Department of English News

Kain wins national service award

Congratulations to Donna Kain, who has recently been selected as the 2016 recipient of the Council for Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication (CPTSC)’s Distinguished Service Award.  This national-level award is given to only one person per year, and it is awarded based upon an individual’s national reputation relating to aspects of curriculum design and program development in technical, professional, and scientific communication. Donna will be presented with the award during CPTSC’s annual conference, which will take place in Savannah, GA on 6-8 Oct.

Schwartz receives award at STC

Schwartz Graduate student Jonah Schwartz, recent winner of the Society for Technical Communication’s (STC) Student Infographic Contest, received his award and was honored today at the STC annual summit in Anaheim, CA.

Click below to check out a short interview featuring Schwartz talking about his experiences with the ECU English department.

Schwartz, who recently completed the Professional Communication Certificate, is now pursuing his MA in English with a concentration in Technical and Professional Communication.

“I entered the TPC program after a decade of working in retail,” Schwartz said. “The field is one that I have had an immense passion in to begin with, which is perhaps why it is such a good fit for me. What I love about it is that it allows me to merge the creative process with empirical approaches.

“I created this infographic using Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Publisher and Photoshop Elements; I did not need expensive or fancy software. I wouldn’t even describe myself as artistic. All you need is an idea of what you want to do, passion, and patience.

“One of the favorite quotes I’ve come across in my reading is that there is no such thing as good design and bad design. There is only effective and ineffective communication. What TPC is, in a sentence, is learning the best ways to create for different users. Every industry hires technical writers–this infographic is just the top 10”

Click for Schwartz’s winning infographic


ECU faculty publish book after finding success in improving writing program

Re-posted from

Members of East Carolina University’s English Department collaborated to publish a book they hope will help other higher education institutions harness the full potential of their writing programs.

After successfully utilizing the reaccreditation process to improve ECU’s writing program, faculty members Will Banks, Wendy Sharer, Tracy Morse and Michelle Eble co-edited, “Reclaiming Accountability: Improving Writing Programs through Accreditation and Large-Scale Assessments.” The book provides examples of how departments and writing programs have used accreditation to gain the kinds of benefits seen at ECU through similar initiatives around the country.

Morse, Banks, Sharer, Eble

ECU English faculty members (left to right) Tracy Ann Morse, William P. Banks, Wendy Sharer and Michelle F. Eble co-edited, “Reclaiming Accountability: Improving Writing Programs through Accreditation and Large-Scale Assessments.” (Contributed photo)

As part of the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), required for accreditation, the authors focused their efforts on specific initiatives that would help broaden the reach of ECU’s writing program. “We saw reaccreditation as an opportunity to rethink our first-year writing program and our writing-intensive program so they worked together more effectively at helping students move from beginning college-level writing and thinking across their years at ECU,” said Banks, associate professor.

According to Sharer, director of the QEP, some of the changes seen in the program at ECU include:

  • Additional peer consultants to work with students and faculty in all disciplines in a larger, welcoming University Writing Center.
  • A revised Writing Foundations curriculum that includes a new, sophomore-level composition course designed to help students transition into writing in their major areas.
  • Writing mentors embedded in writing-intensive courses across the curriculum.
  • A website that brings together writing-related resources.

Additionally, the university provided resources to help faculty learn new information about writing and how to teach it in major courses.

As part of the updated curriculum, the class “Writing About the Disciplines” was added for second-year students to make it easier to transfer their skills to writing for their disciplines. “We are making the writing that students are doing explicitly relevant to the writing they will do in their majors or even careers,” said Eble, associate professor.

Their book brings together a series of critical cases that show how accreditation has been used in similar ways at other institutions to effect change on campus and across various academic programs. It illustrates how faculty can use accreditation to cultivate campus-wide discussions of writing to better meet local student learning needs.

–Jamie Smith

Student Spotlight: Darien Smith

Darien Smith.




Darien Smith just graduated from the East Carolina University Department of English!




. . .

What brought you to ECU?

My first trip to ECU was actually in 1998 when I came with my family to a football game, I guess you could say it was my destiny. I competed here in a public speaking competition in high school and fell in love with the campus. I originally had my heart set on College of Charleston, but ECU just struck me as having a much more diverse and welcoming atmosphere, I felt like the possibilities were endless as a Pirate. When I came back for orientation, I knew I was home.

What is your area of study and how did you first become interested in it?

Funny story, I’ve actually had 5 majors in my time at ECU (and I’m still graduating early!). I could read before I started kindergarten, and I’ve never really stopped. I got my first tattoo on my 18th birthday of a quote from my favorite book, The Outsiders, so I should’ve known then that English was my calling. After lots of trial and error, I decided I was ready to settle down and graduate. After looking at all my credits, I realized that the recurring theme was English and that I’d always done markedly better in my English classes; all the pieces fell into place from there.

What are your goals after graduation?

I’m stoked to say that I will be continuing my work with the organization that I did my English internship with, Eastern NC Stop Human Trafficking Now, as a paid employee! I plan to eventually go to law school for nonprofit and civil equality law. Long term, I’d like to start a nonprofit to benefit special needs kids in foreign countries that don’t get the help and acceptance they deserve.

What has been most exciting/rewarding about your time in the English department?

The best part for me is realizing my own intelligence/power. I’d always doubted myself and thought I wasn’t an academic, that I wasn’t smart enough, but being in the English department has helped me find my own voice and stand my ground (supported with textual analysis). Besides, who else can say that they got to watch Star Wars (Science Fiction), create their own company (Professional Writing), and imitate Sir Ian McKellan (Shakespeare: The Histories) during their senior year?

What recognitions/achievements in your ECU career are you most proud of and why?

It’s going to sound really cheesy and I’ll probably regret this later, but finding myself. College has been a long, hard journey, but one I’d do anything to relive. I’ve grown so much as a person, and I have ECU to thank for that.

Also I have a killer GPA and I still go to bed at 9:30 every night.

What would you say to someone considering coming to ECU to study English?

“We’re all mad here.”
But seriously, do it. There’s no right or wrong in the English department (except your/you’re and they’re/their/there and even that’s debatable in poetry). You don’t have to be a certain way or like a certain thing or have read a lot of classic works (because I’m graduating and I didn’t do half of my reading assignments, sorry Dr. Feder). English is so much more than reading books by dead white guys. English is the written expression of the history of the human race, there’s something here for everyone.

TPC student wins STC Infographic Contest

Graduate student Jonah Schwartz has won the 2017 Society for Technical Communication’s (STC) Student Infographic Contest.

Schwartz, who will receive the award at STC’s annual Summit next week in Anaheim, CA, recently completed the Professional Communication Certificate. He is now pursuing his MA in English with a concentration in Technical and Professional Communication.

The contest was open to undergraduate and graduate students from across the nation, and the award was sponsored by the STC’s Academic Special Interest Group. STC is the largest organization in North America dedicated to the advancement of theory and practice in technical communication, with more than 6,000 members.

Click for Schwartz’s winning infographic




This morning’s university graduation ceremony featured several English department members.

Alumnus Rick Atkinson, a 1974 graduate of the ECU English department, delivered the Commencement address. Atkinson has won a Pulitzer Prize in History for his book An Army at Dawn, and he also has won two Pulitzer Prizes for reporting.

Dr. Jim Kirkland, East Carolina’s longest-serving faculty member, was the Mace Bearer at the ceremony.

Finally, the newly minted Dr. Randy Marfield received his doctoral hood from Dr. Seodial Deena.

Congratulations to all!

Rick Atkinson delivers the commencement address (photo)

Rick Atkinson delivers the commencement address

Dr. Jim Kirkland serves as Mace Bearer

Dr. Jim Kirkland serves as Mace Bearer

Dr. Seodial Deena hoods Dr. Randy Marfield

Dr. Seodial Deena hoods Dr. Randy Marfield

Dr. Randy Marfield receives his doctoral hood

Dr. Randy Marfield receives his doctoral hood

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ECU undergraduate receives prestigious National Science Foundation fellowship

Senior Joseph Paul has received a prestigious National Science Foundation Research Fellowship. Paul, a biology major, took English 3820: Scientific Writing with Dr. Michelle Eble of the Department of English.

“I was excited to see that Joseph had received such a prestigious award, but I wasn’t surprised,” Dr. Eble said. “Joseph knew that advancing knowledge in any field involved articulating research results and communicating with other members in his discipline. Over the semester, he worked hard to articulate in writing what he knew about neuroscience and genome editing research for a variety of audiences and purposes: field specialists, public audiences, and funding agencies.

“He received an excellent foundation here at ECU, and I’m looking forward to following his career!”

Read the full ECU-issued story below.


Republished from:

May 4, 2016

By Jessica Nottingham
University Communication

Joseph Paul’s graduation from East Carolina University on May 6 will mark another step in his research career with a move to California.

Paul will attend the University of California, Berkeley to study cell biology at no cost thanks to a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. He is the first undergraduate student from ECU to receive the prestigious NSF award, said Dr. Jeff McKinnon, professor and chair of ECU’s Department of Biology.

“This is the most competitive fellowship in American science,” McKinnon said. “Only the strongest students even apply, and of those, about 12 percent are successful. It speaks well of Joseph and of the training that we are providing him.”

NSF Fellows are expected to become knowledge experts who can contribute significantly to research, teaching and innovations in science and engineering. These individuals are crucial to maintaining and advancing the nation’s technological infrastructure and national security as well as contributing to the economic well-being of society at large, according to the program’s website.

Since 2013, Paul has been working on genome editing research with ECU biology assistant professor Dr. Yiping Qi. The goal of the work is to bring innovative agricultural tools that will improve crops grown in eastern North Carolina, Paul said.

“Genome editing in plants is an up-and-coming tool that’s being used world-wide in biology, but we’re applying it to the region,” said Paul, who hopes to be a scientist in academia or private industry designing new drugs or biotech tools.

Paul’s interest in research began with a high school summer internship in a laboratory at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. The internship was such a good fit that Paul was invited back the next two summers as a paid special projects associate.

“I worked on a project that received a lot of attention. It caused a paradigm shift in ALS research,” said Paul, an EC Scholar who will earn a bachelor’s degree in biology. “I was very fortunate. I really liked the science that they were doing.”

Paul’s tenure at the Mayo Clinic led to a connection at Stanford University School of Medicine, where he continued his work with ALS as a visiting researcher for two summers. From this experience, Paul published an article in Science magazine as a junior and Nature Neuroscience as a senior at ECU.

“Most faculty hope to have an article appear in Science at some point in our careers,” said McKinnon. “It’s very unusual to start off a career with that as a junior in college — auspicious to say the least.”

Now with five years of research experience, notable publications and acceptances to Ivy League doctoral programs, Paul will receive a $102,000 stipend over three years plus a $12,000 allowance for expenses such as fees, professional development and personal research endeavors from the NSF.

“The fellowship is a truly humbling honor,” Paul said. “The award really recognizes my research mentors and the fellows and students who have trained me over the past five or so years. Aside from teaching me the technical skills necessary to be a scientist, they have consistently challenged me to think critically about experiments and have set the best example for being an engaged and generous scientist.”

Since 1952, NSF has funded close to 50,000 graduate research fellowships, which is just 10 percent of their received applications. For the 2016 competition, NSF received close to 17,000 applications, and made 2,000 award offers.

Writing Center triples sessions over four years

Congratulations to the ECU Writing Center, which has had a very successful year! The Writing Center, which is directed by Dr. Nikki Caswell, conducted 3,318 writing center sessions during the spring semester. The total number of sessions for the year was 7,061 for the year. This more than triples the number of consultations over the last four years. since Dr. Caswell arrived at ECU. Congratulations, Dr. Caswell!


Coming Home: Alumni to Speak to Graduates


Reprinted from:

By Jackie Drake

Several alumni will return to campus to address graduates during commencement and other graduate recognition ceremonies May 6-7 at East Carolina University. For many, the visit marks a return to the origins of their careers and lives.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and military historian Rick Atkinson ’74 will deliver the main commencement address on Friday, May 6. After earning his English degree at ECU, Atkinson worked for 25 years with The Washington Post as a reporter, foreign correspondent and senior editor.

“It will be both an honor and a pleasure to return to Greenville as the 2016 commencement speaker. I arrived at ECU as a boy in 1970 and left as a scholar in 1974, and I’ll always be grateful for the role the university played in that transition,” said Atkinson.

Click here to read more about Atkinson via ECU News Services.

In addition, several alumni will be speaking at graduate recognition ceremonies hosted by units across campus both Friday and Saturday.

Mary Carroll-Hackett ’98, ’99 will be speaking at the Department of English graduate recognition ceremony. She earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and anthropology and a master’s degree in creative writing. She is an associate professor of English and creative writing at Longwood University in Farmville, VA. She is the author of multiple books and hundreds of literary journal articles, and the founding editor of SPACES literary/art online magazine.

“My time at ECU provided me the tools to succeed both creatively and professionally,” she said. “I learned discipline, how to think deeply and critically, how to take and use criticism, how to take on difficult material–reading it or writing it–and make it relevant to not only my life, but to the lives of others.”

Carroll-Hackett says she is very excited to return to ECU.

“I grew up in a little old trailer park out in the trees in eastern North Carolina. When I was a kid, ECU sat like the Emerald City from Oz in the distance, that place where my dreams could come true. And they have. So for me, coming back is literally coming home.”

Understanding the power of language is critical in any field or profession, she will tell the English degree graduates.

“I plan to tell them, as I do my own students here in Virginia, to remember, no matter your major, you will never possess a more powerful tool than the power of language. There is nothing more powerful than the power of words, and that is what those English majors have at their disposal, thanks to their faculty and the access they have to the fine education available at ECU.”