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ASU English boasts record numbers, welcomes new faculty

September 6, 2022

In its 2022 “List of Public R1 Universities Graduating the Most English Majors,” education and career data service Steppingblocks puts Arizona State University at No. 4 in the Western U.S.

The news that the Department of English at ASU has among the nation’s largest number of graduates is hardly surprising; enrollment in this humanities unit of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Tempe has continued to grow, even during the pandemic.

To borrow a misquoted phrase from Mark Twain, reports of the death of the English major “are greatly exaggerated” — at least at ASU. As of fall 2022, the department boasts 2,273 majors, a total that includes English as well as film and media studies majors, both on-campus and online.

Composed of six distinct areas of study — creative writing; film and media studies; linguistics and applied linguistics; literature; secondary English education; and writing, rhetorics and literacies  — the Department of English also administers the university’s Writing Programs, which delivers writing instruction available to all ASU undergraduates. This fall alone, that equals nearly 12,000 students and over 500 sections of courses. Growth is projected into the spring semester.

To meet burgeoning university enrollment of both its own majors and the students it serves from across ASU, the department has again added another new crop of highly credentialed, award-winning faculty. Recent recruits include experts in rhetoric, in poetry and translation, and in creative nonfiction, among other specialties. Let’s meet Shersta Chabot, Denise Hill, Eunsong Kim, William Kruger, Muriel Leung, Vincent Oliveri, Laura Turchi, Sarah Viren and Kyle Wilson.

Collage of ASU English Department faculty portraits.

Top row, from left: Shersta Chabot, Denise Hill, Eunsong Kim. Middle row, from left: William Kruger, Muriel Leung, Vincent Oliveri. Bottom row, from left: Laura Turchi, Sarah Viren, Kyle Wilson.

Shersta Chabot, lecturer (Writing Programs)

Chabot’s appointment as a lecturer for ASU Writing Programs marks her 10th year teaching at ASU. This fall, she is instructing first-year composition courses informed by her work in cultural rhetorics. A passion for education and her early experiences with the injustices of intersectional discrimination are the twin guideposts of Chabot’s academic career. Her current research interests include cultural and digital rhetorics, gender studies and public memory. 

Chabot earned both her Master of Arts and PhD in English (writing, rhetorics and literacies) at ASU. Her dissertation examined the cultural battle being fought over building a National Women’s History Museum in Washington, D.C. — it is currently a digital museum — and the current material reality of gender representation in the National Museum of American History.

Denise Hill, lecturer (Writing Programs)

Hill began her career in secondary education teaching high school English in the Phoenix area. She then moved to college-level instruction at the University of Nevada, Reno, and the University of Arizona before coming to ASU. She has taught courses in introductory and advanced composition, writing center pedagogy, literature and new media studies. Hill's scholarly interests include rhetorics of motherhood and inclusive pedagogy. She is committed to creating inclusive learning spaces for all students, especially those with neurodifferences. She volunteers her time with Spectrum Spaces, a group that helps community members and teachers create spaces that take into account the sensory needs of people on the autism spectrum.

Hill holds a PhD in rhetoric, composition and the teaching of English from the University of Arizona and a Master of Arts in literature (19th-century British and American) from the University of Nevada, Reno.

Eunsong Kim, associate professor (creative writing / Center for Imagination in the Borderlands)

Kim is an associate professor in the Department of English and associate director of the Center for Imagination in the Borderlands at ASU. Working in poetry, translation, visual culture and critical race studies, she is author of the poetry collection “Gospel of Regicide” (2017) and co-translator from Korean of Kim Eon Hee’s “Have You Been Feeling Blue These Days?” (2019). Her monograph, “The Politics of Collecting: Property and Race in Aesthetic Formation,” is forthcoming from Duke University Press. Her writings have appeared in: Lateral: Journal of the Cultural Studies Association, Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies and in the anthologies “Poetics of Social Engagement” and “Reading Modernism with Machines.”

She has received the Ford Foundation Fellowship, Yale's Poynter Fellowship and a grant from the Andy Warhol Art Writers Program. In 2021 she co-founded offshoot, an arts space for transnational activist conversations. Kim holds a PhD in literature and critical gender studies from the University of California, San Diego and an Master of Fine Arts in writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

William Kruger, lecturer (Writing Programs)

Kruger teaches a variety of courses in Writing Programs and in the Department of English, specializing in persuasive writing, rhetorical theory and research methods in first-year and advanced composition. He also occasionally teaches graduate courses for the master’s degree in linguistics and applied linguistics, focusing on introductory linguistics, the history of English and grammar instruction for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

As a researcher, Kruger studies linguistics and language variation, and he has published a number of articles analyzing varieties of English — both historical and modern-day — as well as on theoretical syntax and phonology, and on early English manuscript studies. Kruger holds a PhD in linguistics and applied linguistics and a Master of Arts in English, both from ASU.

Muriel Leung, visiting writer (creative writing / Center for Imagination in the Borderlands)

Leung is a visiting writer with the Center for Imagination in the Borderlands and the Department of English. She is author of the award-winning poetry collections “Imagine Us, The Swarm” (2021) and “Bone Confetti” (2016), as well as a collaborative poetry-photography book with visual artist Kristine Thompson, “Images Seen to Images Felt” (2018). Her writing appears in The Baffler, Cream City Review, Gulf Coast, The Collagist, Fairy Tale Review and elsewhere. She has received fellowships to Kundiman and VONA/Voices Workshop.

Leung earned a PhD in creative writing from the University of Southern California, where she was an Andrew W. Mellon Humanities in a Digital World fellow. She also holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Louisiana State University. She is the poetry co-editor of Apogee Journal and a publicist for Kaya Press.

Vincent Oliveri, lecturer (Writing Programs)

Oliveri is another newly minted lecturer in ASU Writing Programs. His research interests include persuasion, motivated reason, deliberative democracy, political judgment formation and validity in qualitative research. He particularly enjoys teaching discipline-specific writing — primarily in biology — where students learn writing from a specific audience or usage perspective. This approach, known as “writing in the disciplines,” is a sibling to another strategy that Oliveri teaches: “writing across the curriculum,” which gives students opportunity to write in many contexts and for many purposes (not just in their composition classes).

Oliveri earned a PhD in English language and literature (emphasis in rhetoric and composition) from the University of Washington and a Master of Arts in English literature from Claremont Graduate University.

Laura Turchi, clinical professor (Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies)

Turchi rejoined ASU last academic year: She was on the faculty in the English education program and director of the Teaching Foundations Project before moving to Houston. Turchi is now working primarily for the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies as the curriculum director for the center’s multimillion-dollar Mellon Foundation project, RaceB4Race: Sustaining, Building, Innovating. The initiative creates resources in premodern literature, history and culture, offering innovative curricula, course materials and pedagogical approaches. Turchi is also teaching the discovery seminar LIA 194: Why I Hate Shakespeare, exploring the Bard’s ubiquitous presence on social media. A specialist in curriculum theory and methods for English language arts teaching, Turchi previously collaborated with Regents Professor Ayanna Thompson on "Teaching Shakespeare with Purpose: A Student-Centered Approach” (2016) and is most recently a co-editor of the volume “Cross-Disciplinary, Cross-Institutional Collaboration in Teacher Education” (2021).

Her book "Teaching Shakespeare with Interactive Digital Editions" is forthcoming in the Cambridge University Press’s Elements series. A Fulbright Scholar and education specialist, Turchi holds an EdD from Appalachian State University and an MEd from National Louis University.

Sarah Viren, assistant professor (creative writing)

Viren is an assistant professor in the Department of English, formerly with ASU's College of Integrative Sciences and Arts. She is author of the award-winning essay collection “Mine” (2018) and translator from Spanish of the novella “Córdoba Skies” (2016) by Argentine author Federico Falco. She was a finalist for the National Magazine Award for her essay "The Accusation," published in The New York Times Magazine in 2020. Her memoir, “To Name the Bigger Lie,” is forthcoming from Scribner, and her co-edited essay anthology “The Great American Essay” is forthcoming from Mad Creek Books. This fall, Viren is teaching ENG 288, a beginning fiction workshop for ASU Online students, and a special topics course ENG 394: “The Art of True Crime” on the Tempe campus. 

Viren’s work has been supported by a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, a Kerouac House residency and a Fulbright Student Grant to Colombia. She earned a PhD in English literature and comparative literature from Texas Tech University and a Master of Fine Arts in nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa.

Kyle Grant Wilson, lecturer (Writing Programs)

Wilson is Diné (Navajo) from Fort Defiance, Arizona. This is his 23rd year teaching at the university, most recently as an instructional professional in English. Wilson’s appointment as a lecturer will enable him to focus more fully on his role as Indigenous rhetoric coordinator for Writing Programs, a role he relishes. Indigenous rhetoric sections of first-year composition (ENG 101/102) are a fusion of American Indian studies and writing instruction, traversing topics such as Indigenous decolonization, self-identification, acculturation and voices from the periphery for empowerment. Wilson founded and directs Project Communal Effort at ASU, a student-run group that organizes fundraisers to benefit local Indigenous families facing disparities.

Wilson publishes on the themes of Indigenous identities and decolonization, and his poems have been published in Rattle, Arizona Highways, The Arizona Republic, Red Ink and more. He serves on The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Advisory Council on equity, diversity and inclusion and is honors faculty in Barrett, The Honors College at ASU. He is a poet and earned his Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at ASU.

Top photo: Students at The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences maroon convocation in 2019. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU

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Climbing out of adversity

September 6, 2022

ASU student veteran scales Mount Kilimanjaro to honor fellow service member who died by suicide

Editor's note: This story is being published in conjunction with National Suicide Prevention Week, Sept. 4–10.

When David Hamrick reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro after five days of climbing, he cried. But he didn’t know if they were tears of joy or sorrow.

“They were somewhere in the middle,” says Hamrick, a Navy veteran and a fourth-year student at Arizona State University. “I was happy that I finished but sad that Alec wasn’t with me to share in the joy.”

Hamrick is referring to Alec Serna, a childhood friend and fellow naval service member who died on May 19, 2018. Hamrick uses a daily exercise regimen to help him process his grief, which includes running, hiking, bodybuilding, and rock climbing.

Man holding up flag on mountain

David Hamrick at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Photo courtesy David Hamrick

The 19,341-foot climb up Mount Kilimanjaro, a dormant volcano in Tanzania, took place in July. Hamrick used the challenge to honor his fallen friend while grieving for him at the same time.

Serna died by suicide. His sudden death took everyone by surprise.

“Alec was 6-foot-5, tall, dark and handsome and he had a presence that no one could ignore when he walked into a room,” says Hamrick, a sports science and performance programming major in the College of Health Solutions. “He had a great smile, his energy was always positive and he just lifted everyone up.”

Hamrick said Serna first lifted him up after high school ended. At the time, Hamrick was an audio engineer and living out of his car in west Hollywood near the Sunset Strip. He joined a gym for $10 a month, which enabled him to take daily showers and change his clothes. Beyond that, he had no master plan. But Serna soon changed his mind.

“(Alec) was a rescue swimmer from the Navy and jumped out of helicopters, shooting machine guns. I thought that was pretty cool,” Hamrick says. “Things soon went south in Hollywood and so that was my inspiration for joining the Navy.”

Hamrick enlisted in 2016 and got an assignment on the USS Anchorage out of San Diego, doing maintenance and preservation work on the ship.

“The Navy really pushed me to my full mental and physical limits, and I would have never known what those limits were prior to the Navy,” Hamrick says. “Prior to my service, I was sitting in a recording studio for 18 to 20 hours a day, living a somewhat easy life with no outside stressors.”

Meanwhile, Serna's life had its own stressors. A long-term personal relationship ended, and it sent him into a downward spiral.

“Alec messaged me one day that he wasn’t doing so well, so I went to visit him at his apartment almost every day,” Hamrick says. “One day he had a gun to his head and a bottle of alcohol between his legs. Once I realized how serious the situation was, I’d try and spend as much time with him as I could. I made sure he fell asleep before me every single day because he wasn’t getting much sleep.”

Hamrick said he did everything he could to help Serna with his depression. He accompanied him on daily beach runs, outings at the gym, meals, and they even attended a reggae concert together. Nothing seemed to help.

“(After the concert) was the first night I fell asleep before him, and that was the night he took his life,” Hamrick said. “I originally put a lot of blame on myself regarding the whole situation. It was an extremely hard time because this came totally out of the blue.”

Two men in white shirts

David Hamrick (left) and Alec Serna in happier times. Photo courtesy David Hamrick

Rebecca K. Blais, a clinical psychologist and an associate professor of psychology at ASU, says the circumstances around Serna's death is something she’s seeing more of with active-duty service members. Blais, whose research includes military sexual violence and suicide, said broken relationships can trigger a response in people who serve.

“Service members who enter the military are, by and large, expecting to fight in combat. The youngest of our service members have only known war given the duration of conflicts following 9/11,” Blais said. “Now that the war is over, many of them don’t know what to do. … When you combine a lack of purpose and failing personal relationships, you will see an uptick in suicide risk.”

READ MORE: Supporting our military's mental health

Hamrick spent the next eight months grieving on the ship, looking out on the ocean for answers. His shipmate, Kevin Murphy, immediately sensed his despair.

“Alec and David were childhood buddies, the best of friends, and (Alec) was a larger-than-life character with a gregarious personality,” says Murphy, who still serves in the Navy. “When Alec died, it was very hard on David. He was completely distraught. It was pretty bad. I did my best to talk to him to help him grieve, but when you’re at sea for months at a time, you don’t really get a lot of time to yourself.”

Hamrick said though the ship didn’t offer physical or emotional space to grieve, he made a vow that once it docked, he was going to “start running.”

And he did.

Less than a month after Hamrick’s ship docked, he participated in the Hot Chocolate 15k race in San Diego. He took second place and got addicted to running.

“When I ran, it was the only time I wasn’t thinking about life and the stressors that come with it,” Hamrick says. “All I had to do was put one foot in front of the other and just breathe. It was very simple.”

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David Hamrick's tribute tattoo to Alec Serna. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Pretty soon he added hiking and backpacking to his fitness regimen. He has hiked various sites in Arizona, including South Mountain, Camelback Mountain, Piestewa Peak, the Flatiron, McDowell Mountains, Picacho Peak, Humphreys Peak and Thumb Butte. He also competes in regional Spartan Races throughout the country.

“I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder upon discharging from the Navy,” Hamrick says. “I have peace in the outdoors.

“This journey has allowed me to gain some understanding about the mental health stigma and how it should be broken,” he says. “This has given me a purpose, a passion and something meaningful to my life.”

Recently, Hamrick got a large tattoo in tribute to Serna. It isn’t small or insignificant, covering his entire back. Even though some say it might be too big, Serna’s brother, Logan Moores, thinks it’s fitting.

“For a long time, Alec carried David on his back,” Moores said. “And now David is carrying Alec on his back.”

Suicide prevention tips

Provided by Associate Professor Rebecca K. Blais

• If you have a concern about someone, reach out and tell that person that you care about them. Also encourage them to get professional help.

• Know where to get help so that you can help yourself or someone you care about. If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, you can call 988 or 1-800-273-TALK.

• Find meaning and purpose in your life and find ways to live that every single day. 

• If you are supporting someone as they experience suicidal ideation, be sure to take care of yourself and seek social support or professional help. 

• Reduce risk for death by suicide by removing easy access to firearms or other lethal means. Reducing use of substances that impair decision-making or increase impulsivity, such as alcohol, is also important.

Top photo: David Hamrick, a fourth-year sports science and performance programming student and a Navy veteran, poses on the Pima Canyon trail on South Mountain on Aug. 26. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News