English faculty key in creating intercultural curriculum retires this year

English professor Veena Deo’s retirement at the end of the semester coincides with steps forward within the department.

Anika Besst, Reporter

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Professor Veena Deo is retiring at the end of this fall semester. Since 1991, when she came in as an assistant professor in the English department, she has been a key part of the department’s evolution and curriculum.

In her time, Deo worked her way up to becoming an associate professor and eventually a full-time professor in the English department. She also worked as a director of diversity and integration for three years. Deo was instrumental in the creation and teaching of courses in Global Literature, African-American Literature and studies, women’s studies and much more.

“She’s had so many vital roles. It’s not like you find somebody who does what Veena does,” said Mike Reynolds, English department chair.

The retirement offers the opportunity to reevaluate what departments and the college is looking for. Student’s interests evolve over time, and the Hamline wants to change with them.

“We have begun to explore the possibility that national literatures don’t make sense to the way any of us teach or to the way we think people actually learn,” Reynolds said. “Not that we wouldn’t teach American or British but we might focus on migration as a kind of concern…Still, talk about a given period of time, but think cross-nationally.”

Reynolds explained that whenever they lose someone in a department their role is not automatically replaced. Since each faculty member brings a unique wealth of qualifications, experience, and interests, no person hired can fit into their predecessor’s place perfectly.

“We don’t just replace people when they leave,” Reynolds said. “We know we don’t just say, ‘X person is gone, give us X to replace them.’ It’s more, what does that mean? How do we make a case for continued need? Is it an opportunity to reexamine what we do.”

As for the courses Deo taught, such as African-American Literature and World Literature, both Deo and Reynolds assure students that those courses will not go away.

“One of the things these courses do is look at areas of study that students are not familiar with,” Deo said. “We approach texts in particular ways. We look at it in terms of textual and cultural studies. So we’re approaching questions from a certain lens where we’re looking at the intersections of race, class and gender.”

The role in the department may not be replaced for up until a few years allowing an opportunity for remaining faculty to offer different courses and to bring in expert part-time faculty.

Regarding the hiring, Reynolds said, “the collective decision making…is good for all of us if we are all a part of defining what kind of menu of courses and opportunities we set up.”

Reynolds and Deo mentioned the department possibly looking into exploring course areas such as digital media, gaming and journalism in its future.

“Whatever the iteration is next for the department is going to be based on what the department needs,” added Deo. “And what 21st century students need.”

 

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