Students in class


The English department offers students many ways to meet the challenges of Rockford University’s mission and vision. Our courses help students discover the practical value of critical inquiry and intensive textual analysis, consider how different cultural perspectives contribute to distinct ways of viewing the world, and appreciate connections among literary traditions and liberal arts disciplines. Moreover, we envision our majors building on the sense of global awareness they acquire through their course work as they engage with the world outside academia.

Both our major curriculum and the required rhetoric sequence offer strategies for reading, critical thinking, and communication that provide students with a strong foundation for achieving professional success, finding individual fulfillment, and developing a sense of civic responsibility. We encourage our students to take their study seriously, but to view their work with language and literature as a source of joy that will continue to sustain them long after they have graduated from Rockford University.

Each member of our department is committed to helping students succeed in meeting the ambitious goals we set for them. We see ourselves as mentors, and in that capacity we take an interest in our students’ success both inside and outside the classroom. Our faculty members take pride in being accessible to students, and our curriculum reflects the fact that our students’ welfare is central to our work. The flexibility of the major allows students to explore areas that are of particular interest to them, while the required elements challenge them to expand their knowledge of literature and critical theory.

Our literature, creative writing, and rhetorical studies seminars explore topics of interest to both majors and non-majors, and they help students discover connections among texts that extend across time periods and literary genres. All of our courses are designed to encourage students to play an active role in their learning — through lively class discussion, encounters with alternative interpretations, and writing assignments that expect the demonstration of independent critical thought.

We have found that students who take responsibility for their learning in the classroom are also good citizens on campus. Many English majors excel academically and are active in a number of campus organizations. The English department sponsors awards and scholarships that recognize student achievement, such as the Colleen Holmbeck Award for poetry and the Jeremy Ingalls Scholarship. English department faculty members participate in campus life in various ways. This participation allows us to maintain an active understanding of issues that affect our students. The English department also maintains an important presence on campus through the Writing Center, a facility staffed by student peer tutors who offer free assistance to students at any stage of the writing process.

Our faculty’s interest in students during their time on campus is matched by our desire to help them prepare for the future. Internships offer English majors opportunities for considering possible career options after graduation as they gain immediate experience with putting their knowledge to use in the community. Our department also enjoys a strong partnership with the education department as we jointly prepare students for teaching English at the secondary level. Our faculty members are committed to maintaining current knowledge in their field, and they are well prepared to help interested students prepare for graduate study.

An English major will:

  • Appreciate the ways in which literary study involves the individual in an exploration of ethical questions.
  • Develop ideas about literature through careful textual analysis, recognizing that literature has multiple interpretations.
  • Write essays that demonstrate the ability to think independently.
  • Be conversant with the evolution of literatures in English, fusing British and American literary texts with those of other cultures.
  • Understand the cultural specificity of literature and recognize the reciprocal relationship between literature and culture.
  • Demonstrate skills in using contemporary critical theories to enhance analysis of literary texts.
  • Actively engage in workshopping original creative work (Creative Writing Seminars).
  • Analyze and apply the craft of writing in multiple genres (Creative Writing Seminars).

Career opportunities
The major in English continues to rank among the premier majors for graduate programs in law, medicine, business administration, international relations, library science, and education. Moreover, the major not only prepares prospective secondary-level teachers, but it also provides the practical and academic foundation to pursue graduate studies in MFA and journalism programs. Professional writers can pursue careers, often as freelancers, in media relations, publicity, marketing, communications, and publishing, to name a few. The analytical and communication skills that all majors in English acquire provide career flexibility, which is crucial in an age that necessitates adaptability to rapid changes in the workplace.

Department Information

Scarborough Hall
5050 E. State St.
Rockford, IL 61108

William Gahan, Ph.D.