Essays from soldier-students to be focus of e-book at Wayland

July 5, 2011

PLAINVIEW – A simple class assignment for one Wayland Baptist University has morphed into an electronic book featuring essays by active-duty military personnel sharing their experiences. Frontlines, as the book has been titled, is the brain child of Dr. Deborah Kuhlmann, associate professor of English and a full-time professor in the School of Languages and Literature who teaches writing courses for WBU through the Virtual Campus.

Kuhlmann said the book, which was released in monthly installments beginning on July 4 in conjunction with the Independence Day holiday, was a natural extension of the work she was seeing from students who are serving literally around the globe.

“I loved the fact that my students hailed from places all around the United States and the world, and I loved Wayland’s mission and initiative to bring its traditional academic education to its many and varied campuses via cyberspace,” she recalls of her attraction to the job, which she began in July 2009.

“That meant that many of my students were in the United States armed forces. My own background did not include military experience for myself or my own family, so I was really not prepared for how much I would learn from my students. I soon discovered they were stationed in Alaska, Hawaii, Texas and many more bases all around our country. Some were at bases in Europe. And then, some were deployed to war zones, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Some were spouses and family members of those deployed. They all wrote personal narratives, and they moved me,” she added.

As she read the essays from her military students and families, Kuhlmann said she became aware that much of what she was reading was history they were living on a daily basis, a different perspective than what she was seeing on the TV news. She suddenly felt compelled to share these voices with others outside the class, hoping to broaden the perspectives of current traditional students and others without any military ties. Kuhlmann approached Dr. Cindy McClenagan, dean of the School of Languages and Literature, about a publication using the essays. She saw the potential in a vehicle in which “Wayland could both pay tribute to these men and women as well as offer a collection of essays that could make visible and vivid the realities of military life and history in the 21st century.

” McClenagan was excited about the venture, which they named Frontlines. Kuhlmann began collecting the essays to be featured, along with release forms, photographs of the authors and their biographical information. The first installment is titled “Old G” and is written by Varnell Johnson, a mental health technician with 26 years of service in the Air Force. “I loved Dr. Kuhlmann’s idea from the get-go, but I was unsure how to make it all happen. However, when Teresa Young (Wayland’s Director of Public Relations) suggested an online journal followed by a print collection, it all clicked,” McClenagan said. “I can’t wait to honor our student-soldiers by sharing their creative works and patriotism with others.”

The book is being designed by the Office of Public Relations and will be housed on the home page of the School of Languages and Literature. Readers can find each month’s installment linked through the cover image on the site on or around the first of each month. After the electronic publication of the twelfth installment, the university will have the entire volume of essays published in print format and available for purchase shortly thereafter. “Our hope is that this service by Wayland to honor the students who themselves serve and sacrifice or love someone who does will only continue to expand and grow over time,” Kuhlmann said. The book can be found online on the Wayland Web site at, then clicking on “Academics” and “Schools” to find “Languages and Literature.” On the Languages and Literature homepage, the cover image (on the lower left corner) links to the PDF file. For more information, contact the school office at (806) 291-1100.