College presents fellowship

Ashley Higginbotham, a 2013 graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College’s Master of Fine Arts program, has been awarded the second annual Irene McKinney Postgraduate Teaching Fellowship.

Higginbotham, of Fairplain, received her bachelor’s degree in English from Wesleyan and a Master of Arts in English from Marshall University in 2010.

Higginbotham will be teaching three composition courses in the fall and two composition courses and a literature course in the spring. During her tenure, Higginbotham will be working under the supervision of Jessie van Eerden, MFA director.

“Being selected as the Irene McKinney Postgraduate Teaching Fellow is an honor,” Higginbotham said. “I consider myself fortunate to have benefited from Dr. McKinney’s instruction, and I am glad her legacy lives on in the MFA Program. I loved my time at Wesleyan as a student, and I am very excited to return as an instructor. It is a privilege to be able to work with the diverse members of the English department.”

Applicants were required to submit a letter of application, a summary of their teaching philosophy of basic composition, a drafted syllabus for a Composition I course, a sketch of an Introduction to Literature or Creative Writing course, a current curriculum vitae, and a writing sample. Letters of recommendation were also required. Williams was chosen to receive the fellowship after his entry was reviewed by van Eerden and other core MFA faculty.

“Once again, the selection of the fellow was excruciating, and the candidates were very strong,” stated van Eerden. “Although we are a writing-focused program, not a teacher-prep program, the MFA is a terminal degree and a teaching credential, so many of our students hope to embark on an academic career after graduation.

“However, because ours is a low-residency program, students finish most of their coursework off-campus and cannot participate in teaching assistantships like those offered at traditional MFA programs. We are thrilled to be able to offer teaching experience to our most promising graduates through this postgraduate teaching fellowship at Wesleyan because it is a unique innovation to the low-residency model, and we wanted to honor Irene McKinney, the founding program director, with this innovation. The faculty and I are thrilled to welcome Ashley as a colleague for the next school year and are excited to see how both her fiction and her teaching continue to flourish.”

The Irene McKinney Postgraduate Teaching Fellowship is available to all graduates of the College’s MFA Program for up to three years after graduation. The fellowship honors the founding director of the college’s MFA Program, McKinney, Professor Emeritus and West Virginia Poet Laureate, who passed away in 2012.