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Department of English Language & Literature

The number of English Language and Literature majors has increased dramatically during the past 10 years. Larry LaFond, associate professor of English Language and Literature and chair of that department, cites a 69 percent rise in full-time majors and a 43 percent increase in part-time majors, with a total of 82 more students majoring in programs within the department since 1999.

"There are very likely multiple reasons for the energetic growth in the number of majors in the Department of English Language and Literature during this period," LaFond said. "The Department has taken important steps to attract and retain majors. Some of these steps have involved curricular changes, including the creation of a gateway course, a mid-major theory course and a culminating senior experience. All of these have contributed significantly toward giving students a stronger sense of what it means to be an English major."

Other factors have also probably contributed to a higher number of majors, according to LaFond. "English has maintained a high profile within the University during this period, in part because of a very active English student organization ( ELLA), consistent high-quality teaching, and innovative programs that have resulted in a surge in both majors and minors who are attracted to this department. The Department has become a center not only for literature, but for English studies broadly conceived, including composition/rhetoric, creative writing, English as a second language, linguistics and English education."

SIUE's transformation from a commuter campus to residential one may also be spurring part of this growth, LaFond said, as well as the higher caliber of students admitted to the University. "It appears that many of these residential students are more traditional high achievers, who see the value in a liberal education beyond vocational training.

The quality of faculty in the Department of English Language Literature also plays a vital role in attracting students, LaFond believes. Nearly three-quarters of the tenured or tenure-track faculty in English Language and Literature were hired within the last decade. "(These faculty) have brought fresh, cutting-edge knowledge of their fields, and this also has attracted new students to the major.

"Whatever else the case may be for undergraduate growth, the Department's outstanding faculty are certainly a primary reason for the success of students who declare English as a major," LaFond said. "From initial recruitment to the culminating senior experience, the Department has done an exceptional job of making the English major a viable, attractive degree."

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