Professor Aimee Taylor and her Classes Explore Ball State’s History

This semester, #bsuenglish Professor Aimee Taylor developed and organized an alternative final project for her ENG 104 class that focuses on archival research of Ball State’s history. With it, she hopes to immerse her students in scholarly research and unravel ageless inspiration. She will also be attending a conference this May where she plans to shed light on this exemplary work she is witnessing from her first-year students.

Ball State University will soon be preview-full-keepin_it_100.jpgcelebrating its 100th anniversary, but one English class is already getting a head start. They are looking into the archives from 1917, the year the university’s land was purchased, to now. The professor behind this project is Aimee Taylor, who the English Department hired this past fall. She has experience with archival research at her alma mater, Bowling Green State University, and decided to apply this technique to her ENG 104: Composing Research course. For the course’s final project, students must compile research in their selected time period and connect their findings to the central question: “How has Ball State changed?”

Many of her students were intrigued by this twist on a typical research assignment. Out of her four sections, she was met with some adversity that led to necessary accommodation for her students’ passions. While she has provided an alternative assignment in those cases, she is enthused by the fifty or so students who did choose to move forward with the history project. Professor Taylor broke up each of her four sections into one of the 25 year spans since 1917, and has already watched her students flourish within these time periods.

Professor Taylor allowed her students to first explore the Digital Media Repository, or the digitized archives, before she required them to dive into more complex research. The archives include texts, catalogs, daily news, student publications, and donated photographs and videos. Yet a lot of her students aren’t looking at institutional content, such as how Ball State spent money or how populations changed; they are looking at how Ball State has changed in ways that they can relate to. Students have been able to relate many of their finds to their majors, extracurricular activities, and personal backgrounds.

In one of the research project’s preliminary assignments, one of her students made a connection within her position at Ball State’s student-run radio station, WCRD. This student looked into the radio station’s archives and was able to use that information to advance her involvement in the project. She was able to unite her passion for the radio station and the class project and gain insight into an area for which she has a tremendous passion.

These are the experiences that Professor Taylor has sought to initiate. She motivates her students to experiment with different types of content collection while immersing them in new environments because she values these skills. Projects like these are what revise attitudes toward scholarly research and rejuvenate students to learn. It is through archival research she has certainly found a unique way to connect students to their university, history, and each other.

Hayat Bedaiwi Discusses Great Grad School Opportunities

Hayat Bedaiwi received her BA and MA in English Literature from King Saud University in 2007 and 2012, respectively. She is currently a third year PhD #bsuenglish student who aspires to specialize in Ethnic American Literature with a major focus on Arab American Literature. Here’s more info about our graduate programs. 

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When I first started my graduate studies at Ball State University, I took great courses that helped me become the scholar I am today. There are two experiences that come to my mind when I think of the courses that I have taken so far in graduate school. I turned papers I had written for two courses into conference papers. One paper was for a 657-postcolonial studies class, where I was blessed with the help and support of a great professor, Dr. Molly Ferguson. In that course, we read different postcolonial texts in the light of trauma theory. I was anxious when the course first started, but as we read and had different discussions every week, I knew what I wanted to write about for the seminar paper in that class. I wrote about Women at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi concerning the ideas of silence and bearing witness to the many traumas that filled the main character’s life.

Coincidentally, Practical Criticism Midwest was announced to take place in February that year, and I decided to submit my seminar paper for this course. I polished it to become a conference paper by revising it with Dr. Ferguson and making some visits to the Writing Center. My paper was one of the first papers to get accepted, and I had the opportunity of presenting this paper and getting feedback from different academic voices attending the conference.

I’m also presenting another paper at PCM 2017 this year which is a seminar paper for an Ethnic American Literature class entitled “Understanding the ‘Other’ in Naomi Shihab Nye’s You & Yours.” This course has helped me become more confident in my own academic voice. Dr. Emily Rutter’s approach to teaching this class was a very fascinating one. We were introduced to theories, texts and cultural material that helped us understand the texts we were reading for the class. As a class, we couldn’t stop talking about all the texts that we were reading, and all the new things we discovered everyday led us to write some interesting strong papers, which we shared together at the end of the semester. I was very hesitant to write about poetry, but Dr. Rutter helped me improve my writing about poetry and become a more confident scholar in Ethnic Studies.

My other paper was the fruitful product of my ENG 693 “Writing in the Profession” course, where I learned different ways of maintaining and creating my professional identity by revising my CV and exploring different ways of writing cover letters. Dr. Deborah Mix offered many great opportunities and great venues for us to learn the different ways of writing in our profession. We learned how to look for conferences and participate in them, how to find the journal that is of interest, how to become successful in submitting and publishing an article in that journal, and how to apply for a grant, from writing the budget narrative to crafting a proposal in a very professional way that would make us succeed in the application process.

I am the recipient of the 2016 Francis Mayhew Rippy Scholarship. I used the knowledge I learned in class about grant writing and took the opportunity to apply to this grant that was offered by the English Department. I also applied to attend a conference in New York as part of a panel with another colleague, and we both got accepted. Dr. Mix supported us and pushed us to do our best in order to become successful in all our assignments in that course, and we would have never gotten anywhere without her guidance and belief in our success.

My experience in graduate school has been a rewarding one, and as I am currently preparing for my comprehensive exams, I am very confident in my abilities, as my writing and thinking have evolved immensely over the past two and a half years because of the full support and unlimited guidance I get from the phenomenal faculty members at the English department, my colleagues, and my family.

John Maust: The Importance of Encouraging Writers

John Maust is president of Media Associates International (MAI), a publishing training agency based near Chicago, Illinois. John directs MAI’s global training programs to strengthen Christian publishing worldwide and to foster the development and publication of gifted local writers. John became president of MAI in 1998 after more than 20 years of experience as an editor, author and journalist. He graduated from Ball State University in 1975 with a B.A. in Literature, followed by an M.A. in Communications from Wheaton (IL) College Graduate School in 1978.

You have had such a varied career in publishing, including working for a newspaper and a magazine, as well as publishing three books of your own. In what ways did your English literature degree help to prepare you for these various endeavors?
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Within weeks of graduating from Ball State, I got a job as a 20-year-old editor of a small-town weekly newspaper in nearby Dunkirk, Indiana. Editorially, it was a one-person operation. So, for the first time in my life I had nightmares: would I find enough to fill the newspaper?

Fortunately, we never published any blank pages, and the work got done through long hours, hard work, a finely tooled typewriter, and more than a few prayers. I look at that experience as a time of real growth both as a person and as a communicator. They say you learn to write by writing, and that was surely the case at this newspaper.

Next came graduate school, followed by work as a magazine news editor, and then as a roving reporter and writer trainer based in Lima, Peru. There, this English major learned enough Spanish to meet and marry my beautiful wife, Elsa, of 32 years.

For the last 20 years, I’ve been helping to equip and encourage Christian publishers and writers in the Majority World as president of Media Associates International.

My English degree helped prepare me for all this simply through the act of reading—reading widely from the best authors and doing so critically. Almost unconsciously, one
begins to absorb and understand the difference between good and not-so-good writing and literature—skills needed by any editor.

Similarly, I began to learn there’s a wide chasm between the almost right word and the right word—as Mark Twain quipped, “it’s the difference between the lightning bug and lightning.” It’s hard work,  crafting words to say exactly what you mean.

Finally, I learned about the skill required for boiling down an immense amount of information and ideas into a concise piece held together by a unifying theme that could be expressed in one sentence. Readers want us to write clearly and concisely.

You are now the President of MAI, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping authors around the world to write and publish Christian literature for their local audiences and communities. Why did you move into the world of non-profit administration, and how do your writing and communication skills come into play in your current job? 

John Maust.JPGI didn’t go looking for work in non-profit administration. It came as a surprise. When
the founding president of Media Associates International began making plans to retire, he invited me to succeed him. And here I am after 19 years. It’s encouraging to look back at the bits and pieces of my life—including the years at Ball State—and to see how God put them together into what I’m doing now.

Today, instead of books and articles, I’m writing more grant proposals, Board reports and emails. Not so exciting perhaps. But I face the same need to write clearly and concisely, and maybe even more creativity is required to keep these reports from being deadly boring.

In my work, I have the privilege of interacting with gifted men and women who are creating excellent “homegrown” content for readers in places like South Sudan, Laos, Peru, Bulgaria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Helping these friends write and publish stories that would not otherwise have been told is a bit like uncovering buried treasure.

By the way, I vividly remember my Ball State course on “The Modern Continental Novel” because it exposed me for the first time to the (translated) work of international authors and the world of words outside American and British borders. 

As someone who has worked in writing and publishing for nearly 40 years, what advice would you have for current English majors who are worried about their future employment prospects? What can English majors do now to prepare for future success?

To be effective in the workplace, you need to be an effective communicator—both spoken and written. An English major is better equipped than most in this regard.

Employers in business, mass media, education, social services and other fields will value your English-major skills to think critically and creatively and to express yourself clearly.

Through reading of fiction and nonfiction, you are also developing a greater sense of empathy for others, plus a broader worldview and a sense of how ideas shape culture and history. In this way, I think that being an English major makes you a better person by giving you valuable tools both for work and for life.

If you are thinking about work in publishing or writing, there is no better major than English Literature. Both now and in the future, keep on reading, and keep on writing. It’s a corny saying but true: “To write good readin’, you need to read good writin’.”

An awful lot of people in our world live without hope. Your published and spoken words, hammered into shape with faith and hard work, can shine a ray of hope and leave a legacy for future generations.

Prof. Scalzo Publishes Book (And other March Good News)!

We’ve got a lot of good news this month, so we’re dividing it into faculty and student/alum accomplishments. Check out all the amazing things your friends and colleagues have done!

Faculty Good News

Prof. Emily Scalzo’s new book The Politics of Division was published on Mar. 27!

The Indiana Writing Project was awarded a $15,000 grant titled “2017-2018 SEED Invitational Leadership Institute to Invest in Developing New Teacher Leaders.” The money from this grant will be used to support summer programming for teachers.

The Indiana Writing Project was also thrilled to send two local teachers to Washington D.C. in March for the National Writing Project’s Spring Meeting. In their time in D.C., teachers Jeri Tarvin and Katrina Gibson met with legislators to increase awareness about the work of NWP/IWP. They shared student writing and examples of professional development happening at our site.

Prof. Carolyn MacKay was awarded an NSF/NEH Documenting Endangered Languages Fellowship for her project:  A Grammar of Pisaflores Tepehua, an endangered language of Mexico.  It is a one year fellowship.

Prof. Susanna Benko and her colleagues Emily Hodge and Serena Salloum have had their work featured in Ed Week on the blog, “Curriculum Matters.”  The blog post highlights major findings from their study that was published in AERA Open.

Prof. Mark Neely has poems out or forthcoming in spring issues of FIELD, Passages North, Birmingham Poetry Review, Southern Indiana Review, and Timber: a Journal of New Writing.

Prof. Mary Lou Vercellotti published “The Development of Complexity, Accuracy, and Fluency in Second Language Performance: A Longitudinal Study” in the most recent issue of Applied Linguistics (the flagship journal of her field). It is listed in the top 5 most read articles of the journal. (Also, she will be dancing later this month in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Dance for Kid’s Sake event, so come out and support her!)

Prof. Emily Rutter’s article “‘Straighten Up and Fly Right’: A Contrafactual Reading of Percival Everett’s Suder and Bernard Malamud’s The Natural” was published in the recent issue of Aethlon, the journal of the Sports Literature Association. Her monograph Invisible Ball of Dreams: Literary Representations of Baseball behind the Color Line is also now under contract with University Press of Mississippi.

Prof. Frank Felsenstein spoke at the annual day conference of the Harry Friedman Society at the Jewish Museum, New York, where the title of his talk was “From Shylock to Fagin: Jewish Caricatures in English Prints.” He also lectured on “What Middletown Read: Rediscovering Late Nineteenth-Century American Reading Habits” at Ball State University.

Prof. Cathy Day was just featured on the CitizenLit podcast, which is produced by Aubrie Cox, who got her MA with #bsuenglish in 2013.

Prof. Jennifer Grouling was awarded as a finalist for the Outstanding Graduate Faculty Mentor Award.

Prof. Megumi Hamada’s paper “L2 Word Recognition: Influence of L1 Orthography on Multi-syllabic Word Recognition,” was accepted to the Journal of Psycholinguistics Research.

Prof. Rani Deighe Crowe’s short film script Heather Has Four Moms is an Official Selection for the Austin Comedy Short Film Festival Spring 2017. She is also directing the short film Welfare Check by screenwriting faculty Kathryn Gardiner this April. The film will star Muncie native and Ball State alumna Cynda Williams and Golden Glove Champion William Lee. The cast includes additional members of the Muncie community, and the crew includes many Ball State TCOM students.

Students and Alumni Good News

Daniel Brount (2016 graduate) was just featured on the Dear English Major blog.

Student Amanda Byk is the new Content Manager at the Facing Project.

#bsuenglish grad Rachel Hartley-Smith published her essay “Dumb Blonde” in feminist journal So to Speak.

Rachael Heffner (2014 graduate) was recently featured in the Daily Mail. Currently she’s working at a marketing firm in Indianapolis, Dominion Dealer Solutions, as their Social Media and Reputation Specialist.

#bsuenglish grad Abby Higgs recently published the final installment of her series “My Life with Annie Lennox” on The Rumpus.

Brittany Means has been accepted in the Nonfiction program at the University of Iowa.

Elyse Lowery had three poems (“Blood and Diamonds,” “Crosshatch,” and “Five Cigars”) published in the 3288 Review this month.

#bsuenglish grad Robert Young had his piece “11 Useless Kitchen Appliances: Crock Pots” published in Midwestern Gothic.

Current #bsuenglish students Kathryn Hampshire and Nikole Darnell, as well as recent graduate Lauren Birkey, all received Academic Honors in Writing.

Hannah Partridge was offered a summer internship in acquisitions from Wiley Publishing.

15 English graduate students were recognized at a graduate student recognition ceremony. (Ceremony attendees pictured from left to right: Nuha Alsalem, Hayat Bedaiwi, Andrew Wurdeman, Matthias Raess, Mary Carter.)