Category Archives: Uncategorized

Award for Dr. George Lamont

George Lamont
Congratulations to UWaterloo English’s Dr. George Lamont, who is the recipient of a 2020 Arts Awards for Excellence in Teaching. Those who have worked with Dr. Lamont can attest to the dedication he brings to his position, his advocacy for student experience, and his commitment to student learning.

Award for Dr. Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher


Congratulations to UWaterloo English’s Dr. Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher, who has won the 2020 Rhetoric Society of America Fellows’ Early Career Award.

The Rhetoric Society of America (RSA) Fellows’ Early Career Award is a prestigious award that is given to a member who “has established an innovative and robust research record within eight years of having earned the Ph.D. degree.”

Dr. Carolyn R. Miller (North Carolina State University), Dr. Mehlenbacher’s doctoral supervisor, and Waterloo English’s Dr. Randy Allen Harris, a long-time mentor of Dr. Mehlenbacher, co-wrote the nomination letter for her. Since the 2020 Biennial Meeting of the Rhetoric Society of America has been cancelled due to COVID-19, a virtual celebration of RSA’s award winners will be held.

The Rhetoric Society of America is a professional organization that unites the different fields contributing to rhetorical studies, including English and Communication studies, and hosts a biennial conference and a biennial summer institute.

Dr. O’Gorman asks: Is there a better way?

Marcel image

In today’s Globe and Mail, UWaterloo English’s Dr. Marcel O’Gorman comments on how “The belief that humans are at the centre of creation, and that our technological prowess can overcome anything, has kept getting us into trouble.” He asks: “Is there a better way?” You can read the entire piece, “Whether it’s in outer space or on the front lines of a pandemic, humane technology won’t save us,” online.

Award for Dr. Sarah Tolmie

little animals
Congratulations to English’s Dr. Sarah Tolmie, whose novel The Little Animals (Aqueduct Press) won the Special Commendation at the Philip K. Dick Awards last week. The annual Philip K. Dick Award recognizes distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States during the previous calendar year. While the award ceremony was–of course–held remotely, you can watch it all on online.

Dr. Jay Dolmage on Disability Rights in a Pandemic

Twitter Stone

UWaterloo English professor Dr. Jay Dolmage is an expert in Disability Studies, author of three books on the subject (Disability Rhetoric, Academic Ableism, and Disabled Upon Arrival), and founder of the Canadian Journal of Disability Studies. This week, he shared his thoughts on Disability Rights and COVID-19 for the article “As pandemic deepens, disabled people fear falling through the cracks ‘like the unseen’” in The Record.

Photo credit

My Open Letter to my students

pickle forks2020

Note this is my letter–others will say different things, and have different opinions. I don’t speak for the department or my colleagues. I would just urge everyone to be kind to themselves, and extend that to others.

Dear all,

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to say to you. Like many, I am finding it difficult to concentrate on everything that needs to be done, even as I am overwhelmed with responsibilities.

There is anxiety about what this means for the immediate future, as well as the long term. On top of that are worries about family members, economics, opportunities. There is so much going on that I have yet to find a way to synthesize it and consider the implications.

Beyond this, part of me feels like I need to mourn the future that won’t unfold as anticipated. We all had plans for next month, next year, four years from now. Plans have a way of became familiar narratives we take for granted–but now the rug has been pulled out from underneath us. Being unexpectedly unmoored can be paralyzing, and it is hard to regroup and plan anew, especially as we don’t yet know what we will be navigating.

There are two things I can suggest right now: one is acknowledge you may need time to recover and recognize that rethinking the future will take time. Make time for things you find affirming–read your favorite books from childhood, arrange online dates with friends, or watch favorite movies virtually together. Ask for help when you need it. Don’t think you need to set huge goals–I don’t care what Isaac Newton accomplished when he was social distancing during a pandemic. Your only goal right now should be to get through this.

The other suggestion is to learn: how have people banded together historically in times of crisis? Look for how people did this historically, and how people are doing it now, singing on balconies, sewing masks, turning breweries to making sanitizer, creating window scavenger hunts for children. If you feel helpless, you aren’t. There is something you can do to feel you have some control, or some influence in the lives of others–even if it’s just reaching out to make someone else feel less alone.

In the end, you are going to remember the anxiety, but you will also remember the good things you did to get through this. And in our present moment, knowing that you are participating in helping others may make this easier.

That said, if you are feeling overwhelmed, that’s normal too, and valid–no one got through the 1918 Spanish Flu without feeling some combination of anxiety, depression, or defeat. I’ve been posting resources on dealing with these on the UWaterloo English Facebook page.

Above all, be kind to yourself, be responsible, social distance.

Sincerely, Professor Jennifer Harris

Children at home? An Easy English & History Activity (which involves grandparents)


Many are working from home right now while also trying to keep children occupied. People are generating and sharing activities, ideas, and more (ex. Facebook group Kid Quarantine Resources). Here’s what one English Professor at UWaterloo (me) is doing. It combines English and History, while also including interactions with grandparents and others who are self-isolating.

The plan is this: search your house for age-appropriate novels set in historical periods. I was lucky to have a box of suitable books in the attic. Well, mostly suitable–I weeded out the ones about plagues, and the remaining books weren’t as ethnically diverse as I would have liked, but we’ll make up for it later. Then I generated a work sheet that brings in Freytag’s Pyramid (see below). The idea is that the children read the book, fill the sheet out, and do some independent research. Then they send a copy to a grandparent, and a day later have a phone call or Skype to discuss it together. We’ll do related activities as well–at least one trebuchet is getting built this week!



Novel title: ________________________________________________________________________

Time period and location: ____________________________________________________________

Date of publication of the book: _______________________________________________________

Plot the novel on Freytag’s Pyramid


What makes this conflict compelling?

Who is the protagonist? ______________________________________________________________

Who is the antagonist? _______________________________________________________________

What form is the narration?    First person.        Second person.             Third person.

What are three things about this historical period you are going to look up?




What have you learned looking those things up?