English, College of Liberal Arts, 2021
Julie Schumacher is a nationally recognized author and deeply respected professor in the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts. She currently serves as the interim director of the Creative Writing Program. Under her leadership, the master of fine arts (MFA) in creative writing at the University of Minnesota has grown to be a nationally recognized program and regularly receives over 400 applications per year. Schumacher is one of the University's most visible spokespeople, and arguably its most famous writer of fiction. Her debut novel, The Body is Water, was a finalist for the prestigious PEN/Hemingway Award, and was translated into seven languages, a remarkable and rare occurrence among debut novels. She is the first woman to win the Thurber Prize for American Humor (2015) for her novel Dear Committee Members, called by the New York Times Book Review “a comic aria of crankiness, disillusionment, and futility.” Each publication of a new piece by Schumacher garners attention from every major national journal and newspaper. Her books for young adult readers have earned numerous awards as well, including a Junior Library Guild Selection, an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults, and an American Library Association “Quick Pick” for Reluctant Readers for Black Box, along with a Best Book of the Year Award from the Bank Street College of Education for The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls. Schumacher’s work impacts audiences far and wide and of all ages. She is a much sought-after speaker for audiences ranging from K-12 classrooms, to the 2019 College of Liberal Arts commencement at the University of Minnesota, to NBC’s Today show. Numerous prominent voices in the American literary scene praise Schumacher's success, saying that she and her writing have opened up new possibilities for fiction. Her colleagues describe her stories as works full of honesty, rare authenticity, and courage.
Schumacher is a passionate teacher devoted to her craft, her students, the University, and to the art of inspiring others. Her students describe her as genuine, full of respect and affection, and as someone who provided pivotal moments in their development as writers. In addition to the demands of teaching, publishing, and frequently serving as director of the Creative Writing Program, Schumacher routinely finds the time and energy to engage her students in independent projects alongside their coursework. She has served on nearly 100 MFA thesis committees on behalf of students who have consistently praised her ability to mentor them with dignity, respect, and her signature brand of humor. Her commitment to her students has been called otherworldly, attentive, articulate, and life-changing. Many of her students have gone on to positions at prestigious institutions, including professor emeritus of English at George Washington University, associate professor of English and creative writing at Trinity College, and professor of English at the University of Houston. Among the awards conferred on her former students are the Guggenheim and Rockefeller fellowships, election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Pushcart Prize, and the O. Henry Award.
Schumacher is one of very few faculty at the University of Minnesota who has won both the Morse-Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education and the Award for Outstanding Contributions to Graduate and Professional Education. She has also been awarded a Distinguished Educator Award from the College of Continuing Education and the Scholar of the College Award, College of Liberal Arts. Schumacher is the recipient of the PEN/Hemingway Fellowship from the UCross Foundation, a McKnight Events and Initiatives Grant, a McKnight Artist Fellowship for Writers, and a Minnesota State Arts Board Grant, among many others.
Mirroring her prolific scholarship and teaching, Schumacher's service to her department and the University is incalculable. She has served as director of the MFA Creative Writing Program for 13 of its 24 years. In 2020 alone, she was chair of the Special Peer Review Committee, co-chair of the Merit Review Committee, and served on at least seven other departmental committees. She was the organizer and emcee for the MFA Program’s 21st Birthday Celebration and First Books Event, has served on countless search committees, and is a tireless champion of the University, and in particular, the Creative Writing Program. Under her direction and leadership, the MFA program was able to acquire the Great River Review, the oldest literary magazine in Minnesota, bringing further national recognition to the program.
Schumacher has created an outstanding body of work, teaching, and service that brings great honor to the University of Minnesota.