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Dr. Steven Moser

John Green and David Levithan at Southern Miss

Continuing our guest blog series, I’m pleased to present a contribution by Eric Tribunella, Chair of the Department of English.  Dr.  Tribunella has taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses on such topics as the Golden Age of children’s literature, young adult literature, British children’s literature, trauma theory and children’s literature, children’s literature before 1865, and lesbian and gay literature. He also frequently teaches courses on literary criticism and theory.

He has published aricles in such journals as Children’s Literature Annual, Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, The Lion and the Unicorn: A Critical Journal of Children’s Literature, and Children’s Literature in Education. His recent article “Between Boys: Edward Stevenson’s Left to Themselves (1891) and the Birth of Gay Children’s Literature” received the Children’s Literature Association Article Award in 2014. His essay on sexuality in children’s and young adult literature was recently published in the Cambridge History of Lesbian and Gay Literature (Cambridge UP, 2014).

Steven R. Moser, Dean


John Green and David Levithan at Southern Miss

By Eric L. Tribunella, Chair
Department of English
College of Arts and Letters

When I speak to prospective students at recruitment events, one fact about Southern Miss that almost always excites future English majors is that we are home to the original manuscripts of John Green, the award-winning author of young adult (YA) fiction. Known for novels such as Looking for Alaska (2005) and The Fault in Our Stars (2012), Green won the 2006 Printz Award, given yearly to the best work of fiction for young adults, and his books now routinely top bestseller lists upon publication.

Green donated his papers, including drafts of his book manuscripts, to the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at Southern Miss after visiting campus in 2009 for the Kaigler Children’s Book Festival. One of the largest archives of children’s literature in North America, the de Grummond Collection holds over 160,000 books, the earliest of which dates to the year 1530, as well as manuscripts and illustrations from over 1,300 writers and artists. Undergraduate and graduate students from the English department are able to make use of this extraordinary resource, and we have students who come to Southern Miss specifically to study children’s and young adult literature. On February 10, a group of English students and faculty visited the de Grummond Collection to examine the Green manuscripts and talk about the research opportunities they present.

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Ellen Ruffin, de Grummond curator (left) Eric Tribunela, English (2nd from left)

The de Grummond curator, Ellen Ruffin, shared with us the manuscript for Green’s novel Will Grayson, Will Grayson (2010), which was co-written with David Levithan, another major figure in YA literature known for books such as Boy Meets Boy (2003) and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2006). Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a YA novel about two teenagers who share a name, one straight and one gay, and how their lives intersect through their relationship with a boy named Tiny. Since the book was co-authored, its manuscript is especially interesting in terms of how the alternate chapters contributed by Green and Levithan fit together to form a coherent whole. The comments from Green’s editor at Dutton Books, Julie Strauss-Gabel, can be found in the margins of the manuscript, and reading the drafts alongside the published novel can shed light on Green and Levithan’s collaboration and writing process.

As students and scholars of literature, we are interested in how works are composed and take shape. Members of the English department at USM, where we also have a strong emphasis in creative writing, are especially attuned to the issue of craft, and having access to a writer’s manuscripts makes it possible for us to study how a book moves through the drafting process. This kind of archival research can be particularly productive for children’s and YA literature scholars, since some people wrongly assume that writing for youth lacks complexity or artistry. Studying manuscripts like Green and Levithan’s provides a unique opportunity to correct this misperception and contribute to the field of literary knowledge.

It is exciting for students to be able to hold original manuscripts in their hands. English doctoral student Paige Gray noted that “it is honor for USM to house Green’s papers, since he is such a major figure in the publishing world.” Gray added that “it is especially exciting that Southern Miss students can be among the first scholars to study Green’s manuscripts and drafts. Doing so will provide an important insight into young adult literature and culture in the early decades of the twenty-first century.” The group discussed the many possible research projects that could be undertaken with the manuscripts. For instance, we spent time talking about how Green’s editor helped the authors craft the voice of their characters and sequence the events of the narrative. Dr. Alexandra Valint, the English department’s Victorian literature specialist, studies multi-narrator novels and also teaches children’s and YA literature. She compared the editor’s comments on the Will Grayson manuscript to the kind of feedback nineteenth-century readers offered in response to serialized installments of literary works.

David Levithan will be visiting campus this semester to speak at the Kaigler Book Festival on April 10, and students and faculty are looking forward to the opportunity to hear directly from Green’s co-author on Will Grayson. Scholars travel from around the world to visit the de Grummond Collection, but students who attend Southern Miss simply have to walk over to McCain Library to take advantage of its amazing holdings and guest lecturers.

 

Dr. Steven Moser

…and so it begins…

This fall we welcome approximately 3,000 returning and new students to the College of Arts and Letters.  Those students have chosen to study for undergraduate and graduate degrees in our diverse array of programs in the arts, humanities and social sciences, and in our many collaborative interdisciplinary programs.

The back-to-school season is always an exciting one for our students, faculty and staff, and me personally.  I am proud of our A&L community and anticipate another stellar year.  Indeed, we will need to raise the bar even higher as we begin to focus on our strategic goals – anchored in our  student success and profile expansion efforts.  So I encourage everyone to:

Consider the positive individual difference we can make as we, the faculty and staff,  work to realize our greatest potential.

There are many ways a college conveys its core values.  In an issue of Liberal Education, Jack Meacham and Jerry Gaff noted that it is important that we “do what we say and say what we do.” Our public declaration found in our college and school/department strategic goals is our guide and those declarations share some of the same key words and phrases like “excellence in scholarship, focus on student success, and innovation in the classroom.”  Without a clear path forward and a positive commitment to the journey, it is unlikely that our strategic plans will emerge in practice.  Our faculty places us well to continue the tradition of developing innovative opportunities for our students and producing meaningful scholarship.  Moving forward together is critical to this endeavor as we shift “what has been to what could be”.

Take pause along the way to consider.

I am amazed at how quickly time passes as we move from one academic season to the next.  It seems that with the new and ever changing technology that has pervaded our lives, we spend a great deal of time in gear and racing ahead at full throttle. The pace we have adopted in our modern-day lives often influences how quickly we come to some of the decisions we make on issues in our own lives and those as a faculty across the college.  Yet in our endeavors in creative and scholarly research, we are committed to thoughtful consideration and a measured and deliberate tempo to produce the great body of work seen in the college.  I encourage the same discipline seen in our scholarship efforts as we adapt to an ever-changing constituent need.  We must be nimble and flexible, but also thoughtful and deliberate in the decisions that we will have to make in the months and years to come as we strive for relevance and the ability to sustain or increase the impact we have had  for our students and the community we serve.

Let us move forward together.  Welcome back!

 

 

Katherine Nugent

Kudos to the Nursing Programs in the State of Mississippi

The 2012 Annual Report for the Mississippi Nursing Degree Programs reported that nursing enrollment in all programs of nursing in Mississippi has increased by 15.9 percent from Fall 2008.  The report further documented that the highest percentage of growth occurred in the enrollment of students in the baccalaureate and higher degree programs of nursing.  There was a 38.7% increase in the number of students enrolled in bachelor programs, a 35.7% increase enrollment in masters programs and a 359.3% increase of students enrolled in doctoral programs.

The deans and directors of the programs of nursing in the state of Mississippi have worked diligently to address the recommendations of the Institutes of Medicine and the Robert Wood Johnson  Foundation report on the Future of Nursing : Leading Change, Advancing Healthcare http://thefutureofnursing.org/.  Those recommendations include:

  • Nurses should practice to the full extent of their education and training.
  • Nurses should achieve higher levels of education and training through an improved education system that promotes seamless academic progression.
  • Nurses should be full partners, with physicians and other health professionals
  • Effective workforce planning and policy making require better data collection and information infrastructure.

One important initiative in Mississippi is creating “seamless transitions” between academic programs that will help create a more highly educated nursing workforce, which will improve patient care and help fill faculty and advanced practice nursing roles, as well as graduate competent future nurses.  The data from the 2012 annual report documents our progress.

This data shows that quality patient care hinges on having a well-educated nursing workforce.  Research has shown that lower mortality rates, fewer medication errors, and positive outcomes are all linked to nurses prepared at the baccalaureate and graduate degree levels (American Association of Colleges of Nursing (2012).

Dr. Steven Moser

USM – Defining Resilience

Photo by Dean Dave Davies, Honors College

Photo by Dean Dave Davies, Honors College

Almost from the moment we saw the devastating images of the Ogletree House, Jazz Station and even places that we could not recognize anymore, the Southern Miss family wasted no time in rolling up its sleeves and coordinating recovery efforts.  While nearly fifty faculty and staff from the Department of Art & Design and the School of Music were displaced due to damage to their buildings and office spaces, the morale among them remains high.

Art and Design professor, John Mark Lawler, said that despite the circumstances, faculty and staff in his department were positive. “The staff I’ve spoken to are willing to make it work, whatever it takes.  It’s bad, it’s a disaster, but that’s life.  You take the punches and roll with it.  Students are concerned about each other and us, but everyone seems to be doing ok.  Everyone is constantly asking how they can help,” says Lawler.

Dr. Ed Hafer is a School of Music professor whose office took a direct hit.  Though he lost some things, he says the greatest loss is that the music family has been displaced, though only temporarily.  “Folks are shocked at the amount of damage, but remain hopeful.  Students, in particular, are very resilient.  Everyone is excited about building bigger and stronger than before.  We are all just so glad that no one was hurt,” said Hafer.

Damage from February 10, 2013 Tornado

Damage from February 10, 2013 Tornado

As early as Sunday, efforts were made to make sure that faculty, staff and classes would have a home, at least until more permanent arrangements could be determined.  Faculty and staff from Art and Design have moved into office space made available in George Hurst Building, while Music faculty and staff have found temporary office space in the Liberal Arts Building, Honors House and Cook Library.

As of Thusday, we have rescheduled 87 lecture  classes displaced across Art & Design and Music, and more than 600 various types of ensemble classes/rehearsals, applied study (lessons), and chamber classes for 475 majors.  For Art and Design, we currently have about 200 students who have been impacted by the storm. Fortunately, most students were not on campus because of the Mardi Gras holiday on Monday and Tuesday, so as bad as it may look to one walking through the hardest hit areas of campus, it could have been a lot worse.  On Wednesday, with classes still cancelled and when many students could have slept in, nearly 1,000 student volunteers showed up wearing rubber boots, rain slickers and baseball caps ready to help remove storm debris from their home-away-from-home.

Southern Miss students coming out to help clean up the front of campus. They stepped up and made the campus look better fast.

Southern Miss students coming out to help clean up the front of campus. They stepped up and made the campus look better fast.

Sunday evening, sophomore Acting major Kerri Walker was glued to Facebook at her home in Brandon after learning that parts of campus had been in the direct path of the tornado. As a performing arts student herself, she was heartbroken for art and design and music students whose spaces had been badly damaged.  “I got up at 6:00am on Wednesday morning and drove from my home to volunteer and help with the clean-up.  I’d seen the social media alerts and I just had to be there,” Walker shared.  Walker said that everyone really wanted to help do all they could to restore the campus.  Volunteers included students, faculty and staff and individuals from the community.  As so many have said in the past few days, it could have been a lot worse, Walker added.

But if there is a silver lining to this tragedy—and we have seen many silver linings so far, it has brought the Southern Miss family together. “To see the university and community come together, it made me love USM—MY university–even more.”

Dr. Steven Moser

Strategic Planning at the Mid-way Point

At the conclusion of the fall term, the first phase of strategic planning wrapped up for our departments and schools in the College of Arts & Letters.  Next, we move to a meta-analysis of the unit strategic plans, specifically to uncover the emerging themes that will serve as the foundation for the college plan.  By February, I will develop a response document, which will be returned to the faculty/staff  for a comment period.  The College Executive Committee will be tasked with amending the plan with the feedback from that comment period.  The final plan will be presented to the faculty and staff at our spring convocation in April.

Despite a busy fall, most units in the college embraced this process.   In these fiscally challenging times, it seems self-evident that planning, strategic or otherwise, can only facilitate the focus that we must acquire.  Effective planning can address goals related to improving governance, program reach, accountability, and ultimately, the best use of public and development funding.

Nonetheless, there can be a danger of a disconnect between the plan and the organizational focus and daily activities in college.  While the consensus is that these conversations have been worthwhile, there is a fear that the effort might result in a document that will find a special place on the shelves of chairs, directors, and upper-level administrators, to never be seen again. That will not happen under my watch.

A college’s organizational culture is strongly influenced by the dean as well as the leadership team surrounding the dean. The core values and behaviors demonstrated at the top of the organization will permeate throughout and can create a very strong culture for focus or change. However, it is not enough to simply build a strong culture, it must be a balanced one. I am committed to developing our potential, based on the plan that emerges from our faculty and staff conversations this fall.  We will build a performance-centered culture that encourages a healthy level of risk taking (thinking in terms of what can be, not what has been) and an appreciation for learning, development and diversity of opinion. These factors fuel innovation and help propel stronger long-term growth and performance.  To do this, we must have a plan… one that rises up from the faculty.