Award-winning author mines humor from academic absurdity

As an author and professor best known for satirizing higher education, Julie Schumacher, MFA ’86, is often asked if she’s afraid to go to work. In fact, when the first book in her current trilogy was published, Schumacher’s husband—who, like her, teaches at the University of Minnesota—joked that he was glad they had different last names.

Schumacher has been lovingly-but-brutally roasting the absurdities of academia since 2014, when she published her bestselling epistolary novel Dear Committee Members.

Hailed by Kirkus as an “acid satire of the academic doldrums,” the book unfolds through a series of passive-aggressive recommendation letters penned by her blustery protagonist, English professor Jason Fitger.

The book earned Schumacher the Thurber Prize for American Humor—making her the first woman to win it, and putting her in the rarefied pantheon of such past recipients as former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart and superstar memoirist David Sedaris.

Though Schumacher is careful to point out that she never portrays real people or scenarios, her fictional and highly fraught Midwestern school—aptly dubbed Payne University—has served as a self-deprecating mirror for countless fans.

Read the full story in Cornellians.

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