Department of English

Voted 2012-2013 and 2014-2015 Department of the Year by Student Government!

Employers look for workers who can think critically, read carefully, and communicate effectively. Studying English can help set you apart from other job applicants, prepare you for graduate school, improve your craft as a writer, and qualify you to teach.

The study of English prepares you to communicate effectively, to understand the history and power of words, to think critically and creatively, and to recognize and balance several points of view. It provides you a better understanding of human nature, your community, and your place in the world. The writing and critical thinking skills developed in English coursework will make you competitive in many fields.

At LSSU, you’ll enjoy personal attention and thought-provoking classes in both American and English literature. Recent and upcoming classes include a class on visual texts like graphic novels and a class on post-apocalyptic literature! The department that once worked with the Unicorn Hunters to publish the Woods-Runner now provides editing and publishing opportunities for undergraduate English literature and creative writing students. You’ll be invited to join our active English Club and take advantage of faculty with expertise in everything from eco-criticism to graphic novels and children’s literature. Our majors have a high graduate school acceptance rate and have gone on to study at Northern Michigan University, Ohio State University, Bowling Green State University, Kansas State University, Warren Wilson College, and other schools. A number of students have presented undergraduate work at conferences. Past graduates have become college professors; one is a novelist and contributing editor to the American Book Review.


Creative Writing (major and minor)

As a major or minor in creative writing, you’ll be part of an intimate program with enthusiastic faculty. We give undergraduate students opportunities to get publishing experience before graduation. Unlike larger programs where your work may be lost in large workshop classes, our faculty are excited to work one-on-one with undergraduate students. To encourage innovation and experimentation as students develop their voices, all majors complete coursework in prose, poetry, and performance writing. A junior course lets students refine their voices and practice their craft in their preferred genre in a class where they will get feedback from students of multiple genres. Seniors take the Creative Writing Portfolio course, a capstone class in which students write a unified collection of publication-ready work in their preferred genre, working with the instructor of their choice on an independent study basis. Student publication is encouraged in Snowdrifts, an annual publication produced by creative writing students. You can also get involved in publication production through our internships with Border Crossing, LSSU’s teaching journal.

Elementary English Education (major and minor)

Language Arts is a major or minor for those who wish to certify to teach in elementary schools with a focus on the English language arts or middle school English classes (grades K-8). As a Language Arts major or minor, you can help run our annual children’s writing festival, serve as a judge for an elementary school writing contest, edit a grade-school writing anthology, and practice your teaching skills in our 21st century learning environment.

Secondary English Education (major and minor)

A major or minor for those wishing to certify to teach English to middle or high school students. As an English Language and Literature–Secondary Education major, you can take courses on YA Literature and visual texts such as graphic novels. You can learn how to publish your own future students’ work in student journals by working as an editing intern in the department or lead a community writing workshop. You’ll also get to practice your teaching skills in our 21st century learning environment.

Literature (minor)

At LSSU, you can minor in literature and study graphic novels, films, classic world literature, and American literature.

Creative Writing

The English Department provides publishing and editing opportunities for undergraduate students through Snowdriftsour undergraduate online creative writing journal, and Border Crossingour international journal of literature and art. Students in first-year creative writing courses work with faculty, every year, to put out Snowdrifts. Once students have completed the first-year sequence of creative writing courses, they can apply for a publishing internship with Border Crossing. 

Fiction Editors

LSSU student Janessa Stutz, left, Prof. Mary McMyne, center, and student John Keller, right, discuss line edits for a selected short story in the LSSU journal Border Crossing.

Our annual Creative Writing Contests encourage all English students to hone their writing craft. We host a Visiting Writers Series for which nationally recognized, award-winning writers and poets are invited to campus to give readings and master classes. We also organize trips to other literary events, and collaborate with LSSU’s theatre program in providing students with opportunities for public readings and performances. Our majors often publish while still undergraduates.

Our two-semester creative writing senior thesis experience allows students to work one-on-one with faculty to propose a book-length work which they prepare for publication on a topic and genre of their choosing over the course of their last year of study.

Five students sit at a table.

Upper-level creative writing students participated in panel presentations this year to discuss the role of form, suspense, process, and inspiration for ENGL 409, Advanced Creative Writing Portfolio. (Left to right: John Preville, Dan Motz, Genevieve Smith, Jenny Clark, and Michael Oakes)

Because of the individualized attention our writing students receive from faculty, they have an excellent track record for getting into graduate school as well as getting scholarships. Check out our alumni updates, to the right, to read their stories.

English Education

Our English Education programs are built around the concept that an English teacher’s first and foremost goal must be to encourage a lifelong love of reading and writing in students. To this end, we offer fun, 21st century classes like our new course in Visual Texts, in which students study graphic novels and film and other texts that will inspire their future students.

Our language arts students complete an annual service-learning project in which students design and sponsor a creative writing events for regional elementary school students. Every entry that is entered into the contest is featured at a publication party at the public library, in addition to being considered for our annual young writers anthology.  You can read about recent winners in the Soo Evening News.

Last Year's Young Authors

The winners of a K-5 elementary creative writing contest pictured with LSSU teacher education candidates Lindsay Smalley Uhrig and Marin Pline and LSSU professor Mary McMyne

Opportunity to Explore

Four Mondays Student Production

Michael D. Nelson of St. John’s, Mich. wrote the play, “Four Mondays,” to combine his two minor fields of study, creative writing and professional communication, with his bachelor’s degree in liberal studies. He used the production as his senior project.

LSSU Communication Prof. Gary Balfantz, Nelson’s advisor, helped him develop the idea of writing the play, while LSSU Creative Writing Prof. Julie Barbour guided Nelson with his writing.

Nelson said that writing a play has been a drastic change of pace, since he is accustomed to writing short stories, mostly.

“Coming up with the idea wasn’t easy. It took a long trip home to figure it out,” he said.

Being a fan of comedic productions, he decided to write a story that revolves around him and a few friends later in life.

“The majority of the play takes place in a diner where the four friends try to grasp the adulthood aspect of growing up while talking about the impossible nature of women, life and the universe,” he added. “They spend their Monday mornings drinking coffee, swapping outrageous ideas, and bantering back and forth with their favorite waitress, who is usually less than happy to see them.”


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  • Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing
  • Bachelor of Arts in English Education
    • English Language & Literature (Secondary Education focus, grades 6-12)
    • Language Arts (Elementary Education focus, grades K-8)

Course lists for each program may be found in our most recent catalog!

Career Choices

An English degree is excellent preparation for many vocational and professional areas: communication, industry, government, and teaching.

  • Teacher – Instructs elementary school, middle school, or high school in literature, creative writing, and composition.
  • Professor – Instructs college students in literature, creative writing, and composition.
  • Author – Writes original fiction, nonfiction, or poetry for trade publishers or literary journals.
  • Editor – Develops original fiction and nonfiction for books, magazines and trade journals, newspapers, technical reports, company newsletters, radio and television broadcasts, movies and advertisements.
  • Freelance Writer – Creates content on spec for media organizations or private companies. Content may range from news to travel to lifestyle content.
  • Technical Writer – Puts scientific and technical information into readily understandable language. Prepares operating and maintenance manuals, catalogs, parts lists, assembly instructions, sales promotion materials and project proposals. Plans and edits technical reports and oversees preparation of illustrations, photographs, diagrams and charts.
  • Public Relations Director – Handles media, community, consumer and government relations; political campaigns; interest-group representation; conflict mediation; or employee and investor relations.

Alumni News

  • Clay Winowiecki (Creative Writing ’17) has accepted a position as a Reporter for the Chronicle-Tribune in Marion, Indiana!
  • Jana Tahtinen (Creative Writing ’17) has been accepted to the Vermont College of Fine Arts and Lesley University MFA Programs in nonfiction! She will start at the Vermont College of Fine Arts during the fall of 2018.
  • Ana Robbins (Creative Writing ’17) has been accepted to the Creative Nonfiction program at Bay Path University!
  • Charlotte Mazurek (Creative Writing ’16) has accepted a position as an Audio Describer with CaptionMax.
  • Maxwell K. Cleary (Creative Writing ’14) is having his debut original play, Remember Me, produced September 20-23 at Issue Box Theater in Toledo, Ohio!
  • Clay Winowiecki (Creative Writing ’17) has won a number of scholarships to attend graduate school at Edinburgh Napier University:  the Northern Michigan MENSA Scholarship, the Scotland Saltire Scholarship, the Napier University USA and Canada Scholarship and the Santander Scholarship!
  • Grace Williams, our 2016-2017 Outstanding Arts & Letters Graduate and Outstanding English Graduate, has accepted a scholarship to Eastern Michigan University’s literature master’s program and will be working as a teaching assistant, teaching first-year composition, in Fall 2017 at EMU.
  • Clay Winowiecki, a 2017 Creative Writing graduate and the recipient of the 2016-2017 Georgegeen Gaertner Award, has been accepted to 5/5 of the graduate schools to which he applied and has accepted a scholarship to Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland.
  • Adam Uhrig, a 2015 Literature graduate and the recipient of the 2015-2016 Georgegeen Gaertner Award, received a scholarship to Northern Michigan University’s literature and pedagogy program and is working as a teaching assistant, teaching first-year composition, in Fall 2016 at NMU.
  • Joseph Haske, a 1999 Literature graduate–now a professor at South Texas College and contributing editor at American Book Review–has published his first novel, North Dixie Highway, set in Sault Sainte Marie and the surrounding Eastern Upper Peninsula.
  • Peter Pietrangelo, a 2010 Liberal Studies graduate with concentrations in English and professional communication, presented a research paper at the 2010 John Burroughs Nature Writing Conference and Seminar in New York. Peter was accepted on scholarship into the environmental law program at Wayne State and is now an editor/writer for the Oregon Bend Bulletin.

Successful Graduates

“My studies at LSSU helped prepare me to be an effective graduate school candidate because of how small of a campus this is and how incredibly talented the professors are in my department. I was able to work multiple internships, which most undergraduates can hardly dream of working at bigger schools. I was able to work at a deep level on my writing with professors whenever I desired to, which often translated to weekly meetings. I was able to have wonderful classmates in my department who meticulously edited me and kept my head straight to keep my writing tight. There’s so many incredible things about the English department at LSSU. I cannot thank the professors and my classmates enough!”

Clay Winowiecki, B.A., Creative Writing ’17Georgeen Gaertner Award-winner, Travel Writer, and Graduate Student at the Edinburgh Napier University in ScotlandCheck out Clay’s archive on Thought Catalog

“At Lake State, I was able to receive personalized instruction in my classes. I developed a reading and critique style under the close tutelage of three main professors. Being in the Honors Program was also beneficial to me because it allowed me to take classes with professors I otherwise wouldn’t have and hear perspectives from students with different majors. Taking honors classes like “Big Data” and “Abnormal Psychology in Film and Memoir” allowed me to find where other fields touch literature or how I can approach other fields from a literary lens. The English Club was a place where I met some of my best friends.”

Grace Williams, B.A., Literature, ’17Arts and Letters Outstanding Graduate, Outstanding English Graduate, Honors Graduate, now Teaching Assistant and Graduate Student at Eastern Michigan University

“One of my favorite things about LSSU is its size. The classrooms, especially as you get to the upper levels, get smaller, so you not only have a chance to discuss your ideas in an honest, supportive manner, but you also get to know your professors and classmates. The upper level courses really allow you to focus on what you love, and the small class size allows you to have time to share and to discuss your ideas.”

Jessica Hirt, B.A., English, ’09English and Honors GraduateRead more about Jessica Hirt’s Lake State experience

“The faculty in the LSSU English program are real people, not ivory tower academics. Yet they possess the credentials, experience, and talents necessary to help you develop your potential.”

Allan Case, B.A., English, ’05Director of Recruitment, Florida State College at Jacksonville