Department News, April 2014

Spring 2014 English NewsletterBelow is a sampling of updates from the Spring 2014 English Newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click on the thumbnail to the right.

Welcome: Ayanna Thompson
Welcome: David Mitchell
Welcome: Jennifer Chang
Faculty Kudos
News from You


Welcome: Ayanna Thompson

Ayanna ThompsonProfessor Thompson is a scholar of Shakespeare, and focuses on issues of race and performance. She has a BA from Columbia University, where she studied with Edward Said, an MA from the University of Sussex on a Marshall Scholarship, and a PhD from Harvard University under the direction of Marjorie Garber, Stephen Greenblatt, Barbara Lewalski, and Werner Sollors. Prior to coming to GW, she taught at Bowdoin College, the University of New Mexico, and Arizona State University. Because of Ayanna’s research on contemporary casting practices in classical theatre, she has worked with a lot of actors, directors, and theatre companies and is the author of the film script for the upcoming film H4, a conflated version of the Henry IV plays set in contemporary Los Angeles with a predominantly black cast. Ayanna is married to Derek Thompson, the co-director of Palliative Care at Georgetown University Hospital. They have two children, Dashiell (11) and Thaisa (3).

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Welcome: David Mitchell

David MitchellProfessor Mitchell comes to us from the University of Michigan, where he was Norman G. Freehling Visiting Professor of the Humanities for 2012, and Associate Professor in the College of Education at Temple University in Philadelphia. He studied at the University of New Hampshire, where he also earned an MA in English, and later received both an MA and PhD in American Studies from the University of Michigan. In the most general terms, David’s work seeks to improve living conditions and citizenship opportunities for people with physical, sensory, and cognitive disabilities. “Since the experience of people with disabilities cuts across all ethnic, racial, gender, sexual, and class backgrounds,” David writes, “my work contributes to theories of devalued bodies and their comparative histories. Such an approach understands embodiment as the product of intersecting cultural, architectural, and biological interactions as opposed to purely discursive constructionist models.”

He and his partner, Sharon Snyder, moved to D.C. last summer and soon discovered that “requesting an apartment with a walk-in shower with open floor design proved almost impossible combination to find! We now sleep high above Massachusetts Avenue NW, where motorcades of sirens pass by so often you hardly even notice them.” David and Sharon have two children, Cameron and Emma. Cameron is pursuing a career as a cinematographer/director, and Emma is heading into her senior year of high school.

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Welcome: Jennifer Chang

Photo of Jennifer ChangProfessor Chang joins the English Department as Assistant Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing. Jennifer holds a BA from the University of Chicago, an MFA from the University of Virginia, and is currently finishing up her PhD from UVA. She has taught at Rutgers University and at the Pratt Institute; she comes to us from Bowling Green State University. Jennifer’s first book of poetry, The History of Anonymity (University of Georgia Press, 2008), garnered a lot of positive attention—former poet laureate Rita Dove describes her as one of the young poets she is “following with great hope”—and she has also published poems in The Kenyon Review, New England Review, New Republic, Boston Review, and other venues. As for the move east to D.C.: Jennifer actually grew up in New Jersey and has good memories of visiting Washington as a child. She adds that she is “especially thrilled to be living in a city with a professional basketball team.” Apparently everyone in her family was excited to make the move, including baby Hank, who recently turned one.

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Faculty Kudos

A few highlights from the English faculty this academic year

  • Jeffrey Cohen published an edited collection on ecology, entitled Prismatic Ecology: Ecotheory beyond Green (University of Minnesota Press, 2013). He also organized a conference panel in Reykjavik, Iceland, that will take place this July. The subject: ice in literature. Lucky participants will hike Sólheimajökull glacier with a local glaciologist.
  • Thanks to the Wang endowed fund, Holly Dugan designed an event in February especially for English alumni. With author Alyssa Harad, she hosted a discussion of the history of perfume. These two are experts on the subject; Alyssa’s book, Coming to My Senses: A Story of Perfume, Pleasure, and an Unlikely Bride (Penguin Books, 2013) focuses on contemporary perfume, and Holly’s The Ephemeral History of Perfume (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011) focuses on the early modern period.
  • If you’re in Los Angeles, see the current exhibition on Queen Victoria and Photography at the Getty museum running until June 8, 2104. Jenny Green-Lewis wrote an essay for the catalog, and if you take the audio tour you’ll hear what she has to say about a number of photographs in the show.
  • Alexa Huang and Ayanna Thompson co-organized the Global Shakespeare Symposium this January. Featured speakers included Tony award-winning director Julie Taymor and actor Harry Lennix, both of whom lingered after the event to spend time with GW students to share their inspiring life stories. Alexa also gave lectures in Seoul, Dublin, and Belfast. With Jonathan Hsy, she launched the Digital Humanities Institute in September, with a public presentation by Folger Shakespeare Library director Michael Witmore. Most recently, Alexa was awarded a Burkhardt fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies, so she will spend next year in residence at the Folger working on a new book on Shakespeare.
  • Tony López's Unbecoming Blackness: The Diaspora Cultures of Afro-Cuban America (NYU Press, 2012) won Honorable Mention for the Modern Language Association of America (MLA) prize in United States Latina and Latino and Chicana and Chicano literary and cultural studies.
  • Robert McRuer got married!!!
  • Tom Mallon says he is “about two-thirds of the way through writing a novel set during the late Reagan years.” He had an essay on Allan Gurganus in the October 7, 2013 New Yorker. And he’s become one of the rotating columnists for the "Bookends" section of The New York Times Book Review. See proof to the right:
  • Kim Moreland published an essay in a new collection, Hemingway, Cuba, and the Cuban Works (Kent State University Press, 2014).
  • Jane Shore published several new poems: "This One," in the September 28th issue of The New Yorker, and four others in the Winter 2013 issue of Salmagundi. Watch for a long feature about her in the next online issue of Innisfree Poetry Journal. By the time you read this, Jane will have given presentations at Boston University (March) and at Roger Williams College (April), but you can still catch her on July 4 at Skidmore, at the New York State Summer Writing Institute.

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News from You

  • Michael Allen, BA ’10, earned a master’s degree in English literature from Oxford University, where he is now pursuing doctoral research on 20th-Century poetry. He writes that this year’s flooding is currently making Oxford more like Venice.
  • Kenny Ames, BA ’99, is finishing up a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University in Government with a concentration in political communication. He previously worked for Fireside21, a vendor that builds online offices for Congressional offices. He lives in Brookland, and enjoys road racing.
  • Roger Baskin, BA ’90, GSEHD ’01, recently graduated from the George Mason University College of Education and Human Development with a PhD in Education.
  • Michael Y. Bennett, BA ’02, is Assistant Professor of English and affiliated faculty in Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he publishes and teaches on drama, most notably the theater of the absurd, Eugene O’Neill, and Oscar Wilde.
  • Esther Cohen, BA ’69, still teaches at Manhattanville College, and recalls the “wonderful English teachers” she had at GW. She wonders whether other alumni might get a kick out of this essay she penned for The New York Times. We certainly did: A Craigslist Ad: Will Pay for Poem.
  • Joe DeFilippi, BA ’95, is married to fellow GW alumna, Jennifer Goldstein, BA ’95; they live in Pennington, NJ, with their seven-year-old triplets, Chloe, Harry, and Mia. After GW, Joe received a law degree and now works as a manager for Thomson Reuters in the Governance, Risk, and Compliance division based in New York City. They plan to visit Washington, D.C., and the GW campus this summer.
  • Shannon Derby, BA ’04, received an MPhil with Distinction in Irish Literature from Trinity College, Dublin. She returned to the states to pursue a PhD in English, and is now at Tufts University. She currently lives in Boston with her husband and her dog.
  • Lowell Duckert, PhD ’12, has been Assistant Professor of English at West Virginia University since August 2012. “I teach mainly Shakespeare and environmental criticism, sometimes combining both . . . Right now I'm working on an edited collection with your very own Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Elemental Ecocriticism, to be published by University of Minnesota Press.”
  • Yassamine Ebadat, BA ’12, is currently in New York City. She started a job at Macmillan Publishers immediately after graduating, and worked for a year as an Editorial Assistant. She has since transitioned to a role in digital marketing, and spends her days advising companies such as Nintendo, Pizza Hut, and HP. She is “thankful for the skills I acquired at GW and am eager to continue putting my English degree to good use.”
  • Lauren Emmett, BA ’08, is currently the Senior Writer at Rubenstein Public Relations in New York, where she creates and manages content on behalf of the agency, ranging from marketing copy and case studies to new business proposals and branding materials.
  • Lucila Farina, BA ’09, writes that she has recently completed a master’s in TESOL at Lehman College, CUNY, and is currently a 5th Grade ESL teacher at Washington Irving School in Tarrytown, N.Y. In May 2014, she will become eligible to receive additional teaching certification in the area of English Language Arts (grades 9-12).
  • Laura A. Feigin, BA ’10, MA ’11, is currently working as a freelance writer in Lambertville, N.J., and hopes to complete her first novel this fall.
  • Jonna Gilbert-Wahle, BA ’09, is teaching 6th grade English and Reading at the McDonogh School in Maryland—“My dream position! When I'm not in the classroom, I'm coaching varsity field hockey or middle school basketball.”
  • Amit Goel, MA ’06, writes that since graduation he has been working as an Instructional Designer, primarily designing online education courses. He can be reached at [email protected].
  • Laura Greenfield, PhD ’07, is the Founder and Executive Director of Women's Voices Worldwide, Inc., a nonprofit organization headquartered in Northampton, MA, dedicated to promoting social justice around the globe by educating women and girls to be powerful speakers. This year, she also joined the faculty of Hampshire College as Visiting Associate Professor of Communication and Education where she has designed and is directing their new Transformative Speaking Program.
  • Julie Griffith, BA ’05, is currently the development director of a nonprofit organization called Making Books Sing in New York City. She also consults with Queens Symphony Orchestra, Playing with Reality, and The World Jurist Association, serves on the board of Manhattan Theatre Works, and works for Lincoln Center Festival in the summer.
  • Philip S. Harrington (Philip T. Smeenge), BA ’78, writes: “I've moved from the Pacific Northwest to Holland, MI. But I still blog about the Seattle International Film Festival at”
  • Kelly Ann Jacobson, BA ’11, has published no less than three books in 2014: a literary fiction novel, Cairo in White; the first in a young adult trilogy, Dreamweaver Road; and Answers I'll Accept, a book of online dating personal essays that Kelly edited. For more information on her novels or projects, see
  • Laura (“Laurie” Gaines) Jofre, BA ’91, is pursuing a master's degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages at the New School in New York City. Writes Laura: “Ever since my undergraduate job at the GW Writing Center, I had a yen for this work. Thanks to Dr. Kim Moreland for getting me started!”
  • Carolyn Kerchof, BA ’10, is completing a Master of Arts degree in Design at the Zurich University of the Arts in Switzerland. She is busy with various print and digital design projects, and her research focuses on the importance of writing and creative engagement in old age.
  • Hoyun Kim, BA ’83, LAW ’87, is “working a few blocks from the GW campus, as General Counsel and Chief People Officer (Head of HR and Recruiting), at Frontier Strategy Group, a global information services firm that works with multinational companies on their business strategies in emerging market countries. Hope to see more of the alumni community this year.”
  • Gowri Koneswaran, BA ’97, writes that she is a poet, performing artist, educator, and lawyer based in Washington, D.C. She currently serves as poetry coordinator at BloomBars, a nonprofit community arts organization, and as senior poetry editor with Jaggery, a DesiLit Arts and Literature Journal.
  • Yahia Lababidi, BA ’96, is just back from Medellin, Colombia, hometown of his wife (a GW alumna). Also, he’s proud to report putting finishing touches to his sixth book, “once I can find an intrepid publisher.” See:
  • Philip Longo, BA ’03, received his PhD in English from Rutgers University in 2013. He is currently Lecturer in Writing and Queer Studies at University of California-Santa Cruz.
  • Deborah Matteliano, BA ’11, writes that she is “still living in D.C. and working as a Strategic Marketing Specialist at The Advisory Board Company, a health care consulting firm. I use my English major daily in scripting marketing content that reaches thousands of hospital executives across the country.” Deborah adds the following note to remind you why you’re glad you are an English major: “While interviewing for jobs last year, several asked for a writing sample, and one law firm was so intrigued by my Middlemarch paper from 2010 that the senior partners all requested individual copies. Although I didn't accept the position, it was nice to learn that my creative paper topic came in handy down the line and impressed such a tough crowd.”
  • Barbara (Brown) Mayo-Wells, BA ’61, is an adjunct faculty member in Howard Community College’s continuing education program. Last year, she presented an all-day session on “Beowulf” as part of the Senior Adult Summer Institute. On May 6, 2014, she’ll be presenting a lecture on “Weird, Wild, Wonderful Words” at the Glenmont, MD, Community Center.
  • Julie McGuire, BA ’01, has worked for the past eight years as a high school English teacher in the NYC public school system, which she finds “psychologically exhausting, but equally rewarding.” She adds: “I hope Professor Samuels appreciates me bringing critical theory to the inner city.”
  • Beth Mosenthal, BA ’05, is an Associate at Gensler, based in Denver. She is currently the News Editor for the American Institute of Architect’s Young Architect’s Forum Connection magazine; an Editor and Writer for the AIA Colorado Emerging Professional’s Blog; as well as a contributor to publications such as Residential Architect, Modern in Denver, and the website “Archinect.” Beth is also active in Denver’s dynamic art and design communities. She currently serves on Denver’s Public Art Committee and this spring will participate in her first public art selection panel.
  • For the past year, Greg Nanni, BA ’11, has been Playwright in Residence at Plays & Players Theatre in Philadelphia, while working other jobs for multiple theatres. Greg writes that he has several readings going up in the greater Philadelphia area within the next three months. “It is a very exciting time in my life, and I would have never made it here without the outstanding professors in the English Department.”
  • Annie Nguyen, BA ’00, writes that after graduating from the University of Montana with an MFA in Creative Writing, she has been working as an Assistant Professor of English at the Community College of Baltimore County. “I teach Creative Writing and composition courses that include globalized content to enhance students' knowledge of other cultures and races. I will be marrying Daniel Stevens, a financial systems analyst at McCormick and Loyola MBA, in Baltimore in June 2014.”
  • Blayr Nias, BA ’04, writes that she has been “touring all over the country performing stand-up comedy working with comedians such as Natasha Leggero, D.L. Hughley, and Ralphie May.” Blayr is based in Charlotte, N.C., where she produces a monthly show at the Charlotte Comedy Zone, “The Almost Famous Comedy Show.” She was recently voted top 30 under 30 by Elevate Lifestyle magazine and Best of the Best by Charlotte magazine.
  • Kelsey O'Brien, BA ’11, is in her third and final year at Albany Law School. She’s an active volunteer in the Veterans’ Rights Pro Bono Project at the law school. After graduating this May, she plans to take the New York State Bar Examination.
  • Since finishing her PhD, Karen O’Connor-Floman, PhD ’05, has been busy raising Oskar, now in sixth grade and Liam, now in second. She writes that her “other ‘baby’ has been the establishment of a Language-Immersion Preschool, CommuniKids Preschool, in D.C. and Falls Church. We started with 40 students in 2009 and have grown to 140 students this year. Since we started, I've served as Assistant Director and Director of Communications, and I just took over as Director of Admissions and Outreach. It has been quite an education for me.” Karen is also thrilled to be participating in the Washington International School's Summer Institute for Teachers this coming August, which brings researchers from Harvard University's Project Zero together with D.C.- area educators. In her free time she enjoys Middle Eastern dance, and notes that she dances with one of our newly-minted PhDs, Nedda Mehdizadeh, MA ’08, PhD ’13.
  • Veronica “Ronnie” Precup, BA ’67, writes: “When I graduated from GW in 1967 with a BA in Secondary Education, I was an English major with a Biology minor. After teaching English, Biology, and Chemistry in high school for one year, I took time off to build my family. When I returned to work in 1972, I took a position as a proofreader, and have worked my way to the top of the publishing ladder, using my major and minor, to my current position as Editor-in-Chief for the Association of Clinical Research Professionals.”
  • Chelsea Pritchard Rubin, BA ’07, lives in Weymouth, Mass., and got married last May! Chelsea writes that she has left her position as Senior Marketing Copywriter for Joss & Main (Wayfair’s flash sales site) and recently started a new job as the Senior Digital Copywriter for Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) in Boston.
  • Anna (“Katie”) Sagal, BA’07, is a doctoral student in the English Department at Tufts University. She's currently working on her dissertation and teaching undergraduates in the Boston area. She also has an essay in a new collection from Bucknell, The Idea of Disability in the Eighteenth Century, which should be out this April. Katie credits Professors Robert McRuer and Tara Wallace with getting her interested in this subject.
  • David Schaffer, BA’03, formerly an associate attorney with the Chicago law firm of Meckler Bulger Tilson Marick & Pearson LLP, has joined Allstate Insurance Company as in-house counsel. At Allstate, David will work in the Law & Regulation department's Corporate Litigation group.
  • Stanley Smith, AA ’60, BA’62, GSEHD ’70, writes that he has self-published two books of poetry: As If It Were Our Own, and The Hunched Man and other Poems. Both are available from Bookstand Publishing, or Amazon. Stan adds: “Working on another.”
  • The Rev. George Stapleton, BA ’61, writes to say that he is working on his fourth book, “this time fiction, aimed at peace in the Middle East.”
  • Sara Stroman, BA ’02, studied Japanese paper-making in Japan from October 2012-January 2013 and now lives in Bergen County, N.J. She is running her business, S2 Stationery & Design, full time, and looks forward to exploring the hand-crafted paper industries of other countries.
  • Roberta Suid, BA ’66, writes that she and her husband have started an online magazine about mobile movie making. You can find out more at: @mobilemoviemag or
  • Chriselle Tidrick, BA ’94, lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., and is the Founder/Artistic Director of Above and Beyond Dance, a company that creates circus-infused dance. She is currently serving as the GW Spring Guest Artist in the Department of Theatre and Dance and is setting two sections of her aerial dance work, RAW, on student dancers. She and her company are in the process of developing a new project entitled Dreamscapes, which will premiere Sept. 19-21 in Brooklyn, NY.
  • Steve Vigneux, BA ’98, writes that he and his wife, Chrissy, “will be married 10 years in June! Work at Belchertown High School keeps us busy, but not nearly as busy as do Beckett (8), Emerson (6), and Auden (3). I love my job as a high school English teacher but nothing can beat being a husband and father! It’s off to make dinner and coach soccer!”
  • Jennifer Lyman Wagner, BA ’90, has been “working as a proofreader and copy editor with Schubert b2b, a Philadelphia-area marketing communications firm, since 2007. In my off hours, I edit and proof young adult, non-fiction and memoir manuscripts for traditional and e-book publication. As a Sharpie-wielding vigilante, I wage a one-woman war against poor grammar, faulty spelling, and misused punctuation. Recently, my family visited a number of campuses to help my son make a college decision. How can this be? Didn't I just graduate from GW?”
  • Lucy Yamson, BA ’04, is back home in Ghana working with Baker Hughes Ghana Limited, as the Business Development Manager for Government Relations and Local Content Affairs. Lucy writes that she studied Law and Project and Program Management in the U.K. between 2007 and 2010. “At this stage, I believe that my career is just taking off. I am grateful to GW and the English Department for laying the solid foundation that has got me this far. I hope to visit the Foggy Bottom campus again this summer and hopefully reconnect with old friends and professors. Looking forward to it!”
  • Marilena Zackheos, MPhil ’10, PhD ’11, writes that she has been “very busy over the last two years with setting up and running The Cyprus Center for Intercultural Studies at the University of Nicosia.” She has also been acting as co-editor for an inter-disciplinary journal, The Cyprus Dossier, as well as making headway in her own research. Among Marilena’s forthcoming publications: an edited collection on “evil” women, Vile Women: Challenging Representations of Female Evil in Fact, Fiction and Mythology (2014) and an essay in Revisiting Sexualities in the 21st Century (2014).

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