Meet Sean Kelly: English Professor, Writing Center Director and This Year’s O’Hop Lecturer

by Kelly Clisham
Sean Kelly headshot

Sean Kelly, professor of English, has been sharing his insights on 19th century American literature, African American literature, literary theory and composition with Wilkes students since he arrived on campus in 2008.

This academic year, he added two new roles to his resume. Kelly serves as director of the Writing Center, the spot on campus where students can go for help with all things writing. More recently, he was selected to deliver Wilkes University’s 2024 Paul A. O’Hop Final Word Lecture. His presentation, “Reading, Writing, and Wilkes University’s Mission of Liberal Education: Questioning AI’s Value as a Learning Tool,” will take place at 6 p.m. on Monday, April 29, in the Jean and Paul Adams Commons.

Read on to learn a more about Kelly’s love of the written word and his musical talents.

Where is “home” for you?

I was born and raised in Taylors, South Carolina, a suburb of Greenville. Over a decade ago, my parents and sister’s family moved to Hilton Head, South Carolina, so we have a strong connection with that area. For fifteen years, I’ve lived in Wilkes-Barre’s north end with my wife, Trisha, and our daughter, Gwyn.

What’s your favorite class to teach?

I enjoy ENG 120 because I am able to teach literary works that are outside of my area of specialization (nineteenth-century American). Many of these texts are the ones I was passionate about as an undergraduate that ultimately led me to become an English major.  I’ve taught several courses over the years that were a lot of fun because of the topic, such as “The Uncanny in Literature” and “Toni Morrison.”  And of course, I always enjoy teaching ENG 337: Studies in American Romanticism.

Where’s your favorite spot on campus?

Kirby Hall!  I love teaching in the wood-paneled seminar rooms and enjoying the view from my office window.  From my office on the corner of South and River Streets, I have a spectacular view of the trees changing colors in autumn. In the winter, I can see massive chunks of ice floating down the Susquehanna River.

How do you feel about being chosen for this year’s O’Hop Final Word Lecture?

I’m honored to deliver the O’Hop, and I’m grateful to the committee for selecting my proposal. I hope that my talk adds to our campus discussion about practices and policies related to AI.

What drew you to the Writing Center?

The previous Writing Center director decided to step down, and there was an urgent need. I thought it would be a great creative and intellectual challenge, so it seemed like an exciting opportunity.  

What are you most excited about in this position?

I love the complex kinds of personal growth that can occur during the writing process, especially through collaboration with others. I want the Writing Center to foster these types of experiences for Wilkes students. I’m already so impressed by the talent, maturity and professionalism of the peer consultants.  They’ve been wonderful to work with and learn from.

Right now I’m reading/watching ….

Currently, I’m reading Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich.  I recently started rewatching the X-Files with my daughter who has never seen it.

People would be surprised to learn that I…..

Went to a fine arts school for guitar during my junior and senior years of high school. I actually went to college at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville for studio and jazz guitar, but I switched to English in my junior year.

If I have a free afternoon, you’ll find me….

Downtown, having a lunch date with my wife.

You may have seen the line “At Wilkes, You Will” in our branding on campus. Please fill in the blank: At Wilkes, I will do my best to support students however I can!

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