Sean P. Connors, Ph.D.
Institute Co-Director and Lead Faculty
Dr. Connors is Associate Professor of English Education at the University of Arkansas, where he works with pre-service and in-service English teachers in the context of a graduate secondary teacher licensure program. His research and scholarship focus on young adult literature, new literacies, and multimodality, and he has written extensively about comics and graphic novels. Prior to earning his doctorate from Ohio State University, Dr. Connors taught high school English for twelve years. In that time he worked with students in a range of diverse settings, including a suburban high school in upstate New York, an urban high school in Arizona, and a charter high school on the western Navajo Reservation. As a faculty member at the University of Arkansas, Dr. Connors has been active in providing professional development opportunities for middle school and high school English language arts teachers.
Lissette Lopez Szwydky-Davis, Ph.D.
Institute Co-Director and Lead Faculty
Dr. Szwydky is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Arkansas, where she teaches and publishes in the areas of Nineteenth-Century British Literature and Culture, Adaptation Studies, and Gender Studies. At the University of Arkansas, she regularly teaches “Frankenstein: A Transmedia Multimedia Cultural History” covering the novel’s historical and literary contexts as well as its cultural legacy via adaptations. She primarily publishes on the topic of stage adaptations in the nineteenth century, including essays in the following collections: Adapting Frankenstein: The Monsters Eternal Lives in Popular Culture (edited by Dennis Perry and Dennis Cutchins, 2018) and The Routledge Companion to Adaptation (2018). Her forthcoming book Transmedia Adaptation in the Nineteenth Century (forthcoming from Ohio State University Press in June 2020) traces the rise of an adaptation-driven entertainment industry in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She is co-recipient of the 2014 NASSR/Romantic Circles Pedagogy Award for using blogs and wikis in the classroom. Dr. Szwydky is also affiliate faculty in Gender Studies as well as in the Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies program.
Kristen Figgins is a doctoral student in English at the University of Arkansas. Her specialization is nineteenth-century British Literature, with a secondary focus on Rhetoric and Composition. Her current research involves tracing the evolution of natural science and philosophy in nineteenth-century British literature and their adaptations. She is also interested in the way media functions across disciplines and historical boundaries to preserve narratives. Prior to pursuing her doctorate, Kristen taught ninth and twelfth grade English Language Arts at an innovative, all-academic high school in West Texas.
Arts Integration Specialist
Hung Pham is Director for the Center for Children & Youth (CCY), an endowed initiative of the University of Arkansas’s College of Education and Health Professions. Through CCY, Pham helps design and run educational programs for K12 students, pre-service teachers, and classroom educators to foster creative, socially-engaged learning and address the needs of under-resourced communities. Pham has extensive experience in the fields of arts integration, service learning, and literacy across the curriculum. In 2019, Pham and CCY received the Governor’s Arts Award for their contributions to the arts in education. Pham has collaborated with arts and education leaders such as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Teachers College (Columbia University), and Facing History & Ourselves. A graduate of the University of Arkansas’s MFA in Creative Writing program, Pham was a recipient of the 2015 Arkansas Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship for his fiction. Before coming to Arkansas, he worked with educational and youth-related nonprofits in Colorado and New Hampshire.
Promotion and Outreach Assistant
Emily Franks is a fourth-year student of English and Journalism at the University of Arkansas. While studying at the university level, she has gained experience in magazine writing, marketing, social media, and event planning. She has found that her passion for people focuses on improving the communication between them. Outside of her studies and work, she likes to travel, spend time in the outdoors, and get wrapped up in the newest Netflix original doc-series. Upon graduation, Emily would like to continue pursuing her interest of communication within the workforce.
Thomas Leitch, Ph.D.
Visiting Faculty and Plenary Speaker
Dr. Leitch is Professor of English at the University of Delaware. He trained as a literary scholar at Columbia and Yale, but drifted into cinema studies when he discovered a love of storytelling that transcended literature. Since coming to the University of Delaware to direct the Film Studies program, he has continued to travel back and forth between literature and cinema studies. In addition to Perry Mason and Crime Films, which was nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe Award in 2003, he has written two books on Alfred Hitchcock and coedited a third. For the past ten years, most of his work especially Film Adaptation and Its Discontents: From Gone with the Wind to The Passion of the Christ (2007) has focused on adaptation and its broader implications for the teaching of English. His most recent books are Wikipedia U: Knowledge, Authority, and Liberal Education in the Digital Age (2014) and the edited collection of essays The Oxford Handbook of Adaptation Studies (2017). He is currently working on The History of American Literature on Film. Leitch serves on the editorial boards of Literature/Film Quarterly, Adaptation, Journal of Adaptation in Film and Performance, Hitchcock Annual, and Studia Filmoznawcze. He regularly reviews mystery and suspense fiction for Kirkus Reviews, where he is Mystery Editor.
Visiting Artist and Plenary Speaker
Lita Judge is the author and illustrator of 24 fiction and nonfiction books including, Mary’s Monster, One Thousand Tracings, Born in the Wild, Red Sled, and Hoot and Peep. Her book, Flight School, has recently been adapted into an off-Broadway musical which is currently showing in New York City and China. Awards for her books include the International Reading Association Children’s Book Award, an ALA Notable, NCTE Notable Book, a Kirkus Best Book, and the Jane Addams Honor. Before she created art and books, Lita was a geologist and worked on dinosaur digs. But a trip to Venice Italy inspired her to quit her job and pursue a lifelong passion for creating art. Now, when not in her studio, she can be found backpacking through Europe with her sketchbook and easel in hand. Painting in the streets of Italy, France, Sweden, Russia and many other places have inspired her many of her books. The novel, Mary’s Monster, was inspired through reading Mary Shelley’s journals while exploring places she had traveled. This book created a rich opportunity to explore working in a completely new form, that of combining free verse with full page illustrations in novel form. Lita was drawn to capturing the interior world of Mary Shelley’s mind, as well as the realistic images of her life. Creating this book was a journey in itself and took five years to complete. Lita lives in New Hampshire.
Guest Faculty and Artists
Glenn Jellenik, Ph.D.
Dr. Jellenik is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Central Arkansas (Conway, Arkansas) where he teaches courses in 18th– and 19th-century British literature as well as film. His research approaches adaptation from an historical perspective, one that acknowledges a thriving history of adaptation long before the advent of cinema. He primarily focuses on long-Eighteenth-century adaptation and the productive intersections between literature and mass culture. His recent essay, “The Origins of Adaptation: the Birth of a Simple Abstraction” (The Oxford Handbook of Adaptation Studies, 2017) traces the rise of our current cultural notions of adaptation to the late-Eighteenth century. He also has essays forthcoming in The Routledge Companion to Adaptation and Adaptation in Visual Culture: Images, Texts, and Their Multiple Worlds (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). He is the national chair for Adaptation Studies for the Popular Culture Association (PCA), and he sits on the Board of Advisors for the Palgrave Studies in Adaptation and Visual Culture series. At the center of all of his work is the desire to complicate our cultural assumptions about adaptation and originality.
Jennifer Donnelly is a New York Times bestselling author of twelve novels including Stepsister, Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book, the Waterfire Saga, The Tea Rose series, and A Northern Light. Her work has garnered many awards, among them a Carnegie Medal, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Michael L. Printz Honor, a Green Earth Book Award, an Indies Choice Best Young Adult Book award, and has been named to many notable book lists. Her newest novel, Poisoned, will be published in October 2020. Jennifer lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.
Still on the Hill
Kelly and Donna Mulhollan are Still on the Hill, an award winning duo of “story telling-song writers.” This national and international touring group from Arkansas has been described as “Ambassadors of the Ozarks” for their work preserving a rich culture that combines folk music, local stories, and hand-made instruments. Still on the Hill gathers stories from real people and places in their region and fashions them into songs. Then they embellish the songs with a host of unique instruments, many of which were hand-made by old-timers and have amazing stories that go with them as well. The duo also has a penchant for turning classic poetry and literature into songs. In 2005, Kelly produced a solo CD called The Never Ending Conversation, which is a collection of poems by Wallace Stevens, William Blake, e. e. cummings, Langston Hughes (and other notables) set to music and sung by the duo. Still on the Hill enjoys performing for students of all ages because they believe that stories and poetry are much more accessible and go to a deeper place when they are sung.
TheatreSquared’s locally produced and nationally acclaimed productions reach more than 65,000 patrons each year. The company is Northwest Arkansas’s year-round professional resident theatre, offering a unique audience experience in an intimate setting. In 2011, TheatreSquared was recognized by the American Theatre Wing, founder of the Tony Awards, as one of the nation’s ten most promising emerging theatres.
TheatreSquared’s audience includes tens of thousands of students and their teachers. The theatre partners with schools from Northwest Arkansas to the Delta Region, working to give students across Arkansas access to live performances and arts-based learning tools.