EOU’s new low-residency MFA provides working landscape, kindling writers’ creativity

Contacts: David Axelrod & Jodi Varon | MFA Program Co-Directors
541-962-3633, daxelrod@eou.edu | 541-962-3525,  jvaron@eou.edu

October 26, 2012

EOU photo by Laura Hancock / Students may apply for the MFA program beginning Nov. 1.

LA GRANDE, Ore. (EOU) – Eastern Oregon University has added another offering to its graduate programs. The State Board of Higher Education approved earlier this month a new low-residency master of fine arts degree in creative writing.

The decision came as welcome news to David Axelrod and Jodi Varon, longtime EOU faculty who proposed the program a little over a year ago.

“We have been kicking around this idea for an MFA for at least 20 years,” said Varon, professor of English and writing.

Varon and Axelrod are co-directors of the newly approval academic program. The two sat down recently for a wide-ranging conversation about the MFA.

“We came at this idea from every angle over the years, but could never figure how to make it pencil out,” Varon said.

Then, late in the summer of 2011, James Crew, associate editor at “basalt,” EOU’s literary and fine arts magazine, suggested the low-residency model. That proved to be the crucial moment, Axelrod explained.

“It wasn’t so much that we hadn’t considered this model in the past, but this time it was eagerly promoted to us by a young writer who saw EOU and the Grande Ronde Valley as an ideal place where people would want to come to study literary arts,” Axelrod said.

Others at the university shared Crews’ early enthusiasm for the low-residency program, including Steve Adkison, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs. Adkison ultimately guided Axelrod and Varon through the complicated process of approving a new graduate program.

“Steve’s support and advice proved invaluable from the start,” Axelrod said. “He helped shape the language of our proposal and its timing. He’s read the tea leaves pretty brilliantly. Generous help and input of others at EOU and in the community has also been very gratifying and fills us with hope that the program will be a success.”

“More than anything else, though,” Varon added, “it was the continued interest the program generated among younger artists and writers around the region who made it clear that La Grande was a place that was an attractive setting.”

When native Northwest musician Laura Gibson came to town touring her album “La Grande” and its title song, Axelrod said it helped substantiate what they had been hearing.

“We’ve always thought that La Grande was one of the truly last best places in the American West,” Axelrod said. “When Gibson’s album came out, well, that was just gravy. We had the additional confirmation that ‘The Big’ is cool.”

The format of the new MFA, which Varon and Axelrod explain is quite different from ordinary in-residence education, is what makes the program unique. It allows students who may have families or jobs an educational alternative that is very flexible.

Students will complete two intensive 14-day residencies every year at EOU’s main campus, one occurring in June and the other in January. During the residencies, students enroll in writing workshops, genre seminars, service learning courses, and in the near future, courses that will focus on professional editing, publishing and marketing of books.

Also during the residencies, the program will sponsor a series of lectures and readings by well-known visiting writers, editors, publishers and agents.

Students will work closely with faculty members who are well-known and successful writers from around the United States and have agreed to join the program as mentors. They include Ars Poetica visiting writers, as well as EOU faculty and popular writers from the region. During the non-residency periods, students and faculty will continue to work together to hone writing and theses at a distance.

The first cohort will study fiction with Barry Kitterman and Jon Raymond; non-fiction with Varon and Lidia Yuknavitch; and poetry with Axelrod and Christopher Howell. Also on board are Susan Denning, who will direct the student service learning projects, and publisher-in-residence Christine Holbert, of the award-winning Lost Horse Press.

Applications will be accepted beginning Nov. 1, with coursework at the first residency launching in June 2013.

Already, the co-directors have been fielding inquiries from writers and students from around the country and are eager to begin planning future programs.

“We are now starting to contact possible visiting writers for the first two residencies and we are working closely with a number of different people to develop the resources we have here that are unique,” Axelrod said.

By 2014, Axelrod said they hope to begin offering additional program emphases in professional publishing and editing, as well as a wilderness writing institute.

“Should we actually implement all of these pieces, David and I will have finally accomplished what we set out to 25 years ago when we first began teaching here at EOU,” Varon added. “It’s really an exciting moment.”

For more information and to apply, visit eou.edu/mfa.


Girls in Science participants solve “Save Our Fish: An Environmental Mystery”

News contact: Laura Hancock | University Advancement
541-962-3585 | lhancock@eou.edu

EOU photo by Andrew Murray / The annual Girls in Science event is Saturday, Oct. 27.

October 24, 2012
– The anticipated Girls in Science event is returning for the eleventh year at EOU and participants will be investigating a very realistic environmental mystery on Saturday, Oct. 27.

With activities centered in the university’s state-of-the-art Science Center, girls in grades six through eight will work in teams to figure out what caused a hypothetical fish kill in a nearby stream and then propose a solution.

Their investigation will run the gamut from chemistry and biology to anthropology, archeology, math and computer technology.

Members of EOU’s Chemistry Club play a key part in the program. Their participation in this and other outreach activities recently garnered the club an outstanding award from the American Chemical Society for the 2011-12 academic year.

Girls in Science is made possible by EOU, the Northeast Oregon Area Health Education Center (NEOAHEC), Soroptimist of La Grande and the Richland Chapter of the American Chemical Society.


Health Speaker Series welcomes alumnus, general surgeon Dr. Andrew Pearson

News contact: Laura Hancock | University Advancement
541-962-3585 | lhancock@eou.edu
Source contact: Kimberly Mueller | Pre-Professional Health Liaison
541-962-3070 | kmueller@eou.edu

October 23, 2012

Dr. Andrew Pearson

LA GRANDE, Ore. (EOU) ⎯  Students interested in pursuing careers in healthcare have an opportunity to hear first-hand experiences from members of the area medical community participating in the Health Speaker Series at EOU.

Andrew Pearson, D.O., will give a free presentation at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25 in Badgley Hall, Room 102. Pearson, a 1998 EOU graduate, is now a general surgeon at Grande Ronde Hospital’s Regional Medical Clinic. He attended Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences and completed a five-year residency at Doctors Hospital in Columbus, Ohio before beginning his position with GRH.

EOU and the Northeast Oregon Area Health Education Center (NEOAHEC) launched the speaker series with the belief that there is a great benefit for students and the community to meet healthcare providers in a setting other than a doctor’s office or hospital. It also serves as an outlet for students to learn more about what a future in healthcare might hold for them.

The series will continue through spring term with one speaker scheduled each month. Information on upcoming presentations is available at www.eou.edu/prepro or by contacting Kimberly Mueller, EOU’s pre-professional health liaison, at 541-962-3070.

Ars Poetica welcomes popular novelist Molly Gloss, Oct. 25

Contact: David Axelrod | Ars Poetica Lecture Series
541-962-3633 | daxelrod@eou.edu

October 22, 2012

Molly Gloss

LA GRANDE, Ore. – (EOU) – Visiting writer Molly Gloss will read from a sequel to her recent award-winning book “The Hearts of Horses” for the next Ars Poetica Lecture Series at EOU.

The reading is this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the Pierce Library Reference Room and is free and open to the public. A book signing will follow.

“The Hearts of Horses” is a novel about a young woman breaking horses for several ranchers in Eastern Oregon in the winter of 1917. Author Jane Kirkpatrick calls the Oregon Book Award finalist “one of the best books you’ll ever read.”

Gloss has garnered other prizes including the PEN Center West Fiction Prize for her book “The Dazzle of Day,” as well as the Pacific Northwest Booksellers and the Oregon Book awards for her novel “Jump Off Creek.”

"The Hearts of Horses" (2007)

After spending her childhood in rural Oregon, Gloss began writing seriously when she became a mother. Since, she has been a particular favorite of Northwestern readers and currently lives in Portland.

Gloss has taught writing and literature of the American West at Portland State University, and served as visiting professor at Pacific University’s master of fine arts in writing program.





A new method of assessing adult student learning outcomes

News contact: Laura Hancock | University Advancement
541-962-3585 | lhancock@eou.edu

October 22, 2012
LA GRANDE, Ore. (EOU) ⎯ Gary Keller, Ph.D., associate professor of business at EOU, shares his research into adult learning for the next colloquium on Oct. 25.

“Evaluating and Assessing Adult Student Learning Outcomes: A Quantitative Methodology” begins at 4 p.m. in Ackerman Hall, Room 210 at EOU. The event is free and open to the public and a reception with question and answer session will follow.

Evaluating the role of teaching faculty on student learning continues to be an elusive and contentious issue, Keller maintains. Student evaluations are customarily conducted at the end of a course and frequently do not provide a context and precise analysis of the faculty member’s role in learning outcomes, Keller further explains. A new pre/post evaluation of learning assessment has been developed and tested and the results will be presented for the colloquium.

A list of related resources provided by EOU’s Pierce Library is available for more in-depth information on this topic. Visit http://library.eou.edu/colloquium. To be added to the colloquium mailing list call 541-962-3508.


Eastern Oregon Fall Google Summit for educators is Oct. 20

Contact: Heidi Harris | Assistant Professor of English/Writing
541-962-4152 | hharris@eou.edu

October 16, 2012
LA GRANDE, Ore. (EOU) - A free Google Summit for K-20 educators is coming to the La Grande Middle School this Saturday, Oct. 20. Breakfast will be available beginning at 8 a.m., with the first session beginning at 9. The summit concludes at 1 p.m.

Featured demonstrations from educators who use Google Apps will include Google Sites, Calendar, Drive, Forms, Spreadsheets and Hangouts. Participants will have an opportunity to discuss how these tools can be used in their classrooms and help build the schedule for the conference by selecting the areas of greatest interest when they register.

The summit is a collaborative effort of the La Grande School District, InterMountain Education Service District, Oregon Virtual School District, and EOU’s Center for Teaching, Learning and Assessment.

One hour of graduate credit is available for participants though EOU.

For more information and to register visit the Eastern Oregon Fall Summit website or e-mail Heidi Harris at hharris@eou.edu.


Conference emphasizes college and career readiness skills

News contact: Laura Hancock | University Advancement
541-962-3585 | lhancock@eou.edu
Source contact: Dan Mielke | Eastern Promise Executive Director
541-962-3399 | dmielke@eou.edu

October 16, 2012
LA GRANDE, Ore. (EOU) - Educators interested in learning more about Eastern Promise and the 10-Year Career and Education Plan are invited to attend a free conference at EOU on Wednesday, Oct. 31.

Guest speaker Dr. Lauren Wintermeyer will share the “Get Focused…Stay Focused!™ Progression in Education Model developed by Santa Barbara City College. The discussion will emphasize helping students learn college and career readiness skills beginning in the ninth grade and continuing until they reach the goal of working in their chosen field. Dr. Wintermeyer is the dual enrollment coordinator at Santa Barbara City College.

The event begins at 9 a.m. and concludes at 4 p.m. in the Gilbert Center adjacent to Ackerman Hall. Lunch will be provided for participants. Free parking is available in the Community Stadium lot or visitor permits may be obtained from Jackie Grant in Inlow Hall, Room 112.

“School administrators, counselors, board members and others involved with career education will benefit from this conference,” said Dan Mielke, executive director of Eastern Promise at EOU.

“The 10-Year Plan is an integral part of the Eastern Promise objective to build a college going culture in our region,” Mielke continued. “Those who participate and later engage in the program will see improved high school graduation rates and increases in high school graduates matriculating to post-secondary training and higher education programs.”

Eastern Promise provides opportunities for high school students to earn college credits through participating institutions including EOU, InterMountain Education Service District, Treasure Valley and Blue Mountain community colleges.

For more information and to register for the conference contact Mielke at 541-962-3399 or e-mail ep@eou.edu.

Ars Poetica hosts noted Oregon poets Reyes & Axelrod

Contact: David Axelrod | Ars Poetica Lecture Series
541-962-3633 | daxelrod@eou.edu

Carlos Reyes, author of “Pomegranate: Sister of the Heart."

October 12, 2012
LA GRANDE, Ore. (EOU) - The Ars Poetica Lecture Series kicks off its 2012-13 season with Oregon poets Carlos Reyes and David Axelrod, professor of English at EOU.

Reyes and Axelrod will read at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17 in the Reference Room at EOU’s Pierce Library.  The event is free and open to the public and a book signing will follow.

Reyes will share selections from his collection, “Pomegranate: Sister of the Heart,” and Axelrod will read from his sixth collection, “What’s Next, Old Knife?”

The authors are currently on tour and will be reading at multiple locations following their appearance at EOU next week.

Readings are planned at the Pendleton Center for the Arts on Thursday and at the Coffin House in Enterprise on Friday.

“Pomegranate, Sister of the Heart” is Reyes’ fifth full-length collection and explores subjects ranging from political anti-war sentiment to environmental concerns.

Carolyn Kizer has said, “Carlos Reyes’ poetry is as clear and strong as his social conscience. One is always struck by his sensual and sensory qualities: the touch, taste, feel, color of things, and his ability to capture a mood, a world, in a handful of lines.”

David Axelrod, author of "What Next, Old Knife?"

Reyes is also a noted translator from Spanish. He has been the poet-in-residence of Joshua Tree National Park, and is currently the publisher and editor of Trask House Books. He has been awarded the Heinrich Boll Fellowship and the Ethel Fortner Award.

“What’s Next, Old Knife?” is the most recent of Axelrod’s poetry collections. With settings ranging from the Iraq War to medieval Girona, Spain, the collection explores individual and societal recovery from moral catastrophe.

Inspired by an extended stay in an apartment near an old Nazi army base, the collection is described by Axelrod as “a fantasy about immigration, economic marginalization, the ghosts of history, and the desperate effort to try to hold on to one’s identity in a world where one is identified as an ‘other.’”

Henry Hughes, author of “Moist Meridian,” praises the collection, saying, “David Axelrod’s work is deeply informed by history, religion, and culture, and never loses the music and magic of true poetry.”

Axelrod has taught English and creative writing at EOU since 1988 and has won the Spokane Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the 2006 Oregon Book Award. He and his wife Jodi Varon are co-directors of the new, low residency master of fine arts in creative writing program at EOU.

EOU alumna presents recital, “A Piano Teacher’s Progress”

News contact: Laura Hancock | University Advancement
541-962-3585 | lhancock@eou.edu

Michelle Mielke performs Oct. 19 at EOU.

October 11, 2012
LA GRANDE, Ore. (EOU) ⎯ EOU alumna Michelle Mielke will perform a solo piano recital Friday, Oct. 19 at 7:30 p.m. in Groth Recital Hall in Loso Hall, Room 126. Admission is free.

Mielke graduated from EOU in 1995 and is currently a faculty member at Washington State University’s School of Music. She has 20 years of experience teaching piano. Her recital is aptly titled “A Piano Teacher’s Progress” and is designed with students and families in mind.

Many appealing and recognizable works from the piano repertoire are on the program including Debussy’s “Clair de Lune,” Chopin’s “Berceuse,” Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag,” and George Gershwin’s “Three Preludes,” in addition to well-known patriotic tunes hidden within lesser-known works.

Mielke will also share stories and insights from her teaching career and guide the audience through what should be a light-hearted program, suitable for music lovers of any age.


Choirs of the Valley Concert and choral reunion activities infuse Homecoming with music

Contact: Peter Wordelman | Professor of Music
541-962-3352 | pwordelm@eou.edu

EOU file photo

October 10, 2012
– Homecoming weekend at EOU will kick-off this Thursday with the annual Choirs of the Valley Concert at 7 p.m. in McKenzie Theatre in Loso Hall. Admission is free with donations to the EOU Foundation accepted.

Featured groups will include the EOU Chamber Choir and Union County Children’s Choir conducted by Peter Wordelman, the EOU Women’s Choir and Grande Ronde Community Choir conducted by Michael Frasier, and the La Grande High School A Cappella Choir and Treble Choir conducted by Kevin Durfee.

“Union County has a rich choral history that includes singers of all ages and the ensembles performing for the concert will showcase this diverse singing population,” said Wordelman, a professor of music at EOU. “The performance will be varied and interesting with a distinct international flavor.”

Among the pieces selected for the Chamber Choir are “Past Life Melodies,” by Australian composer Sarah Hopkins, and “Balleilakka,” a piece from India by A.R. Rahman.

The Women’s Choir will perform the Japanese piece, “Akai Hana, Shiroi Hana” and a Venezuelan styled piece, “Yo Le Canto, Todo El Di,” by David L. Brunner.

The Community Choir will be performing “Lacrymosa” from “Requiem” by W.A. Mozart and “Homeward Bound,” a piece for four-hand piano and choir written by Mack Wilberg for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Choral reunion activities are also bringing more music to Homecoming this year. Anyone who sang at EOU under the direction of John Cobb, Peter Wordelman or Michael Frasier are invited to join in the full weekend of singing, socializing, reminiscing and looking forward to the future of choral music at Eastern.

A highlight of the festivities will be the formal announcement of the new Cobb, Frasier, Wordelman Choral Endowment Fund. The fund will help support, encourage and nurture future choral music students, while maintaining a sense of the singing community that has always been present in La Grande and at EOU.

Alumni are invited to a wine-tasting reception Friday evening from 6-8 at JC Woodworks at 1415 Jefferson Ave. Entertainment will be provided by classic guitar player and alumnus Carlton Oakes.

Rehearsal for the Alumni Choir Concert is from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday in  Loso Hall, Room 123, with the public concert taking place at 7 p.m. in McKenzie Theatre. Alumni performers will be joined by the Chamber Choir and special guests Isaac and Emily Callender, original and traditional folk musicians and former EOU music students.

Following the concert, alumni are invited to meet at Ten Depot Street Restaurant for a reception with more music provided by “The Callenders.”

For information on other activities visit www.eou.edu/alumni/homecoming.