English professor’s career recognized by UIS

Lan Dong, has been recognized as the Louise Hartman Schewe and Karl Schewe Professor in Liberal Arts and Sciences

Photographs courtesy of Photo by the office of campus relation

Lan Dong, has been recognized as the Louise Hartman Schewe and Karl Schewe Professor in Liberal Arts and Sciences

One of UIS’s most-beloved professors, Lan Dong, has been recognized as the Louise Hartman Schewe and Karl Schewe Professor in Liberal Arts and Sciences, following more than a 17-year academic journey that began in China, and continues in Springfield.

This three-year endowed professorship will give Dong, who teaches in the English Department, extra financial compensation to pursue her own academic research on the intersection of literary form and the Chinese American experience.

“It is a great honor,” Dong said. “And brings added responsibilities as well.”

Dong came to the US from China in 2000 to get her master’s degree in comparative literature at Dartmouth College. She then earned her doctorate, also in comparative literature, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. 

She joined the UIS faculty in 2006 as an assistant professor of English. During more than a decade-long career, Dong was named a University Scholar by the University of Illinois in 2012, and received two faculty excellence awards within UIS. 

“Lan Dong has established a reputation as a ground breaking and prolific researcher in Asian American literature,” said the Dean of the UIS College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, James Ermatinger. “She has emerged as an expert in comparative literature and has become a recognized scholar in studies of comics and graphic narratives.”

Dong currently teaches “China to Chinese America,” and challenges her students to become close readers, pushing them to critically engage with texts and inspire them to think contextually. In the past, she has taught a number of classes that inspires students to read diverse texts both in terms of author and medium. Her classes importantly look beyond the conventional literary canon and show students the importance of studying different mediums, from graphic novels to children’s movies like Mulan. She has written numerous research papers on the representation of Asian American women in literature and popular culture.

“[T]exts in various media, including comics, films, and picture books, among others, help the reader acquire verbal and visual literacy,” Dong explained. “The visual elements provide a sense of immediacy. The reader’s experience of being a ‘witness’ makes the texts and topics relevant.”

“Discussing and interpreting graphic narratives within their social, political, and historical contexts [also] help the reader identify and understand historical and current issues and their impact.”

Former students only have high praise for Dong as a teacher, mentor, and person. Master’s student, Roni Hartman, met Dong in 2014 and has since taken three other classes with her. 

“In every one of her classes I’ve taken, her passion for literature and teaching has encouraged me to share my feelings and ideas freely,” said Hartman. “She cares, not just about us as students, but as people, with personalities, interests, and lives outside the classroom.” 

Amanda Dinardo, another master’s student, also noted how Dong pays close attention to each individual student, pushing them to do their best.

Dinardo was in Dong’s “International Short Stories” class and said that Dong took particular notice of one of the papers she submitted for class, suggesting that she send it to the National Council of Undergraduate Research (NCUR), a research conference in Memphis.

“Thanks to Dr. Dong, I was accepted to the conference, which was an incredible growing experience for me,” she said. “If Dr. Dong had not seen potential in me, reached out personally, and worked closely with me, I would have never dreamed of a conference submission.”

After graduation, Dinardo hopes to teach introductory composition classes at the university level, using what she learned from Dong’s curriculum in her own classroom one day.

“Dr. Dong has prepared me to view every student as a unique individual with great potential,” she said. “[She] gives her time freely and generously to students. Someday I hope to do the same.”

The Louise Hartman Schewe and Karl Schewe endowment began in 2006. Louise Hartman Schewe and Karl Schewe were residents of Springfield, heavily involved in both the Springfield and Chicago liberal arts scene. Upon her death, Hartman Schewe left a generous bequest to The University of Illinois Foundation to be used to support a Professorship in the Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois Springfield.

Previous recipients include Professor of Philosophy Peter Boltuc in 2013 and Professor of Computer Science Keith Miller in 2009. 

Through the endowment, Dong hopes to complete several projects and integrate her research into the classroom. 

“My classes ask students to pay particular attention to close reading, critical thinking, and contextualization,” she said. “I use similar approaches in my research. My students inspire me. I like to write about the texts I teach and teach the texts I write about.”


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