Donna Potts selected to lead English department

Closeup of Potts standing next to book case.
Donna Potts began her role as chair of the English Department on Jan. 1.

Donna Potts, professor of English and an expert in postcolonial studies and world literature, was selected in December to serve as chair of the Department of English in the College of Arts and Sciences. She began her duties on Jan. 1.

Potts brings a broad range of experience, a fresh perspective and a deep commitment to academic service to her new role,” said CAS dean Matthew Jockers. “Her leadership will continue to enhance the English department’s growth and help us to keep thinking in new directions.”

A creative writer and poet, Potts joined WSU faculty in 2013 after a 22‑year teaching career at Kansas State University. She is a member of the WSU Faculty Senate and the universitywide graduate studies committee. She also directs the English department’s creative writing program.

“I’m energized by the opportunity to show students how exciting it can be to study English, and I look forward to welcoming more students into our program,” Potts said.

As chair, she intends to implement innovative strategies to showcase the many advantages of majoring in English and to reach out to department alumni for insights about how their degrees have served them in their careers.

“In my administrative work for the American Association of University Professors, I had many opportunities to advocate for faculty, and I look forward to continuing this work as well,” she said.

Potts previously served as interim director of undergraduate studies for her department and as faculty advisor for the student English Club. In 2014, she was selected as one of the first three WSU Humanities Fellows.

Her research interests include ecocriticism, women’s studies, Irish studies and trauma theory. Her publication portfolio spans eight books, nearly two dozen articles and an expansive list of invited lectures and presentations across the globe, from India to Ireland to Illinois.

Potts earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in English at the University of Missouri. She was a Fulbright senior lecturer at the National University of Ireland in Galway from 1997 to 1998, and later returned there for a fellowship in the Irish Studies Centre, where she did research on Irish literature and environmentalism.

She succeeds Todd Butler, who joined the CAS dean’s office as associate dean for faculty affairs after more than six years at the helm of the English department.

About the English department

More than 230 undergraduate students are enrolled as majors in English and its programs in Digital Technology and Culture, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies combined, along with 45 masters and doctoral students. The department is the third‑largest teaching unit in the College of Arts and Sciences, with more than 8,000 undergraduates taking classes in English each year in courses ranging from first‑year writing to advanced seminars.

The English doctoral program at WSU boasts a job placement rate above 90 percent — nearly double the national average.

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