Program Information

Applications are accepted every calendar year for the MA and PhD in English at WMU. Next year’s deadline for applications will be January 10, 2018.

Background on the Discipline of Children’s and YA Literature

In 1965, Dr. Francelia Butler, a professor at the University of Connecticut, established the first children’s literature course housed in a department of English. The course was designed to encourage English majors to value the aesthetic and literary qualities of children’s literature. In the decades that have followed, departments of English have become one of the primary sites for undergraduate children’s and YA literature instruction, serving an expanded population of education and library science students, in addition to English majors and minors.

In 1973, Western Michigan University children’s literature instructor Anne Devereaux Jordan co-founded the Children’s Literature Association, established “to encourage high standards of criticism, scholarship, research, and teaching in children’s literature.” Today, the Children’s Literature Association has hundreds of active members, an annual conference, a division in the Modern Language Association, 2 peer reviewed scholarly journals, and a publishing imprint with the University Press of Mississippi. ChLA has also provided professional guidance to departments that have established graduate programs in children’s and YA literature, and while doctoral programs in the field are available at a select number of universities, most English departments offer at least some graduate course work, teaching opportunities, and dissertation support to interested doctoral candidates.

The subject of children’s and YA literature remains a mainstay in the preparation of future K-12 teachers, and while the academic job market for children’s and YA literature scholars has contracted somewhat since the recession, there remains an ongoing need for qualified scholars and instructors in the subject.

Children’s and YA Literature in the Department of English at WMU

6a00e553cdd11e8834012875b55c93970c-800wiWestern Michigan University’s English department has offered undergraduate children’s literature course work for nearly fifty years, and graduate course work since the mid-1990s. Currently, Gwen Tarbox, Judith Rympa, and Meghann Meeusen are engaged primarily in children’s literature scholarship and teaching.

The department offers 10-12 undergraduate classes per year, taken primarily by elementary and secondary education students: ENGL 3820, Literature for the Young Child; ENGL 3830, Literature for the Intermediate Reader; and ENGL 3840, Adolescent Literature. On average, the department offers 1-2 5000-level children’s and YA literature courses in a 2-year cycle, including ENGL 5820, Special Topics in Children’s Literature and ENGL 5830, Multicultural Adolescent Literature.

Over the last two decades, seven doctoral candidates have pursued an emphasis in children’s and YA literature at WMU, one doctoral candidate pursued an informal course of study in the field and is now a professor of children’s literature, and many English education candidates have taken a qualifying exam that focused, in part, on children’s and YA literature. Given such sustained interest, a formal qualifying examination area in children’s and YA literature has also been added, and beginning in 2016, an average of 2-3 students per year can now utilize this exam to develop a thorough understanding of the field and to fulfill their dissertation and career objectives.  For more information, visit our Children’s and YA Literature Qualifying Exam page.


Children’s and YA faculty and students attend Dr. Hillary Chute’s “Understanding the Graphic Novel: Art Spiegelman’s ‘Maus’ and Contemporary Comics” presentation on campus in October 2015.

WMU English Graduate Program Information

The Department of English at Western Michigan University offers a Master of Arts, a Master of Fine Arts and Doctor of Philosophy. Areas of specialization include creative writing, English Education, and literature and language.

Our large and vibrant department is home to nearly 120 graduate students, many of whom are supported by teaching or research assistantships. In a typical year, our graduate students compile a record of publications, productions, presentations and prizes that testify to their impressive abilities as writers, scholars and teachers.

Check Out the Graduate Student handbook

Applications for graduate study in English at WMU are due January 10, 2018.  For more information, contact the graduate director via email or at (269) 387-2584.