Acclaimed author Jesmyn Ward will join the Tulane University English Department as a tenured associate professor beginning July 1. Ward, who has been named to the first-ever Paul and Debra Gibbons Professorship, won the 2011 National Book Award for fiction for her second novel, Salvage the Bones.

The DeLisle, Mississppi, native is currently working on her fourth novel, following a memoir based on the deaths of five black men in her hometown. Unlike many authors, Ward doesn’t shy away from the often-controversial topic of racism. She says that she hopes to chime in to the current race-based discussions taking place at Tulane.

“I’d like to add my voice to the chorus of those teaching at Tulane who are already part of this conversation about equality and racial tension,” Ward says. “I hope the discussions we have in our work and around campus will aid us in finding our way toward an answer to the question I’m asked whenever I speak about these issues: So what do we do now – how do we change?”

Michael Kuczynski, chair of the Tulane English department, says that he greatly admired Ward’s writing before he ever met her and is delighted that Ward is joining the team. “It’s great for the English Department, and it’s great for Tulane, and it’s great for New Orleans.”

Ward says that she’s particularly excited for the opportunity to mentor young writers. “I love teaching. I love reading and writing and talking about reading and writing with students,” Ward says. “I love working with student writers to help them revise and polish and transform their work and I love watching students find their voices. It really is very rewarding work.”

Ward received her undergraduate degree in English and a master’s degree in media studies and communication from Stanford University. She then went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts in fiction from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor; was a Stegner Fellow in the creative writing department at Stanford University; and a Grisham Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi.

She has been teaching writing for 10 years at the University of Michigan, the University of New Orleans, Stanford University and the University of Mississippi. She is currently Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of South Alabama.