Through our programs in literary studies and writing, the Valparaiso University English department offers an education in humane letters based on the principles of writing, language, and literary traditions in English in Great Britain, the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

Academic Programs


Our annual visiting writers series draws poets, fiction writers, literary critics, nonfiction writers, and playwrights to offer presentations of their work and meet with students. Over the years, those writers have included Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott, former Poet Laureates of the United States Mark Strand and Charles Wright, and various authors who have been recipients of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, or other distinguished honors including Tim O’Brien, John Balaban. James Welch, and Nikki Giovanni.

Our faculty members are well grounded in their fields, having published books and critically acclaimed articles and essays. Yet we are committed first and foremost to teaching. Our classes tend to be small and discussion-based, and many of our faculty members have received or been nominated for competitive teaching awards. In addition, the Lilly Fellows Program regularly enriches the department with competitive visiting professors at the start of their careers.

Our course offerings are rich in classes traditional to the English major: for example, survey courses in British and American literature as well as courses in Shakespeare, the novel, and linguistics, and the history of the English language. Yet our offerings are rich as well in less traditional or in emerging fields: for example, the New Literacies, Cultures, and Technologies of Writing course, in which students have edited digital video or audio podcasts;  courses in creative nonfiction and young adult and children’s literature; and seminars in African American Literature, global Shakespeare, Middle Eastern Film, Creative Non-Fiction, British women writers, and American expatriate writers. The Methods of Literary Criticism and Research course introduces majors to the variety of critical approaches they will encounter in their studies.

The Traditions of Giving and Serving in American life class studies writings on philanthropy in American letters and has the real-world experience of deciding which non-profit agencies to award several thousand dollars of grant money.  The Theory and Practice of Tutoring Writing class prepares students to work in the University Writing Center. Finally, courses in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, Professional Writing, and Writing in the Health Sciences attract students from programs of study from across the university.

The popular evening of songs, skits, and readings is sponsored by Wordfest, The Lighter, and Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honor Society (see “Community of scholars and writers” below).  The celebratory event is open to faculty and student participants outside of the English department.  The 2017 Cabaret also collected bottles of water for those affected by lead contamination in East Chicago.

The written word is alive and well on our campus, from the well-attended Wordfest visiting writers series and the award-winning student literary magazine The Lighter to presentations of poetry and play scripts by our creative writing students, and events co-sponsored with Christ College’s Symposium series, the Middle Eastern Studies program, and more. In addition, the Books and Coffee series of book reviews typically draws more than 100 members of the Valparaiso community. The English department also produces two nationally (and internationally) respected literary journals, Valparaiso Poetry Review and Valparaiso Fiction Review, where many students have served on the staff as assistant editors.

Events organized by the English honor society, Sigma Tau Delta, have included lecture and film series, in-services on applying to graduate school and preparing for the job market, and the end-of-the-year literary ball. In recent years, the English department has sponsored interested majors as guests at the Midwest Modern Language Association convention, the Sigma Tau Delta national convention, and the Festival of Faith and Learning writers series at Calvin College. Classes taught by senior research professor, Walt Wangerin Jr. have also been notable for forming their own writing circles after classes have ended.  English students have been active as well in the well-acclaimed The Welcome Project, a digital archive of stories of diversity and inclusion.

At 33 credits, our major is sized to be comprehensive and yet allow, with careful planning, for pairing with a second major or a Study Abroad program, such as Valpo’s popular semesters in Cambridge, England; Reutlingen, Germany; San José, Costa Rica; and Hangzhou, China. Plus, inside or outside of a major, English courses nicely complement the humanities curriculum in Christ College and take important places in the American studies major and programs in international studies, cinema, women’s and gender studies, and more.

English majors are eligible for a variety of scholarships and awards.  in their junior and senior years for the Paul F. Phipps, Vera L. Seib, and Henry W. Prahl merit scholarships.  All students are eligible for the annual Margot Ann Uehling prize for best essay and the Wordfest writing prizes, judged by writers outside the university, for best poems, creative nonfiction, critical essays, and short fiction.  The English department also awards the Anna Zink Springsteen prize for best creative writer, and Valparaiso University’s annual American Academy of Poets award.

English majors are eligible for a wide range of paid and unpaid internships through the Career Center and through the Calling and Purpose in Society fellowships awarded by the University’s Institute for Leadership and Service.  Finally, English majors have been exceptional candidates for gap-year opportunities such as Peace Corps, Teach for America, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant and Research fellowships, and more.

Many of our undergraduate majors become inspiring secondary and middle school teachers. In order for future teachers to fit in the education courses, hours in the classroom, and student teaching necessary for state licensure, the English and education departments have created a course of study particularly for future teachers , which they follow closely with their academic advisors in the departments of English and Education. Several graduates in English have also completed Valpo’s LEAPS program, which offers a master’s degree and experience in parochial schools toward initial licensure. Finally, our M.A. programs in English Studies and Communication and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages attract a dynamic mixture of international and domestic students, many of whom are or are preparing to be teachers in the U.S. and internationally.

We in the English department believe in the centrality of the word. That is, we believe that the study of language and literature helps people understand the relation of art to life and what makes life important, as well as illuminating the world in which we live. Writing, like other creative and expressive arts, enriches as it offers insight into processes of creative thinking and feeling. Moreover, its study and creation nurtures an ability to communicate that transcends boundaries dividing the human family.

Yes, practicality. The critical insight, close reading, and precise communication that our programs foster results in excellence not only for future teachers but also for writers and communicators of all stripes in a broad range of professions.  Our graduates have become successful attorneys, ministers, journalists, researchers, communication specialists in business, health care, and non-profit sectors, specialists in library and information science, creative writers, grant writers, and more.


Richard Sévère, Chair
College of Arts and Sciences, Rm. 220
1400 Chapel Drive
Valparaiso, IN 46383

Phone: 219.464.6421