Jack Fersel specializes in Canadian literature, and teaches technical writing at UL. ultoday.com spoke with him recently.

Tell us about yourself.

Well, I've taught at the University for 31 years, I'm an instructor of English. I teach technical writing, advanced grammar, freshman composition, sophomore surveys of American and British literature, short fiction and the novel, and an occasional humanities course. So I've taught a variety of courses over the years.

I'm active in a number of areas, Canadian studies is one. We have the UL Canadian Studies Committee, I've been chair since 1990, and have been active in the field both regionally and nationally. I was the co-founder of the Southern Association for Canadian Studies about 5 years ago. I have also worked on the program committee for ACSUS conferences, the Association for Canadian Studies in the U.S. The Association comprises Canadianists from all areas, business, literature, arts, economics sociology, the full gamut.

In 1993, UL hosted a regional meeting of the Southwestern Association for Canadian Studies. We hosted over 110 scholars, from Canada & the US, who read over 90 papers. We brought in some very prominent names from the field.

Surprisingly, even though there's a strong interest in Francophone & French in southwestern Louisiana, we haven't been all that keen in setting our sights on Canada. It wasn't until Kathleen Blanco went up to Montréal, that anyone talked about promoting this area to Canada as a tourist destination for French-speaking people. That was one of the reasons that the Québec Delegation office left Lafayette in 1988. It was founded here in 1966 and had a staff of 5 at one point, but then it dwindled. Their focus was on trade, and we weren't doing much in that area. Because of Kathleen's background in tourism, she's done quite a bit to get Louisiana in French Canadian publications.

I teach an introduction to Canada every other year in Humanities. I invite in colleagues from the Canadian Studies Committee, as well as people like Carl Brasseaux and others. It's a broad introduction to Canada. Only a few of our students understand how the Cajuns are connected to Canada. Many people have no idea why the music group Beausoleil is so named, they don't know about Joseph "Beausoleil" Broussard.

Until recently, the Louisiana history schoolbooks had only one paragraph about the Acadians, even though they're one of the founding groups of this state. That's one of the reasons I study Canada.

What is your area of research?

Primarily, contemporary English Canadian literature.

Despite the fact that there are only 35 million people in Canada-- about the size of California-- it has a rich literary history, especially since the middle of the 20th Century. In the 1960s there was an explosion in literary nationalism.

Who are some authors Americans would recognize?

Margaret Atwood, for one. She's a novelist, essayist, poet. Alice Munro is a short story writer, she appears in The New Yorker several times a year. The Lives of Girls and Women is probably her best-known collection of short stories. They're a series of linked stories, that is, different stories about the same characters.

Also W.P. Kinsella wrote the novel Shoeless Joe Jackson, which became the movie Field of Dreams.

You head up the Technical Writing program.

I don't so much head it up, but I've taught it since 1981.

So you're the old dog.

Yeah, Harry Bruder and I have taught it the longest.

Tell us about Technical Writing.

It's a required course for engineering, pre-med, computer science, and criminal justice majors. It s one of the most practical English courses you'll ever take. It's taken primarily by juniors and seniors, it prepares them for communicating their professional content knowledge. I can't teach them about engineering, but I can tech them to present themselves effectively to their colleagues, so that they are valuable players in their industry. A student can have a 4.0, but if she can't communicate her knowledge to others in the business, she won't survive.

Some engineering professionals have said that communication skills were the #1 ability desired from college graduates. Engineers need to communicate with supervisors, employees, customers, regulators, the public, everyone.

So we teach them about tech writing, and we teach them some business writing, too: letters, reports, etc. They're trained to be precise and diligent in their professions; we train them to also be precise and be diligent in conveying information.

Anything else people should know about you?

In 2003, I was named the Outstanding Teacher at UL. In 2004-2005, I was also the International Vice President of Phi Beta Delta Honor Society, and I've been the faculty sponsor for the Society at UL since 1995.