Lecturer Closes in On Directorship

If things go well for Lan Samantha Chang, Briggs-Copeland Lecturer on English and American Literature and Language, she could become the next director of the prestigous Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa.

Chang, one of four finalists vying for the spot, is an alumni of the Workshop—a two-year Masters program focused on developing the skills of talented writers in the areas of poetry and fiction, according to its website.

If chosen as director, Chang says she is looking to better publicize the Workshop, a program of which she speaks highly.

“Going to the Workshop was the best thing I ever did. The Workshop taught me how to read seriously and how to read as a writer. It immersed me in a profoundly intimate and knowledgeable literary culture,” Chang said.

While Chang says she would leave Harvard if offered the new position, students note that she had made an impact during her time in Cambridge.

“She’s a wise and giving instructor, with a special talent for creating a workshop where all the class voices, from the assertive to the more timid, can feel comfortable weighing in,” said former student Charles L. Black ’04.

Other finalists for the directorship are Richard Bausch, Ben Marcus, and Jim Shepard. Like Chang, Bausch is also a workshop alumni.

According to an article published in February in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Chang “is said to lack the front-runners’ extensive track records of publishing and teaching,” the article read.

Chang said that the competition for the position has been grueling, calling the search “unexpectedly public.”

Chang explained that the program’s outgoing director, Frank Conroy is stepping down due to illness.

She said she learned a great deal from Conroy—only the fourth director in the Workshop’s 69 year history.

“I learned at the Workshop to take the teaching of creative writing seriously, and I try to bring some of that seriousness to my undergraduate classes,” she said.

Chang’s most recent novel, Inheritance, was published just last summer. She has also published stories in the Atlantic Monthly, Ploughshares, and “The Best American Short Stories.”

Chang has earned fellowships from Stanford University, Princeton University, the Radcliffe Institute, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Chang graduated from Yale University with an East Asian studies degree and then from the John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1991 before receiving a Masters in Fine Arts from the Writers’ Workshop.

According to its website, the Workshop—officially acknowledged in 1936—is the first program to offer a degree in creative writing in the United States and is a model for current programs.