New faculty in ASU English shows sustained commitment to charter values

August 28, 2019

Responding to steady growth in English and film and media studies programs and to Arizona State University's largest class of first-year students ever, the Department of English at ASU has added dozens of new teaching, research and administrative faculty to its ranks.

English houses six humanities areas of study in creative writing; secondary education; film and media studies; linguistics and applied linguistics; literature; and writing, rhetorics and literacies. In addition, the department is the site of the university’s Writing Programs — the composition courses taken by almost every first-year ASU student. This year, the number of those students has increased exponentially: Writing Programs has more than 800 more students enrolled now than at this time last year. New faculty members in the ASU Department of English New faculty in ASU's English department this fall (clockwise from top left): Sir Jonathan Bate, Emily Cooney, Andrea Dickens, Solmaz Sharif, Kyle Jensen and Kathleen Hicks. Download Full Image

It is into this vibrant and expansive environment that The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, English’s parent college, invested resources to meet student demand with increases in teaching faculty; in fulfillment of ASU's twin goals of both excellence and inclusivity, English has three new tenured and tenure-track faculty, one new online director, two new lecturers, 17 new instructors, 20 new teaching associates/assistants and five new faculty associates.

Meet some of English’s newest award-winning scholars, teachers and artists:

Sir Jonathan Bate, Foundation Professor (literature)

Sir Jonathan Bate joins ASU as a Foundation Professor of environmental humanities with a joint appointment in the Department of English and the Global Futures Laboratory and School of Sustainability. Coming from Oxford University, Bate is an international leader in green thinking and applied humanities, with scholarly expertise in sustainability as well as in Shakespeare and Renaissance literature, Romantic literature, biography and life-writing, contemporary poetry, visual culture and theater history. In 2015, he became the youngest person ever to be knighted for services to literary scholarship.

Bate spent part of the spring 2019 semester on the ASU campus as distinguished visiting professor, where he co-taught (with Professor Mark Lussier) the English course, “Environmental Issues in Literature & Film.”

A renowned Shakespearean and eco-critic, Bate has been a fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge; King Alfred Professor of English Literature, University of Liverpool; and professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance literature, University of Warwick. He has held visiting posts at Yale and the University of California-Los Angeles and was previously provost of Worcester College and professor of English Literature at Oxford University. He is a fellow and former vice president of the British Academy, a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company. He holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge.

Emily Cooney, lecturer (Writing Programs)

Emily Cooney is a specialist in environmental rhetorics, place-based literacies and second-language writing pedagogy. With a focus on access and representation, she is at work with fellow writing teacher Courtney Fowler on a funded project designing and creating an interactive map of digital and technological resources for students on the Tempe campus. Cooney is employing a research method known as “multimodal,” which utilizes many ways of production, inquiry and “knowing” in order to reach desired goals. Her other work — on analyzing how global NGOs’ idealized representation of Indonesian rice farmers helps or hurts — is also informed by this methodology. Cooney holds a PhD in English (rhetoric, composition and linguistics) from ASU and an MA in English literature from the University of Charleston.

Andrea Dickens, lecturer (Writing Programs)

Andrea Dickens teaches a wide variety of Writing Programs classes and is particularly focused on working with students from diverse backgrounds and cultures in both first-year and advanced writing. Her research interests span rhetoric, religion, literature and creative writing; her book “The Female Mystic” (2009) looks at medieval women's textual legacies. Her current projects include approaches to writing across the curriculum and developing a rhetoric for the creative process. She is also at work on a book-length study of the work of Mechtilde of Hackeborn and has just completed a book of poetry. Dickens holds a PhD in theology, ethics and culture from the University of Virginia and master’s degrees in creative writing (Ohio State University) and religion (University of Virginia and Yale).

Kathleen Hicks, director of online programs

The complexities of running five online programs as well as building, teaching and maintaining dozens of online courses each year will now be managed by new Department of English faculty member Kathleen Hicks. Hicks brings expertise in instructional design and curriculum development — with specialties in program design, assessment of student learning and the development of microcredentials — from former positions at Grand Canyon University and with Dream Center Education Holdings. She has also previously taught composition in ASU’s English department.

Hicks continues in her associate editor role at The Steinbeck Review, a journal on the life and works of American novelist John Steinbeck that is published by Penn State University Press. She holds a PhD in English (literature) from ASU, a Master of Arts in English and American literature from the University of Texas at El Paso and a graduate certificate in instructional design from George Washington University.

Kyle Jensen, director of ASU Writing Programs and professor (writing, rhetorics and literacies)

ASU Writing Programs has new leadership this fall. Kyle Jensen takes the reins from the longtime director, Professor Shirley Rose, who assumed presidency of ASU's University Senate for the 2019-20 academic year. Jensen arrives at ASU from the University of North Texas, where he was on the English faculty and was director of first-year writing.

With research that explores modern rhetorical theory and rhetorical education, Jensen most recently published “'The War of Words’ by Kenneth Burke” (2018), a co-edited version of a lost work by an influential rhetorical critic, which Jensen and another scholar independently discovered in the Penn State library archives. The manuscript’s recovery and publication has been called “field-changing work” and a “remarkable feat” by scholars in the field. Jensen has written about this research for the general public as well, linking it to current political rhetoric in the editorial republished in Slate and The Daily Beast, “How the media encourages — and sustains — political warfare.”

Jensen is also the author of “Reimagining Process: Online Writing Archives and The Future of Writing Studies” (2015) and co-editor of “Abducting Writing Studies” (2017). He holds graduate degrees in English studies from Illinois State University (PhD) and Western Washington University (MA).

Solmaz Sharif, assistant professor (creative writing)

Poet Solmaz Sharif comes to ASU from Stanford University, where she was Jones Lecturer in creative writing. Her first book, “Look” (2016), won an American Book Award and was a New York Times “notable book” and a Publishers Weekly “best book of 2016"; it was also a finalist for the National Book Award and the PEN Open Book Award. Sharif has been a visiting scholar at the Radcliffe Institute (Harvard) and has taught at Tin House and Kenyon Review writers workshops. She was also managing director of the Asian American Writers Workshop in New York, a renowned institution created to support literary and civic conversations among Asian American artists throughout the U.S.

Sharif has received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts and poetry prizes from Princeton University and the Rona Jaffe Foundation. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing (poetry) from New York University.

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

Manager, marketing + communications, Department of English


A new model of political attitudes

ASU psychology graduate student wins APS award for political psychology research

August 28, 2019

How are people’s political beliefs organized, and what leads them to subscribe to certain beliefs?

Answering these kinds of questions has often been the domain of political scientists, but psychologists have also sought to explain people’s political attitudes, with a focus on the influence of variables like personality and values.   Arizona State University psychology graduate student Adi Wiezel was recently awarded the 2019 Association for Psychological Science Student Research Award for her research on political ideology. Download Full Image

Political beliefs are often summarized using a single spectrum, with liberalism on the left and conservatism on the right. Most people fall somewhere in this range.

But according to recent psychological research, this idea might be too simplistic.

Arizona State University psychology graduate student Adi Wiezel was recently awarded the 2019 Association for Psychological Science Student Research Award for her research on political ideology, or the relationship among people’s attitudes about specific political issues. Wiezel, who studies political psychology as well as the general emotional, motivational and social mechanisms of attitude change, was one of four recipients of the award.

Historically, political ideology research has emphasized a one-dimensional spectrum ranging from conservativism to liberalism. More recently, some researchers who study political attitudes have shifted to differentiating between attitudes regarding social versus economic policy issues. This allows researchers to make further distinctions in ideology, especially among people who are neither extreme liberals nor extreme conservatives. For example, using these two factors, someone who is conservative on economic issues such as tax reform but liberal on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage might be classified as a Libertarian. However, this two-factor structure excludes a number of specific issues such as foreign policy and trade.

Wiezel wanted to find out what would happen when she looked at interrelationships among more issues than just those that concern sociomoral issues and the economy. She began developing a new inventory that measures attitudes about almost 30 specific political issues, based on work she did previously using data from the American National Election Studies — a national survey conducted every presidential election cycle. Questions on the inventory covered social and economic issues such as abortion and aid to the poor, but also included issues like foreign imports, immigration rates, the death penalty and the torture of terrorists.

“We know that certain voting behaviors are made on the basis of certain issues, and we wanted to know how people grouped those issues,” said Wiezel, who has a master’s degree in political science and psychology.

Wiezel and her colleagues surveyed Americans online using a breakdown similar to the partisan divides in the 2016 presidential election: 35% Democrat, 29% Republican and 36% Other.

Data analyses suggested four distinguishable factors, or groups of specific policy issues, in the new inventory. These factors differentiate how Americans think about the roles of government in terms of:

  1. Resource distribution and regulation
  2. Sociomoral attitudes
  3. Immigration/foreign policy
  4. Protection from dangerous others

Wiezel’s findings suggest there may be benefits to considering more than just economic and social dimensions of how people think about politics.

“The existence of these distinctions in political attitudes is important because they could help us better understand the kinds of categories people use to consider policy issues, and could help us think about political representation more broadly,” Wiezel said.

The current political climate is divisive, and understanding the nuances that contribute to political beliefs could help bridge the gap.

At ASU, Wiezel works with Michelle “Lani” Shiota, associate professor of psychology, and Douglas Kenrick, President’s Professor of psychology.

“The findings from Adi’s work can push us to ask more sophisticated questions about people’s political attitudes,” Shiota said. “Researchers have often focused on explaining overall conservative versus liberal political orientation in terms of traits such as intelligence, open-mindedness, conscientiousness and desire for power over others. Asking what predicts each specific cluster of attitudes uncovered by this research is less polarizing, less conducive to 'us versus them' thinking. I’m excited to see where the research goes from here!”

Wiezel and her collaborators are collecting more data to examine how these four factors relate to personality and what motivates individual people. 

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology