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accents on english | fall 19-spring 20

Small gestures, big hearts

English marshals grassroots giving to aid struggling students

show on mill 6 credit marcus chormicle asu now

This spring, in response to COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing shutdown, the Department of English at ASU launched the English Chair Fund. The fund provides financial relief for students in the department who are experiencing temporary economic hardship.

“Some of our students are struggling,” wrote Krista Ratcliffe, professor and chair of English in an April email to donors. “Many are trying to care for children who are now also at home. Others have lost incomes due to employment pauses or layoffs. Others—international students or domestic students from out-of-state—are now isolated from local resources in addition to being far from home. Still others may have sick family members, or may be ill themselves.”

The “ask” was a leap of faith that yielded results: cash donations from alumni and English department members as well as a commitment of research funds from some faculty. After receiving the administrative “all clear” to proceed, English worked to disseminate news of the available funds to both graduate and undergraduate students and opened an application form.

The undertaking was a group effort. Collaborating with The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Dean’s Office, Financial Aid and Scholarship Services, and ASU Foundation, staff processed student requests for assistance toward housing, food, utilities, and other expenses. Most requestors received $100 each. The department followed up with those students who had requested larger sums and directed them to other campus resources.

“While I recognize that [$100] is not sizable,” Ratcliffe said, “I do hope this gesture lets our 2600+ undergraduate and graduate students know that we care about them. I also hope it makes a difference for some of them in terms of one utility bill or one week of groceries. We will continue to distribute money to students as long as there is need and as long as funds remain in the account.”

To date, the English Chair Fund has disbursed $4,800 to students.

If you would like to give to the English Chair Fund, a discretionary account for use in addressing areas of high priority, please visit the ASU Foundation site. Your generosity directly supports students through funding for housing, food assistance, or other emergency needs, helping these students remain on track and earn a degree.

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

Image: Photo by Marcus Chormicle / ASU Now.