This chair’s message will be my final one. After having the privilege of serving as chair of the English Department for the past five years, I am stepping down to begin another position at Mason: associate dean for curriculum and technology in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. I am sad to leave the department for now (I’ll be back…) but excited to work on some of the same issues at the college level that I’ve been working on at the department level.
True, these past five years have been challenging, for English and for the university. The Great Recession of 2008 put substantial financial strains on Mason, exacerbating an already difficult situation in which the Commonwealth of Virginia has over the years reduced its support for the university from 53 percent in 2003 of Mason’s core educational budget, to just 26 percent in 2013. At the same time, high student loan debt and the rise in unemployment associated with the recession have led to a lot of questions about whether college is worth it, especially for students pursuing degrees in the liberal arts.
Yet even during these challenging times, the English Department has continued to be the creative, intellectually lively, and student oriented place that so impressed me when I began working in it 20 years ago. With new degree programs in Creative Writing, Writing and Rhetoric, and Linguistics; new minors; and terrific new hires over the past five years across the diverse areas of study in the department, we’ve continued to grow—much like Mason’s national and international reputation, and its campus. (If you haven’t been to Mason in several years, come visit and you’ll be stunned.) Moreover, data on the employment of English majors and the many particular success stories of students I’ve known at Mason give me confidence in the ultimate economic, as well as intellectual and personal, value of the English degree. Still, these are not times to be complacent. The English Department is embarking on long-term plan that we developed over the previous year. A new chair will be selected for the department in fall 2013, and he or she will bring new vision and leadership.
With these changes, the English Department could use the support of its alumni as well. Let us know what you think is important in the direction of the department. Let us know whether you could talk to current English majors about moving from degree to career. And let us know whether you’d like to be more involved in the English alumni chapter. Just write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to see you at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Alumni Weekend event on October 5 this fall.
Chair, English Department