Nonfiction Writing Program names new interim director

Journalism and mass communications professor Meenakshi Gigi Durham will fill in as the Nonfiction Writing Program director for one year after seven-year director John D’Agata officially stepped down from the position.


Student made paintings are shown inside the EPB on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015. Students from the art department moved these paintings to the EPB in attempt to make the building less bland.

Madison Lotenschtein, Arts Editor

After seven years serving as director of the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program,  John D’Agata will step down from his position. The English Department has named professor of journalism and mass communications Meenakshi Gigi Durham as interim director of the Nonfiction Writing Program. Durham will serve in the position for one year. 

According to D’Agata, NWP faculty will discuss among themselves who will take on the director position for the following year. The former director had announced in June that he intended to step down, but he and English Department Chair Loren Glass wanted to wait on making the decision public until a replacement had been found. 

In an email to NWP faculty on Aug. 13, Glass welcomed Durham to the program. 

In an earlier interview with The Daily Iowan, D’Agata said he wanted to step down so he could better focus on his writing and teaching, and that he’s been trying to take a step back for a few years. With the NWP’s upcoming move to the Sanxay-Gilmore house, D’Agata said he decided that now is the perfect time to take a step back. 

“I’ve quietly been trying to step down as the NWP’s director for the past few years because I’ve never believed that art is served well under dynasties,” D’Agata said in an email to The DI. “I think it flourishes best under change and flexibility and surprise. Art isn’t meant to plant roots in the status quo; it’s meant to look beyond what’s happening now and imagine what else is possible. So I’m excited to see the visions that the program’s next few directors will bring to the NWP.” 

Glass said that the English Department and the NWP have been looking for ways to strengthen the connection between the NWP and the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, and that Durham’s work intersects with that of the NWP faculty.  

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“Furthermore, Professor Durham has been active in DEI work at the University of Iowa and is eager to help us address the demands of the graduate students and the larger issue of racial justice in the English department,” he said in an email to the DI. “I look forward to working with her.” 

Durham said that she is honored to have been appointed as the new director, and has admired the work produced by writers within the program. She said she is also looking forward to bringing her multicultural and transnational perspective to the position. 

“I particularly look forward to advancing issues of racial and social justice in the program,” Durham said in an email to The Daily Iowan. “I’m really excited about the new ideas, visions, and challenges the program is engaging with as we begin a new academic year, and I can’t wait to work with these talented new colleagues and students.”