University of Wisconsin

La Crosse

 

 

 

Review of the Department of English

 

Presented to the APRC,  5 April 2006

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

Please address comments to Georges G. Cravins: cravins.geor@uwlax.edu and/or wisconsineditor1@aol.com

 

 

 

English Review Subcommittee:

Georges G. Cravins, Geography and Earth Science, Chair;

Professor Michael Hoffmann, Microbiology;

Professor Robert Krajewski, Educational Studies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A.     The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse English Department: Background.

 

English as a discipline has always been part of the curriculum at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. According to an internal English Department document and Gilkey’s The First Seventy Years: The History of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, 1909-1979, the English teaching staff consisted of David O. Coate and Bessie Bell Hutchinson when the La Crosse Normal School opened in 1909.1 The internal document suggests that the English teaching staff grew steadily in the decades that followed. Although American colleges witnessed a significant surge in enrollment following World War II, the most significant growth of what is now the University of Wisconsin La Crosse occurred from 1960 to 1986, when the institution’s student population peaked at about 9,700 (Figure 1). By 1993, the Department of English had 29 teaching staff, including professors, associate professors, assistant professors, and lecturers.2

 

 

B. The Department of English: Basic Facts.

 

1. Organizational Position. 

 

With an average of about 25-26 instructional FTE over the past decade, English is one of the largest departmental-level academic units on the UW La Crosse campus. English also has one of the highest student service loads of all UW-La Crosse's academic units. English is the largest of 14 “stand-alone” academic units within the College of Liberal Studies. In addition to English, departments in the college include Art, Communication Studies, Educational Studies, History, Modern Languages, Philosophy, Political Science and Public Administration, Psychology,  Sociology/Archaeology, Theatre Arts, and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (formerly Women's Studies). In addition, the Institute of Ethnic and Racial Studies functions much like a department, in the sense that it has a unit budget,  a unit director,  and offers its own courses. Cross-disciplinary minors in Environmental Studies, International Studies and Latino/a and Latin American Studies are also located within the College of Liberal Studies. 

 

2.  The Essentiality of English

 

Competency in English, along with competency in mathematics, is an essential requirement of all students at UW La Crosse. The importance of English's role in assuring language competency is reflected in the fact that the faculty of the Department of English sets fundamental standards of English fluency and competence for all students who enroll in UW La Crosse's baccalaureate programs. Students whose ACT scores indicate they lack the basic English competency necessary to meet UW-La Crosse's standards are required to take ENG 050, a 3 credit course designed to "facilitate fluency in writing" and "prepare students for the writing demands encountered in English 110" and other courses. Thus, English's role is unlike that of any other unit on campus, except the UW-La Crosse Mathematics Department, for it serves as a "gate-keeper" in assuring that students possess basic skills necessary for matriculation.          

 

C.     Staffing, Student Credit Hours and Instructional Full Time Equivalents (IFTEs).

 

1. Overall Contribution: The Size of the Department; Instructional FTEs.

 

Information provided by the Department of English to the Academic Program Review Committee for the present review suggests that, as of Spring 2006, the Department had 23.5 faculty. This number was expected to increase to 26 faculty (i.e., IFTEs) with new searches being conducted at review time. Figure 1, below, constructed from data derived from the UW-La Crosse Institutional Research Unit, shows the total number of instructional FTEs in the English Department for the fall semesters from 1998 to 2005. As the figure graphically shows, the Department experienced a relatively consistent decline in total IFTE’s over the period from Fall 1998 to Fall 2005. An important observation that should be made is that English’s FTEs, unlike those of many other large units on campus, consists primarily of tenured and tenure-track faculty rather than of instructional academic staff*. 

  

2. Work Load as Indicated by SCH Contributions

 

The following generalizations can be safely made from the information provided to the English Program Review Subcommittee on the Department’s SCH contributions:

 

·         English teaching at the 100 and 200 levels significantly focuses on skills acquisition, and, as such, tends to be more labor-intensive than in other, more content-focused courses in the College of Liberal Studies as well as on the UW La Crosse campus as a whole.

 

_____

 

*As of March, 2006, academic staff represented two (2) English IFTEs.   

 

 

·         The Faculty in the Department of English generate lower student credit hours (SCHs) than do UW La Crosse faculty as a whole.

 

·         The Faculty in the Department of English consistently generate significantly higher General Education SCHs per capita than do the UW La Crosse faculty as a whole.

 

“Bullet” one is surmised from discussions by the APR Subcommittee with faculty in the Department of English. Bullets two and three are backed by published data. The observations comparing English’s SCH contributions with those for the university as a whole are derived from data provided by Institutional Research Unit.  As Figure 3 shows, per faculty SCH contributions were consistently below those for UW-La Crosse’s faculty as a whole in all fall semesters from 1998 to 2005. This situation does not obtain, however, with respect to the Department’s role in, and contribution to, the UW La Crosse General Education Program.           

   

 

D.    English’s Contribution to the UW-L Curriculum.

 

1. English's Role in General Education.

 

a.        The significance of English in Required Components of General Education.

 

i. English 110. English’s role in the University of Wisconsin’s General Education program is principally represented by ENG 110, College Writing, a course that all undergraduate students must take to satisfy the “Literacy Skills” component of General Education. As Table 4 indicates, the English Department’s generation of General Education SCHs per faculty was consistently higher in the 1998-2005 period than for UW La Crosse faculty as a whole.  This can be explained by two factors:

 

·   In the sheer volume of SCH generated by English 110, and the significant role played by  English 110, both in terms of the overall English teaching strategy, and in terms of the course’s role in the university’s General Education Program;

 

·   The relatively small size of English’s upper division courses, and the small number of English majors relative to the size of the English faculty.             

 

                ENG 110 is a 3-credit course which is an introduction to composition, and is also a pre-requisite to more advanced courses in the English major. Students receiving a grade lower than “BC” in ENG 110 must also take an English writing course at the 300 level (numbered from ENG 303, College Writing, to ENG 309, Writing for the Sciences). In terms of the number of requirements, the 300-level course – for General Education purposes, at least – serves as a repeat course for English 110, as it does not count separately toward General Education.

 

ii. The Writing Emphasis Requirement. English Department faculty spearheaded and – until recently -- coordinated the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse's Writing Emphasis Program. All undergraduate students at UW-La Crosse are required to take at least two (2) writing emphasis courses as part of the General Education program.

 

b. English’s Role in the Menu-Driven “Liberal Studies” General Education Sequence.            

 

In addition to English 110, which is offered in Category I of General Education, the Department offers courses in Category II, or the “Liberal Studies” section of General Education. These include courses in components “B”, “D” and “E”, or the International and Multicultural, the Self and Society, and the Humanities sections of General Education, respectively (Table 1). 

 

 

 

2.       English Majors, Minors and Special Programs.

 

Any assessment of the services provided by the Department of English must include the number of majors (including dual majors) as well as minors served by the program. In addition, it is important to also include special services provided by the Department, particularly its involvement in writing on the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse campus as a whole. 

 

a. Majors and Program Concentrations Offered by English

 

    As of Fall, 2005, the Department of English offered the following program concentration options to UW-La Crosse students:

 

·   A College of Liberal Studies (CLS) Major in English;

·   An Teacher Education Major in English;

·   A CLS Major in English with a Literature Emphasis;

·   A CLS Major in English with a Rhetoric and Writing Emphasis;

·   A Minor in Creative Writing;

    

 

Table 1. English’s Contribution to the Liberal Studies Component of General Education

(Sources:  The University of Wisconsin La Crosse Online Catalogue)

 

Category  II. Liberal Studies  

Course(s) Offered

 

B. International and Multicultural Studies: Becoming World Citizens.

·         ENG 208:  International Studies in Literature

 

D. Self and Society: Understanding Oneself and the Social World.

  • ENG 220: Women and Popular Culture.

 

E. Humanistic Studies: The Search For Values and Meaning.

  • ENG 200: Literature and Human Experience;
  • ENG 201: American Literature I;
  • ENG 202: American Literature II;
  • ENG 203: English Literature I;
  • ENG 204: English Literature II:
  • ENG 205: Western Literature I:
  • ENG 206: Western Literature II.

 

Note that all courses listed in the General Education program’s “II. Liberal Studies,” categories are offered as part of a menu, wherein students choose one 3-credit course from a numner of options offered by two or more departments.

 

·   A Minor in English;

·   A Minor in Professional Writing;

·   A Minor in English Teacher Education.  

 

b.        Significant Trends in Program Enrollment.

 

i.         The overall picture.

 

Information provided by the Department of English and the UW La Crosse Institutional Research Unit reveal the following trends in the production of English Majors and Minors over the past 6-8 years:

 

·   There was year-to-year fluctuation in both the total number of students majoring in English, and in the number of students within the sub-fields offered by the English Department, but – overall – there was no significant change in total numbers of English majors.

 

·   A significant decrease in the number of students who had English as their first majors (from 166 in Spring, 2001 to 131 in Fall, 2004) was more than offset by an increase in the number of dual majors, or students simultaneously majoring in some other field as well as in English.

 

·   Including both the number of single and dual majors, the total number of English majors increased from 166 in Spring, 2001 to 203 in Fall, 2004.   

 

·   Very few students intend to be English Majors when they enter the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Most English majors and minors declare in their junior or senior year.

 

·   However, at least half of all majors in the new Rhetoric and Writing Emphasis program declare majors in their freshman year (based on Fall, 2005 enrollment figures). 

 

·         Most majors in English are female, and this trend has not changed significantly over the past 6-8 years.  The most recent data suggest that the percentage of majors who are female is lowest in Creative Writing, and highest in English Teacher Education.

 

 

i.         Specific Enrollment Trends.

 

a)       Total Production of Majors and Minors. Data from the English Department and the UW-La Crosse Institutional Research Unit show that 351 students were either majoring or minoring in English in Fall, 2004 (Figure 5). Counting both single and dual majors, 203 students were majoring in English in Fall, 2004 (Figure 6).

 

b)        The CLS-Education Breakdown. In terms of the breakdown of programs into which all English majors have traditionally fit --  liberal studies and education – the number of majors in the former remained nearly unchanged, while numbers in the latter declined significantly, from 48 in Spring, 2001 to 19 in Fall, 2004 (Figure 7).

 

 

 

 

 

c)  Minors. As Figure 8 shows, the numbers of minors in the various subfields of English remained relatively stable over the time period. Figure 8 indicates strong participation by students as minors in English’s four areas sub-areas: English-CLS; English Education; Professional Writing, and Creative Writing.     

 

 

 

d)  New Programs.

 

In 2003, the English Department added two new options in the major: an English Rhetoric and Writing Emphasis and an English Literature Emphasis. Enrollment figures for these new programs, which were available for the first time in Fall, 2004, and Fall, 2005, show that a significant number of students declared English majors as freshman.  

 

e)  The Gender Make-Up of English Majors.   

 

        As the data in Figure 9 show, most majors in English are female. Indeed, the percent of majors in English’s programs who are female was consistently higher than for the campus as a whole for the eight semesters included in Figure 9. The percent of students majoring in English who are female is highest in Teacher Education, with more than 77% of all students majoring in this program being female, and lowest in Creative Writing, where approximately 62% of all students in this program were female in Fall, 2005.3

 

 

 


 


 

f)  Graduation Levels.

 

        The Department of English graduated 608 majors in all programs combined from 1998/99 through 2004/2005, or an average of 87 per year during this period.  As Figure 10 shows, the number of graduates fluctuated, from a high of 116 in 1999/2000 to a low of 79 in 2000/2001. The data provided in Figure 10 reveal shifts in the number of graduates among the four major English subfields. However, except for an apparent increase in the number of students graduating with studies in Professional Writing, there seems to be no definitive trend. Declines in the regular CLS Major and in English Teacher Education between 1998-1999 and 2002-2003 were offset by higher graduation levels in these subfields in later cycles (2003-2005).

         

 

 

3.        Special Programs and Services Offered by English.

 

English Department faculty and staff are responsible for the English Writing Center, which is meant to support writing on campus as a whole. In addition to its support for English composition both informally and through the Writing Center, the Department has, over the years, developed special courses in response to both the developmental needs of students in teacher education and in response to Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction requirements. The Department has developed sections of English 110 exclusively for education majors, and some English faculty have also attended workshops focused on K-12 teaching.

 

 

E. A Programmatic Assessment of the English Department.

 

1.       Reviews and Self-Study Efforts Since the Last APRC Report (1995-1996).

 

Since the last Academic Program Review of the English Department in 1995-1996, the Department has  undergone both an outside review, conducted by Professor Estella Lauter of the Department of English, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. In addition, the Department conducted an internal self-assessment, beginning in 1997. Both before and since the outside review, the Department has undergone a significant programmatic realignment process. The realignment process has included both curricular revision and reform and (an attendant) shift in FTE positions. Salient, programmatically-important developments may be summarized as follows:

 

  • 1997-1998.  Systematic (internal) assessment of  programs for majors and minors based on student surveys and faculty interaction;   

 

  • 1999-2004. Realignment of the curricular options for CLS majors;

 

  • August, 2003.  Completion and release of the Department of English Self-Study;

 

  • June 2004. Completion and release of recommendations and observations from the external review of the English Department (conducted by Professor Estella Lauter, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh);

 

  • June, 2004. The response of the English Department to the external review.

 

2.       Summary of Recommendations of the Outside Reviewer and the Department’s Response.

 

The outside reviewer (Professor Lauter) made a number of recommendations, including the following:

 

a)       Requiring a course in criticism and theory for regular CLS English Majors;

 

b)       Expanding the course offerings of the Department, to include permanent courses in both Asian American and Latino/a literature.

 

c)       To consider a program of course release time to enhance faculty research;

 

d)       To attempt to ensure that no staff teaches more than 3 sections of ENG 110 in a single semester;

 

e)       To consider offering release time for the administration of ENG 110;

 

f)        In view of the fact that publication in most fields of English takes “an unusually long time,” to ask the (UW La Crosse) Joint Promotion Committee to “reconsider its policies regarding the evaluation of scholarship and service in the case of the English Department….”

 

        The English Department has presented evidence that it has complied with recommendations a) and b). As recommendations c), d) and e) involve budgetary needs, these have been difficult to meet on a consistent basis, given the significant budget reductions of the past 5-6 years.

 

3.  Summary of Findings of the Spring 2006 APRC Review.

 

a. Relative to Programmatic Assessment; Reform of Curriculum; Praxis.   

 

The APRC commends the Department for the curricular and staffing reforms it has initiated since the 1995-1996 University Review. Specifically, the evidence presented by Department staff and supported by documentation suggests that:  

 

·   The Department undertook a far-reaching assessment of its programs and practices, beginning in 1997. This assessment involved both systematic solicitation of program information from students, and faculty-faculty interaction around the nature of the discipline, appropriate courses, and optimal program strategies.

 

·    Changes in the array of course offerings over the past 3-5 years suggest a clear connection between programmatic assessment processes and programmatic reform. In essence, curricular and staffing updates appear to have been followed, and to have been informed by, the systematic and far-reaching assessment initiated by English Department faculty.

         

·   As of the 2005-2006 Academic Year cycle, the process of reform in curriculum and staffing is advanced rather than tentative. A vision of what English “looks like” as a result of change has clearly emerged, and preliminary observations regarding both enrollment outcomes and staffing can be made.

 

·   Data provided by the English Department and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Institutional Research Unit suggests that new “Emphases” options offered in the major (Literature, and Rhetoric and Writing) has dramatically increase the number of students entering UW-La Crosse who select the English option.  

 

·   The English Department leadership (both present and immediate past) is aware of the evolving nature of K-12 Teacher requirements and standards under both the federal ESEA and Wisconsin’s PI 34.  This requires that English faculty be continually updated regarding both federal and state standards and practices, and the English faculty has promoted the participation by its members in workshops related to the reform agenda of  federal and state authorities.        

 

b. Relative to Vision, Mission and the University’s Teaching-Learning Enterprise.       

 

 In the representations of its vision of its contribution to the array of the University’s programs, the Department of English is to be commended for the view that English has specific professional responsibilities that are campus-wide in scope. Specifically:

 

·         Efforts to support both the quality of written English on the UW-L campus as a whole, including providing technical support to students as exemplified by the English Writing Center are to be recognized and commended.

 

·         Efforts by the English Department to provide technical and pedagogical support to non-English faculty, as exemplified by such initiatives as the General Education Writing Emphasis Program and – more recently – the Traveling Tutor initiative – are to be commended and supported by the university community.

 

·         The English  Department's contribution to General Education in the Liberal Studies component includes an array of diverse and high quality inquiry-based literature courses. Courses is this sequence range from Literature and the Human Experience through various surveys of American, British, and International literature, to courses specifically designed to address General Education and the University‘s mission and diversity goals. These courses offer students excellent options in these areas and are typically highly valued by students from all disciplines as an important component of their educations at UW-L. The English Department is to be commended for maintaining its commitment in these course to serving the University's goals for inquiry-based humanities education.

 

c. Relative to the Promotion of a Positive Image for English among Students as a Means to Increase Recruitment of quality majors and minors.    

 

·   Over past two years, English Department Web Page has been revamped;

 

·    The recent establishment on campus of the English honor society Sigma Tau Delta, and reactivation of the English Club will, in time, contribute to the development of an English identity among UW-L students. This is likely to have a positive effect on the morale of students and faculty, and increase the recruitment of high quality English majors.               

 

3. Conclusions and Recommendations.

 

a. Summary Statement. Developments within the English Department over the past 10 years clearly indicate that major issues raised by the University in the AP Review of 1995-1996 and by the outside reviewer have been either a) anticipated by the Department and addressed through programmatic and staff realignments (which are detailed in the present report),  or b) beyond the capability of English due to budget cuts.  

 

b. Specific Recommendations.

 

The following recommendations are based on needs that have been identified by the Department of English, the Office of the Dean of the College of Liberal Studies, and/or the most recent English Department outside reviewer (Dr. Estella Lauter).      

 

1.   The need for permanent budgetary support for the English Writing Center and its ancillary activities and initiatives.  Traditionally, the English Writing Center has received ad hoc funding. This has resulted in significant instability. The APRC recommend that the University of Wisconsin La Crosse commit permanent, stable support to the English Writing Center.  At a minimum, the following activities should receive budgetary support:

 

·                     One (1) replacement quarter-time faculty position;

 

·                     Student work-study;

 

·                     The Writing Center’s Online Module.

  

2.  The need for a Writing Program Director to support freshman and remediation writing (ENG 110 and ENG 050, respectively). 

 

Given the number of sections of English 110 and the number of students enrolled in the course,  the suggestion by the English Department leadership that “one size cannot fit all” in its approach to its students taking the course  is apparently valid.

 

        As virtually all UW-L students must take ENG 110, the demographics of the course are essentially the demographics of the university. As envisioned by the Department, the English Writing Director would conduct a skills-level assessment of freshmen and would direct curriculum according to the specific needs and potential of students. For example, English envisions a need for remediation tracks to support students who – even beyond ENG 050 – demonstrate deficiencies.           

 

 

End Notes

 

1George Gilkey, 1981. Published by the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Foundation.

 

2Gilkey, Appendix. p. V.

 

3The issue of the “gender gap” by academic major and occupational specialties is one which has been extensively studied. National data from the United States Department of Commerce shows that a number of occupational fields tend to attract disproportionately higher numbers of one gender than the other.  On the whole, both the field  of English and K-12 Teacher Education in the United States tend to disproportionately attract women. A number of universities (including University of California Santa Cruz, George Washington, Illinois Wesleyan, James Madison University --  to name a few) have devoted significant resources to tracking gender enrollment trends among undergraduates.  Data provided by all of the aforementioned institutions  have revealed the existence of a “gender gap,” similar to or wider than that which exists at UW La Crosse. Additional  information and perspective on this issue may be obtained from: 1) James Madison University, Office of Institutional Research, Research Notes, “Majors and Gender Diversity 1992-2004,” Volume 19, Number 2. August, 2005; 2) The University of California-Santa Cruz, “2001-2002 Undergraduate Degrees by Majors and Gender” @ http://planning.ucsc.edu/irps/Enrollmt/FACTS02/B_Degree_UG_Major-Gndr.pdf; 3) Zach Ahmad, “Gender Gap: Some Majors Have Disproportionate Amount of One Sex,” Washington University Hatchet (student newspaper), February 14, 2005. 4) Ritu Kelotra, “Majors Have Gender Gap,” The Post (Ohio University newspaper), March 5, 1999. 5) Marcella Bombardieri, “In Computer Science, a Growing Gender Gap: Women Shunning a Field Once Seen as Welcoming,” Boston Globe,  December 18, 2005.

 

4Source: English Department Chair, March, 2006.