News release by University of Iowa


Photo credit: Marion Ettlinger

April 11, 2005 – Fiction writer Lan Samantha Chang has been selected to become director of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Chang, who is an alumna and former visiting faculty member in the workshop, is currently Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in creative writing at Harvard University. Chang’s tenure will begin in January 2006.

Chang, 40, will be appointed at the rank of full professor of creative writing in the UI English department, on an academic-year basis. Her salary will be $115,500. She holds a bachelor’s degree in East Asian Studies from Yale University, a master’s in public administration from Harvard University and a master of fine arts from the University of Iowa.

Chang’s predecessor was Frank Conroy, who declared his intention last summer to step down at the end of this academic year. Conroy died April 6, and as his health declined this semester the administration of the workshop was assumed on an interim basis by faculty members James Alan McPherson and Marilynne Robinson.

Chang responded to the decision, “It is a great privilege to follow Frank Conroy as director. He was my teacher and an inspiration to me, and I think of him every time I walk into a classroom.

“As a child of immigrants, I first heard of the University of Iowa as a host to writers from all over the world. This vision of Iowa as a haven for writers, given to me by my parents, has only been enhanced by my experiences as a workshop student and teacher. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to sustain and renew this extraordinary program that exists at the heart of our literary culture.”

UI President David Skorton says he hopes Chang will view this transition as a homecoming. “This is a significant position in our writing community and within the literary world, which is why we are so fortunate to have someone of Samantha’s stature and promise agree to assume the role of director of the Writers’ Workshop,” Skorton said. “We are pleased to welcome her back to our campus and hope that it feels as though she is returning home.

“Congratulations are also due to Provost Mike Hogan, Dean Linda Maxson and the search committee for identifying such a strong pool of finalists,” Skorton added.

Hogan said, “The workshop’s contributions — to the writers who come through it, to the university and the community — are unparalleled. The directorship is a critical position, with an extraordinary tradition to uphold. We are all confident that Samantha is up to the task, and we’re eager for her to begin her tenure as director.”

Linda Maxson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, commented on her choice: “Samantha Chang’s works of fiction, ‘Hunger’ and ‘Inheritance,’ have earned her honors and stature in the literary community. She is dynamic, articulate, and passionate about developing and nurturing young writers.

“She will continue Frank Conroy’s legacy of excellence in teaching and in identifying future writers, a legacy she knows well through her own participation in the workshop — as a student and as a teacher. I look forward to working with her as she steps into the leadership of this prestigious and highly visible program — a bright star in our college.”

In addition to Chang’s novel, “Inheritance,” and the acclaimed fiction collection “Hunger: A Novella and Stories,” her fiction has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Ploughshares and “The Best American Short Stories.” Her work has been translated into more than a half-dozen languages.

Chang has been honored as the California Book Award Silver Medalist, as a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and with a Bay Area Book Award and literary awards from the Greensboro Review and the Transatlantic Review. Her work has also been nominated for the PEN Center USA West Award and the PEN/Hemingway Literature Prize. At the UI she was the winner of the James-Michener-Copernicus Award. She has received fellowships from Stanford University, Princeton University, the Radcliffe Institute, the National Endowment for the Arts, Yadoo and the McDowell Colony.

In addition to her faculty positions at the UI and Harvard, she has taught at Warren Wilson College and Stanford University, as well as at the UI Summer Writing Festival, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, the Sarah Lawrence Summer Writers’ Conference, the Asian American Writers’ Workshop and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass. She is currently the fiction editor for the Harvard Review and a member of the executive board of PEN/New England.

Anna Shin wrote in the Seattle Contemporary Review of Asian American Literature, “Chang’s restrained prose enthralls with its sheer elegance, gaining power as much from what is left unsaid as from that which is articulated. Ms. Chang also has the rare ability to fashion tales whose cumulative sum is greater than their individual parts; in her characters’ lives, one finds a depth of meaning made universal not despite its specificity, but because of it.”

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SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500. is committed to presenting diverse points of view. However, the viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at IMD.