Creative Writing beset by failed chair search, fewer students

A failed search for a permanent chair of the newly developed Creative Writing Department has faculty and staff questioning the future of the department.

Louise Love, interim provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, sent out an email April 30 stating that after extensive interviews with three candidates, the administration was unable to appoint any of them.

“It’s not that we will not have a chair, it’s that we will have an interim chair,” Love said. “I’m sure whoever is appointed will do a very credible job, but I’m not sure when the search will be renewed.”

Matthew Shenoda is currently serving as interim chair of the Creative Writing Department, which was founded in fall 2013. However, several faculty members in the department want to replace Shenoda, who is also associate dean of  the School of Fine and Performing Arts, with associate professor Alexis Pride because of her passionate concerns about the department’s falling enrollment, according to Gary Johnson, associate professor in the Creative Writing Department.

Johnson said most of the faculty are asking for an interim chair to be chosen from within the department to save time and money.

“There is more than enough talent in the Creative Writing Department to have an internal faculty candidate appointed interim chair until a new search can be formed,” Johnson said. “It’s more practical for the running of the department, the faculty and the students, and makes economic sense.”

Johnson said faculty in the department worry about the declining enrollment and retention of students after the fiction, poetry and nonfiction programs were merged together to form the Creative Writing Department. 

Enrollment in the Creative Writing Department has dropped 42 percent since 2012, according to Institutional Advancement.

“Leadership is a serious challenge,” Johnson said. “For starters, we need better planning, an internal and external communication and more inclusion. Future success will depend on the upper administration seriously engaging in the depth of expertise of the entire faculty to help shape the new Creative Writing Department.”

Shenoda could not be reached for comment as of press time. 

Pride said she would become interim chair of the department if asked to serve but said serving as the permanent chair is something she would consider later on.

“I am honored that my colleagues in the department would offer support to me,” Pride said. “One of our concerns is to reserve the time and attention to retention and enrollment initiatives.” 

Randall Albers, chair emeritus in the Creative Writing Department, said he would like to see a chair who overseas only the Creative Writing Department.

“I’d like to see someone with strong leadership skills [who can] rebuild the community, build it or rebuild it in a new way,” Albers said. “I’d like to see a good communicator who’s in favor of budget transparency and does what they can to support the department.”