December 3, 2016

100 Years of Academic Excellence: Focus on English and Mass Communication

100 Years of Academic Excellence: Focus on English and Mass Communication
February 2, 2012

In the second month of our 2012 celebration of a century of higher education at Principia, the English and Mass Communication Departments stand front and center. Training in writing, literary analysis, critical listening and thinking, speaking, and the many facets of communication in our complex times couldn’t be more vital or central to a rewarding liberal arts education.

Although communications technology and media are evolving faster than ever—think podcasts, e-readers, streaming, social media, the cloud, and more—the principles upon which effective communication rests remain the same. And Principia students have been exploring and mastering these principles for 100 years with the guidance of exceptional faculty members (including eight emeriti faculty). Our current English and mass comm professors are published writers and poets, sought-after speakers, and communications professionals.

As senior and creative writing student Brent Gaudette discovered his love and talent for writing as a freshman in a short fiction class, he also discovered how special Principia’s teachers are. He recalls, “My English teachers just have an air of competency about them. They each bring unique perspectives and so much experience. I’ve learned about the art of writing, conventions, literature . . . . They’ve pushed me to be my best.”

Let’s meet today’s professors.


The chair of the English Department, Dr. Elizabeth Toohey, teaches film, gender studies, and U.S. and postcolonial literature. Toohey also reviews books for The Christian Science Monitor in the areas of film studies, women’s studies, and American culture, and she writes, presents, and is currently teaching an upper division class on the impact of 9/11 on Hollywood films.

Dr. Lynn Horth, a professor at Principia since 1992, has chaired the English Department and recently worked to restructure the Writing Program to support the innovative General Education curriculum, with its emphasis on critical and creative thinking, which is now being put in place at the College. Horth is a world-renowned expert on Herman Melville, so much so that she is regularly asked to authenticate objects from his life—from personal letters to his writing desk. She co-edited Melville’s Journals, published in 1989, and edited Melville’s Correspondence, published in 1993, which contains more than 40 previously unknown Melville letters.

Embracing a cross-disciplinary professional practice, Dinah Ryan is a fiction writer, critic of contemporary art and visual culture, and an independent curator. She is a contributing editor for Art Papers Magazine and has been a fiction Fellow three times at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Professor Ryan developed and instituted Principia’s creative writing track in the English major and led the Prague Abroad this past spring. Students on the abroad had unique opportunities to explore connections between creativity, critical thought, and responsible citizenship through creative writing, studio art, and the study of modernist and contemporary Czech literature.

Dr. Heidi Snow’s research spans three centuries of British literature, from the Renaissance through the Victorian era, with the Romantic period as her area of specialization. Her publications focus primarily on the writings of William Wordsworth, particularly the intersection of religion and poverty throughout his poetry. Before joining the faculty, Snow served as an editor for the Christian Science Sentinel and held various writing positions at The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, Massachusetts. This fall, Snow was one of the faculty advisers for the England Abroad, traveling with students to London and Stratford to explore Shakespeare’s work as literature and theatre.

Mass Communication

In the Mass Communication Department, chair George Cooke brings nearly 30 years of experience in film, video production, and photography to his work with Principia students. He’s a three-time winner of the Creative Excellence Award from the U.S. Industrial Film and Video Festival and winner of a Silver Cindy Award from the Association of Visual Communicators in Los Angeles.

Paul Van Slambrouck joined Principia’s faculty in 2011. Van Slambrouck served as editor of The Christian Science Monitor from 2001–2005, after working as a national and foreign correspondent, as well as foreign editor, in both print and radio. As a member of the San Jose Mercury News staff from 1989–1997, Van Slambrouck was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a current Principia student to take a class from Professor Van Slambrouck. From March 26–April 16, he will be teaching an online course entitled Mary Baker Eddy and the Founding of The Christian Science Monitor. Principia Lifelong Learning is offering the course; registration begins February 15. Read the full course description.

Prior to coming to the College in 2010, Paul Wesman worked for more than 20 years in the field of corporate communications—as director of communications for an international consulting firm, industry researcher, writer, photographer, video producer, speech consultant supporting the work of Christian Science lecturers, and radio newscaster and features editor for the World Service of The Christian Science Monitor.

Also new to the Mass Comm faculty, Joan Wesman comes to Principia from her work as a producer for NPR’s Fresh Air program with Terry Gross. Before that, she served as part of a government delegation sent to South Africa to train new radio journalists to cover democratic elections in their country. Wesman also worked as an associate producer for the World Service of The Christian Science Monitor, and she has taught English in Paris, France, as well.

You’re invited to peek inside the doors of today’s English and mass communication classes in this month’s In Pictures.