Janine Utell Honored for Teaching Excellence

Janine Utell poses with Provost Wilhite and President Harris

Janine Utell (center) poses with Provost Stephen Wilhite (left) and President James T. Harris III after receiving the 2014 Lindback Award.

Dr. Janine Utell, associate professor and chair of English at Widener University, is the recipient of the 2014 Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching, an honor bestowed annually to a member of Widener’s faculty. Utell recently accepted the award at the university’s opening faculty meeting from Widener University Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Stephen Wilhite.

Wilhite highlighted Utell’s efforts to revise the English 101 course at Widener and set the stage for a common student experience for all Widener undergraduates. He recognized her commitment to assessment as a way to refine and advance pedagogy and her success in making her classroom both a challenging and welcoming environment.

Before presenting her with the award, Wilhite read student reactions to Utell’s teaching: “I thought I hated this subject matter, but this course changed my mind,” one student wrote. Another student simply stated: “Best class ever. My brain is on fire.”

Dr. Mark Graybill, associate professor of English and associate dean of humanities at Widener, recommended Utell for the Lindback Award, citing her efforts to inspire faculty in addition to her students. Utell helped launch “Your Monthly Need to Know News,” a newsletter informing the Widener campus community of a handful of issues affecting higher education. She also addresses topics in higher education as a contributor to the "University of Venus" blog through Inside Higher Ed. “[She] teaches not only her students, but also her colleagues, both on campus and beyond,” Graybill said.

Last winter, Utell was named the 2013 outstanding researcher in humanities by Widener University’s College of Arts and Sciences. Utell’s research has made her an internationally recognized scholar of James Joyce and British literary modernism.  Her first book, “James Joyce and the Revolt of Love,” was published with Palgrave Macmillan in 2010. She has since published articles on Joyce and other writers of his time in peer-reviewed journals such as “James Joyce Quarterly,” “The Journal of Modern Literature” and “College Literature,” for which she is an associate editor.

Utell’s colleagues have recognized the symbiotic relationship between her scholarship and teaching. From 2005 to 2007, she oversaw the annual James Joyce exhibition at The Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia. The project was influenced by her teaching, but it also allowed her to bring to her students – particularly those in her senior seminar course on Joyce’s “Ulysses”– a mixture of theoretical and practical knowledge.

More recently, Utell has pursued an agenda concentrating on print, digital and visual narrative and narrative theory, which she applies specifically to narratives about couplehood and intimate life.  Her next book, “Engagements with Narrative,” is under contract with Routledge and due out in 2015. She is also working on an extended study of intimate life writing in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Utell, a resident of Philadelphia, has taught at Widener since 2003. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing and French from Barnard College, Columbia University. She earned a master’s degree in English from The Catholic University of America, where she focused on 20th-Century British Literature. She then earned a Ph.D. in English from The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where her major field was British Modernism/20th-Century Studies.

The Lindback Foundation Award is endowed by the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation, a Philadelphia-based foundation that provides grants to institutions of higher education for the promotion of excellence in teaching.

Widener University is a metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, leadership development and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener is comprised of eight schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate, baccalaureate, master's, and doctoral degrees. The university's campuses in Chester, Exton and Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del., serve more than 6,300 students. Widener is proud to be a tobacco-free campus. Visit the university's website, www.widener.edu.