Texas Tech University

Department Spotlight

Posted April 16, 2019

TTU Student Spotlight: Samantha Smith

 Samantha Smith

Samantha Smith was recently accepted into the English Department's MA program at Texas Tech University. She tells her story of success and how TTU's English Department has guided her to where she is today.

When arriving at Texas Tech as an undergraduate, Samantha recalls enjoying English but not knowing what she wanted to do for a career. She chose to major in English and minor in Technical Communication. She enjoyed her English classes – especially Dr. Alison Rukavina's nineteenth century literature courses. In addition, she loved Dr. Rachel Wolford's grant and proposal writing course, which has helped her enroll into the English Department's MATC program and submit a proposal to the Lubbock Animal Shelter. She credits Dr. Wolford and this class as the reason for her wanting to pursue a career in technical writing.

Regarding the department, Samantha remarks:

"This department has no doubt been the reason for my success as a young adult. The English Department faculty and staff have got to be the most helpful, genuine group of people on campus, and I'm not saying that because I'm biased. Every single professor I had from the first semester to the last had the sole intention of ensuring I would succeed in life and pursue my passions; which happened and is still happening... I would be lying if I said the English Department isn't a reason why I have a good, full-time paying job now. For that, I am incredibly thankful."

Do you want to take an English course at Texas Tech? Check out our current course offerings here: Current Course Descriptions

Stay tuned for descriptions of our upcoming courses for Fall 2019!

Posted April 8, 2019

Texas Tech English Wins $25,000 Departmental Teaching Excellence Award

Elissa Zellinger accepts Teaching Award

The TTU English department is thrilled to announce that we recently received Texas Tech's prestigious Teaching Academy Departmental Excellence in Teaching Award. According to the teaching academy, the recipient of this award must have "made unique and significant contributions to the teaching mission of the University." This award comes with a monetary prize of $25,000 that will be used for enhancement of teaching in the English program.

Dr. Elissa Zellinger, Assistant Professor of English, collected materials for the award committee. Dr. Zellinger says of the teaching culture of the English department: "I think what makes us stand out is our dedication and enjoyment of teaching. In all the material I collected, what really resonated is that every single member of the TTU English community takes teaching very seriously and finds some kind of joy, pleasure, or spirit in it."

Dr. Zellinger also spoke of the implications this award has for the TTU English community. When asked what this award means for the students, parents, and supporters of TTU English, Dr. Zellinger remarked: "It means that we are a dynamic, supportive community of teachers who are dedicated to our students. It affirms, frankly, what we already knew: that our cutting-edge efforts to create inventive, inviting classroom environments are a success."

Celebrate with our award winning teachers by attending the honors ceremony in the Teaching, Learning, and Professional Development Center (TLPDC) room 151 on May, 9th at 3pm.

Posted April 1, 2019

Jess Smith's play to be perfomed by TTU School of Dance

Photo of Jess Smith

PhD Candidate Jessica Smith's play, Cub, was recently selected for performance by TTU School of Theater and Dance's “Raider Red's One-Act Play Spectacular/Raider Red's Awesome Dance Spectacular 2019” (RROAPS/RRADS).

Smith, a PhD candidate in Creative Writing, wrote scripts in high school and was excited to bring this skillset to the TTU community. English faculty member Dr. Jill Patterson encouraged Smith to submit when the call for submissions was released. Smith says: “[Dr. Patterson] pointed out that English students had entered the RROAPS contest in the past, and she knew I wrote a lot of dialogue into my poetry. Since the play was accepted, I feel like the English department has been really excited for the crossover, and I hope other students will send in their scripts next year! I've learned so much from watching the artists in the School of Theater and Dance, and I've definitely got the playwriting itch now.”

According to the description on the RROAPS website, Smith's play “traces the rapid escalation and demise of a romantic relationship, exploring the ways in which power dynamics are established early and calcify quickly. The play charts how a person can slowly subjugate him or herself to an abusive partner, and the long shadow that trauma can cast on a life.”

Smith notes the writing process was fun, but daunting: “It was fun insofar as I got to practice a new craft, but it was daunting because the subject matter is quite painful. I wanted to be sure, when writing about an abusive relationship, to resist tropes or gestures that might reinforce myths about intimate partner violence.”

Performances of Cub begin tonight, April 1st, at the Creative Movement Studio and continue through the end of the week.

Tickets for the performance are $3.50 and can be bought online at this link: https://ttutheatreanddance.tix.com/schedule.aspx?orgnum=5557.

To read about the other plays selected for performance at this year's RROAPS/RRADS, visit this website: https://www.depts.ttu.edu/theatreanddance/news/posts/2018/11/rroapsrrads2019.php.

Posted March 19, 2019

Faculty Feature: Dr. Beau Pihlaja

Photo of Dr. Beau Pihlaja

Dr. Beau Pihlaja is an Assistant Professor of Technical Communication in the Department of English. Since starting his teaching career at TTU in 2017, Dr. Pihlaja has enjoyed teaching Professional Report Writing, as well as continuing his research and publication endeavors in technical and professional communication in intercultural contexts. Dr. Pihlaja has also taught a pilot course entitled "Texts and Technologies that Connect the World" which he will be teaching again in Fall 2019.

Dr. Pihlaja says that he thoroughly enjoys his job in the English department: "As a Technical Communication professor, I have enjoyed studying language and realizing how the world is mediated to us through words." Dr. Pihlaja says that on top of assigning texts, he enjoys challenging his students with activities that the students care about. Dr. Pihlaja shared one of his main goals as an English professor: "[I aim to] figure out where the student is at and help them go to wherever they need to go next in order to be successful."

Dr. Pihlaja's research interests include technical and professional communication in intercultural contexts. Having the opportunity to live overseas in India peaked his interest in how people communicate interculturally. While working towards his PhD, he mostly studied intercultural communication using digital tools. He was able to study how companies use technologies such as "WhatsApp" between Mexico and the United States.

Posted February 28, 2019

English Department Minor Fair!

English Minor Fair flier

Interested in an English degree? Already have a major you love? No problem! Consider adding a minor in ENGLISH or one of the other 7 minors housed in the English department.

We're hosting an English Department Minor Fair on Tuesday, March 5th from 11am to 1pm in the English Department Atrium. We'll have free pizza, you can enter to win raffle prizes, and then meet and get information about any or all of our great minors.

You can truly tailor your ENGL classes in the minor to fit your interests and future career path. In addition to minors in English and Technical Communication, come find out more about minors like Film and Media Studies, Book History and Digital Humanities, Asian Studies, Linguistics, and Literature, Social Justice, and Environment.

If you declare any of these ENGL minors now, you can earn a $200 scholarship upon completion.

Posted February 26, 2019

TTU Student Spotlight: Marisa Carrión

Marisa Carrion

English classes are preparing students in all areas of study for their future careers.

Marisa Carrión is a Texas Tech Senior and a double major in Global Studies and Spanish. Marisa is the president of student organization Tech Model United Nations and has studied abroad at Texas Tech's Center in Seville, Spain during the spring of 2017. Marisa also currently serves as a Program Assistant for Amaanah Refugee Services.

In her undergraduate career, Marisa has taken three classes within the Department of English: Introduction to Poetry, Introduction to Creative Writing, and Introduction to Film Studies. Her favorite of these classes is Introduction to Creative Writing, because it allowed her to express herself in the form of writing. The way the class was arranged encouraged each student to give constructive criticism on other students' stories, which taught her how to critique work in a healthy manner.

Marisa believes that the English courses she has taken have prepared her for her future career because she has learned how to communicate effectively: "I will be able to communicate with people, and if I disagree with their policy views, I can accurately express what I dislike and how I think they could change them to include what I deem is needed." The English Department is proud to offer classes that teach students valuable skills -- no matter what degree they are seeking.

See more information on classes like the ones Marisa mentions in this article by checking out our current course offerings here: Current Course Descriptions

Posted February 18, 2019

TTU Student Spotlight: Blake Ferguson

 Blake Ferguson

You don't have to be an English major or minor to enjoy English classes at Texas Tech University.

Blake Ferguson is a Senior Biochemistry major from Canyon, Texas who is set to graduate this May. Blake has been accepted into UT Southwestern Medical School and intends to start after graduating with his Bachelor's degree from Texas Tech University. In May of 2018, Blake received awards for both 'Outstanding Performance in Analytical Chemistry' from the departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry and 'Leadership in Excellence, Knowledge and Performance' from Support Operations for Academic Retention.

In his undergraduate career, Blake has taken two classes within the Department of English. After taking Introduction to Technical Writing and Introduction to Fiction, Blake said that these classes will help him pursue a job in the medical field: "Connecting to people and listening to others' ideas from an objective stance is something you cannot receive in STEM courses." Blake said that his favorite part about these courses is that they gave him the ability to analyze different interpretations and meanings of themes and ideas. Blake expressed that he wished that he could have taken more English courses throughout his undergraduate career.

Do you want to take an English course at Texas Tech? Check out our current course offerings here: Current Course Descriptions

Stay tuned for descriptions of our upcoming courses for Fall 2019!


Posted February 14, 2019

Dr. Sara Spurgeon receives Fulbright Scholarship

Spurgeon photo

Dr. Sara Spurgeon recently was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for the 2019-2020 academic year to research and teach in Norway. She has studied and taught the literatures of various indigenous cultures, including those of the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Columbia, and Australia, and how contemporary indigenous art, graphic novels, films and literature contribute to the emerging field of Indigenous Futurism. She will be teaching undergraduate and graduate American literature courses at the University of Bergen and researching the Sámi, an indigenous people in Norway, who have revived current cultural and environmental activism. Like the Sámi, literature of other indigenous cultures, including those of the Americas, have frequently critiqued Euro-western ideas regarding nature and the sacred, gender roles and violence, and exploitation vs. sustainability. Dr. Spurgeon hopes to study these conversations and concepts during her time in Norway.

She remarks how the TTU English Department has helped her achieve this incredible opportunity:

“The Texas Tech Department of English has supported me as a scholar from the beginning of my work here in West Texas, offering space for me to explore new scholarly fields, to pursue admittedly eclectic and unusual avenues of study, and to provide a venue for students interested in those fields to join in by supporting the establishment of the Literature, Social Justice, and Environment (LSJE) graduate concentration and undergraduate minor.”

Dr. Spurgeon is looking forward to working in Norway and hopes to learn how other worldviews can shed light on climate change and guide us to better, sustainable living on earth.

Posted December 6, 2018

Creative Writing Reading Series: Cyrus Cassells

 Cyrus Cassells' Works

Last week, Texas Tech had the honor of hosting a poetry reading by Cyrus Cassells, a poet, playwright, and professor at Texas State University- San Marcos. Students and faculty gathered in the basement of the English building to hear a selection of readings from Cassells' work and some of his life experiences that have helped shape his writing.

Cassells paints a picture of what he saw or heard that inspired him to write each of the poems that he chose to read at this event. He introduces his first reading, The Ruins in Total Eclipse, with a story about watching video footage of an eclipse viewing that he missed. Listeners get a chance to hear some the poet's more recent work with a reading from his newest book The Gospel According to Wild Indigo. As with much of his work, this book is influenced by both history and his personal experiences. One of his newer poems Gladiator covers social and political issues occurring in Texas today. Cassells concluded the evening by reading The Give Away Traits, a story about his travels to Hiroshima.

After the conclusion of the event, Cassells spoke with students about his education, writing process, and future works. After speaking with the guest speaker, a senior English student stated that they “found it interesting that Mr. Cassells was able to use his own unique travels and cultural experiences to enhance his poetry. That, coupled with his brilliant use of word play, really brought us into his world tonight”.

Posted October 25, 2018

TTU Undergraduate Major and Minors Fair

 Two women share information at English booth

The 2018 Majors and Minors fair was held Thursday, October 18 in the SUB Ballroom. The fair gave freshmen and other students the chance to explore the different majors and minors from all around Texas Tech's campus. Faculty and staff including undergraduate interns from around the English Department chatted with students about the benefits of majoring or minoring in English and Technical Communication. Students were given information about the English department's study abroad opportunities, new courses, and were also given some goodies. At the event, faculty were able to help students who still needed to fulfill core credits, as the English Department helps fulfill core multicultural and Language, Philosophy, and Culture credits!

Many students stopped by the table looking for a minor. The English Department offers a $200 finishing bonus when you complete a minor in English or Technical Communication. Both of these are great additions to any degree and can make anyone stand out in the job market. The department also offers majors in English and Technical Communication. Both programs offer loads of classes onsite, online, and in hybrid format to fit any schedule.

Any questions regarding registration or adding a major or minor can be directed to English undergraduate advisor, Eleanor Mode, at (Eleanor.mode@ttu.edu).

Posted October 22, 2018

Sexism and Cinema features Dr. Allison Whitney

Alamo Drafthouse stage with Dr. Whitney

On Wednesday, October 7th, Texas Tech University put on a Sexism in Cinema film series featuring the 1979 classic, Alien, starring the infamous Sigourney Weaver. The event took place at Alamo Drafthouse and was open to not just current TTU students, but the general public as well. The purpose of the film series was to divulge into the sexism seen throughout the movie, while also focusing on how sexism is prominent in film culture.

The series began with a short introduction to the film, and concluded with an open discussion amongst professors Dr. Allison Whitney and Dr. Michael J. Serra and their audience. Dr. Allison Whitney, an Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies in the Department of English at TTU, has published extensively on dynamics of gender and race in film genres, including science fiction, horror, and melodrama. Dr. Michael J. Serra, an Associate Professor and Director of the Experimental Psychology Graduate Program in the Department of Psychological Sciences at TTU, frequently uses film clips to promote discussion in his courses, especially from films where memory is a key component of the plot.

Combined, both professors extended unique questions about sexism within the film while also answering questions given by audience members. The film was shown in the largest theater in Alamo Drafthouse, and even better, not a single seat was left open for the event.

Posted October 9, 2018

Dr. Julie Nelson Couch and Sarah Sprouse Present at LSJE Luncheon Series

Dr. Julie Nelson Couch Presents Work

A few times each semester, the TTU English Literature, Social Justice, and the Environment organization (LSJE) hosts luncheons where scholars are invited to present and discuss their current research. The LSJE luncheon always provides free lunch and rich, scholarly discussion. The luncheon series is open to all interested TTU students, staff, and faculty.

This past week, dozens of guests enjoyed pizza while TTU English professor Dr. Julie Nelson Couch and TTU English PhD candidate Sarah Sprouse presented their current work on medieval studies. Dr. Julie Nelson Couch says of her presentation: “In our project, Gaming the Medieval English Text: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Cotton Nero A.x. Manuscript, my collaborator, Kimberly Bell and I apply contemporary cultural game theory to a medieval manuscript. The unique visual layout of the late 14th-century poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, adds another interactive layer to the games that abound in the narrative."

PhD candidate Sarah Sprouse's current works stems from her dissertation: "In my dissertation project, ‘Fantasies of Wales: Some Paleographic Evidence for the Mediating Role of Gerald of Wales,' I examine the medieval and early modern afterlives of the 30 manuscripts containing the 12th-century Itinerarium Kambriae and Descriptio Kambriae by Gerald of Wales. The reader reception and interaction with these manuscripts demonstrates the ongoing instability of these texts despite their early appearance in print. My LSJE presentation will trace the movement of marginal annotations from a 13th-century manuscript to a 16th-century printing and beyond."

Join us at the last LSJE luncheon of the semester on Wednesday, November 7th, at 12:30pm in Room 201. For more information on an undergraduate minor in LSJE, visit the following departmental page: https://www.depts.ttu.edu/english/undergrad_info/lsje.php.

Posted October 3, 2018

TTU English Celebrates National Banned Books Week

Participants reading at Banned Books event


The Texas Tech English Department celebrated National Banned Books week (Sep. 23-29) by opening up the building's atrium for displays, readings, letterpress printing, coffee, and more. Launched in 1982, National Banned Books week seeks to bring attention to the value of open information.

Texas Tech celebrated the week by displaying a number of books that have been censored or banned at some point in their history, including J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels, J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, and more. On Wednesday of Banned Books week, the department hosted an open-mic reading where both students and faculty could pick a banned book to read out loud. The department also displayed an especially historical text at the reading: the 1644 first edition of John Milton's Areopagitica from The Remnant Trust currently located on TTU's campus.

The Texas Tech English Department constantly seeks ways for both faculty and students to participate in and contribute to the larger literacy community.

For more information on Banned Books week, visit their website at this link: https://bannedbooksweek.org/about/. To stay up to date on TTU English departmental events such as Banned Books week, follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Posted September 24, 2018

Dr. John Poch featured on KTTZ 24 Frames Series

Dr. John Poch has a featured poem titled "God in the Shape of Texas" in KTTZ's 24 Frames series. 24 Frames is a series that highlights Art, Culture, Film, and Music of Texas. This particular poem and video are part of a special series highlighting Literary Arts on the Southern Plains.

The poem is forthcoming in Dr. Poch's next book called TEXASES to be published in March 2019.

Posted September 5, 2018

TTU Creative Writing Program Reading Series Kicks Off Fall Readings

Readers at TTU Reading Series

Each semester, the TTU English Department's faculty and graduate students of Creative Writing curate and participate in the TTU Creative Writing Program Reading Series.

Contributor, partial curator, and TTU PhD student Jessica Smith discusses the impact of this ongoing reading series. “A reading is a chance for people to gather and discuss literature, which is really also a chance for us to talk about our ideas and our feelings,” says Smith. “I've always loved the experience of having a private moment of revelation in a public space. I also think it's exciting and surprising to hear a writer read their own work, even if you already have an intimate relationship with that person's work. No matter what, it brings you to the text from a new angle."

The upcoming fall series features a number of renowned authors, from in-house poets such as Smith (published in Prairie Schooner, Waxwing, 32 Poems, and The Rumpus, among others) to visiting novelist Charmayne Hafen (author of the award-winning Land of Twilight trilogy). The fall semester series will kick off on September 6th at 7:30p.m. in Room 001 of the English Building. The first reading will feature faculty member Dr. William Wenthe alongside Jessica Smith and fellow PhD student Robby Taylor.

For more information on readers and upcoming readings, see the TTU Creative Writing Program Reading Series webpage.

Posted August 28, 2018

Dr. Bruce Clarke Appointed as Baruch S. Blumberg Chair at Library of Congress


The Library of Congress recently announced that TTU English's own Dr. Bruce Clarke is appointed as the Baruch S. Blumberg chair in astrobiology. This prestigious position is a collaboration between the NASA Astrology Program and the Library of Congress. Dr. Clarke will spend ten months at the Kluge Center pursuing his current research in astrobiology.

Dr. Clarke remarks how the TTU English Department has helped him reach this remarkable point in his research: "The Department of English at TTU has long accommodated the movement of my academic research beyond its roots in canonical literature and into interdisciplinary explorations at the borders of literature and science. For instance, the department's program on Comparative Literature, Globalization, and Translation (CLGT) is sponsoring my graduate seminar this fall, housed under English 5343, Studies in Literary Criticism, on Astrobiology and the Anthropocene. During my career at TTU, I have enjoyed working with colleagues and students who helped me to open the doors toward such a course, which considers how recent science fiction reflects the current state of the planet in cosmological context. Additionally, a few years back TTU honored me with a Horn Professorship. This position has afforded me the resources to develop my scholarly work on the international stage and to cultivate the professional contacts needed for a successful application to be the Blumberg Astrobiology chair."

Dr. Clarke will work on his research project exploring the work of Lynn Margulis, an evolutionary thinker whose work is housed largely in the Library of Congress. The position also encourages the appointed scholar to reach out to public spheres about their work, and Dr. Clarke notes he might even be asked to brief members of Congress about matters of astrobiology.

In an article announcing the position, the Library of Congress highlight's their effort to "bring some of the world's greatest thinkers to the Library." Texas Tech English is proud to be represented by the great thinking of Dr. Bruce Clarke on an international level.

Learn more about the position from the Library of Congress's announcement. Graduate students interested in becoming the world's next greatest thinker can learn more about Dr. Clarke's aforementioned course English 5343: Studies in Literary Criticism, on Astrobiology and the Anthropocene on the department's Course Description page.

Posted August 23, 2018

English Graduate Students Start TTU Net Impact Chapter


After coming across the leadership-oriented network Net Impact in his research, English graduate student Darin Williams knew the aim of the Net Impact organization could serve emerging leaders at Texas Tech University. Net Impact is an international program dedicated to creating effective communication between students, staff, and faculty across all disciplines. Williams also appreciated Net Impact for its tangible tools for social and environmental involvement for young professionals. “As a student, teacher, and professional, it's difficult to find the time to plan, develop, and execute impactful activities,” says Williams. “Net Impact provides more ‘off the shelf' activities than any organization I've ever been involved with.”

Williams spoke with fellow graduate students Luke Morgan and Shayla Corprew, and the three young professionals took the necessary steps to create a chapter of Net Impact for the Texas Tech community. “[Darin and I] had conversations that helped us really understand the values that drive work in other fields,” says Morgan. “I wanted to help create a chapter at TTU that would extend the opportunity for these kind of conversations to a wider audience, at a greater scale.”

What does this conversation look like on campus? Williams, Corprew, and Morgan plan on hosting webinars, panel discussions, and workshops centered around interdisciplinary dialogue and environmental and social impact. “My work at TTU as a technical communication scholar is focused on implementing practical methods of effective communication. Net Impact complements this work well and will be a great asset to the university community,” says Corprew. Corprew and the other chapter leaders hope to extend the reach of this work to not only the community at Texas Tech, but to the broader West Texas community. “Our organization will provide space for scholars who are intentional about this kind of professional development and passionate about solving these kind of problems to lead the way on campus and in the community,” says the team.

The larger Net Impact organization provides a select amount of fellowships for those interested in organizing events for their local chapter. For those interested in joining or attending events of the local TTU Net Impact chapter, contact Darin Williams for more details.

Learn more about Net Impact on their website.

Posted August 20, 2018

Kerry Manzo wins prestigious ACLS fellowship

Kerry Manzo

Texas Tech Today article covering Kerry's Fellowship

Kerry Manzo, PhD student in English Literature, has received the prestigious Mellon/ACLS Dissertation   Completion Fellowship for their work on mid-20th century West African literature and the emergence of queer literature in West Africa in the late 20th and early 21st   centuries, specifically in Nigeria. The American Council of   Learned Societies supported by the Andrew W. Mellon   Foundation awards 30,000 dollars to support a year of   writing and research in completing their last year of   dissertation writing. Only 65 fellowships are awarded annually. 

Kerry says, “The application process was grueling. I could not have navigated it without the assistance of my advisor, Dr. Kanika Batra. This year was actually my second time applying for this fellowship. The first time I applied, I didn't realize that they generally only give this fellowship to sixth years. So, of course, when I didn't get it the first time out of the gate, I was really deflated. After having been so let down last year, to have received it this year was just about the most affirming thing that could have happened to me.”

Although the fellowship is very competitive Kerry has a few tips for students who are considering applying for this fellowship in the future. “The Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Fellowship is generally only given in the sixth year. So, if you know you want to apply for it (or another national award), get some practice in writing these kinds of applications early. In your second or third year, apply for a research fellowship such as the Harry Ransom Center Dissertation Research Fellowship. Let your committee members know you want to apply for the fellowship well in advance of the due date. Most of the applications are due in mid-Fall, so set a goal and timeline with your committee when you sit down for your annual meeting in April. Not only will you want to give them time to write their letters of support, you would benefit from being able to run your application materials by them several times ahead of the deadline.”

Kerry is excited about receiving this fellowship and hopes that it motivates other graduate students in the department to apply in the future.