Big things are happening in Olivet’s English Department. With the recent appointment of Dr. Beth Schurman to department chair, a lot of new changes are being implemented into current aspects of the department.
Last fall, the department of English and Modern Languages separated, making it easier to focus on each of the specific majors. The English and Modern Languages departments had been separate in the past, but underwent a merge some years ago. Only last year did the administration decided to revert to their existence as two separate departments. There are 45 majors in the English department alone, so the split was essential in order for both departments to be able to focus more on their individual students and keep room for growth in the future.
‘Live the Story’ is this year’s English department theme. The point of the theme is for students to learn more about one another through the stories that are shared, in hopes for students to understand and connect. Students are invited to use the theme to share their own stories—the stories they read and write on their own, the stories they are assigned for English classes, and even their own salvation stories and testimonies. The English department is also encouraging students to share their stories through social media using the hashtag #LiveTheStory. Several students have already taken advantage of this to express their own stories.
“The idea is to help [students] get to know and support one another and to instill a sense of unity within our department,” Dr. Schurman said.
Throughout the semester, changes will be made to encourage community among students in the English department. These changes include more department-wide events, book clubs, student-to-student leadership, opportunities to serve, and more. Department-wide events are going to be offered every season, including a Welcome Back event, Fall Flannel Fest, and more. The fall themed event will be held at a home of a staff member and will include a great time of fellowship, fun, and pumpkin carving.
The department is also hoping to emphasize on student-to-student leadership this year.
“I think students will be more comfortable asking [their peers] questions than they will be asking professors,” Dr. Schurman said.
Student-to-student leadership is a great way to build community and get students more involved with the different programs.
“Having a student lens would be extremely helpful in navigating the major,” sophomore English major, Aubrey Thomson said.
Professors within both departments are optimistic about the change. “Change gives you a chance to look again at what you do as an individual faculty member and a department,” English professor, Dr. Johnson said. Dr. Johnson also expressed his excitement for the plans the department has to bring people together and build community.
Book clubs are another addition that will be implemented within the department this semester. These groups are going to be led by six junior and senior students, focused around the memoir The Glass Castle. After reading the book, students will watch the movie to compare and discuss the two works.
Dr. Schurman also wants to give her students the opportunity to serve. There is nothing specific planned to date, but the goal is to have the first service-oriented event around Christmas time by partnering with a local organization.
Check out #LivetheStory to see your peers’ stories or to share your own.