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2004 Awards Program
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On Wednesday, April 7, the Department of English and our colleagues from Philosophy held our annual joint celebration of the accomplishments of our students. This year's program had as its theme a quotation from W. S. Merwin: "I keep wanting to give you what is already yours"-to indicate that the students being honored were receiving recognition for gifts that they bring to the departments, that the prizes that they took home were actually things that belonged to them all along.

Maria Doyle, faculty advisor to Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society, served as mistress of ceremonies for the event, and student recipients made brief statements that allowed the audience to get to know them as they accepted their awards. These "sound bytes" of student creativity provided humor, emotion, character, and evidence of enormous accomplishment.

Highlights of this year's event included three new awards: the David Bottoms Distinguished Alumni Award, named for the renowned poet and novelist, currently the state's poet laureate, who holds a master's degree from the English program at West Georgia, created to recognize a student who has graduated from our department and gone on to professional success in some area of the discipline; the Robert Reynolds Excellence in Teaching English Award, named for the retired teaching legend who made Shakespeare come alive for generations of West Georgia students and intended to recognize the faculty member selected by a student committee who most exemplifies the kind of teaching that inspires and challenges students to go beyond what they believe that they can do; and the Martha Saunders Excellence in Teaching First-Year Writing Award, named for the Professor Emeritus who founded the UWG Writing Center and directed the first-year writing program for many years. This award recognizes the instructor of first-year writing chosen through peer nomination who most embodies the program's goals of excellence.

In addition, Professor Ben W. Griffith, who retired from West Georgia in 1987 as Dean Emeritus of the College of Arts and Sciences, agreed to lend his name to our annual Fiction Prize. Professors Griffith, Bottoms, and Saunders all joined us and assisted in making the first presentations of the newly named awards.

Lisa Johnson, currently assistant professor of English at Coastal Carolina University, received the first David Bottoms Distinguished Alumna Award. She graduated from West Georgia in 1994 and went on to receive her M.A. from Ohio University and her Ph.D. from Binghamton University. She is the author of several outstanding articles and the editor of a collection of essays, becoming a leading new voice in the feminist interpretation of literature and visual culture.

Greg Fraser, assistant professor of English, who joined our department only this year, was chosen by the Student Advisory Committee as the first recipient of the Robert Reynolds Teaching Award. Professor Fraser teaches creative writing and literary theory in ways that transform his students in the span of fifteen weeks, and the transformation then continues to work its magic long after the academic term ends.

The winner of the inaugural Martha Saunders Excellence in Teaching First-Year Writing Award was Mitzi McFarland. Professor McFarland holds both the B.A. and the M.A. from West Georgia and in 2003 was named Lecturer in English in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the first-year writing program. As her nominating letter testified, she is legendary among students for two things: the difficulty of her courses and the level of esteem and respect they have for her.

Graduate student Jason Kesler was the recipient of the Ben W. Griffith Fiction Prize for a portion of his creative M.A. thesis. Jason was able to have lunch with Professor Griffith before the awards program and discuss his work, and Professor Griffith has offered to correspond with him by email and become a reader of Jason's fiction. After a summer of intense writing, Jason plans to defend his thesis and graduate in December.

The Kay Magenheimer Poetry Prize this year was awarded to Amy Ellison, who read her poem "White Pickets" for the audience.

Margaret Griffin was named Most Outstanding English Minor; the Most Outstanding English Education Major was Stephanie Fields; Denise Slavinski and Laura Sonderman shared the award for Most Promising New English Majors. Two Senior Insight Awards were presented, to Carrie Fitts and Erica Rohlfs. Junior Insight Awards went to Adam Clark and James Thomas.

Awards for best contributions to Senior Seminar went to Josh Grant, Kris Forward, and Rod McRae.

Bric Barker was named Most Outstanding Graduate Student. In addition, Bric's legacy to the department has been immortalized in the naming of our student service award-the Brie [a conscious misspelling created by Greg Fraser's misreading of Bric's name during his campus visit and now also immortalized] Barker Service Award, inaugurated last year and presented to Bric, which was presented this year to Eric Smith.

Sigma Tau Delta inductees were recognized after Eric Smith, chapter president, gave a summary of the year's activities. Eric presented each new member with a certificate, after which Professor Doyle awarded them their membership pin. New members are Jesse Bishop, Adam Clark, Josh Grant, Margaret Griffin, Amelia Lewis, Shelly Mitchell, Scott Roberts, Erica Rohlfs, and Rebecca Schwab. Adam Clark was announced as chapter president for next year.

Also recognized were those students who had presented scholarly work at academic conferences during the previous year. They were Bric Barker, Dorothy Byrom, Mandi Lesak, Phillip Mitchell, Karen Miovas, Amy Riley, and Eric Smith. Two English students who were selected to present their research at Big Night, West Georgia's celebration of undergraduate research, were also recognized--Rebecca Schwab, the Humanities presenter at Big Night, and Erica Rohlfs, who will be the Social Sciences presenter. Phillip Fowler, the Humanities runner-up, was also recognized.

Eight English students who will receive departmental scholarships for the coming academic year were also recognized. Katie Allen, Amelia Lewis, Nicole Morgan, and Ashley Wilbanks are the recipients of the George W. Walker English Scholarships. The Willie Maude Thompson English Scholarships will go to Jason Bearden, Amy Ellison, Lindsay Jones, and Rebecca Schwab.

Philosophy awards included the New Major Award to Michelle Fellows and the Burdett and Shirley Wantland Scholarship to Ginger Evans.

The highest academic award that each program gives--the Gordon Watson Award--recognizes the students who are the most outstanding majors in each program. This year the Watson Award in Philosophy was presented to Nicole Walker. Rod McRae and Eric Smith shared the Watson Award in English.

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Last updated April 17, 2004