at least, we aspire to have our majors find so welcoming a home here.

Professor Salamon,

A few weeks ago I met with you about declaring an English major and so far everything is going well with regards to my major. The school year is winding down and I feel the need to share my thoughts on the English Department with you.

As I said when we met, I came to GW intent on studying Political Science, graduating and pursuing law school. For three consecutive semesters I plugged through the classes for the Poli Sci major, always waiting for the class that would spark my interest in the subject. This semester I realized that it is likely that class will never come. I felt my experiences with the Professors in that department were, for the most part, negative. I always felt like I was being treated like a subordinate, and that my role as a student was to merely digest whatever I was being taught. It was disheartening to think that the first half of my college experience was spent this way.

My experience with the English Department has been what has kept me positive through this experience. Every professor in the department has treated me and all of my classmates as scholars, not as pupils, and I think there is a big difference in theses terms. Let me clarify: English professors at GW, from my experience, teach because they are passionate about what they do. They seem to appreciate it when a student shares the same passions, and as a result, every student is treated as the Professor seems to view himself/herself, as a scholar; a consummate student. There is nothing better for a student, than this type of relationship, as it encourages intelligent in-class conversation as well as independent and analytical thinking. This is a credit to you and your entire department.

Since my introduction to the English department I have widened the scope of post-graduate opportunities for myself and am now considering pursuing a masters degree in education as well as a law degree. I see
teaching in my somewhere in my future and I have the English Department to thank for that. My motivation to study and learn has grown tremendously, and I am approaching school with a new level of excitement I have never experienced before. I can only credit this to my experience in the English Department.

My apologies if this email was too long but I think that sometimes your department is overlooked in its value to this university. Thank you once again for helping my in the process of declaring myself an English Major and I look forward to taking class with you in the future. Best of luck in the Summer and in the Fall Semester.


[a sophomore English Major]

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