Gonzaga Names English Professor Ann Ciasullo the Powers Chair of Humanities

Thursday, June 8, 2017

SPOKANE, Wash. – Ann Ciasullo, associate professor of English and chair of the Gonzaga University Women’s and Gender Studies Department, has been named the Robert K. and Ann J. Powers Professor Chair of the Humanities at Gonzaga for a two-year term effective Sept. 1. The chair is currently held by English Professor Tod Marshall.

Ciasullo, who was raised in Spokane, will begin her 10th year at Gonzaga this fall. She teaches a variety of classes, from a first-year seminar titled Freaks, Geeks, and Outsiders to upper-division classes such as Literary and Cultural Studies, Studies in Women Writers, and 20th Century American Novel.

Elisabeth Mermann-Jozwiak, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the appointment follows the recommendation of the College of Arts and Sciences Awards Committee.

“Over the past nine years that she has worked at Gonzaga University, Dr. Ciasullo has consistently produced humanities-based programming, including through the Gender and Pop Culture Speaker Series. She is a sought-after speaker with a strong record of community engagement,” Mermann-Jozwiak said. “As well, she has a clear vision for the role of the humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences and at Gonzaga University.”

As Powers Chair, Ciasullo hopes to expand the reach and partnerships of the series. She plans to work with Gonzaga’s Center for Public Humanities, created last fall, to bring a nationally regarded speaker on pop culture to campus; to mentor students’ academic work on popular culture and cultural studies; and to accompany them to the national Popular Culture/American Culture Association Conference, where they can showcase their work. Also, she aims to make the Gender and Pop Culture Series more visible to the public, underscoring how the study of popular culture is the study of humanities, and vice versa.

“Growing up, popular culture was one of my greatest pleasures as well as one of my most influential teachers. From music, movies, and television, I learned powerful narratives about gender, race, class, and sexuality, and as an adult I have been interested in how our lives are shaped by these narratives in both positive and negative ways,” Ciasullo said. “Studying it –examining the stories that pop culture conveys to us – helps us at once to understand its grasp on us and discern whether we want to accept or resist that grasp.”

An expert in the scholarly fields of literary theory (in particular feminist theory), popular culture, and cultural studies, she has published on a wide range of topics – from the television series “Mad Men” to the Hollywood phenomenon of the “bromance” film. She is proud of Gonzaga’s Gender and Pop Culture Speaker Series. Begun in the 2009-2010 academic year, the series has given students opportunities to present scholarly work that engages in critical ways with the texts that inform their lives: films, television, and social media. Seven years and 40 presentations later, the series is more popular than ever.

Born in Bayside, New York, Ciasullo graduated from Gonzaga Preparatory School and Gonzaga University (’92), where she double majored in English and French. She earned a master’s degree from Washington State University (’94) and a Ph.D. in English, with a concentration in women’s and gender studies, from the University of Kentucky (’02).

In making the announcement, Mermann-Jozwiak also thanked Marshall, who – in addition to his teaching duties at Gonzaga – is serving as the Washington State Poet Laureate for 2016-2018, for his “indefatigable work on behalf of the humanities” that has included travel throughout the state while also publishing editorials, essays, articles, and poems celebrating the humanities and writing.

The Powers chair is awarded to an outstanding teacher-scholar in the area of history, philosophy, language or literature. The late Robert K and Ann J. Powers established the chair in 1979 through a gift to affirm the centrality of the humanities in a Gonzaga education. Robert Powers, a former Gonzaga Trustee, had two master’s degrees from Gonzaga: business administration and commerce, and legal affairs.