Posted October 1, 2020
2020 Texas Poet Laureate Speaks with English Students During Seminar
Emmy Pérez, the Texas Poet Laureate for 2020, spoke at Dr. Curtis Bauer's undergraduate
translation seminar via Zoom this month. The seminar included a conversation about
her works, With the River on Our Face and Solstice, and translanguaging. Originally from California, Emmy Pérez moved to and has lived on the Texas Borderlands for the past 20 years, to immerse
herself in the culture of the area.
During the seminar, Pérez connected with the audience and discussed her inspirations
and quotes from her work, With the River on Our Face. Perez was inspired by the author Gloria Anzaldúa and her work, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza.
While much of Pérez's writing draws meaning from the borderlands and its culture,
her poems are also open to interpretation by the audience. While Pérez has her own
meaning and definitions of her poems, she is equally interested in what others think
of the poem and what they believe it means. Through other's interpretations of her
work, Pérez grows as a poet.
“I'm not a good poet if I am comfortable in life,” Pérez said.
Pérez is also a recipient of many other awards including fellowships from the National
Endowment for the Arts, CantoMundo, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the
Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. In 2019, she received the inaugural Modesta
Avila Award from LibroMobile in her hometown of Santa Ana, California.
If you missed the seminar, you still have time to make it to a Q&A with Pérez on October
1st at 7:30. Access the event here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPkEsEe-tsA&feature=youtu.be
Posted April 10, 2020
Dr. Erica Baumble Discusses Zoom Assist: Hidden Heroes Spotlight
Hello, English Students. I don't need to tell you these are turbulent times. With
all physical gatherings being cancelled at Texas Tech, our weekly spotlights might
be a bit different. However, we will still strive to show you amazing ways students
and faculty are helping make this situation easier for themselves and others as well
as ways they continue to engage with each other from a distance. We hope you are staying
safe and healthy.
This week we'll be taking a look at Zoom Assist. Zoom Assist was a several week long
service where Michael Brooks, Erica Baumle, Kimberly Phillips, Sara Ryan, and Shannon
Samson. With everything transitioning to online meetings a need for on-demand technical
support arose, especially for students and instructors that had little to no experience
with Zoom. I was able to talk with Erica Baumle who told me about the service, what
it offered, and typical problems students and instructors encountered:
“My students are reporting back about their experiences. It's great stuff – real user
stories that a Tech Comm researcher like myself really craves! So: teachers not having
practiced; not seeming to understand how to change what was into what is; not having
a back-up plan for connecting like emails or another technology; teachers not knowing
how all the bells and whistles work like raising hands for attention in Zoom; simple
fixes like warning students to mute mics and cameras."
Zoom Assist helped dozens of students and instructors struggling with the online transition.
Hopefully now everyone is settling into a routine allowing their classes to run smoothly,
but if not Erica offers some advice: “Talk with someone about how this all works,
the real nuts and bolts. Then practice!”
Beyond this though, there are many online resources to help us all learn Zoom. There
are also your fellow students and faculty. There is always someone around you can
ask for help if needed, as Erica expresses: “What all of us, every single one of us,
teachers, faculty, staff are doing is hard; it is complex and involves a lot of moving
parts. ASK FOR HELP!” Above all else, this is something that affects everyone. Everyone
will have a different level of digital literacy, don't be afraid to ask for help,
and don't be afraid to offer help if you see someone struggling. Stay safe, stay healthy,
stay optimistic, and good luck Red Raiders!
Posted March 13, 2020
Dr. Tham and Dr. Grace on Reigniting the UX Lab: Department Spotlight
This week's spotlight features Jason Tham and Rob Grace in the UX Lab. In Dr. Tham's
words: “The UX Lab is a collaborative research, design, and learning space for students,
faculty, and those who are interested in UX applications. The UX Lab has undergone
a few iterations following the leadership of its previous directors. Today, we are
setting up the UX Lab as a ‘collaboratory' to cultivate a student-focused learning
and experimentation environment where everyone is welcomed to participate.”
The UX Lab, or the User Experience Lab, is place designed for what's called usability
testing; a key component of Technical Communication. As well as other user experience
related experiments. User experience research generally focuses on finding ways to
streamline a user's interaction with a document or website so that the user avoids
frustration or confusion. If you've ever been frustrated by a website's poor or difficult
design, this is what usability testing hopes to fix. As Dr. Tham describes: “Usability
testing allows designers to observe people interacting with a product to assess its
functionality and ease of use. Usability testing is one part of user-experience design,
which also includes user research to understand people's activities and needs before
building a prototype for testing.”
As Dr. Tham says, user experience research usually involves directly observing a user
to identify where, if any, confusion or disruption lies in the design of a given document
or website. Or, more generally, to understand how users interpret a given design to
stockpile knowledge on how humans engage with design.
The UX Lab has many potential purposes, but Dr. Tham and Dr. Grace both a very specific
vision for it: “We took over the directorship of the UX Lab in 2020 and have been
working to rebrand it for teaching and learning today. While we both have taught and
conducted research projects using the facility, we have not produced any public-facing
projects we could share at this time. Stay tuned!”
Posted March 6, 2020
Dr. Michael Faris Tackles Fake News: Course Spotlight
This week's spotlight is featuring Associate Professor Michael Faris and his class
ENGL 4365 Crises in Digital Democracy: Fake News, Conspiracy Theories, Demagoguery,
and Hate Speech Online. The class focuses on the seemingly recent social phenomenon
of falsehoods being passed around as fact, otherwise known as fake news. As well as
other obfuscations of truth such as conspiracy theories and hate speech. The class
seeks to examine how these forces interact with society and the consequences thereof.
However, the class is billed as a technical communication class and that may prompt
some to ask: how is fake news related to technical communication? Dr. Faris answers:
“I think technical communicators have a role to play in tackling the problem of fake
news. For example, many technical communicators work on the infrastructure of websites
and apps. They can play a role in helping to shape public discourse through how they
contribute to how social media sites develop policies, structure information, and
perhaps even flag or mark fake news for users...Technical communicators can also help
in the construction of and user testing of algorithms that detect fake news, or in
the design of educational/informational material for citizens about fake news. These
are just a few possibilities. What's important is that we need technical communicators
who also see their job as contributing to a better society, and one way to do that
is to design information and user experiences to help make a better society possible.”
This is the first semester the class has been offered and turn out is good. With two
dozen or so online and onsite students taking the hybrid course every Tuesday. Students
who, in Dr. Faris' words, are his favorite part of teaching the class: “The students
are my favorite part, for sure. They're curious, they ask interesting questions, and
they bring a wealth of experience and examples to class. They're also willing to explore
the complexity of these issues, which makes for very rewarding conversations about
the problems and potential solutions to fake news.”
Posted February 28, 2020
Jay Hitt Studies in Spain: Student Spotlight
This week's spotlight will focus on undergraduate English student Jay Hitt who is
currently studying abroad in Seville, Spain. He is taking part in a Spanish language
study abroad program in Seville offered by Texas Tech every semester. A fact that
might not be well known is that Texas Tech has their very own campus in Seville. Here,
with the help of Texas Tech educators and classmates, students are able to learn the
Spanish language while fully immersed in a Spanish speaking environment.Jay, being an English student, has been given a unique perspective on language and
how learning new languages can expand one's literary horizons: “I think my studies
as an English major have only helped my Spanish studies. My love for literature and
wanting so badly to dive into Spanish literature has been an extra incentive to learn
and also a great platform for language acquisition.”More generally though, Jay has thoroughly enjoyed his trip to Spain: “Spain is a country
that I keep appreciating more as I learn more about its history and people. The people
are generally nice and understanding and want to help with my Spanish.”Jay plans to return from his trip to Spain after the conclusion of this semester.
Posted February 21, 2020
Colton Craft and Sean Cain Explore Creative Writing and Tech Comm with Twine: Student Spotlight
If you frequent the English building regularly you may have noticed little red or
blue fliers posted around the halls advertising a Video Game Workshop. This week's
spotlight focuses on just that!
Every Monday from 5 to 6 PM in English Building Room 362, undergraduate students Colton
Craft and Sean Cain lead a short lesson on how to create a text based game using the
simple but versatile game engine Twine. Twine is open source and completely free to
use so students can attend the workshop completely free of charge. “We recommend that
people bring their own laptops if they have one” said Sean Cain “but we also have
4 computers and laptops available in the lab if they're needed.”
Sean and Colton are both involved in creative writing. Sean is a double major in English
Creative Writing and Technical Communication. Where Colton is also an English Creative
Writing major and a Film Studies minor. “I feel like this workshop combines all of
our skills” Sean said. “There is the storycrafting and creative writing aspect of
it which we're both excited about, but there's also the more technical and procedural
aspect to it; it's a hybrid form of expression.”
The workshop hopes to give students access to the full range of Twine's capability,
starting out with the basics necessary to use Twine and progressing up to more advanced
coding and incorporating complex gaming mechanics. They also hope to use Twine to
provide a new and unique venue for students to engage in creative writing as Colton
“I'm incredibly excited to see what stories people have brewing in their minds. So
often people have these amazing stories and worlds in their heads but never find a
chance to express their ideas to anyone. This workshop will be an amazing opportunity
for students to share their ideas and put everything down in a unique and creative
For more information about the Twine workshops email Sean Cain at Sean.Cain@ttu.edu.
Posted February 14, 2020
Dr. Condis, Exploring Rhetoric and Videogames: Faculty Spotlight
This week's spotlight is honoring Dr. Megan Condis and this year's upcoming Lubbock
Con. Lubbock Con is an annual event meant to bring a much-needed pop culture event
in Lubbock. Dr. Condis herself describes the event as “a weekend event that brings
comic book artists, actors, authors, and pop culture experts to Lubbock, TX to share
their work with the community.”
Of all the events planned for Lubbock Con, one in particular involves Texas Tech faculty
and students. A panel titled “Rhetoric and Videogames” will feature our own Dr. Condis,
Dr. Gerdes, Dr. Holmes, and undergraduate student Sean Cain. This is the first year
that this panel will be present at Lubbock Con and its official description is as
“Are videogames a test of skill—technical challenges to be mastered? Or are videogames
an art form, more akin to literature or film? This panel will turn these questions
on their heads by exploring how videogames can be the site of public arguments about
shared values. From games' procedures to gamer culture, this panel takes an expert
look at the rhetoric of videogames.”
Beyond this though, Lubbock Con has many other special events planned: guest stars,
tabletop gaming events, presentations and panels ranging from being successful on
YouTube to publishing your own comic book. Lubbock Con is a two day event held at
the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center starting on Febuary 29th and ending on March 1st.
For more information visit Lubbock-Con Events site.
We'd love to see you there!
Posted January 31, 2020
Sara Huerta, Poetry Editor for the Harbinger: Student Spotlight
Sarah Huerta is the poetry editor for the Harbinger Student Journal of Art and Literature,
an undergraduate publication created by and for Texas Tech undergraduate students.
The 2019-2020 issue is set to release this semester and the entire editing team is
excited for it. As Sarah expressed: “I'm excited for this year's issue! It was difficult
but rewarding to select these works of art made by fellow Tech students. Look out
for our 2019-2020 issue in the next couple of months!”
The Harbinger has a long history with Texas Tech, with the first issue being published
in 1956. For 64 years, undiscovered writers, artists, poets, photographers, and playwrights
at Texas Tech have gotten their start with the student publication, and their works
have inspired the students who read them.
Before becoming an editor, Sarah was published in Harbinger three times. When the
position opened, they went for an interview: “My junior year, I had three poems published
in Harbinger so I was already familiar with the process. My goal has always been to
be a writer, so when I saw the poetry editor position was open, I knew I had to interview.
It has been a very rewarding process. If interested, students can follow us on Facebook
or check our website for information about interviews this Spring.”
An exact release date of this year's issue has not been set yet, but when it does
release, free copies can be picked up in the English Building atrium.
Posted January 24, 2020
Book History Club: Student Organization Spotlight
The Book History Club is a group of individuals who, as the name suggests, are interested
in the history of books. Their passion stems not only from literature of the past
but also the process by which books were created before the advent of printing and
mass production. For example, the club dedicated a meeting to the creation of tools,
like quills, and the use of antique equipment, such as the printing presses.
As Vice President Kaytee Jackson said, “You can go to a dozen places around town to
paint an imitation Van Gogh, but how many can you go to make your own quill from a
feather, or use an eighteenth century printing press, or marble your own paper? For
lovers of books, we have a little slice of space to access the things we find cool
and interesting when it comes to literature. My favorite aspect is the community of
people and the way we're able to really explore things that the average reader wouldn't
get to otherwise.”
The club aims to connect the rather laborious process of creating books with how precious
literature of the past was and still is today. In 19th and 18th century, when someone
picked up a book, they were often holding something that was carefully crafted for
the purpose of being read. That craft is captured in some of the club's activities.
For example, club members gathered to make quills. Jackson recounts how writing with
a quill “takes me back to the very human, very instinctual roots of writing.” The
Book History Club hopes to instill that feeling in their members and promote appreciation
for the ease with which people can access literature today.
If this sparks your interest, get involved with Book History Club today!
Posted January 17, 2020
TTU Alumni Awarded Prestigious NEA Fellowships for Nonfiction
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced its 2020 Creative Writing (Prose)
Fellowship recipients. Two Texas Tech University English Department alumni, Toni Jensen
(left) and Sarah Viren (right), are among the thirty-six grant recipients. Each fellowship is $25,000 and is meant
to allow recipients to set aside time for writing, research, travel, and general career
advancement. The NEA received nearly 1,700 eligible applications, which were reviewed
anonymously by a panel who graded for artistic excellence of writing samples. These
works varied from works of fiction and creative nonfiction, such as memoirs and personal
essays. Both Jensen and Viren's nonfiction pieces were selected for their artistry,
creativity, and dedication to expanding the literary landscape.
Toni Jensen is the author of Carry, a memoir-in-essays about gun violence, forthcoming
from Ballantine. More information about her essays and stories are available on Jensen's website.
Sarah Viren's book Mine was named one of LitHub's Favorite Books of 2018 and earned
the River Teeth Book Prize, along with several awards. Additional information about
Viren's writings and translations is accessible on Viren's website.
The English Department is very proud of our exceptional alumni, Toni Jensen and Sarah