By: Chana Weinberg  | 

Take an English Class and Experience the Best

Before we can understand the excellence of the SCW English Department, let's look at some numbers. There are three tracks: creative writing, media studies and literature. According to the most recent list from the Registrar, there are 43 students currently majoring in English and four students minoring. Of those 43, there are six students concentrating in literature, and of those six, I am one of two students graduating this semester. 

A majority of the full-time English professors teach literature classes and I have had the pleasure of taking almost all of them. You would think that spending so much time with the same department would help me find the flaws, but it has in fact brought me to the conclusion that it is the best department at SCW. It is the best because it functions as a cohesive unit that prioritizes its students by being available to them, and because the professors are kind, generous and brilliant scholars in their respective concentrations. As far as declarations go, this one likely appears a bit biased. So, in order to convince you of my claim, I have some proof that can be considered more objective.

You may have noticed emails in your inbox about departments’ meetings discussing class options for the upcoming semester. Did you know that the English department has been doing this for years? Every semester there is a “Majors Meeting” where students (non-majors are invited) get a sneak peek at the course offerings and descriptions for the upcoming semester while also getting a chance to request subjects and topics for upcoming semesters. The professors take notes and prioritize your requests. They are excited to hear your ideas while being honest if you request something too unrealistic. 

Unfortunately, SCW’s smaller size limits the budget and class options that can be offered. A refrain at that meeting is “I’d love to teach that, but we are not sure we could get enough people to sign up.” That’s where you come in. Fill your requirements with English classes so your requests can be made available. And for Wilf students who want exposure to this excellent department, check out the summer course options.

What sets the English department further above the others is the advisor program. When you declare yourself as an English major you are assigned an advisor who is there to guide you through course requirements and selections — and any other questions you have. My advisor is Dr. Linda Shires, Chair of the English department, and aside from being an excellent professor, Dr. Shires has made time to meet with me about my course requirements and to discuss graduate school possibilities. For those of you who are not studying English, you can gain access to this generous faculty by taking a class with them. 

Did you know that by using the Beren Campus Writing Center, you have been guided by Writing Center Director Dr. Joy Ladin and Assistant Director Dr. Gina Grimaldi and, by extension, the SCW English Department?  These professors work tirelessly to provide students with tutors who support the students through any part of the writing process for any and all types of writing assignments. The English department is there for every student, even if the student doesn’t realize it. Remember those days in English Comp?

Something I’ve learned at Stern is that not everyone agrees with my sunny view on analyzing written works. And after a couple short conversations with friends where I gushed about something brilliant Dr. Peters said about William Dean Howells only to be answered with a supportive smile and blank eyes, I realized that not everyone can be convinced to even take an additional literature class. Loving of English Literature is part of my nature — both of my grandfathers proudly studied it in college, one at Yeshiva College and one at City College.

That being said, I am certain that much of my passion for English has come through the nurturing of this English department — it comes from Dr. Wachtell’s eye-opening insights into the mind of a playwright, from Dr. Nachumi’s fascination with the feminist writing way back before British novels thought of feminism, from Dr. O’Malley’s particular ability to weave history into meaningful literary insights, from Dr. Miller’s giddiness for meter and anything Whitman. My love of literature has also been nurtured by my classmates’ passion for the subject, by our conversations that continue outside of the classroom and the relationships I have built from those conversations.I hope that I’ve raised awareness for the greatness of the department which, according to Dr. Shires explained, hopes to give the students “entry into another world, another time, others’ lives, non-human creatures and nature,” through literature. Though I am a student who prefers papers to tests, I can still be considered trustworthy — so find a class that sounds intriguing and dive right in.

Photo Caption: Stern College for Women
Photo Credit: Yeshiva University