Quincy University has spent months looking for an English professor to add to the English Department next semester. After going through the extensive hiring process, QU hired Michael Keller as the new English professor. He will teach classes concerning American literature next semester and will work to bring diversity to classes.
By: Lexie Broemmer
Quincy University has hired Michael Keller as its new English professor, bringing a months-long search to an end.
The hiring process
Quincy University began looking for a new English professor in mid-November. The search for a new professor started when QU put out an ad for the position. The ad asked that applicants send the school a cover letter, curriculum vitae, which details the experiences and qualifications of an applicant, a list of references, their teaching philosophy, their research statement, and their students’ evaluations via email.
Next, Dr. Beth Tressler, head of the English Department, went through all of the materials sent in by 180 applicants. She cut the number of applicants in half by weeding out those who were not properly qualified for the position. Dr. Tressler was looking for someone who is qualified to teach American literature. She also wanted someone who had a Ph.D. and a background in creative writing, which was preferable but not necessary. She also wanted someone who would be comfortable with living in a city as small as Quincy.
Then, Dr. Tressler and the rest of the hiring committee, Dr. Daniel Strudwick, Dr. Neil Wright, Dr. Matthew Bates, and Dr. Kenneth Oliver, cut down the number of applicants to 12. These 12 applicants were then contacted and asked if they would still be interested in the position. The interested applicants were interviewed over Skype. After the interviews, the hiring committee invited the remaining two applicants to visit the campus. The applicants each spent a day on campus where they met with administrative staff, gave a teaching presentation, had lunch with the committee, interviewed with the hiring committee, and went to dinner with the committee.
Students were asked to come to the teaching presentations if they did not have class or any other prior engagement. Dr. Tressler said she and the rest of the hiring committee like to have students at the presentations because it helps them know how the candidate will engage students and how effective the applicants’ teaching styles are.
“If students weren’t engaged, they wouldn’t want to take the class,” said Dr. Tressler, noting how important this engagement was for applicants.
After the applicants each came for a campus visit, the hiring committee determined who the top applicant was and then made this applicant an offer.
The new professor
Michael Keller was hired as the new English professor. He got his Bachelor of Arts from Wheaton College where he majored in English and minored in philosophy. He earned his Master’s degree from Northern Illinois University. There, his areas of specialization were British romanticism and poetics. Keller is currently in the process of getting his Ph.D. from Marquette University. His fields of study at Marquette are Nineteenth-century American poetry and fiction.
Keller has teaching experience at NIU where he was an instructor of Freshman Composition from 2008 to 2009. Keller also has experience at Southern New Hampshire University, where he has been a part of the English Department since June of 2014 as an online adjunct professor of Nature Literature and Composition. He has also taught first-year English at Marquette University since 2009. Keller was a finalist for the McCabe Teaching Award from Marquette in 2011.
Dr. Tressler liked Keller because of his demeanor.
“I really liked that he was laid back and comfortable,” said Dr. Tressler of Keller during his visit to QU. She noted that he got along well with everybody.
“His interests are similar to mine in the way he sees the English Department developing,” said Dr. Tressler, who is very concerned with diversity and inclusion in the classroom. Dr. Tressler and Keller both want to teach more minority literature.
“There’s a hole in the English department,” said Dr. Tressler about the lack of minority literature and diversity in QU’s English classes.
Dr. Tressler also liked that the institutions Keller has attended for his higher education are reputable.
“We wouldn’t want someone with a degree from an online institution,” said Dr. Tressler.
Keller also has a teaching philosophy that is in line with what the hiring committee was looking for. Keller wants his students to leave his class at the end of the semester thinking differently and more critically. He believes it is important for his students to understand how his classes are important or relevant to their studies, even if they are not English majors. Keller also believes that by helping students think, write, and read more critically, he can help them grow as people and citizens.
Finally, Dr. Tressler said Keller’s publications and professional development were important to his being hired. Keller’s “Sacred Tableaux: Jones Very, Elizabeth Ellet, and the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress,” a chapter of his dissertation, has been published in an edited collection called Ekphrasis in American Poetry: The Colonial Period to the 21st Century. Keller has been the guest lecturer in three English classes at Marquette University. He has also been a panelist in four conferences, and he presented at the UWM-MU First-Year English Graduate Student Conference in 2009.
After Keller gave his teaching presentation during his visit to the QU campus, he went to lunch with the hiring committee and two English majors who attended his presentation. At the lunch, Keller talked about music and sports with the committee and students, demonstrating his ability to find things to talk about and his comfort in his surroundings, according to Dr. Tressler.
Sophomore English major Miranda Guyer liked Keller.
“He knows how to keep a conversation with people,” Guyer said of the lunch discussion.
Guyer also liked his approach in the classroom because he connected English and music in his teaching presentation, and he seemed to care about the students.
“He is willing to work with any student about anything,” said Guyer about Keller’s attitude towards his students.
Keller said when he was at Wheaton College, he enjoyed small class sizes and the attention the faculty was able to give to students, which is something QU can also do.
“As a professor at Quincy, there is much better opportunity for connecting with students and individuating your instruction to help challenge and empower students as individuals,” Keller said.
Keller also liked the Quincy community as a whole. He liked Quincy because of the friendly people and the lively culture of the city. Keller was also interested in the historical aspect of Quincy with its involvement in abolition and Lincoln’s political career. He said his interests in history will be one of the things he will bring to the English Department.
Keller said he brings a passion for American literature as well as his interests in cultural history, the history of ideas, and religious studies to the English Department. All of his passions and interests will impact what he and his students do in his classes.
The future of the English Department
Next semester, Keller will teach four classes, one section of Composition, one section of American Poetry, and two sections of Major American Writers.
Dr. Tressler said the English Department currently has two professors and will only have two professors next semester since Dr. Riddell suffered a stroke and Dr. Fagan resigned. Dr. Tressler said having two English professors is temporary and more professors will hopefully be hired in the future.
For now, the English Department will carry on with two professors, both with a passion for teaching and helping students grow intellectually. One professor, however, will also bring a passion for the drums to class.
“I also play the drums, and while I may not be playing drums in class, I think it is important for an English department to have a drummer. You never know when you will need one,” said Keller.