12/8/15 ASHLAND, Ohio – Every year since the 1986-1987 academic year except for one, the Ashland University English Department has hosted a High School Workshop that brings together high school teachers and students and professors for an intellectual exchange.
This year was no different as the department hosted its annual workshop for the 30th year with more than 180 teachers and students on campus on Nov. 2.
“We are excited to still be doing this workshop after all these years under the sponsorship of the Admissions Department, to whom we are deeply grateful for their support,” said Dr. Russell Weaver, professor of English and chair for the event. “To all appearances, this workshop has been successful in attracting good students to Ashland over these 30 years, and we hope to continue presenting this workshop for many years to come.”
The event was started when Dr. Robert McGovern, former chair of the English Department, suggested that the department sponsor an event that would bring together high school teachers and students and professors.
For every year but one since then, there have been six workshops held on various topics including literature, creative writing, journalism, academic writing and film offered twice each in 50-minute sessions on a Monday morning.
“One year we tried offering six sessions, but that required recruiting nine presenters and finding six venues in which to hold these sessions, both of which were difficult tasks. So that experiment ended, and now even when we have a large number of participants, we have found that our guests find the sessions helpful even when there are 30 or so people in attendance at each session,” he said. “The workshop sessions are designed to be discussions with our visitors rather than lectures, and the evaluations indicate that these meetings are both enjoyable and instructive for those who attend.”
The first year was the only time that the workshop was offered in the spring. The next year it was held on the first Monday in November -- the day on which the workshop has most frequently been offered -- and Dr. McGovern asked Dr. Weaver to chair the event, which he has done ever since.
“In the late ’80s and early ’90s we would normally have 60 to 70 attendees. Then in the late ’90s the list of schools we invited was redone, and we started getting closer to 100 people attending,” Weaver recalled. “Then Kari Lindecamp, the English Department's current administrative assistant, redid the list once again, and we started entertaining 125 to 150 people on a regular basis.”
Weaver continued, “For the first 10 years or so, we asked the attendees to list which sessions they wanted to attend, and I had to stay up all night the day before the workshop, filling out name tags which indicated which workshops they were going to attend. Then one weekend I, to my horror, forgot to do it and we just had people go where they wanted. It turned out to be a big success. Everybody got to go where he or she wanted, and I did not have to stay up all night filling out name tags.”
For every year but the last four or five, there was a catered lunch included with the event. But W. C. Vance, director of undergraduate admissions, suggested several years ago that the students might enjoy eating in Convo. “He was absolutely correct about that, and now sections of the dining hall are designated as dedicated to the workshop,” Weaver noted.
The workshop has always featured readings by members of the English Department. Initially Dr. McGovern, a widely published poet, was the sole reader, but it was decided that it would be of interest to the visiting students to see their peers reading works they had written for their classes.
“This too was a successful change. Over the years, all the best creative writing students of our department have shared their work with our visitors, gaining our students practice in public reading and offering enjoyment to our many guests,” he said.
Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2016, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.
Photo caption: Dr. Russell Weaver, professor of English, talks with a student after class.