Thursday, November 15, 2007

Burkhardt Named University Scholar for UIS

By Courtney Westlake

As a renowned author of the biography 'William Maxwell: A Literary Life,' Barbara Burkhardt is no stranger to hard work and dedication.

"It was a very long process," Burkhardt said, with a laugh. "I did my master's thesis on (Maxwell's) novel 'So Long, See You Tomorrow' and then when I went to get my Ph.D., I did a dissertation on a more broader range of his works. It was 10 more years beyond my Ph.D. that I worked on the book."

Burkhardt, an associate professor of English at the University of Illinois at Springfield, was recognized for her contributions by being named University Scholar for 2007-2008. She is one of 13 faculty members, and the only one from UIS, chosen for this award honoring and rewarding outstanding teachers and scholars at the three U of I campuses. University Scholars receive $10,000 a year for three years to support research and other scholarly activities.

Burkhardt holds a Ph.D. in American literature from UIUC and a master's degree in English from UIS. She has been a member of the UIS faculty since 2001 and teaches graduate seminars on postmodern fiction, Mark Twain, and writers of The New Yorker, as well as courses on the American novel, Midwestern literature, and American women writers.

Burkhardt is thankful and humbled by being named the recipient of the University Scholar honor.

"It really was the biggest honor I've ever received," she said. "I feel very fortunate to be on faculty here, let alone be named as the University Scholar. I really want to use the funds that go with that to do more work like I've been doing. I'm going to be working now on a biography of the publisher Alfred Knopf, who was Maxwell's publisher, but also the publisher for Willa Cather, John Updike and more."

Burkhardt's biography on William Maxwell was the first major critical study of the Illinois writer's life and work, and drew high reviews from publications such as New York Newsday, The Washington Post, USA Today, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly.

Burkhardt said she credits many of her fellow professors and colleagues at UIS for her successes and is grateful to UIS for providing such wonderful opportunities for her.

"I think about the scholars here who have inspired me, some of whom received the scholar award in the past," she said. "When I spoke to the campus at the luncheon, I spoke about the joy of scholarship. We really are a teaching campus, and the joy of scholarship is really something I try to pass on to my students."