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Message from the Department Head

Headshot photo of Department Head Misty Anderson

With each passing year as department head, I become more grateful for our incredible alumni, who support our work through an array of partnerships and gifts. Our website is full of your success stories, which inspire our current students to connect the major they love to exciting careers and fulfilling lives. From law to video games, from business to teaching, from medicine to publishing, our alumni really do it all, and they help to pay it forward.

Chris and Watty Hall established a new professorship in American literature, and Kirby Davis established a new chair to honor his former professor of poetry, Bob Leggett. Their generosity ensures that we will be able to recruit fantastic new professors for the future who will inspire, challenge, and mentor generations yet to come. 

You may have read one of the many think pieces about the decline of the English major and wondered what that means for English at UT. It’s true that the overall number of majors are down, a consequence of students feeling pressured to choose more obviously pre-professional fields. But in the midst of those national trends, we’re proud to report that we are second among our peer institutions in the percentage of undergraduates majoring in English. We’re working hard to become first.

Our Director of Undergraduate Studies Gerard Cohen-Vrignaud has brought energy and innovation to reaching prospective students. Our new Director of Student Careers and Internships Erin Elizabeth Smith is helping students and alumni to connect our majors with career opportunities. This fall’s Big Orange Give campaign raised over $10,000 to provide additional paid internships for our majors, so that we can make good on a bold initiative: to help every English major who wants one to find a paid internship before they graduate.

Many of our current majors are already involved in internships as tutors in our highly successful Flagship High Schools College Admissions Essay Tutoring program. To date, we’ve helped over 1,200 students apply to college; 46 of the 47 early admissions offers to East Tennessee’s Flagship Schools seniors came through our program. In short, we’re making a difference in the community by showing the importance of great writing, creative storytelling, and critical thinking. 

These skills are at the core of what we do. As you know, the world needs thoughtful readers, critical thinkers, and writers with clear, creative voices now more than ever. Thank you for every student you send our way and for helping the next generation of English majors find their way by contributing to scholarships and serving as mentors. Please keep in touch and share your good news with us. You never know who might find inspiration in your story.


Misty G. Anderson