NDSU Review

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					June 17, 2004

Professor Sullivan:

Here is my assessment of your programs in the English Department at North Dakota State University. I
must say up front that I found President Chapman’s Vision Statement and the two subsequent State of the
University addresses to be compelling reading. The president seems committed to improving North Dakota
State University’s standing, and his commitment seems to be backed up with a willingness to generate and
allocate funds to make his vision a reality. Reading these statements made me recall my time in Fargo and
think about how exciting it would be to be part of the substantial changes you are undertaking. I wish you
all the best of luck as you move toward realizing the president’s goals.

I will be quite interested to hear how you NDSU’s English Department progresses. Obviously, a good bit of
your success will depend upon your faculty’s commitment to change, and it does seem to me that you have
a good start there. Another large component for success is the quality of the faculty, and I am impressed not
only with their willingness to change but with their abilities: NDSU has a young English Department
faculty, with good academic credentials in areas that are increasingly important to the discipline of English
Studies. Together with your senior faculty, the department has the professoriate it needs to be successful
with its undergraduate major, its MA, and a proposed undergraduate major in writing; with some additional
faculty, the department should also be able to realize the goal of a PhD.

Another component for success, as my department has found out recently in a number of cases, is support
from the upper administration—from the dean through the provost to the president and the board of
trustees. If they are enthusiastic about the liberal arts, then you will not have to fight reallocations of your
literature faculty; if they are enthusiastic about general education, then you should be able to maintain and
even improve your writing programs; if they are enthusiastic about new undergraduate programs that can
meet the emerging needs of students and the state, then you should be able to develop a BA in writing; and
if they are oriented not only toward the traditionally central programs but also to the liberal arts, then you
should have no trouble maintaining and even improving your BA and MA programs in literature.
Sometimes, of course, the upper administration has other priorities than what the English Department
realizes is best, but, as a rhetorician, you know what sort of strategies might be necessary and would be
useful in realizing your goals. I guess what I am saying here is that you might think about getting out front
on some of the proposals, making it clear to the upper administration why they are useful, smart, and
necessary for the greater good of the state, the students, the institution, and the College of Agriculture (still
the big dog on campus?), as well as good for the department. The department’s proposals will no doubt be
more successful when they are linked to upper administration’s strategic plans and linked to specifically
stated benefits to all parties, and when they are effectively promoted. My advice, for what it is worth given
our inability to turn the tide on a couple of significant matters at my institution, is to keep the larger picture
always in mind and not assume that everyone is as clear as we are about what is best.

I have organized this assessment by first addressing your questions that appear on pages 4 and 5 of your
cover letter. My comments there are summary in nature and direct you at times to the major section of the
assessment, which I have organized according to your academic programs: first, the first-year writing
program, then the undergraduate programs, and finally the graduate programs. I think that my points are
clear but please let me know if you would like clarification. My summary comments are sometimes blunt
and as specific as I can make them. The bluntness and specificity, I hope, is seen for what it attempts to be:
help to improve a department that appears already to be doing many things well and appears to have
wonderful ideas to do more things well. My suggestions also lack knowledge of some important
elements—specifically, available resources, the nature of the administration’s, the trustees’ and the
legislature’s attitude toward the English Department specifically and liberal arts generally, and other
political concerns within the college and the university.

Again, best of luck.

Martin J. Jacobi
                                                                        NDSU Review, p 2

1. Long range planning: Curriculum design and program development; future
   hiring; strengths and gaps in areas/faculty

    I suggest that the BA in Liberal Arts be reorganized. Many of its courses are under-
enrolled, which probably means that some faculty have quite small student loads while
others substantially more, and so is at least a potential problem for morale. A
reorganization of the major—for instance, switching the focus of the major to courses and
areas that are of more interest to new faculty and that address new directions nationally in
English Studies—may generate more English majors and thereby reduce pressure for
reallocating literature lines.
    We are in the process of revising our own undergraduate major in English, so I am
expecting some very interesting faculty meetings this fall. Some of the suggestions that I
make in my fuller discussion of the undergraduate major in Liberal Arts are drawn from
discussions our committee has already begun.
    For my extended comments on the major, see pp 10-12.

    I think that you should strongly consider an undergraduate major in professional
communication. Since NDSU is a land-grant university, it would serve in many ways to
address needs and interests of your students; further, it can help students prepare for
careers while also providing them with a strong liberal arts background, which I feel is
absolutely essential for a good writing program. My institution has developed an
professional communication emphasis area in the BA, and we are considering a separate
BA in writing. (We actually had developed one but the upper administration put it on
hold in order to focus attention on developing graduate programs.)
    For my extended comments on this topic, see pp 12-13.

    I think that an M.A. program should continue to receive funding because it helps to
prepare teachers of the general education program, it helps to provide a base for students
who wish to continue on to PhD programs, and it helps to improve teachers in public
schools and two-year colleges and technical schools. Given the number of linguistic
programs in the country and the number of jobs available, I think that this emphasis’s
cost and return should be examined very closely. However, the literature and the
composition emphasis make perfect sense, for the reasons given just above. I also think
that there should be, if there isn’t already, a strong program for preparing your graduate
students for the writing classroom/
    For my extended comments on this topic, see pp 15-16.

    I think that you need to be very careful in planning the kind of PhD program you
want to offer. I think that you need to consider the long-term interest in this program, the
employment opportunities for the graduates, and the ability of the department, the
university, and the state to pay for it. In my opinion, you might look at a professional
communication emphasis: it fits well with the mission of the university, it is needed for
the development of teachers in tech schools and colleges, it is needed for industry, and its
more narrow focus makes it more manageable regarding staffing and course enrollment.
    For my extended comments on this topic, see pp 13-15.
                                                                        NDSU Review, p 3

     Regarding hiring, I have looked for faculty who are capable of providing quality
instruction in more than one area—especially if one is losing literature lines. The time
has passed, for us at least, for hiring a Shakespeare person, or a 19th Century American
literature expert who has no other area in which she can teach. So we have been looking
for faculty who cover traditional areas for literary studies, but not necessarily in the
traditional ways and not exclusively those areas. As chair, I hired faculty who covered
British Romantics and film, Children’s literature and film, creative writing and
contemporary poetry, creative writing and journalism, and so on. It seems fairly clear to
me that literature programs, in an era of declining enrollments, need to do more with less
as the department shifts to areas—like media studies, cultural studies, diversity studies—
that more closely fit the direction of the discipline and the interests of the student body,
and as the department is asked to develop new programs in writing.
     Perhaps the English Department at NDSU will gain more faculty in writing and
professional communication while losing faculty in traditional literature. As you mention,
the number of majors has remained static as the student body at the university has grown,
so one cannot expect that standing pat will long be acceptable to the upper
administration. My thought is, as they say in Great Britain, to “sex up” the major, not
because one wants to prostitute the liberal arts but because the major is shifting. Our
students know and are interested in media studies, from movies to television to
computers, and we need to offer them liberal arts in these contexts. (Or, to put it another
way, the study of literature itself was “sexy’ for me and perhaps for faculty of my
generation now teaching at our institutions, and the way I learned literature was
considered unacceptable by some of the older faculty in my undergraduate and graduate
programs. A similar situation obtains nearly every generation, I suspect, and we must e
willing to change with the times or become irrelevant—to students and to the upper
administration. (Just one proposal we have considered—primarily for our general
education sophomore literature program but prospectively for the major—is a course that
uses computer classrooms to incorporate film clips, secondary research, and historical
materials in the context of a “literature and media” course. This course would address
your second question on the cover sheet, it would generate student interest, and it most
likely would be what a number of your faculty would be interest in and capable of

    Depending upon the directions you take concerning the writing major and the PhD,
you might have some substantial gaps in faculty expertise. In any event, I do believe that
you do lack the faculty to offer the current programs and courses and, in addition, a
writing major and a PhD.

2. Integrating practical communication and technology into the humanities
    A successful approach to integrating technology, practical communication, and the
humanities, I believe, can be realized in general education courses, in the undergraduate
program, and in the graduate program.
    The general education program, in addition to its responsibilities to develop critical
thinking, reading, and writing, can bring positive attention to the department, can
improve its status in the university and the community, and can provide a place for
                                                                         NDSU Review, p 4

research (at the PhD level, certainly) and teaching (in first-year writing and in the
undergraduate writing major) for faculty and graduate students. At my institution, we
have almost all of our first-year writing courses in computer classes, and this move
allows us to integrate humanities, practical communication, and technology quite
effectively. Your faculty know the value of multiple drafts of assignments, critiqued by
faculty as well as peers, and no doubt some faculty know about software programs that
make peer reviewing and faculty oversight easy and effective. The computer can also be
used to model research strategies and actually to bring research into the course. For
instance, this fall the first-year students will have read Tim O’Brien’s The Things They
Carried over the summer and participated in a lecture/discussion with the author at the
beginning of the semester. Their first pieces of writing—done over the summer—will be
part of an assignment which, I suspect, will include for most sections of the course
research into Vietnam-era history. It will also be the first entry into each student’s
electronic portfolio. (My institution offers summer institutes to prepare faculty to use
electronic portfolios. Such portfolios are useful in assessing student writing for the
benefit of faculty who want to improve the program, for higher education representatives
accrediting the program, and so on. They also serve to provide students with a body of
work that they can show to potential employers interested in their communication skills.
The students’ first exposure to the electronic portfolio is in their first-year writing
courses, so we are quite explicitly and significantly involved.)
    So, integration of practical communication, humanities, and technology can be done
very effectively in the first-year program.
    For my extended comments on the first-year program, see pp 7-9.

    In much the same way, an undergraduate English major could integrate humanities
and technology, and depending upon the course design, some practical writing as well.
For instance, a class could ask students to read William Dean Howells’s short story,
“Editha,” and also look at resources on the web that explain the history surrounding the
Spanish American War. Given the hyped information used to promote the Vietnamese
war (such as the Gulf of Tonkin resolution) and the hyped information used to promote
the recent Iraqi war (WMD, connections to Al Quaeda, etc.), a study of the hype that led
us into the Spanish American War and a look at the imperialist results would be valuable
educational time for majors in the English program.

    An undergraduate major or emphasis in writing (specifically professional writing but
also pedagogy, for English Ed majors) will necessarily integrate practical writing with
technology and, since practical writing is rhetoric and rhetoric is the queen of the liberal
arts, with rhetorical theory and practice.

    A PhD that emphasizes professional communication would integrate these three areas
would, I believe, be a valuable addition to the profession. The costs are substantial, but
the program is a logical way to make these connections, and a logical PhD program for a
land grant university.
                                                                        NDSU Review, p 5

3. Departmental Strengths and Weaknesses; responses to both as NDSU moves to
     the future
     One of your great strengths seems to be a faculty committed to making necessary
changes. Contention among faculty stops or at least seriously delays progress, and given
your president’s charge, you do not want to lose any time.
     Further, because of your status as a land grant institution, your desire for a PhD
program, and the state of the profession of English Studies generally, and because you are
already developing a faculty component in this area, I think that you should continue to
develop an emphasis in writing and especially professional communication. I would look
to find and retain strong faculty in rhetorical theory and in composition, and in areas such
as visual communication, workplace communication, international communication, and
various combinations of rhetoric and computers—such as multi-media authoring,
information architecture, distance education, and such. The public schools and the higher
education system both need teachers trained in this area.
     However, it seems to me crucial that the literature faculty retain an equal place in the
department. I know I mention this sentiment elsewhere in these pages, but it bears
repeating that writing faculty at my institution—many of whom have national reputations
and are not easily if at all replaceable—have made it clear that they do not want to build
writing programs at the expense of the literature programs, because a strong university
must have a strong literature program, and because they simply do not want to have to
work at an institution that does not value the liberal arts.
     The greatest weaknesses, as I understand your department are the insufficient number
of faculty needed to staff all of the programs you have and are proposing, and the lack of
funding that enables faculty to do and present research. I do not have a budget for the
proposed PhD, but I am also concerned that insufficient funding for that program will be
very real and significant weakness. As I mention in my extended comments on this
program, faculty must have reduced teaching loads, advertising and recruiting money
must be adequate to identify prospective students and bring them to campus, stipends
must be attractive enough to seal the deal with the prospective students, and so on.

4. Can NDSU meet all the changes we face with current numbers and resources?
     To take advantage of the many exciting possibilities, you need more than the current
numbers and resources.
     My department (in an institution of approximately 17,000 undergraduates) has thirty-
five tenured or tenure-track faculty, between twenty-five and thirty instructors, and at
least 20 graduate teaching assistants. Faculty teach 3/3, instructors teach 4/4, and TAs
teach 2/2. The latter two categories teach only general education courses and the faculty
teach some general education—mostly sophomore literature. (Students at my institution
take 12 hours of general education requirements from the English Department.) Out of
thirty-five tenured and tenure-track faculty, my institution has twelve faculty whose
primary area is rhetoric and composition or professional communication. Some of these
faculty are on reduced loads because of administrative appointments, endowed
professorships, and reassignments based on grants and contracts, so that out of a
maximum of 72 courses (12 faculty x 6 courses/year) these faculty probably about 36
courses each year. Thus, very few of these faculty can teach our general education
writing courses (either first-year composition or third-year business or technical writing)
                                                                         NDSU Review, p 6

because they are teaching in our MA in Professional Communication program or teaching
upper-division courses in professional communication, rhetoric, or composition theory.
     We have had accepted by the state a PhD program in professional communication,
which will be taught primarily by faculty in our department and in the department of
communication studies. We feel that faculty absolutely need to be on a 2/2 course load, in
order to increase research productivity, to teach the graduate seminars, and to work with
students on dissertation committees. Even with the assistance of the communication
studies department’s faculty, many are concerned that we will not have the faculty to do
the large amount of work required for a PhD program.
     Further, we have instituted a writing concentration in our undergraduate major, in
which students would take half of their English Department courses in literature and half
in writing. We had originally planned to offer a separate BA degree in writing, but the
university wanted a PhD program first. We are quite concerned, therefore, that we get
additional lines to help us with our PhD and with the reduction in course loads for these
     If you have no new resources, the most effective action, I believe, would be to
develop the undergraduate writing major. It would require some reallocation from the
literature lines, the abandonment of the PhD program, and perhaps a revision of the first-
year writing program that would reduce it to one course. The problems, of course, are that
reducing first-year writing will increase problems with retention, and retention is a goal
of President Chapmen; abandoning the PhD program runs counter to another of President
Chapman’s goals; and reallocating lines from literature weakens that program and thus an
essential part of the university.
     If you have new resources, I would recommend that the general education program be
looked at for ways to bring national attention to the institution. Then I would develop the
undergraduate program in writing. Then I would develop graduate programs in
professional communication—both M.A. and PhD. My thinking for this ranking is that
(1) emphasizing general education would greatly benefit students, so retention rates, and
so a university’s national reputation; if it is able to realize improvement through an
innovative program with a rhetorically savvy P.R. arm, it would further increase national
exposure and prestige; (2) an undergraduate program is affordable, would be successful
in placing graduates in business careers, would be available for a humanistic emphasis,
and would provide potential students for graduate programs; and (3) any PhD program
coming out of an English department has a good deal of national competition, although
one that emphasizes professional communication would be best suited for NDSU’s
strengths and its mission.

5. Suggestions for PhD program, to exploit department’s strengths and give
   students regionally marketable degree.
   For my extended comments on this topic, see pp 13-16.

6. Additional Issues?
    I have tried to put into this assessment, one place or another, anything I could think of
that might be useful.
                                                                         NDSU Review, p 7

     I think that connecting the program to priorities on campus—as you do with
leadership—is a good idea for a number of reasons. It gives readings and assignments
more obvious significance for students, who see their classroom topic elsewhere given a
significant place in the academic community; it adds to the coherence of the program by
linking the many sections through a common set of readings and assignments; and it
weaves the program into other campus programs and priorities, making the writing
program more visible and important to the upper administration. With such benefits in
mind, you might think also about linking the program to other initiatives and priorities of
the university. At a glance, I do not see how to link the program to the four university
themes mentioned in the president’s 2003 State of the University Address, but perhaps
you could use these or another set of initiatives or priorities or themes. For instance, at
my institution the writing program has worked into its sequence the provost’s set of
strategic emphasis areas.
     Our program has also made links with the yearly Shakespeare Festival, with the
president’s colloquium, and, most recently, with the incoming first-year students’
summer reading program. The Shakespeare Festival was begun by an English
Department faculty and had at its origin a connection with the first-year writing program;
English Department faculty were also instrumental in developing and implementing the
president’s colloquium (over the past three years it has addressed cloning, academic
integrity, and campus diversity and access to education) and the summer reading program
(now in its second year, with Hunger of Memory and Richard Rodriguez last year and
The Things They Carried and Tim O’Brien this August). Again, these university
initiatives were tied to the writing sequence, and from their beginnings. For instance, the
president’s colloquium drives an essay contest in the first-year sequence’s sections, and
the summer reading program asks incoming students to write a short paper that is taken
up in break-out sections led by university faculty, after the author’s talk, and that serve as
the first entry into their electronic portfolios and a first draft of one of their writing
     As I mentioned above, we believe that the more connections we can make with
programs across the campus, the better our visibility and, we hope, the better our funding.
(These connections helped us get an increase in our graduate teaching assistant stipends
from $7,000 to $10,000.)
     (As an aside, we have also worked specifically and thoroughly to link our junior-level
general education courses in business writing and technical writing to the campus and
community through project-based instruction and service learning: a faculty member
recruits for and coordinates projects from other departments, area businesses, and local
government agencies, and oversees English faculty involved in the courses. We can tout
project-based learning and service learning as ways in which our own land grant
institution serves others, and the provost has repeatedly mentioned this program in
addresses to faculty and the Board of Trustees. By instituting this program, we have
raised the profile of these courses and their instructors (to a large extent, instructors not
on tenure-track) and, I believe, have secured the courses from threats in the
reorganization of our general education program.)
     Your documents mentioned some interest (or perhaps pressure) in spreading the
writing requirements throughout the students’ different years—a vertical integration. It’s
                                                                         NDSU Review, p 8

tough to argue that most students at a land grant university can succeed with only one
writing course in the first year—especially given that the need to develop critical reading
and thinking skills, as well as critical writing skills, oftentimes falls to the writing
program. And given the explicit and repeated emphasis by your president on retention, it
may be dangerous to limit students’ writing courses in the first year, since such a
limitation may well lead to lack of success in their other courses. Thus, perhaps an
additional writing course at the junior level—like business writing or technical writing or
advanced composition—might be an answer to the problems of how to keep students
writing, and how to help them continue to improve their writing, during their academic
years. Perhaps in addition to this new requirement, the university could encourage a
strong communication across the curriculum program—not to replace writing courses
taught by faculty trained to teach them but to enhance these courses. Pitched
appropriately, such an integrated program to enhance students’ communication skills
could be the sort of innovative program that would rightly get the attention of the
president, the board of trustees, and outside entities that could provide publicity and
    Although I am wary of a single first-year course, and although I do not know the
quality of your entering students’ writing skills, and although I do not know the financial
pressures, it is conceivable to make a case for replacing the second course in the first year
with a required course in the junior year—provided that a CAC program were instituted,
provided that there was a strong (re staffing, re funding) writing center, and provided that
students who fall below some certain threshold (perhaps to be determined, as we do, with
a portfolio sent to the department over the summer) be required to take an additional one-
hour lab (paid, at my institution, by the students through our lab fees). Another
alternative—but again I’m in an area of NDSU general education that I don’t know—
would be to have one first-year course, a sophomore course that is writing intensive and
that treats of literature and visual media (that is, a course with a basis in literature and a
pop culture/media emphasis), and a junior course in business writing or technical writing
that would lead into students’ writing in their science, agriculture, engineering, and other
major fields.
    All of this is to say something you already know—that there are many ways to get
good writing, and oftentimes the approach finally adopted is a combination of
institutional and faculty strengths, financial considerations, and political compromises. In
this regard, I have two last thoughts regarding the first-year writing program. At my
institution, we are cognizant of the US News listings for Top 20 institutions, and one of
the ways of improving an institution’s score is to increase the number of courses that
enroll less than twenty students in each section. Until the latest state budget crisis this
spring, we had convinced the president and the provost to lower the caps on our
composition courses to nineteen, so that the institution could improve its standing. (If the
budget deficit turns out to be less than expected, we may still have this cap.) A number of
top tier institutions have recently taken just this route, and it might be worth considering
as a strategy at NDSU.
    Secondly, regardless of what sort of writing program you put in place, and how many
students enroll in each section, the quality of the instruction is crucial. With talk of an
undergraduate major and a PhD in this area, your writing faculty will be most likely
doing almost nothing with general education writing courses, so the support for teaching
                                                                          NDSU Review, p 9

assistants and instructors—many of whom, as you well know, have literature as their
primary interest and training—is essential. You also well know how hard it is to teach
writing in large sections, especially if the teachers are also working to complete their own
M.A. degrees and lack experience in teaching writing. A PhD that has a strong
component in rhetoric, composition, and professional communication will, down the
road, offer some help in staffing these courses, but there will not be enough students in
that program to cover the many writing sections required. Nor can any state-supported
English Department expect to hire enough tenure-track faculty to make much of a
difference in staffing. Thus, any institution that takes writing seriously has to realize that
paying graduate assistants a few thousand dollars per course, or instructors perhaps three
thousand dollars per course is counter intuitive. Of course, the upper administration
knows as well as the faculty that one gets what one pays for (or at least usually such is
the case, although I know of some excellent and committed writing instructors at my
institution who are grossly underpaid), so it helps to have additional reasons for
increasing the focus on writing and so on the compensation. (I actually taught with at
least three of your non-tenured faculty and can only imagine how good they are now,
given how good they were when I was there in the early 1980’s. Certainly they deserve a
salary more in line with their skills and commitment.)
     So, perhaps you could think about other concerted, concentrated, and forward-
looking arguments, especially if President Chapman is as open to new ideas as he appears
to be. At my institution, a university committee developed, over three years, a new
general education program that would have given our 17,000 plus students a program
similar to that at small, liberal arts institutions and would have put us on the national map
and in the Chronicle of Higher Education. It would have cost less than many of the
proposals adopted by the upper administration having to do with improving some aspect
of the engineering college, or technology issues for education, or what have you. Not to
say that these proposals were without merit; what I am saying is that for a relatively small
investment, a revised general education curriculum—driven by critical reading, thinking,
listening, speaking, and writing skills and focused on topics of interest to the
administration, to other programs on campus, and to the national educational
establishment (ours used a set of emphasis areas from a Carnegie Commission report)—
would give the president a lot of bang for the buck and give you an important place in his
thinking. (Unfortunately, our proposal was not accepted because the university wished to
increase its PhD offerings—much like NDSU, ironically—and it remains to be seen
whether that decision was a good one.)

A. Liberal Arts Major
    As I understand the requirements, students must take 33 credits, broken down as
follows: 6 credits in either the British lit survey or the American lit survey; 3 credits each
in Intro to Writing Studies, Linguistics, Intermediate Composition, and the Capstone
course (12 credits total); 15 additional credits, with at least 9 credits at the 400 level.
(Given that English 271 is required for the capstone course, it seems that students
actually have as major field electives 12 credits, with 9 at the 400-level.) The
                                                                        NDSU Review, p 10

recommended curriculum lists a total of 51 credits in English, or 18 above the

     My concerns with the curriculum as it is currently presented to students are these, in
no particular order.
     I imagine that students would have questions about why the number of credits being
recommended is so different from the number required. If NDSU is like my institution, I
imagine that you are discouraged from requiring the number of credits you would like
(even though some majors—like engineering at my institution—seem to be able to get
away with it), and that you want to maintain enough electives in the program so that
students can switch their majors to English. Still, the information is potentially confusing,
and I would rewrite the recommendations to indicate where the students would take their
33 required hours, with perhaps a note at the bottom suggesting that electives be used to
expand coverage through additional courses. I would then speak to the advisors about
how they should counsel students regarding their curriculum.
     Currently, a student can graduate with 33 credits of English beyond the first year, and
of those only 3 credits would be in a 200-level or 300-level non-required course (given
that English 271 is in fact a prerequisite of the capstone course so, in effect, required).
This curriculum makes it hard for the 200-level and 300-level courses to make. Perhaps
the thinking is that students will want to take these courses as electives over and above
the 33 hours, but, nonetheless, those teaching the courses may feel some injustice in the
arrangement. I notice that these courses are more heavily enrolled than the 400-level
courses, which I would guess is a result partly of students outside the major taking them
as electives and partly because English majors are taking them as electives beyond their
33 hours. Further, by identifying in your recommendations of 51 credits courses in
Shakespeare and creative writing, both 200-level surveys, and eighteen hours at the 400
level, once again the 200-level and 300-level non-required courses are not given the kind
of attention other courses are.
     The low enrollments of the 400-level courses are quite problematic. At my institution,
we do not feel we can afford to run courses in the major that enroll less than 10 students
and generally we schedule enough 400-level courses so that we average about 30
students; a course that consistently has lower enrollments ends up not being taught.
However, we do have almost 200 English majors and a good many English Ed majors, so
obviously we have much more flexibility than does NDSU’s English Department.
     Running small courses is very expensive and takes away from the flexibility you have
to develop and then staff new courses and programs. Currently, some probably teach a
fairly heavy student load each semester, while others teach a relatively light load, and that
disparity is not conducive to collegial relations in a department. Further, and regardless of
collegiality issues, some upper-level administrator may see the low enrollments, the
proposed undergraduate writing major, and the proposed PhD as reasons to reallocate
literature lines as faculty retire or—more ominously—before faculty are tenured.

    My recommendations, which I offer with some diffidence, are these, again in no
particular order.
    I would continue to require a survey at the 200-level for all students. In fact, I would
be inclined to require both surveys and try to have courses dedicated only for English
                                                                      NDSU Review, p 11

majors, so that they could provide a broader and deeper survey than what would be
possible for a general education course.
     I would be sure to have an intro course for the major. (It seems that maybe the 275
functions somewhat that way, and perhaps the 271.) I would require it before any 300-
level or 400-level courses could be taken (or else the purpose of the intro to the major is
defeated). One does have to consider students who transfer into English from other
majors, but we have found that when students in their senior year took the intro course it
was wasted.
     I suggest separate intro courses for the Liberal Arts major and the proposed writing
major, perhaps 271 for the proposed writing major and 275 for the English major. If this
new major does come on line, I would suggest that the Liberal Arts major be geared
specifically toward literature, with the Introduction to Writing Studies course not
     As it stands, students appear able to take the capstone course at any time relative to
their 400-level courses. I would limit enrollment to majors who have completed most of
their requirements—students in their last year if not their last semester.
     I would suggest a substantial revision of the course offerings for the Liberal Arts
major. Perhaps, given the interests of the new faculty and given the way the discipline is
moving, NDSU might consider group areas, from which students are required to take
courses. If students were required early in the curriculum to take both survey courses,
they would have two years for these group requirements and, if the department advertised
its course rotation, the students would have a number of options to consider. If the
Liberal Arts major had a 36-hour requirement, the first 15 hours could include an intro
course and the two surveys, and the other 21 hours could be divided into something like 6
hours of American literature, 6 hours of British literature, 6 hours of an open category,
and 3 hours of diversity course options. Courses like “Topics in American Fiction,”
“Topics in American Poetry,” and “Topics in American Drama” (with the same for
British literature) would offer faculty flexibility to teach more specifically to research
interests; in different semesters, these topics courses could include different authors,
selected by whichever faculty member teaches the course and according to that faculty
member’s research and other interests. For the open category (whatever this category
might be called), courses like, for example, “Romanticism in British and American
literature,” “Naturalistic Fiction from Europe and the United States,” “Popular Culture in
Film and Television,” and “Protest Lyrics of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg,
and Others” would again offer faculty a great deal of flexibility for presenting their
research in the classroom. And courses like, for example, “Women’s literature,” “African
American literature,” “Native American literature,” “Latino/a literature,” would provide
options for some faculty and provide students with opportunities to study literatures and
issues they may not otherwise have or choose to have. Obviously, the curriculum could
be divided in many different ways, but my goals would be twofold: to increase the
number of students in each section, and to provide the faculty with increased
opportunities to blend more closely their teaching and their research. With planning, the
faculty could be sure that students have some mixture of national literatures,
chronological periods, genres, and so forth, and given that no program can give depth
everywhere (unless students are required to take many more than 36 hours in the major),
why not set up the curriculum for faculty interests, too?
                                                                       NDSU Review, p 12

     I realize that offering fewer upper-level courses decreases the options for faculty, but
it seems that there are at least three reasons for considering this decision anyway: first,
the proposed PhD and BA writing programs are going to require more faculty, and it may
not happen that the upper administration will provide those lines without requiring
additional reallocation in the department’s faculty lines; second, there are retirements in
the offing, I understand, so the revised curriculum could be realized without dislocation
of current faculty career objectives; and third, there are simply not enough English majors
to allow for a great number of course offerings without severe financial costs. It is
possible, I believe, that a revised English major that has significant places for cultural
studies (including media studies) and diversity literatures might attract new majors, so it
might be worth talking with your dean about this option before literature lines are
reallocated to the writing program.

B. Writing Major
     There is not a lot of information about this program. From what I can see, there is an
interest in a writing major that includes professional writing, writing pedagogy, and
creative writing. At my institution the English Department considered a similar major,
with the inclusions in some part at least the result of political issues: the department
wanted to keep all faculty happy, and it wanted to protect all our writing areas from
possible reductions in force for the purpose of reallocating lines to more preferred
     My thinking is that the undergraduate major ought to be quite specific and relatively
narrow about its interests. Frankly, I do not see the need for a linguistics requirement in
the Liberal Arts major, and I am not convinced that it is essential even for a major in
writing. Further, it may not be feasible to include an undergraduate emphasis in creative
writing, or at least not on a par with literature or professional communication, and not
only because, traditionally, creative writing is emphasized in an M.F.A. program. While I
do not know the financial resources available to the department, at my institution we have
been grappling with the realization that we cannot be all things for all people: we would
like to have emphasis areas, or concentrations, or strong minors, for creative writing,
journalism, film, cultural studies, professional communication, children’s literature,
humanities, to name a few, but we simply do not have the faculty to staff the courses for
all of these programs. Can you offer a strong creative writing component, along with
meeting your other needs? Does UND already have a strong creative writing emphasis? If
so, would the state legislature, or the board of trustees, or a dean suggest that such an
emphasis simply is not needed or necessary at NDSU?
     Another way to make this point is to say that the undergraduate major might better
focus specifically on professional communication. A number of land grant institutions
have developed undergraduate degrees in this area over the past decade and many of
them have had to impose caps on enrollment due to demand from students. Because it is
more narrowly focused, the program would also require fewer courses taught each
semester and fewer faculty to staff those courses.
     So, an undergraduate major that offers rhetorical theory, technical and/or business
writing, editing, visual communication, workplace communication, information
architecture, multimedia authoring, proposal writing, and so forth would be quite
                                                                      NDSU Review, p 13

attractive and probably as much as your faculty could now manage, given their other
commitments. Housed in the English Department, it would be able to prepare students for
specific careers and also provide them with the kind of liberal arts base that is important
not only for progressing in their careers (beyond “grunt work” and into management) but
also for being thoughtful and contributing members of their society and their political
world. Furthermore, it may provide students interested in continuing into graduate
programs in the area. I would imagine that at an institution such as NDSU, it would
become quite a popular major.
     (I do not see a course in rhetorical theory in the “dream curriculum” for the writing
major included in your materials, but I think that rhetorical theory is as important for a
writing major as literary theory is for a literature major or math is for engineering.)

A. PhD Program
    Given what has happened at is about to happen at my institution, I think that NDSU
needs to consider very carefully a PhD program. From my perspective, at least the points
below should be considered very closely.

     Is there enough interest in the sort of program that you have outlined that would
sustain the program? It is difficult now for students in literature PhDs to find
employment, so it may not be a good idea to emphasize that area. From the perspective of
the legislature, North Dakota would not seem to have the need for two PhD programs in
literature; in my state of South Carolina, the legislature is adamant about not allowing
duplication in graduate programs, and we have substantially more citizens than does
North Dakota/ Further, the University of Minnesota has a first-rate program and is not too
far away. Given that many graduate students are on stipends, in-state versus out-of-state
tuition does not seem to be a major consideration.

     Is there enough interest nationally in your prospective graduates? Research on the
MLA Job Information List with which I am familiar suggests that the number of
advertised tenure-track positions that are finally funded and filled has been going down
for a number of years; I am not sure about the terminal-appointment positions, but many
in the discipline see as unacceptable preparing students for low-paying, insecure
positions, in part because it makes it that much more difficult to keep good tenure lines
funded. Some disciplines work hard to keep their number of graduates low, so that those
who are employed have good salaries and security, and while no institution may feel that
it ought to fall on its sword to help the discipline at large by shutting down a PhD
program, I do not think building a new one with a literature emphasis is the best use of
funds. Further, I am not sure what sort of market there would be for graduates with a
pedagogy emphasis in the way it is outlined in your program. During my years hiring
tenure-line faculty (and we made over fifteen hires when I was chair for four years and
over twenty five in the last seven years), we never had occasion to look for a pedagogy
person. I do not know enough about the Education programs’ needs and areas of training,
but I would think that between their programs and traditional rhet/comp programs in
English, there are more than enough applicants for positions right now.
                                                                       NDSU Review, p 14

    The real need, or at least what I believe to be the real need and what our own research
indicated to be the real need, is in professional communication. You mention that your
PhD would complement the PhD in communications at your institution, although I am
not sure what sort of expertise that faculty would have in this area. Our research and our
discussions with faculty in our own communication studies department suggest that
professional communication—at least the kind that is in demand in the MLA JIL—is not
an emphasis in the field of communications. So, my suggestion is that the PhD focus on
professional communication, finding a niche in that area that would allow you to compete
nationally as well as regionally with U of Minnesota’s program, Michigan Tech’s
program , Michigan State’s new program, and so forth. Otherwise, you will have too few
faculty training too few students for too few positions.
    The market for these graduates exists in higher education—from two year colleges
and tech schools up through research I institutions, and it also exists in industry. We
expect that our students will be about equally split between these two areas.

     With or without the narrowed focus I suggest, here are some other concerns about a
PhD program that I am not sure how you are addressing:
     I do not think that you have enough faculty to run general education writing courses,
two undergraduate majors, an MA literature program, and a PhD. I have guessed that the
literature faculty have fewer students now than do the writing faculty, but a PhD will not
change that dynamic—no matter how configured provided that professional
communication is part of it. I think that the faculty lines will migrate from literature to
writing at an accelerated rate, unless the department receives a number of new lines. My
institution has a dozen faculty in English and three more in communication studies for
whom professional communication is the major area, and we believe we will need a
number of additional faculty for our proposed PhD in professional communication. (We
have general education writing, an emphasis area at the undergraduate level in
professional communication, and a thriving M.A. in professional communication already,
although we have a great number of instructors and grad teaching assistants to help with
the general education component.)
     I should also mention that our writing faculty, including two endowed chairs with
national reputations, have expressed very clearly their disinterest in dismantling the
literature faculty, and the literature BA and MA programs in order to staff and fund the
writing programs; they believe, as do I and as do the overwhelming majority of our dozen
writing faculty, that the professional communication program and faculty must have
connections with traditional liberal arts literature faculty and programs—for personal,
professional, and disciplinary reasons. So, I would not argue that the proposed PhD and
BA be built by gutting the literature faculty and programs. If they cannot be built without
harm to those programs, they should not be built at all. I believe, as a matter of fact, that
many professional communication faculty around the country, given the choice, would go
to an institution that also has a strong literature component, so for recruiting purposes
alone your literature program ought to be maintained.
     Your proposal mentions 4-6 students enrolling (each year) and an expectation of at
least 2 graduating each year. That seems to be a reasonable estimate, but it given that
breadth of your proposed program, how many seminars would you need to run each
                                                                      NDSU Review, p 15

semester and how many students would be in each one. That is, another benefit of
narrowing the focus would be that you would need to run fewer seminars, with each one
having more students.
    I believe that it is not reasonable to ask that faculty increase their research
productivity to PhD program levels, teach seminars, and oversee dissertations, all while
teaching a 3/3 teaching load. Even if the program does go through with this load, you risk
losing your best faculty to one of the many institutions that require less teaching.

   In addition to the substantial cost of lowering teaching loads, the PhD program has a
number of other costs. I do not have information on whether or how these costs are to be
met, so I will simply list what I think that most important ones are.
 Faculty will need support for conferences, travel to collections, and equipment
 The library will need a very large sum of money to meet the needs of a PhD program
 A program in professional communication will need computer equipment, labs, and
   other facilities
 The current rate for PhD student stipends in professional communication is,
   according to our research, pushing $18,000 yearly. We know that is more than is
   currently paid to graduate students in communications and in literature, but to
   compete with Minnesota, Texas Tech, Purdue, et al, that figure is going to have to be
 Further, there are simply not that many prospective students. I know that programs
   have substantial recruiting budgets and that some even offer “signing bonuses.” Is
   there money available for advertising, travel, and other recruitment costs?
 Our dean wants the program to be funded to a great extent by grants and contracts
   secured by faculty. However, we see at least these two problems. Faculty need to
   write and then administer the grants, thereby taking them out of the classroom and
   away from graduate advising and dissertation work. Much more importantly, we have
   not found any programs similar to ours that have been able to generate that sort of
   additional funding. So, whatever the costs, they will have to come from the current
   budget or from new appropriations.
 Given all of the costs—faculty course reductions; increases to library holdings;
   graduate stipends; money for research, recruitment, technology, and facilities; new
   staff positions and administrative positions, and so on—the expense is enormous. I
   haven’t a draft of our budget with me, but I know that by the fifth year we were
   expecting to need over one million dollars annually in reallocated or new funds.
   Granted, we expect at this point to have approximately 32 students enrolled full time,
   but I do want to iterate the seriousness of the financial commitment and the potential
   threat to existing programs if the money is not forthcoming from new sources.

B. M.A. program
    The program looks to have a traditional literature track, in addition to composition
and linguistics tracks. Based on your stated goals for the program, it seems to be quite
reasonable. (I do wonder how many students in linguistics go through the program and
what they do with that training. There does not seem to me to be much call for that
emphasis and I wonder if resources might not be better used. At the least, since I suspect
                                                                      NDSU Review, p 16

the English Education program is in part the reason why the English Department offers so
many linguistics courses, has the department a way to request additional funds to meet
accreditation needs for students in that major?)
     At my institution we have been talking for some time about refocusing our M.A. in
literature. (We also have an M.A. in professional communication.) Currently, there are no
immediate plans to overhaul the program, but the junior faculty are interested in making
over the graduate program in their own images—by which I mean that they would like to
see the program more in line with the directions they see the profession heading and that
they would like to be able to teach more to their research interests. However, we also see
the graduate program, as do your department, as a preparation for a PhD program in
literature, and my time at ADE meetings has convinced me that these programs want
M.A. students with a solid grounding and breadth in literature. That is, we are not sure
whether our students interested in going beyond the M.A. are better served by this
program or a revised one, but we do believe that students who plan to teach in two-year
colleges or in high schools are better served with the more traditional approach that
emphasizes breadth.
     So, I do not think I would advocate much change in the program’s curricula. Of
course, depending upon the nature of the PhD program, you may want to consider
another track at the M.A. level.
     My only other suggestions concerning the M.A. have to do with the preparation of the
graduate students to teach in the first-year writing program. If I understand the
information, students can enter the program and immediately teach. We had that situation
until the state board of higher education passed the “18-hour rule,” which requires that
students have 18 hours of graduate credit in their field before having teaching
responsibilities. We think that the rule has improved our teaching, because students in
their first year can take composition theory and apprentice with experienced faculty. Of
course, supporting first-year graduates is expensive, although we do use them to staff the
Writing Center and the Multi-media Authoring Teaching and Research Facility, and to
assist departmental administrators and faculty doing research. But, short of giving these
students time to prepare, I would suggest that they be required (if they are not already
required) to take English 764 in their first semester. And if you do not already have such
a program in place, I would suggest a one-week workshop on teaching composition
required of all first-time teaching assistants, weekly practica for the second semester that
focus on that course, faculty mentors assigned to each new graduate student, and a
common syllabus developed by your WPA and not adjustable by graduate students at
least in their first year of teaching. As Wayne Booth frequently has noted, the first-year
writing program is one of the most important courses that undergraduates will take, and if
the department is not going to get the kind of funding necessary to staff these courses
with the same level of faculty who teach in the majors across the campus, it falls to the
English Department to do all in its power to make sure that these courses meet their

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