University of Minnesota
Department of English

Department of English

English in the Public Sphere

For years, the Department of English has been implementing a variety of public engagement initiatives, from training public school teachers (through College in the Schools, which English faculty initiated more than twenty years ago) to putting undergraduates to work in the community (we have one of the strongest service learning programs in the College of Liberal Arts). We believe that higher education has a public responsibility to reinvigorate democratic life. Within that responsibility, the Department of English’s unique charge is to further and support community literacy, a cornerstone of democratic societies.

Encouraging a mastery of reading and writing literature has been our mission from the start; what has expanded is our sphere, which increasing numbers of students and faculty view as extending beyond the University’s physical campus. Our definition of public engagement is inclusive of initiatives focusing on publishing and editing; new literacies, literatures and immigrant communities; and translation.

And that definition keeps being updated—because fresh activity within and without of the Department keeps us moving. English undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff have chosen to build libraries in Senegal, mentor local youth in creative writing, instigate a food shelf benefit, invent a course on public policy, and devise publishing internship opportunities (at the esteemed University of Minnesota Press, where two former interns are now employees). Our alumni send back energy from across the world: serving on our advisory board, sharing stories about what they’ve learned since graduating, and helping current students with scholarships and advice. We are continually collaborating with both campus and community partners on events, programs, and student internships.

Join English in the public sphere.

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