Department Structure and Responsibilities

The Department of English is a large and complex organization, with more than forty professors, thirty academic staff, and one hundred and fifty graduate students. New graduate students (and plenty of experienced ones too) aren’t always sure where to take their questions, concerns, paperwork, or problems. When in doubt, you can always contact the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies, Kristie Hamilton (, or our Program Associate for Graduate Studies, Suri M. Pourmodheji ( The outline of responsibilities below may help as well.

Management Team

Four faculty members serve in administrative roles, usually for four year terms. They manage and oversee the department as a whole, and its three main units: undergraduate studies, graduate studies, and composition.

Department Chair, Professor Lane Hall

The chair acts as the department executive, responsible for communicating with the dean of the college and other university administrators, calling and leading full departmental meetings, overseeing decisions related to hiring, tenure, and promotion, and managing department finances. He also oversees the other three associate chairs. He is the point of first contact for grade appeals by graduate students, by undergraduates in courses taught by teaching assistants, and by undergraduates in First-Year Composition courses who already have appealed their portfolio grades within that program.

Associate Chair for Composition, Associate Professor Shevaun Watson

The Associate Chair for Composition leads the department’s large composition program, which employs about thirty academic staff and close to seventy teaching assistants. In addition to overseeing the curriculum of that program, she is also responsible for training and overseeing teaching assistants. Questions related specifically to teaching in English 100, 101 or 102 should be directed to her (see below under administrative staff for more information).

Associate Chair for Graduate Studies, Distinguished Professor Kristie Hamilton

The Associate Chair for Graduate Studies directs the graduate program across all five plans, oversees the annual admissions process, communicates with the UWM Graduate School, and chairs the department’s Graduate Policy Committee (GPC), which approves preliminary exam and dissertation proposals and makes most policy that applies to graduate students. She will be your main point of contact in the department when you have questions about Graduate School requirements, requests for exception, department policy, fellowships, conflicts with faculty or advisors, or other general advising questions. She serves as a general and confidential advisor for all graduate students and welcomes emails, scheduled appointments, and visits during office hours.

Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies, Associate Professor Michael Newman

The Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies directs the undergraduate program, manages the schedule for both graduate and undergraduate classes, appoints teaching assistants to classes outside English 100, 101 and 102 in consultation with plan coordinators, and chairs the Undergraduate Policy Committee. For most graduate students, he will be your point of contact if you have questions or concerns about teaching classes that are not English 101 or 102. He is also the point of contact for instructors addressing academic misconduct in their student’s work.

Administrative Staff

The department relies heavily on three full-time staff members who manage most of our routine operations.

Business Manager, Christopher Hofland

Chris manages most of the financial matters for the department, including employment contracts and payroll. He also handles classroom assignments for courses and assists the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies in organizing the teaching schedule. Chris is the appropriate first contact for graduate students with questions related to travel reimbursement, but most other issues should be directed to one of the other two staff members listed below.

Program Associate for Graduate Studies, Suri M. Pourmodheji

Suri manages the details of all aspects of graduate study, from student records to the admissions process. When you can’t find the answer to your question in the Graduate Handbook, Suri should be your first point of contact. Her responsibilities include: monitoring students’ progress to degree, managing admissions, preparing contracts for teaching assistants, and collecting student proposals for consideration by GPC. When in doubt, ask Suri first. She routinely helps graduate students with forms and paperwork, enrollment permissions, reserving rooms for preliminary exams or dissertation defenses, PAWS, requests for exception, and questions about general or Graduate School policies and requirements.

Program Associate for Composition, Brooke Barker

Brooke manages the records, schedules, and evaluations for the composition program. She is the contact for travel reimbursements. She makes teaching evaluations available to instructors after grades have been submitted. She manages the front-office photocopying equipment and the department supplies. Brooke is the first point of contact for course evaluations, classroom keys, and office supplies.

Plan Coordinators

The department consists of five different programs, or “Plans,” Literature and Cultural Theory (Plan A), Rhetoric and Composition (Plan B), Creative Writing (Plan C), Professional Writing (Plan G), and Media, Cinema and Digital Studies (Plan H). Each plan has a coordinator responsible for admitting new students, advising them, and scheduling course offerings. You can find your current plan coordinator on the department’s contacts page.

The coordinator serves as the advisor for all graduate students while they are still in coursework. As such, the coordinator should be your first point of contact for most advising questions related to courses and requirements, or for basic questions about the content or direction of your coursework. The plan coordinator is also the first contact for transferring courses into the PhD from another program or university and will approve most of your paperwork before it goes to the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies for final approval. This includes documents such as your program of study, second language certification form, or change of committee form, among others.