Professor Dorothy Chan receives the UW System’s 2022 Dr. P.B. Poorman Award

Assistant professor of English at the UWEC awarded the P.B. Poorman Award for Outstanding Achievement on Behalf of LGBTQ+ People

Maggie OBrien

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Photo by Maggie O'Brien

Chan in their office in the UW-Eau Claire English department.

Dorothy Chan, assistant professor of English at UW-Eau Claire, received The UW System’s 2022 Dr. P.B. Poorman Award for Outstanding Achievement on Behalf of LGBTQ+ People.

The Poorman Award is earned by one individual from each UW System campus. On Nov. 10, Chan and the other recipients received their awards at a UW System Board of Regents event.

Chan got their undergraduate degree in English with a minor in art history from Cornell University, where they graduated cum laude. They continued their education at Arizona State University, where they got their M.F.A. in creative writing and met many of their poetry mentors. 

Chan finished their education at Florida State University, where they earned their Ph.D. in creative writing.  

Chan said their parents came to the United States from Hong Kong and sacrificed so much to give them the life and opportunities that they have.

Chan has been a part of the UW-Eau Claire English department for four years. At the university, they primarily teach poetry and creative writing workshops, particularly the intermediate and advanced poetry workshops. 

Besides teaching classes at UW-Eau Claire, Chan is the faculty advisor for the QTPOC student group and Leaders Igniting Transformation and they’re the co-advisor of NOTA. Within the Chippewa Valley area, Chan reads for the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild.

Chan is the author of five poetry collections, one of which is forthcoming in Fall 2023/Spring 2024. Their fifth book of poetry is titled “Return of the Chinese Femme.”

Besides the Poorman Award, Chan is the recipient of multiple awards. One of their recognitions includes being a 2020 and 2014 finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation.

In addition to their writing, Chan is the editor-in-chief and founding editor of Honey Literary,  a BIPOC-focused literary journal and 501(c) (3) literary arts organization built by women and femmes of color. 

Chan said their office is always a safe space for all students, though they work most in mentoring UW-Eau Claire’s most marginalized students. 

“A lot of times I think that students can come into queer spaces at the University to feel not only safe and seen, but also celebrated,” Chan said. 

One of the ways that Chan offers their mentorship to all students is by hosting extra office hours to provide a safe space for marginalized students to exist in or to seek advice in.

“I think that the campus can also continuously become a positive space, especially for our queer and trans students of color,” Chan said.

Jose Alvergue, Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, is a colleague of Dr. Chan and also works in the English department. 

“It’s been really exciting since Dr. Chan arrived because of their attention to both students and curriculum, as well as department life,” Alvergue said. “It’s been really reinvigorating.”

Alvergue said he recently had a really cool experience recently with Chan at a reading they gave. 

“When I got here, we’d go to poetry readings and the people in the audience were always the same people,” Alvergue said. “At this reading, I looked around and I saw students who I’d never seen at poetry readings before and many of the queer students and students of color.”

Alvergue said he feels there is an understanding that Chan has come to UW-Eau Claire and made people feel seen.

“To me, this feels really enriching on a personal level where I feel seen now,” Alvergue said. “Now a lot of the students that I care about have someone that sees their work and works with them and believes in them.”

Alvergue said the kind of mentoring that Chan does can be really taxing and he feels that he knows they wouldn’t offer this mentoring if they didn’t believe in it or if it wasn’t part of who they were. 

“I was so happy for them and I just wanted to make sure that everyone knew about it,” Alvergue said. “I just want it to be celebrated, seen and appreciated.”

Chan said it was really exciting to have their work recognized with the Poorman Award.

“It was really lovely to be at the award ceremony in Madison and to meet the recipients and the leaders at the other UW Schools,” Chan said. “It was really great to see people from the other campuses.”

Chan said they were very honored to receive the award when they found out they had been chosen to receive it over the summer. 

“I will say, especially as a queer person of color on this campus, I think what this award symbolizes for me is everything that we’ve accomplished, but in addition and more importantly, everything else that we can keep accomplishing,” Chan said. 

O’Brien can be reached at [email protected].