English instructor to lead John Hainds Undergraduate Humanities Program

J. Ryan Hibbett
J. Ryan Hibbett

In late 2013, NIU English instructor J. Ryan Hibbett was named the first award recipient of the John Hainds Undergraduate Humanities Program.

The program, established by Jeannie Hainds on behalf of her late husband, seeks to promote an interest in humanities among undergraduates, both at the university and its partner community colleges. John Hainds, a distinguished member of the NIU faculty from 1940 to 1962, began his career in the Department of English and retired as “Academic Vice President.”

Other endowments associated with John and Jeannie Hainds include awards in English and History, as well as the J. Robert Hainds Award given by NIU’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter.

As program leader, Hibbett, an instructor of literature and composition, has revamped his Engl 110 Experience of Fiction course as a thematic unit on “Monsters, Freaks, and other Misfits,” in which students explore literary texts at the messy intersection of high art and pop culture. Presentations from guest lecturers will also allow students to experience English as a diverse and dynamic field of study.

“The Hainds Award has been a tremendous motivator for me in terms of rethinking and improving my pedagogy and classroom practices,” he says. “And it comes at an opportune moment in terms of our renewed efforts at recruitment and retention.”

In the spring, Hibbett will chair a panel session on classroom dynamics in the humanities to an open audience of interested teachers. Joining him as guest panelists will be Waubonsee Community College Professor of History Amy G. Powers, who will talk about transfer students, and NIU Professor of Psychology David P. Valentiner, who will share his research on shyness mentality.

As part of the English Department’s brown bag lecture series, Hibbett will also deliver a presentation on his use of the Hainds Award. The lecture will take place from 11:30 to 12:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 17, in Reavis 211.

These combined efforts constitute a promising beginning for the program, the principal purposes of which are to enrich the content of programs and courses in the humanities and to foster interdisciplinary instruction, cooperation and scholarship in the liberal arts.

For additional information on the John Hainds Undergraduate Humanities Program, email askenglish@niu.edu.

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