Andrews Hall Alumni News

The Newsletter for the English Graduate Program | Spring 2021

Cornerstone of Andrew Hall with engraving 'Andrews Hall MCMXXVII'

Photo credit: Erin Chambers

Stacey Waite

We're excited to launch our first ever English graduate program alumni newsletter. We hope this is a place where we can celebrate our current and former graduate students, and even tell you about some of our graduate seminars. With our graduate students earning such honors as the PEN America Literary Awards and even grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, I know I speak for the entire graduate faculty when I say that UNL graduate students in English are simply the best!

Stacey Waite, Chair of the Graduate Program in English

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Alumni Spotlight

Nick White

Nick White

2016 Graduate, Ph.D. in Creative Writing - Fiction

Dr. Nick White, who graduated from UNL in 2016 with a doctorate in creative writing, is currently an assistant professor at The Ohio State University. His novel, How to Survive a Summer, centers on a gay man reckoning with the trauma he endured at an ex-gay ministry conversion camp. The novel was named one of “Book Riot’s Best Queer Books of 2017.” His 2018 short story collection, Sweet and Low: Stories, was called “One of the Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2018” by O Magazine. Dr. White has been praised by the Washington Post as “Tennessee Williams … transposed to the twenty-first-century South.”

To learn more, visit his website at thenickwhite.com.

What are you most excited about in your professional life?

I’m really excited about the book I’m working on! It’s about the radical fairy movement of the late 70s and radical fairy sanctuaries.

I’m also excited about my teaching. I’m teaching a genre workshop on horror writing, and that’s been super exciting. The students have been great, just wonderful… It seems to be working really well.

What was your favorite class, reading, or project from your time at UNL?

All of the workshops were great, and so were the literature classes I took, but I think the class that probably changed me the most as a thinker and writer would be Roland Vegso’s “Intro to Theory” class.

Not coming from a theory background, it was so nice, having someone as knowledgeable and patient as he was walk us through these very dense texts … Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze … and do so in such a clear and cogent way.

It taught me the value of something I think I already instinctively knew but didn’t fully feel the effects of until I took that class, which is the benefit of reading a work that’s just a bit above my comprehension or range. Throwing myself into a difficult text, and even if I didn’t understand everything that was communicated in that text, there was a value in forcing my mind to work with it and digest it somehow. It changed me as a person and a thinker, and I think that’s really the point. [...]

Read Dr. White’s full interview here

Sherita Roundtree

Sherita Roundtree

2014 Graduate, M.A. in Composition and Rhetoric

A 2014 graduate of the master’s program in composition and rhetoric, Dr. Sherita Roundtree went on to earn a Ph.D. at The Ohio State University and is now an assistant professor at Towson University in Maryland. Dr. Roundtree studies approaches for developing diverse representation and equitable access for students, teachers, and scholars who write in, instruct in, and theorize about writing classrooms. Her current work explores the pedagogy and “noise” of Black women graduate teaching assistants and their use of support networks and resources.

What are you most excited about in your professional life?

This past September, I put together with others, for the Coalition of Community Writing (CCW), a graduate student workshop for those who were going on the market … I love helping graduate students. I’m also co-chairing the nextGEN Special Committee for the C’s (the Conference on College Composition and Communication) … This committee is really thinking about how we can cultivate new spaces and new opportunities and resources for graduate students. [...]

What was your favorite class, reading, or project from your time at UNL?

It was probably Shari Stenberg’s class, “Women’s Rhetorics.” It’s interesting because when I started in the field, it was in undergrad, and it was through writing center work. When I came to UNL, I came there because of Frankie Condon (who was the director of the writing center). The first conference presentation that I did was about the everyday writing center, and my director and mentor at the time told us ten minutes before that three of the authors (including Frankie Condon) were going to be there. We were juniors, and we were freaking out. It was like telling me now that Oprah was going to be there.

So when it came time to apply to graduate schools, my director at the time emailed Frankie to ask if she had any suggestions, because I guess somehow she remembered me. She told me that I should apply to UNL, so I did. I applied there and one other school … and I decided to go to UNL. When I got there, I was so focused on writing center work because that was what I’d done ... It was a combination of being mentored by Frankie and taking her class, and then taking Shari's class that focused on women's rhetoric, that I started to see myself within the field. [...]

Read Dr. Roundtree’s full interview here

Current Students

Jamaica Baldwin

Jamaica Baldwin

Third-Year Ph.D. Student, Creative Writing – Poetry

Jamaica Baldwin was one of only 35 writers selected from among 1,601 applicants nationwide to receive a $25,000 Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Her advisor, Dr. Kwame Dawes, said, “Jamaica Baldwin is a gifted poet and an important poet. Her intelligence, her sensitivity, and her industry as a writer and artist are remarkable. She has already started to publish her work in quite important places and has received fitting praise for her work. I regard her as a writer whose work we will continue to pay attention to for years to come.”

Baldwin has made contributions in other areas as well. According to Dr. Dawes, “Since joining the Ph.D. program at UNL, she has also shown herself to be a splendid teacher, a wonderful colleague, and a gifted editor. She has assumed leadership roles for Prairie Schooner and the African Poetry Book Fund with professionalism, enthusiasm, and a visionary sense of the importance of this work ... We are extremely lucky to have her in this community at UNL.”

Reagan Myers

Reagan Myers

Second-Year M.A. Student, Composition and Rhetoric

“Reagan Myers truly embodies the dynamic interdisciplinary work of our department,” Dr. Stacey Waite, her advisor, said. “A celebrated poet, a youth writing mentor, a dynamic teacher, a dedicated scholar of community partnerships and feminist rhetoric, Reagan's creative and scholarly reach knows no bounds.”

Not only is Myers a student of rhetorical theory; she is also an award-winning slam poet with a poetry collection scheduled for release in August 2021.

At UNL, she has found community with her cohort of fellow graduate students.

“My favorite thing to come out of my M.A. is my cohort,” she said. “Particularly during this pandemic, we've become each other's delivery drivers, sounding boards, therapists, improv troupe … and, when we were all trapped in Lincoln together, each other's family.”

In the words of Dr. Waite, “She will be missed by our department when she graduates in May!”

Ben Reed

Ben Reed

Fourth-Year Ph.D. Student, Literary and Cultural Studies

“We're proud to have Ben Reed advancing to his Ph.D. candidacy this semester!” Dr. Kelly Stage said of her advisee. “We look forward to Ben's development of his dissertation project on early modern literature and childhood studies, a vital area for future scholarship in the field.”

In his work, Reed is delving into the representations of children in early modern literature. He has been honing his writing on the subject as a presenter at several major conferences. Recently he was accepted to the International Congress of Medieval Studies, which he said was, in large part, due to “the guidance and support of my committee.”

“Moreover, Ben is not just a great scholar—he's also a great teacher, and he shows his commitment to incorporating new and field-shaping pedagogy in his classroom,” Dr. Stage said, adding, “His dissertation advisor also really enjoys lighter moments with Ben talking about science fiction films and pop culture, and maybe someday she'll be able to ask him, in a casual in-person discussion, what he thinks about The Mandalorian.”

Featured Courses

Renaissance Course Shows the Relevance of the Past to the Present

Renaissance Course Shows the Relevance of the Past to the Present

ENGL 963: Seminar in Renaissance Literature,  with Dr. Julia Schleck, Associate Professor

This semester in Dr. Julia Schleck’s “Gender and Colonialism in the Early Modern Period,” we are reading about lady pirates, gender transgressing nuns, and the “discovery” of a “virgin” land in order to explore how themes of gender, war, and colonization overlap.

By studying the role of women in European imperial projects and how masculinities and colonialism shaped each other, students from a variety of disciplines are exploring how the echoes of these ideologies have important ramifications for our current moment.

Dr. Schleck said she decided to design the course after noticing the way that gender discourses played a role in justifying the imperial wars that America has fought in the last 20 years, in the hope that students could “appreciate how deeply rooted some of these discourses are, and having studied them in the class, recognize them as such when they see them deployed in contemporary political contexts.”

As a student in the course, I’ve learned so much about how gender has shaped our history, and in turn, our present.

By Celie Knudsen, First-Year M.A. Student, Composition and Rhetoric

Critical Theory Class Reexamines the Logic of War in Modern Society

Critical Theory Class Reexamines the Logic of War in Modern Society

ENGL 971: Seminar in Literary Theory with Dr. Roland Végső, Associate Professor and Vice Chair

In this class, we are exploring the idea of an emerging “global civil war” which has been discussed amongst many influential political theorists and philosophers over the course of the 20th and 21st century. The idea being that the logic of war has ultimately gone past the limits of the battlefield and has now seeped into the structure of everyday life in our post-Cold War modern society, thereby creating, as Hannah Arendt called it in On Revolution, “a kind of civil war raging all over the earth.”

Dr. Végső explained, “I believe that the function of critical theory is to provide a ruthless critique of the historical present in order to provide us a chance to reinvent the conceptual tools we have been using to interpret our lives. I chose the topic of ‘global civil war’ because it will hopefully allow our class to examine the fundamental transformations of everyday life that are occurring at this historical moment.”

By pairing key, influential texts with several films, we are grappling with this question amidst the framework of a shared aesthetic, while also thinking critically about how this theory works within the impacts of modern politics and climate change.

 By Caleb Petersen, First-Year M.A. Student, Creative Writing - Poetry

Books by Graduate Students and Alumni

A sampling of the fantastic writing and editing by English graduate alumni and current students. Visit our alumni books gallery to view more—and if we haven't added your book publication yet, please share it with us!

Cover image for How to Love the World
Cover image for Your Crib, My Qibla
Cover image for All My Mother's Lovers
Cover image for Sweet and Low
Cover image for Disrupt This!
Cover image for Culture Wars in British Literature