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Distinguished Faculty

Robert Self 

Professor Emeritus, English

Robert Self

Robert Self joined the Department of English in 1969 as an assistant professor and earned his Ph.D. from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 1970. In 43 years of service, his contributions to the department, the college, and the university have been varied and far-reaching. Whether teaching and mentoring students, or developing unique opportunities for learning, Dr. Self has devoted his life to nurturing the talents of others. His generosity as a mentor is often mentioned by people who say they owe their careers to Dr. Self’s guidance. 

Dr. Self’s enthusiasm for the subjects he taught in American literature and film inspired his students. One wrote: “In a perfect world, every student would have Dr. Bob Self as a teacher.” Colleagues cite his devotion to the developmental writing program for CHANCE-admitted students and his guardianship of the curriculum as prime examples of Dr. Self’s commitment to students. He was instrumental in developing NIU’s popular study abroad experience, Media and Culture in Ireland, and taught in the program for fifteen years. In 2006, he established a scholarship to support students in the program. 

Dr. Self introduced film courses and co-founded the Master of Arts degree in Literature and Film, an interdisciplinary program that examines the relationship between traditional literature and the cinema. Its modern perspective helped establish film as a legitimate form of literature at NIU. As a Senior Fulbright Scholar to Thailand in 1992 and 1993, he helped to establish a graduate curriculum in literature and film studies. 

During his 12 years as director of the First-Year Composition (FYComp) Program, Dr. Self developed a sense of community that is still evident in those who teach the thousands of NIU students who enroll in FYComp every semester. His ability to collaborate with stakeholders across the university effectively integrated FYComp with other programs. Instructors and graduate students universally praise his efforts to improve their teaching through applied experiences in classroom pedagogy. 

In 1993, Dr. Self secured a grant from Apple Computers to coordinate the integration of computer-assisted instruction into the university’s core-competency program in writing. He then designed a faculty development program to facilitate teaching a web-based curriculum in networked computer labs. These efforts helped establish NIU as a leader in bringing technology into the humanities classroom. 

In addition to his scholarship on American literature, Dr. Self is also a nationally recognized authority on the work of Hollywood director Robert Altman. His research on Altman’s films has appeared in numerous journals and book collections and has been published in two books:  Robert Altman’s Subliminal Reality, and Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller: Reframing the American West

Dr. Self was also the director of graduate studies for many years and served as interim chair and as acting associate dean for the Department of English. In his many years of teaching and research, Dr. Robert Self has left a laudable legacy of service to the college and university, to his field and, most importantly, to his students.  


by Shelley Korth