2023 English Newsletter


Message from the Department Chair

Maria Frawley

This year we have some especially exciting news. The English Department is a recipient of a major grant from the Mellon Foundation, specifically its Inaugural Higher Learning Open Call for Civic Engagement and Social Justice Projects. The collaboration was covered in CCAS Spotlight. Their generous grant will enable us to launch a 3-year program designed around the creation of “collaboratories,” teams comprised of undergraduates, graduates, postdoctoral students and faculty, who partner with local organizations to advance the ideals of disability justice. Stay tuned as our innovative and collaborative project takes shape!

As always, we welcomed students back to campus with spirit and renewed energy to study literature and culture with our outstanding faculty. We gave a special welcome to those first-year students and newly declared majors who were joining us for the first time, and we connected with them not only in our classrooms but in our suite on the 6th floor of Phillips Hall for events and the annual holiday party.

Thea Brown, who many have known through her wonderful poetry courses in our Creative Program, joined us as a visiting professor this year, and just this spring we have welcomed another new faculty member, the talented poet Chet’la Sebree, as assistant professor in the creative writing faculty. I continue to be proud of the many ways the English Department faculty have sought to support students and to cultivate a sense of community in these semesters where the COVID-19 pandemic lingers. English staff, students, and faculty are a mutually supportive group who foster a diverse, inclusive learning environment.

As always, I encourage you to have a look at our website and to stay connected to the department via twitter, Instagram, Facebook and our blog. There you’ll find evidence aplenty of exciting things happening in our classrooms and of events that you’d be welcome to attend. This year we launched a special series of posts on banned books.

Thanks to those of you who have made donations to the department—we are so grateful for your support. Please stay in touch. We love sharing stories of our alums and their career paths with our students, so please reach out with contact information.


Maria Frawley
Chair, Department of English

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Department Spotlights 

Mellon Foundation

Mellon Funds Humanities Project on Storytelling

The Mellon Foundation awarded $487,000 in funding to the department to support “Story for All: Disability Justice Collaboratories”—a humanities project on social justice and the literary imagination. Led by Department Chair Maria Frawley, the project aims to provide marginalized populations with the empowering capacities of storytelling. The announcement was reported in the CCAS Spotlight newsmagazine. 

Hartman Publishes Novel

In May 2022, creative writing faculty member Virginia Hartman published her debut novel The Marsh Queen, with Gallery/Simon & Schuster. A fiction, poetry and essay writer, Hartman has written a gripping novel about a D.C. woman who finds herself returning to her Florida homeland—a mystery that will challenge her sense of self, family and violence.

Marsh Queen cover

Provost Bracey, President Wrighton and Professor Frawley
From left, Provost Bracey, President Wrighton and Professor Frawley

Graduate Students, Faculty Win Awards

English graduate students and faculty recently won prestigious GW awards. Graduate students Joanna Falk, Turni Chakrabarti and Emily MacLeod won the Amsterdam Teaching Award and Daniel Atherton received the Writing in the Disciplines Distinguished Graduate Student Teaching Award. Professor Maria Frawley won the Trachtenberg Prize for Teaching Excellence, and Professor Alexa Alice Joubin received the Trachtenberg Prize for Research and the Writing in the Disciplines Best Assignment Design Award. 

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Department Kudos

The BA in Creative Writing and English program was recognized as one of the best BA/BFA programs in creative writing in the country.

PhD student Kevin Blanks, MA '21, published an op-ed titled “Black Futurity in the Aftermath of Ahmaud Arbery Case” on the Black Feminist Collective website.

Elizabeth Block, BA ’94, authored the book Dressing Up: The Women Who Influenced French Fashion (MIT Press, 2021).

Thea Brown published the poem “The Detective” in Oversound.

Kavita Daiya presented her paper “Rethinking Equity, Intersectionality, and Caste in Dalit-American Life-Writing” on the interdisciplinary panel “Setting Caste Ablaze: Global Movements to Destroy Engrained Inequality” at the annual conference of the American Studies Association.

Yahia Lababidi, BA ’96, published the book LEARNING TO PRAY: a Book of Longing (Kelsay Books, 2021).

Iwonka Swenson, BA ’98, produced, directed and wrote an episode of America’s Hidden Stories titled “CIA Museum Declassified” on the Smithsonian Channel.

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Alumni Class Notes

Shauna Carter, BA ’00, completed two Master of Arts degrees in English Education (2001) and Education Administration (2007). Shauna received her Doctorate in Education (2013) and is currently completing her fifteenth year as a school administrator.

Roberto Coppola, BA ’95, is SVP of Innovation at Ipsos, a global market research organization, working with many of the world's most influential companies on ideation, conceptualization and prototyping. He recently received his third patent.

Jeremy Fergusson, BA ’68, retired after 50+ years in business publishing and working for/owning advertising agencies.

Suzanne Gibbons, BA ‘63, is retired and living in the U.K. She is active with several community organizations and holds two directorships. She took up cycling and enjoys weekly trips with a U3A group exploring the countryside.

Jeffrey Hotz, PhD ’04, is a professor at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania in 2022.  His book Longfellow's Imaginative Engagement: The Works of His Late Career was also published in March 2022 with Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.

Yahia Lababidi, BA ’96, is dividing his time between Florida and living on a farm in Colombia. He published his 11th book, Quarantine Notes, and offers daily contemplative quotes from his books.

Elizabeth Macdonough, BA ’88, is in her tenth year as Parliamentarian of the United States Senate, She is the first and only woman to hold the post, serving for 23 years through both Republican and Democratic control of the Senate.

Stefani Newman, BA ’98, has lived in Atlanta, Ga., for 11 years, and two of her three kids are now attending college at the University of Pittsburgh and Georgia College and State University. She is a lead pharma copywriter for Epsilon/Publicis Groupe.

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