Welcome from department chair Professor Christa Olson


Welcome to the Department of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison!

This department draws together outstanding faculty, staff, and students who are committed to learning about and engaging the incredible power of language. We are a community of readers and writers, speakers and listeners, teachers and learners, and we invite you to join us in this virtual space and in person at Helen C. White Hall on the shore of Lake Mendota.

Our department is central to the mission of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and we’re part of what makes the University a world-class place to study and work. We provide gateway instruction in literature and composition to more than 10,000 undergraduates every year, both in large lecture classes and in small writing-intensive classes. The department is home to an internationally-renowned Writing Center, which offers individualized instruction to more than 6,000 students every year, and to the English as a Second Language program, which provides crucial language support and instruction to over 1500 international students across campus every year.

Our English Major, with tracks in literary studies, creative writing, and English language and linguistics, helps students learn to use the English language for critical thinking, effective communication, creative expression, and purposeful action. Studying literature, popular culture, and everyday writing, English majors immerse themselves in longstanding debates and grapple with new ideas. Our curriculum includes courses on literature and medicine, race and writing, literature and law, literature and social justice, the rhetoric of science and technology, language variation and change, as well as workshops in poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and academic writing. Our graduates have successful careers as writers, teachers, analysts, managers, lawyers, editors, doctors, community organizers, and communication specialists.

The graduate programs in English are consistently ranked as among the best in the country, and they offer an environment that is both challenging and supportive. Our graduate programs include distinct tracks focused on Literary Studies, Linguistics, and Composition and Rhetoric. Our MFA program in Creative Writing, ranked among the top five in the nation, connects students with a vibrant community of writers in Madison and a wide network of fellows and alums around the world. Graduate study in English at UW-Madison prepares students for a range of future careers. Former students teach at top colleges and research universities, nationally and internationally. They teach at private high schools and community colleges. They direct writing centers and administer humanities centers. And they work in the non-profit, government, and private sectors using their research and teaching to shape knowledge and create a more just society.

The English department has a longstanding commitment to cutting-edge interdisciplinary research, and our current faculty includes experts in the Environmental Humanities, Black Global Literatures, Medieval Studies, Second Language Acquisition, and American Studies. We work alongside colleagues across campus to address pressing problems like climate change, racism, mass incarceration, economic inequities, and more. Students across our graduate programs participate in collaborative research workshops and colloquia; they receive proactive mentorship from the moment they arrive in Madison through job placement (and beyond!); and they engage in all parts of the department’s inclusive intellectual culture.

Through our course offerings, hiring, teaching, and research, as well as in our daily interactions, we advance the university’s commitment to diversity and equity as sources of strength, creativity, and innovation. We commit, as well, to the on-going work of ensuring a just and accessible department and university.

If you are thinking about joining us, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Christa Olson
Department Chair and Tiefenthaler Professor of English