Dr. Andrew Deman is one of our alumni and is currently teaching in the English department. He decided to engage the wider community in a love of reading by offering university-level English classes at local libraries. In the most recent Alumni magazine, his work is profiled. Here’s the text of it. If you want to read the whole Alumni magazine, please click here.
The Last Word
Community Lit: Spreading the Word
English courses can offer something extraordinary to students. You get to share your love of the written word with talented professors and a cadre of like-minded peers. This can be a profound experience, maybe even life-changing, as it was for me when I was a student.
I wanted more people to have access to that.
In the spirit of knowledge mobilization, Community Lit was started as a community outreach program with the Region of Waterloo Library Association. Our goal was pretty simple: to offer University level English instruction, for free, to anyone and everyone who was interested.
I was a PhD candidate when I began the program by partnering with Michele Hopkins of the Ayr Village Library. We set up the pilot and sort of just crossed our fingers that people would actually show up, considering that they would not be getting any university credit for these courses.
My doubts were quickly alleviated. We filled to capacity in pre-registration with students ranging in age from 16 to about 80.
As I transitioned from graduate student to instructor, I decided to expand the program. With the generous support of the UW English Department and our chair, Fraser Easton, my vision of expansion became a reality in the past year. Community Lit has now been offered by four different libraries in the region thanks to other graduate students and instructors willing to devote their free-time to the cause, and, of course, these are people who do not have a lot of free-time to spare. So, with the help of Craig Love, Morgan Tunzelman and Jennifer Doyle, we grew and continue to grow.
In the past three years, we’ve covered everything from Star-Crossed Lovers to Science Fiction, from Shakespeare to Stephenie Meyer. Community Lit has given me the opportunity to put my education and experience to work where I live, to give back to my community and to hopefully make a difference in the lives of people who otherwise might not have the opportunity to experience what advanced literary studies can offer.
I still don’t get paid, but I’m definitely rewarded.
We’re so proud of our graduates!