The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Professor Bob Nowlan honored with Poorman Award for LGBTQ+ advocacy

UWEC English professor receive recognition for fostering inclusivity
Bob Nowlan, UW-Eau Claire English professor. (Photo used with permission from UW-Eau Claire)

UW-Eau Claire English professor Bob Nowlan received the 2023 Dr. P.B. Poorman Award for Outstanding Achievement on Behalf of LGBTQ+ People from the Universities of Wisconsin.

According to the Universities of Wisconsin System, this honor is awarded annually to one individual from each UW campus. These individuals include LGBTQ+ people or their allies who have worked towards creating safer, more inclusive spaces for the LGBTQ+ community.

On Nov. 9, Nowlan and the 12 other honorees attended a ceremony in Madison hosted by the Universities of Wisconsin from each UW System campus. 

Besides being an educator in the English department at UW-Eau Claire, Nowlan is a writer and activist. He is a co-editor and co-author of Directory of World Cinema: Scotland, 2015, Intellect/U of Chicago Press and author of many published articles on issues in film, LGBTQ+ studies and critical theory. 

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Nowlan has also written the forthcoming books “Excessive Flashpoints, Solitary Demands, Darkest Corners: Ian Curtis, Joy Division, Critical Theory, and Me” and “21st Century British TV Crime Drama: a Critical Guide, Book One–From Fearless to The Fall.”

He began his educational journey by obtaining his undergraduate degree from Wesleyan University, where he majored in English and minored in history, philosophy and economics. 

Nowlan then continued to earn his master’s in English, with a principal concentration in Irish Studies from Syracuse University. Nowlan also earned his Ph.D. from Syracuse University, with principal concentrations in critical theory, cultural studies and queer studies.  

Before coming to UW-Eau Claire, he worked for 12 years as a university-level faculty member at multiple colleges and universities in New York, Connecticut and Arizona. 

Nowlan applied for a position as a tenure-track professor in critical theory and critical studies with the Department of English at UW-Eau Claire and was chosen for this position to begin working in the fall semester of 1997. He was the first “out” faculty member in the history of UW-Eau Claire.

In addition to being the first openly gay faculty member, Nowlan was the first UW-Eau Claire faculty member to teach classes focused on LGBTQ+ film and queer theory. 

He was also a long-time faculty advisor for successive UW-Eau Claire LGBTQ+ student organizations and founded UW-Eau Claire’s first LGBTQ+ staff and faculty organization. He has advised over 15 other organizations on campus.

Jonathan Rylander, associate professor of English and director of The Center for Writing Excellence, said Nowlan stood out to him as a role model when he first arrived at UW-Eau Claire

“Bob has been a really steady presence in terms of advocating for students, but steadfastly thinking about advocacy, equity, being brave, really — to talk about and to confront the issues that we need to when it comes to LGBTQIA+ equality,” Rylander said. 

Nowlan’s work as an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and for equality in general extends beyond UW-Eau Claire.  

He has been the founder and leader of numerous progressive film festivals and series in Eau Claire as well as founding chair of the board of directors and long-time DJ with Eau Claire’s independent progressive community radio station, WHYS.

Nowlan is a past winner of the MLA Queer Caucus’ annual Michael Lynch Award for Outstanding Achievement in Campus and Community Activism on the part of an Academic Worker in support of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Dignity, Equality and Freedom. 

He’s also a past winner of UW-Eau Claire’s annual Excellence in Service Award and a past winner of a Services For Students with Disabilities Recognition Award for a Faculty Member Demonstrating Exceptional Commitment to Meeting the Diverse Needs of Students with Disabilities.

Nowlan said he conceived of his contributions as part of an ongoing collective effort and as part of a much larger series of movements. 

“I am deeply indebted to all those who have come before me as well as all who have worked in concert with me, even at considerable distances and even without us ever directly knowing each other, on the same and closely related efforts,” Nowlan said. 

Nowlan will be retiring at the end of the fall 2023 semester after 26 years of teaching and working as a professor at UW-Eau Claire, and after 38 years of teaching and working as a university-level faculty member. 

He will be moving to live full-time in San Diego, California, as of early June 2024.  

“I think choosing me as the recipient of this award at this time constitutes a kind of ‘lifetime achievement award,’ an expression of recognition and appreciation on the part of this university and the Universities of Wisconsin for what I have contributed over many years,” Nowlan said. 

Kallie Friede, Director of the Gender & Sexuality Resource Center, said she feels the Poorman Award is incredibly important as it recognizes the historical and ongoing work of LGBTQ+ people and allies across the UW System. 

I’m incredibly excited for Bob Nowlan as he has been an integral part of the campus community; particularly for our LGBTQIA+ students,” Friede said. “He has impacted the lives of so many people in our campus community during his time here and I’m incredibly excited to see him win this award.”

O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

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