Chair’s Message

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July 1, 2019

Dear colleagues, staff, students, and friends,

Today marks the first day of a new academic year, and we are welcoming five new tenured and tenure-track professors to our department: Imani Owens and Maurice Wallace in African American and Diaspora Studies; Sean Silver in Eighteenth Century Studies; Kristin Grogan in Twentieth-Century Poetry and Poetics; and Leah Price in Victorian Literature and History of the Book. Welcome!

Our standing faculty continues its extraordinary activity: teaching both undergraduates and graduate students with great distinction, advising and placing recent PhD students in jobs across a spectrum of fields, publishing award-winning books, leading professional organizations, delivering keynote and plenary lectures at national and international conferences, receiving awards and fellowships, and bringing their creativity and intellectual resources to the governance of the department, the School of Arts and Sciences, and the university.  

We are committed to developing and supporting a new generation of academic leadership in the department, the university, and the profession.  We are also committed to recognizing and honoring important research, teaching, and service.  In FY19, we promoted three faculty members – all of them women – from Associate Professor to Professor and Professor to Distinguished Professor.  In FY20, we will be considering nine additional colleagues for promotion to Associate Professor, Professor, and Distinguished Professor.  The mentorship of young and mid-career scholars has been a signal feature of Rutgers English. 

The English Department is dedicated to supporting and expanding diversity at every level: students, staff, tenure-track faculty, and non-tenure-track faculty. We have an excellent and longstanding record of hiring, promoting, and retaining women faculty and faculty from underrepresented backgrounds.  We were the first Department of English in the nation to institute an undergraduate requirement in African-American literature.  For more than a decade, we have hosted the Rutgers English Diversity Institute (REDI), a week-long program designed to encourage current students and recent graduates from diverse cultural, economic, and ethnic backgrounds to consider graduate study in Literatures in English.

English is the largest unit in the School of Arts and Sciences, and we are growing. We are particularly committed to our undergraduates. Some take our courses to major or minor in English, but many of our students are based in disciplines well beyond English and even the Humanities. Our literature, media studies, creative writing, and literary theory courses draw students from across the university, who come to our department to learn how language works, to read and analyze complex literary works and to write poems, essays, plays, and novels of their own. Each semester thousands of undergraduates enroll in our writing courses, which are revered nationally for their intellectual rigor and commitment to evidence-based argumentation. Here they read challenging essays focused on crucial topics of the day, and they learn to write, to argue, and to weigh ideas in ways that are fundamental to both their lives and the careers they hope to pursue.

Our PhD program ranks among the top 15 in the U.S. We are very proud to continue a long tradition of teaching and mentoring exceptional students from across the nation and the world.  In the coming years we are focused on expanding of our course offerings to include writing for public audiences and helping our graduates prepare for a range of humanities careers. In addition, we are launching campaigns to expand resources for international travel and language study. We believe that learning new languages, engaging with scholars beyond North America, and tapping into new archives are essential to the intellectual vibrancy and collaborative internationalism of the twenty-first-century university.


Our teaching by the numbers:

  • English has roughly 450 majors and 373 minors. We are the largest humanities major at Rutgers.
  • Our honors program is likewise thriving: in 2019, nine of our honors students won Henry Rutgers Scholar Awards – the largest number from any one department.
  • With the advent of Writers House in 2007, English has also seen great success in meeting the huge undergraduate demand for creative writing at Rutgers, a growth field in every major U.S. university. We now serve approximately 285 Creative Writing minors (up from 221 in FY18). The Creative Writing curriculum also includes a suite of innovative digital composition courses, the most popular of which is a course on Multimedia Composition and Digital Storytelling.
  • We teach 17,000 students annually in our Writing Program. In 2019, we are launching a new Rutgers English Language Institute, which will serve our expanding international student population as well as our very large resident multilingual population. In the past few years, the Writing Program has successfully introduced and built a Graduate Writing Program (GWP), which has grown 30 percent in the past year and is one of the first of its kind nationally.
  • Our Ph.D. program admits approximately 12 students each year and enrolled 79 students total in FY19. Last year, our outstanding students won numerous university-wide and national awards for their research, including 2 ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships, 1 Ford Foundation Fellowship, 2 SAS Mellon Completion Fellowships, and 1 Mellon Center for European Studies Fellowship.   

In the aftermath of the 2016 election, the Department re-affirmed its commitment to diversity and inclusion, to the protection of undocumented immigrants in our community, and to nourishing the intimidation-free spaces that are the condition of education and democracy. In August 2017, we were horrified to witness violence and bigotry in Charlottesville, some of which took place on the University of Virginia campus.  Below, I am including links to the Department’s 2016 statement supporting sanctuary and to the University’s statement against bigotry in Charlottesville.  

As a community of students, faculty, and staff, we believe that the study of language and literature prepares us to understand the history of the present and to participate in the evidence-based discussion of our collective future. Together, we are committed to nourishing those projects in the years to come.

Rebecca L. Walkowitz
Distinguished Professor and Chair
Department of English
Rutgers University

English Department Resolution Supporting Sanctuary, December 2016

Statement from President and Chancellors after Charlottesville