Department of English faculty cherish bridging established disciplinary boundaries and integrating diverse intellectual paradigms into their own work. Consequently, our faculty include a wide range of research and teaching interests and collaborate closely with a large number of other departments and institutes at WMU.

The Gender and Women’s Studies Program (GWS) encourages in students the development of a spirit of inquiry and teaches approaches to thought and action that will prepare students to function effectively in a diverse and rapidly changing society. The organizing principle of the field is the concept of gender as a social construction; equally important are the categories of ethnicity, race, class, age, sexual identity, and nationality, and gender is always studied within this context. Course work investigates the conditions of women in societies, historically and currently, and approaches issues related to women and gender through multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary methods. GWS seeks to develop students’ critical skills and creative potential in analyzing gender issues and conceiving solutions to problems regarding inequalities in a democratic society. The program also encourages students to apply theory and knowledge in the field to action in professional and community projects. Gender and Women’s Studies courses are open to all students and may fulfill university general education requirements, as well as major/minor requirements. Several Department faculty (Drs. Jon Adams, Christopher Nagle, Ilana Nash, Gwen Raaberg, Eve Salisbury and Gwen Tarbox) hold joint appointments with GWS.

The Medieval Institute ranks among the top ten of the some 90 institutes, centers, and programs focusing on Medieval Studies in North America. The Institute’s reputation primarily rests on its annual International Congress, the largest professional meeting in the field, and Medieval Institute Publications, which has published well over 200 books, journals, and series in nearly thirty years. The Master’s Program in Medieval Studies and several research programs have made significant contributions to the reputation as well. Several Department faculty (Drs. Anthony Ellis, Paul A. Johnston, Jr., Eve Salisbury, Jana K. Schulman, and Grace Tiffany) are affiliated with the Medieval Institute and teach courses for its M.A. and Undergraduate Minor on a regular basis.

Founded in 1974, Western's Environmental Studies Program is one of the oldest and most consistently administered of any in the nation. Professors from Political Science, History, General Studies and English established its interdisciplinary curriculum after long discussions growing out of WMU's particpation in the first Earth Day, in 1970.  Members of the Department of English who have been active in the Program are emeriti Larry Syndergaard and John Cooley, and longtime professor Tom Bailey, who served as Director of the Program from 2002 to 2005, and who continues to teach the literature component of ENVS.  Students are required to take courses in a variety of disciplines including history, biology, geochemistry, anthropology and literature, and to do field work during the summer between their junior and senior year.  The program has produced noted winners of prestigious national awards such as the Udall Fellowship, and the Gates Fellowship.

Playwriting and New Play Development: The Department of English and Creative Writing Program provide a number of interdisciplinary opportunities for undergraduate and graduate playwrights to develop their dramatic writing at Western Michigan University.

The New Play Project is a festival of new plays by Western Michigan University playwrights staged in collaboration with WMU’s Theatre Department. Offered during Summer I and team taught by Department of English playwriting professor Steve Feffer and Theatre Department acting and directing professor Mark Liermann, the New Play Project selects twelve to eighteen playwrights, and their new plays, for a class in the new play rehearsal process. Over the course of the Project, the playwrights develop their work in rehearsals with a company of actors, directors, dramaturgs and stage managers. The New Play Project culminates in three or four evenings of public performances of the new work in the York Theatre, followed by a talk-back with the professors, playwrights and ensemble. Additional interdisciplinary classroom activities include the creation of company devised or ensemble plays and adaptations. The New Play Project has just completed its fifth summer and students interested in the New Play Project Six may submit in the Spring of 2009, with the submission deadline TBA.

FUSE is a biannual collaboration between WMU’s playwriting, theatre, dance and music disciplines to create an exciting full production of a new piece of performance. FUSE 1 utilized Plato’s quote “When the mode of the music changes, the walls of the city shake” as a launching point for the playwrights to “fuse” with their fellow WMU artists to explore new ways that theatre is made and realized. FUSE 1 recently played for eight public performances in the York Theatre. Details on FUSE 2 are TBA.

WMU playwrights may further develop their new full-length work in interdisciplinary collaboration with Kalamazoo’s vibrant theatre community through the WMU/Theatre Kalamazoo! Staged Reading Series. In this program, WMU playwrights are paired with one of Kalamazoo’s theatres, such as Kalamazoo College or the Whole Art, for a residency in order to develop their play with the theatre company’s actors, directors and designers. This rehearsal process culminates in a public staged reading of the new work at the theatre followed by a talk-back with the playwright. This program is currently in its third season and interested playwrights should submit in Spring of 2009, with the submission deadline for 2009 TBA.

For information on any of these interdisciplinary playwriting programs or any aspect of undergraduate, M.F.A. or Ph.D. playwriting at Western Michigan University, please contact Dr. Steve Feffer at

Dr. John Saillant holds a half-time appointment in WMU’s Department of History.

English Education: From the earliest days of the WMU Department of English to the present collaborating with the College of Education and producing outstanding teachers for the public schools has been a primary mission, and we are one of the largest and finest English education programs in the country.  English education faculty do interdisciplinary work between English studies and education, engaging in research in the teaching of composition, literature and language.  In recent years, Dr. Allen Webb has won grants of more than $1.2 million to foster the integration of technology into teacher preparation and the program has created the most advanced technology enriched classrooms for preparing teachers in the world.  Dr. Jonathan Bush has done extensive work with new teacher induction.  Dr. Karen Vocke does interdisciplinary work on working with second language migrant students.  Doctoral students have done research in the relation of literary theory in secondary teaching, technology integration, best practice instruction, literature, writing and student activism, teaching graphic novels, etc.


Department of English
6th floor Sprau Tower
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5331 USA
(269) 387-2572 | (269) 387-2562 Fax