Dr. Lance Weldy, doctoral alumnus from the Department of Literature and Languages, recently co-edited a special issue of Children’s Literature Quarterly; his book credits also include “Crossing Textual Boundaries in International Children’s Literature” (2011) and a casebook study, “C.S. Lewis: The Chronicles of Narnia” (2012). I tell him that his panel, “Risking the Reality of American Childhood,” was a crowd-pleaser at the most recent Children’s Literature Association (ChLA) Conference in Mississippi. “Oh, I’m glad. I thought we might have offended some people.”
It’s true. The panel was a risk, even at a conference with “play and risk” as its theme, but Weldy and his co-panelists manage to do the almost impossible at a conference: they are as entertaining as they are informative. He’s had practice, “My time at Commerce prepared me for academic conferences. I see Dr. Susan Stewart bringing new graduates to ChLA every year; I can see it is still important.”
Dr. Weldy graduated in 2004, went on to become a Fulbright Fellow in Germany, and is currently Associate Professor at Francis Marion University. He’s also a regular at the annual ChLA Conference and a name just about everyone seems to know. When I mention this, he is humble, “Children’s Literature is a small and welcoming field. But there is an element of luck, and I am fortunate to be able to teach what I specialize in.” He credits Emeritus Professors Ann Moseley and Richard Tuerk with fostering his passion for his field of scholarship. He tells me, “You’re lucky. There’s an even greater focus on Children’s Literature at A&M-Commerce than when I was there. You have like two or three graduate classes on the subject.” Actually, it’s up to five.
Dr. Moseley and Dr. Tuerk have continued to work on class offerings for those interested in Children’s Literature, and the Literature and Languages department offered its first Certificate in Children’s Literature in 2008. The certificate program is now co-directed by Dr. Karen Roggenkamp and Dr. Susan Louise Stewart. Often students working on the certificate join Dr. Stewart at the annual ChLA Conference.
Dr. Stewart says, “This is a chance to introduce students to the profession and to the scholars they’ll be working with and even referencing.” Dr. Weldy told me, “Oh, everyone loves Susan [Stewart],” and he’s right; walking with her at ChLA is like being with a celebrity. Half of the value of the certificate is in being able to associate yourself with those creating a good name in the field for our university: Folks like Weldy and Stewart.