Environmental Writing on the Susquehanna River

For many, the Susquehanna River is just that expanse they cross on their way along the Pennsylvania Turnpike or a troublemaker for the Chesapeake Bay, but for students from ENGL 466: Environmental Advocacy Writing the river is a source of inspiration. These students have been tasked with telling stories of the river, focusing on the people, plants, animals, and places that make the Susquehanna a valuable connection to our area. What better way to start that process than by getting into the river itself?

Susky Fishing CreekLed by Dr. Justin Mando and guided by Shank’s Mare Outfitters, the class floated the river to gain a sense of place that will drive the writing they do on behalf of this magnificent, threatened, and often overlooked American waterway. Their goal is to capture in writing both the aesthetic and cultural value of the Susquehanna along with the threats that face it. Many organizations from the Susquehanna’s headwaters to its mouth in the Chesapeake Bay are excited to hear what flows from our student advocates. River Stewards, a Susquehanna-focused organization, funded the excursion in its entirety. This surely demonstrates the value of the work our students do!

English Students ready for Field Research
English Students ready for Field Research

The trip was attended by Lindsey Campbell, Kaitlyn Cicchino, Maddy Giardina, Rylan Harvey, Karen Layman, Dylan Marciano, Amanda Mooney, Julia Snyder, and Caitlyn Tynes.

The students set off on a calm evening in early October, taking double kayaks from south of Wrightsville down to Fishing Creek and back in the section of the Susquehanna known as Lake Clarke. Because it is between two dams, this part of the river is much more like a lake than what normally comes to mind when we think of rivers. This lake-like stretch has caused the students to think of how differently they may have to communicate environmental issues to citizens located along the banks of Lake Clarke among lighthouses, seagulls and jetskis than they would in the river’s northern reaches of grass islands, exposed rocks and riffles.

These kinds of rhetorical issues regarding context and audience really come to life when you’re out there in the middle of the river. You can’t help but imagine the native Susquehannock settlements of the distant past and their dugout sycamore canoes juxtaposed with the brightly-colored kayaks we floated. You look to the top of Turkey Hill where a landfill, a processing plant and windmills now have the high ground and then your eyes focus on the mottled white of a swooping osprey. You come ashore and the ground feels different; it’s not just your soggy shoes, it’s the sense of being part of the sweeping flows of time and place that we as individuals can passively float or choose to paddle against.

–Justin Mando

Photo credit: Dylan Marciano for panorama of Susquehanna

Susky - Lake Clarke

American Association of University Women (AAUW) meeting on Thursday, October 5th, in McComsey 266

Women–and people who care about women–can make a difference in this world!

The first meeting of the American Association of University Women (which is open to all genders/gender identities) Millersville Branch will be Thursday, October 5th, in McComsey 266.  All student, staff, and faculty are invited.

Our members are interested in connecting with other organizations interested in social justice, and particularly focused on honing our skills to argue our perspectives and learning techniques of Non-Violent Resistance (NVR).  We plan to participate in the social justice event on 10/23/17.  We also hope to facilitate a Rapid Response team that can help when social injustice occurs on campus.

The purpose of AAUW is

  1. To prepare students for leadership in the civic realm, particularly in the realm of social justice.
  2. To offer students an opportunity to exchange ideas on social justice and plan social justice-related activities.
  3. To learn more about social justice through writings, literature, and speakers offered by members and advisers within the club.
  4. To offer opportunities whereby members can voice opinions in an open forum.
  5. To establish comradeship between the members and also with the faculty.
  6. To network our members with the global AAUW community of more than 170,000 members for personal and career growth.
  7. To promote more discourse about issues and how to effectively talk about these issues.
  8. To support women in gaining positions of leadership across campus.
  9. To engage on issues with the Lancaster community and other AAUW organizations.

Millersville undergrads can join the national organization for free:  http://www.aauw.org/join/ [select STUDENTS option]

  • AAUW has been empowering women as individuals and as a community since 1881. For more than 130 years, members of AAUW have worked together as a national grassroots organization to improve the lives of millions of women and their families.  If you believe in equal opportunity for ALL people, then we need your voice.

Before the meeting, please check out AAUW’s website for its resources.  Grad students should particularly explore the grants available.  Also, if you are on Facebook, join our new AAUW Millersville Facebook group.

  • Please share the information with other people (on/off campus; men/women; undergrads/grads/faculty/staff; etc.) who might be interested in social justice issues.  They can just come to the first meeting to join.

Come, join us!  You can talk to an AAUW faculty mentor today for more information:

  • Kat Walsh (Social Work)
  • Christine Filippone (Art)
  • Nicole Pfannenstiel (English)
  • Nitu Bagchi (Government)
  • Erin Moss (Math)
  • Karen Rice (Social Work)
  • Beth Powers (Education)
  • Jill Craven (English)

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a [wo]man changes his[/her] own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him[/her]. … We need not wait to see what others do.”


Faculty Profile: Dr. Greg Bowen

Hello, my name is Dr. Greg Bowen, and I’m joining the English department faculty this year, teaching linguistics. If I were to describe myself in three words, they’d be whelming, chalant, and corrigible. Occasionally I’m even shevelled and kempt.

I’ve always had a love of language. In elementary school, classmates sometimes asked me whether I read the dictionary. I decided I’d better give it a try, and brought one along to read on the bus ride to school. I discovered something that day. I learned that reading the dictionary is really boring.

A brief glance through the margins of my high school and college notebooks would reveal my love of castles and medieval arms and armor. It was no great surprise to my parents when I chose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in history. I still rubbed shoulders with English majors, though, working as a tutor in the Westminster College Writing Center. There my black sense of humor, combined with an outwardly mild-mannered demeanor, earned me an award for “most upstandingly perverse.”

With some spare credits, I took a course my senior year on the history and structure of the English language. It was the most fun I’d ever had in a classroom, and I knew then what I’d be doing with the rest of my life.

Greg Bowen and FamilyI studied linguistics at Indiana’s Purdue University, combining my passions for history and language by specializing in historical linguistics. I explored the intricacies of address pronoun selection in Arthurian tales from the 15th century, and the lingering influence of the King James Bible on religious writing styles in 19th century America. I also had a blast teaching introductory linguistics classes, hoping to give others a first exposure to the field as exciting as mine had been.

When I’m not working, I enjoy playing video games, hiking, watching Netflix, and singing, preferably in small ensembles. As a tenor in the Westminster College Chamber Singers, I had the opportunity to sing in Carnegie Hall (under the direction of John Rutter), in cathedrals across France and Spain, and in Beijing’s Forbidden City. I also met a lovely young alto and somehow convinced her to marry me. My wife Anna and I now have two little boys: David, age 6 (who loves dominoes), and Tristan, age 3 (who loves cats).

My family and I are excited to be starting our new life in Pennsylvania, and I’m looking forward to sharing my love of language, and all its exquisite weirdness, with the excellent students of Millersville University.

Writing Center Opening

On Monday September 18th the new Writing Center in McNairy Library had its grand opening. The Center had been open for a week already and our staff was busy tutoring students. There were still some kinks to be worked out in respect to technology and staffing, but students started to come in the first day the Center was open.

Monday’s celebration included an address by university president John Anderson and Provost Vilas Prabhu. Associate Provost Jeff Adams organized the opening and introduced the speakers. Dean Diane Umble was in attendance as was Chair of English Jill Craven. Students and staff from the library and faculty in English were also present.

IMG_6175The new space in McNairy Library is spectacular. As you enter the library from George St., you see the can’t-miss sign: The Writing Center at MU above the glass front of room 106. Inside, the room is open and bright, with a floor-to-ceiling window, and an impossibly high ceiling. The manager’s table sits right inside the room; it’s where appointments are made. Tutoring is done at tables in the middle of the room and on the right wall. Soon we will have wall hangings that present the writing process in colorful posters. Later in the semester new furniture will arrive that will make the space more comfortable. Already students are finding the new Writing Center–how could they miss it–and we predict that our numbers will soar. We are no longer a hidden jewel, but a collaborative star in the firmament of library and university student services.

We want to thank Jeff Adams and Diane Umble for facilitating the Writing Center’s move to McNairy Library. The move would not have been possible, however, without Jill Craven’s unflagging commitment to the Writing Center as well as writing across the disciplines at Millersville. We see the move as a win win win win for English, the library, the administration, and students. Come to the new Writing Center and see us grow!

–Dr. Bill Archibald

Videos of the Grand Opening

Film Club takes Toronto and its International Film Festival

This September, seven Millersville students traveled with Dr. Jill Craven to Toronto to join film industry professionals at the Toronto International Film Festival, which ran September 7-17th.

Millersville Students representing at TIFF on King Street in Toronto
Millersville Students representing at TIFF on King Street in Toronto

The group arrived in Toronto on the 8th, and they immediately started to view films and take in the film culture that surrounded them.  Overall, they viewed 12-13 features plus shorts, including

  • Kodachrome, with director Mark Raso and stars Ed Harris, Jason Sudeikis, and Elizabeth Olsen
  • Verónica, with director Paco Plaza and 16-year-old star Sandra Escacena
  • I, Tonya with director Craig Gillespie and stars Margot Robbie and Allison Janney
  • I Love You, Daddy with director Louis CK
  • Gala/Premiere for Mary Shelley with director Haifaa Al-Mansour and star Elle Fanning
  • The Premiere for Brad’s Status, with director Mike White, Ben Stiller, and cast
  • Midnight Madness film Mom and Dad, with director Brian Taylor, and Nick Cage with Selma Blair
  • Suburbicon with director George Clooney
  • Woman Walks Ahead with director Susanna White and starJessica Chastain
  • Submergence, with director Wim Wenders
  • Short Cuts with discussions by various directors
  • mother! with director Darren Aronofsky
  • Premiere of 3 Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri with director Martin McDonagh and stars Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell
  • Premiere of The Shape of Water with director Guillermo del Toro, and stars Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer

Each film screening had a discussion following where the directors and cast took questions from an interviewer and audience members.  The Millersville group found Aronofsky’s insights about mother! so fascinating that they are looking forward to seeing the film again when it opens this weekend.  Overall, the group found mother!, 3 Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri, and I, Tonya the most intriguing films of the festival.

In addition to the film screenings, the group attended an industry session featuring 3 female film directors, including Angela Robinson and Brie Larson, both of whom had films at the festival.  English major Rashna Yousef posed a great question to the directors, getting an extended personal response.  See Rashna’s question to Brie Larson and the directors’ responses on YouTube.

TIFF Higher Education’s Jessica Lam also gave the group a tour of TIFF Bell Lightbox and the Film Reference Library, which is available to all film researchers free of charge.

Falls Cruise
Rashna, Kayla, and Hunter after the Honrblower Cruise into the Falls

On the way back, the group stopped at Niagara Falls to take in one of the world’s most impressive natural wonders.  In addition, they checked out the kitschy town.

Overall, the trip was tremendous learning experience.  In addition to expanding our travel experience into neighboring Canada, the group negotiated a complex festival and even got to ask questions of directors like Darren Aronofsky and Brie Larson.

Niagara WalkStudents who attended included senior and Film Club member Hunter Barrick, future English teacher Zach Richardson, Kayla Rishell, Autumn Kandrick, senior Jordan Ettien, English major Rashna Yousaf, and Film Club president Spencer Goodrich.  Trips leaders were Dr. Jill Craven, Film Professor and Chair of English, and Kevin Ghaffari, SUNY Binghamton Fly by Night and Student Association Film Series programmer.

–Jill Craven


The world needs the next generation of Rachel Carsons

Pennsylvania native Rachel Carson transformed the world of scientific communication by taking a technical issue and making it public like no one had done before. Carson’s evocative writing remains a gold standard for those wishing to raise the alarm about problems related to the environment and human health. In her 1962 book, Silent Spring, Carson catapulted a problem previously contained within the scientific community to the center of public discussion. This problem was the use of DDT, a pesticide in wide use. Carson and other scientists found these chemicals to have devastating effects on life, from songbirds to humans. Rather than let scientists and politicians hash out a response out of the public eye, Carson wrote Silent Spring, a clear and effective account of these discoveries in the form of an apocalyptic narrative. The “silent spring” she wrote of would be the sound of spring absent of life if we did not act.

Rather than write to the world as a scientist using scientific discourse, Carson opens her book with an idyllic scene of peace and tranquility. Her first line reads, “There once was a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings.” Describing this pastoral setting, Carson quickly shifts to a blight that falls upon the community as “some evil spell” that kills animals indiscriminately. Capturing her readers’ minds, she explains, “No witchcraft, no enemy action had silenced the rebirth of new life in this stricken world. The people had done it to themselves.” So begins a book-length appeal for humans to take notice and change their ways, an appeal that made an enormous impact on the issue of DDT and environmentalism more broadly.

Rachel Carson, Environmentalist and Science Writer
Rachel Carson, Environmentalist and Science Writer

Rachel Carson is a paragon of scientific writing. She both effectively communicated within her domain and, when the stakes were high, shaped public perception of issues that were otherwise invisible to people using rhetorical tactics well outside of the scientist’s typical set of strategies. Take this excerpt from Silent Spring that directly engages the ethical dimension of scientific progress:

“Some would-be architects of our future look toward a time when it will be possible to alter the human germ plasm by design…It is ironic to think that man might determine his own future by something so seemingly trivial as the choice of an insect spray.”

Is this any less resonant today? Substitute “insect spray” with any number of technical hazards created by “would-be architects of our future” and you can see the need for communicators that know how to engage citizens. Alternatively, we have many technologies to cherish that are the fruits of scientific progress, truly deserving of positive public attention. Like Rachel Carson, and perhaps like you, science writers shape public perceptions of scientific progress.

Not only do science writers shape public understanding of scientific progress, they also communicate effectively with other scientists. To advance your career as a biologist, meteorologist, physicist, chemist, or in any other science discipline, you must be able to write. The gears of career and scientific progress turn through published research findings and research grant proposals.

To help Millersville’s students achieve success as scientists and to open new doorways for students interested in being a liaison between scientists and the public, the English Department is proud to offer a new Advanced Writing course in Science Writing. This course will cover both the demands on scientists as they communicate within their fields and as they reach out to the public. If you find this particularly compelling, Millersville is also offering a new Multidisciplinary Studies (MDST) degree in Science Writing.

The world needs effective communicators of scientific progress and threat so that members of the public can be well informed of the issues that shape all of our lives. Just as Rachel Carson used writing to challenge an industry by making a technical issue a public one, you too can shape the world through science writing.

Have you always been fascinated by scientific discovery? Are you a scientist yourself? Would you like to learn about an up-and-coming field of study that could lead to internships and job opportunities? Are you looking to take care of that Advanced Writing requirement in a way that will directly impact your career prospects? If so, consider signing up for ENGL 319: Science Writing.

— Justin Mando

Update from Dr. Tim Shea in Kenya

Am I crazy or just adventurous?  Maybe a little bit of both, I suppose. After more than a decade since living abroad, I decided it was time for a new international adventure. In March I requested a two-year leave of absence from teaching English at Millersville University and I moved my family in July to Nairobi, Kenya, and it has been a whirlwind ever since! I am teaching secondary English and social studies at Rosslyn Academy, an international school that was built on a former coffee plantation. From the moment I arrived, I have felt at home here.

poets3I am surrounded by an array of wildlife from various kinds of monkeys to colorful hornbills and hummingbirds, from massive indigenous trees to dazzling flowers of all shapes, and I haven’t yet gone to see “The Big 5” yet (lions, elephants, buffalo, leopard,and rhino)!  I look forward to exploring Kenya with my family, as we discover this amazing country together, starting with a visit to the baby elephant orphanage and visiting The Great Rift Valley teem to life at sunrise. I even get to go on a 3-day school field trip to a volcanic lake!

Then there’s my new professional life. In the past three weeks since I have been back in the secondary classroom, I am both exhausted and inspired. I forgot how much energy 12-year-olds have and how I must teach them differently from the young adults with whom I usually work.

Nevertheless, I have found the work to be rewarding and fun. So far we have learned about anthropology by creating our own cultures and burying the artifacts for future excavation. We have been crafting board and video games around global explorers’ travels, and we have examined the world of mythology through superheroes and dramatic interpretations. I am already more sympathetic to our teacher education students now that I have stepped back in their shoes.

Besides my work at the school, I look forward to working with medical school students on their academic writing in a program with John Hopkins University and a local university. I also will lead local groups of Montessori and Kenyan teachers in professional development using drama-based pedagogy. Shortly, I also hope to assist teachers in Nairobi slums.

Needless to say, there is so much to do here –both personally and professionally–that my time here will fly by! I look forward to learning and growing and bringing a taste of my adventures back to Millersville when I do.

–Dr. Tim Shea

Lion in Winter free for MU students at Penn Cinema on Tuesday, September 6

Penn Cinema has joined up with Millersville English and the Film Club to present arthouse cinema the first Tuesday of every month.  Millersville students can get in free to these screenings by mentioning they are with the film club at Millersville.

The September 6th film is Lion in Winter, starring Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn.  This is the story of Henry II, with amazing performances by both leads.  Film starts at 7 pm.Lion in Winter photo

Henry II: “Well, what shall we hang… the holly, or each other?” 1183, and it’s Christmas at the Plantagenets: Peter O’Toole’s heavily bearded king has sprung his wife, Katharine Hepburn’s Eleanor of Aquitaine, from ten years of imposed-by-him imprisonment to negotiate the succession among his sons, Geoffrey (John Castle), Richard, later the Lion-Hearted (Anthony Hopkins in his feature debut), and John (Nigel Terry: Excalibur, Caravaggio), with King Philippe of France (future 007 Timothy Dalton in his first film) on hand to kibitz – and then the scheming, backstabbing, turn-coating, shocking revelations, and nonstop barbed quips ensue. Adapted by James Goldman from his own play, Lion won three Oscars, for Hepburn (her third, and back-to-back with Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner), Goldman, and the music by James Bond composer John Barry, with nominations for Best Picture, Director, Costumes, and for O’Toole, four years after his nomination as Henry in Becket – two of his eight non-winning nominations). Eleanor: “What family doesn’t have its ups and downs?” (Film Forum)

Film Critic Roger Ebert gave the film 4 stars (out of 4) in his review, stating:

One of the joys which movies provide too rarely is the opportunity to see a literate script handled intelligently. “The Lion in Winter” triumphs at that difficult task; not since “A Man for All Seasons” have we had such capable handling of a story about ideas. But “The Lion in Winter” also functions at an emotional level, and is the better film, I think.

Discussion led by Dr. Jill Craven follows the film.

Kanopy: Free Films for MU

Millersville offers a free movie-streaming service to all faculty, staff, and students.  It has many great films, including much of the Criterion Collection (some of the best/most important films of all time in their best formats, with special features).

Check out Kanopy.  You log in with your MU email login and password and you get free films!  You can also trim films into clips for class presentations (there are a number of documentaries that would be useful).  These can be integrated into D2L forum posts, for example.  Make your presentations stand out with video.


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