Abigail Roberts | The Echo
Taylor's English department provides a space for every Taylor student to excel, as they continue to reach above and beyond expectations.
On Oct. 18, 2018, Nancy Dayton, department chair and a professor of English, presented the English department's eight-year review to Taylor's Academic Policy Committee (APC).
Since 2005, the English department has tracked their student responses and interaction with questions such as: how long did it take students to complete the major requirements? How long did students wait until confirming English as their major after entering? These questions help departments assess course choices and how many credit hours they are worth.
"I had heard rumors about Taylor's English department," External Reviewer and Professor of English at Houghton College, Linda Woolsey said. "But I did not think they could be true."
Some of the English department's accomplishments include Parnassus, which is the departments literature conference, and the Making Literature conference that was held last week. These are just a few of the English department's outstanding achievements.
They also assessed their use of institutional resources and alignment with Taylor's mission. Then, they compiled the data and, with the help of Woosley, evaluated the department's overall performance.
"They are dedicated," Director of Assessment and Quality Improvement Kimberly Case said. "They are hard-working. They are qualified. They care about students, and they rise to the top on affirming and aligning with the University's mission."
According to Dayton, Woosley didn't want to end her time at Houghton without having the chance to review Taylor's English department.
Taylor University requires each department to conduct an academic review every eight years. The exceptions are the education, music and social work departments, which process their review separately. In 2015 Taylor underwent a campus-wide departmental review which reset many departments' eight-year rotations.
"It's a looking back to see where we've come from and allowing time and space to see what is to come," Case said. "The review is a checkpoint along the way to ensure we are developing quality programs."
Reviews give faculty the chance to come together and reassess values and goals and think as a department who they want to be.
According to Tom Jones, dean of the school of arts, biblical studies, and humanities, the review confirms what those close to the English department already knew. The English department faculty are deeply committed to making the content of their courses come alive for both students who are taking classes as part of the Foundational Core and those who are majors in English, Literature and Creative Writing.
The English and Bible departments cycle almost every Taylor student through their classrooms as parts of every student's foundational core. So, upkeeping quality English classrooms is critical to the University's liberal arts programming.
"We teach gen-eds and love to do it," Dayton said. "If you don't have a solid reading and writing ability every department suffers. Our skills are transferable to all fields."
However, according to students, the English department's excellence lies in its dedicated professors, the shepherds of the department.
"The professors are all so different, but I've learned so much from each of them, said senior English major Hannah Perry. "Each professor has helped me with their different learning styles and the relationships I've been able to build with them."
This past summer, Perry alongside faculty worked in pioneering "WORDshop," a writing camp for 4 - 12 graders.
When senior English and systems major Megan Herrema realized she wouldn't seek jobs in the field of English after graduation, she found her advisors still supportive.
"Once you get to know the professors, you find that they really care about their students," Herrema said. "Even if I'm not going to represent them afterward they still care about what I'm doing."
In light of their recent review, the English department will reduce their upper-level four-hour classes to three hours in order to free up their student's schedules. This provides space for students to double major or minor in differing areas and have more variety in their classes. They will also collapse their four required American literature classes into three.
With what all the English department faculty does, both the APC and the external reviewer agreed they should watch for burnout.
"This is a group that is doing several extra things that are of great value to students," the APC said. "The majority of these activities are done with little acknowledgment of the impact on faculty time. Resources to make . . . efforts less draining should be considered."
Dayton agrees that doing all they are currently, she doesn't see how the department could do more and not suffer.
Students confirm that the English department robustly extends itself both vertically between students and professors and horizontally in encouraged student-to-student contact.
"I've just learned a lot, it's not just one thing I can point to, it's all cumulative," Perry said.