Category Archives: Student Success Stories

lindsayLindsay Brookshier
Current Graduate Student and GTA, MA in Literature

I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma during my final semester of my Bachelor’s degree in English literature and women’s studies in Spring 2015 at the age of 27 years old. I was living in Manitowoc, WI and going to school at the University of Green Bay at this time. I had already applied to graduate schools in Colorado when I received my diagnosis. Literally, less than a month later I received the email from Professor Zach Hutchkins informing me that I was accepted for admission to the MA program in Literature here at Colorado State University.

When I found out about the fist sized tumor in my chest (where they located my lymphoma) I was told at my university that I would be able to withdraw for a semester on health leave and return to finish my degree whenever I felt capable. Well, I took that suggestion into account for .00001 seconds and decided to switch my campus classes to online courses that same day so I could still graduate on schedule.

There was no way in hell I was giving up my dream of graduate school by letting cancer get in my way.

I talked with my oncologist and we decided to speed up the time between my chemotherapy rounds in order for me to finish in time to move for the graduate program here at CSU. I managed to maintain my high GPA during my last semester of my Bachelor’s degree while receiving one of the toughest chemotherapy regimens that exists. I received six rounds of chemotherapy treatments from February-May 2015. These treatments were five to six days long while I received a continuous IV drip of five chemotherapy drugs around the clock.

I managed to walk for my graduation a week after my fifth round of chemotherapy and was declared in remission after my sixth round in June 2015. I moved to Colorado for the program here at CSU with my six year old son the next month and I was able to start school right on schedule. I kept a blog throughout my entire treatment that was both a coping mechanism and a way to tap into an underappreciated market of cancer satire.

So currently, I now blog professionally for two young adult cancer organizations called Stupid Cancer and First Descents. One of my greatest passions since surviving cancer as a young adult is to spread awareness and advocate for issues that primarily impact this age group. We are often a gray area with a mess of issues unique to our age and it’s been eye opening working with these organizations to help spread awareness and advocacy.

Stupid Cancer is one of the largest US-based charities that comprehensively addresses young adult cancer through advocacy, research, support, outreach, awareness, mobile health and social media. More information on this cause can be found here: http://stupidcancer.org/

First Descents offers young adult cancer fighters and survivors a free outdoor adventure experience designed to empower them to climb, paddle and surf beyond their diagnosis, defy their cancer, reclaim their lives and connect with others doing the same. More information on this cause can be found here: http://firstdescents.org/

All of my blog posts for these organizations can be found here: https://medium.com/@lindsay.brookshier.

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Former English Department Communications Intern Ashley Alfirevic at her graduation Spring 2016

Former English Department Communications Intern Ashley Alfirevic at her graduation, Spring 2016

There were two final things I wanted to take home from Colorado this summer: a graduate certificate from the University of Denver Publishing Institute (DPI) and a cardboard sign from the summit of a fourteener.  As it turned out, the process of earning those two degrees of cardstock weren’t all that different.

The top is a daunting, idealized prospect. Looking ahead to the end of my journey, I was excited for what might come with a certificate from DPI. I had all sorts of expectations for new friends, reputable connections, and perhaps even job offers. But there was still work to be done, including mysterious manuscripts and advance assignments that I felt a little nervous about starting. I found myself enjoying the preliminary work once I got going, as writing reader’s reports, traveling to indie bookstores, and drafting press releases all provided a fun introduction to the trail ahead. 

You’ll meet a lot of fun, interesting people along the way. DPI provides an automatic introduction to almost a hundred other people who love books and want to contribute to making them, and it’s the most wonderful thing. Surrounded by fellow readers ready with ample book suggestions and the same frenzied determination to find a career in the publishing industry, I felt confident that this was absolutely the right place to be. 

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Ashley at DPI (third from the right), along with some of her fellow participants

Some just seem to have a talent for bounding up the mountain. The Institute also allows for introductions to industry giants. Whether they serve as fearless leaders in the digital age or have uncanny knacks for editing with a subtle turn of phrase, the lecturers are absolutely awe-inspiring. Many of the speakers seem to have those, “I moved to New York with empty pockets and a dream” stories, and they all made them work with perseverance, grit, and a little bit of luck. But as many of them reminded us, everyone struggles on the way to the top. All of them were remarkably accessible and eager to help us on our trek, offering advice, business cards, and free books (and there were a lot of free books).   

The summit is beautiful, gratifying, and uniting. The trail may have seemed a little difficult at times – there’s no shortage of homework and job applications – but it was always worth it. The top puts everything in perspective, and it’s fulfilling to know that the industry wants to create books that have the power to change people’s lives in some small way. I felt proud to be part of a group of graduates that I know will go on to do great things and contribute to making even greater books. 

There are a lot of new peaks around you. I could easily see the other adventures around me, and I felt equipped to handle them. There may not be fifty-three peaks in publishing, but there are a plethora of different jobs, including but not limited to: editing, agenting, copyediting, proofreading, packaging, design, marketing, publicity, public relations, production, sub-rights, law, sales, and bookselling in trade, scholarly, indie, children’s, textbook, digital, and religious publishing. 

You really enjoy the view on the way down.  On the way up, I was focused on the trail ahead; the whole month was an intense crash course in industry lingo and procedures. On the way down I had time to take it all in, enjoy the views, and catch my breath. I learned about the industry through funny anecdotes and crucial guidance, practiced the nitty-gritty skills needed to go into editing or marketing, and took a glimpse into the pros and cons of every role. I met new business contacts who’d be glad to offer a coffee and some wisdom, and new friends I’d be happy to call up in whatever city I land in. Most of all, I confirmed that I want to pursue the beautiful, if chaotic, path of publishing now more than ever.


We are so proud of Ashley and all she has accomplished, as well as so grateful for all she did for us in her year as our communications intern. We miss her, but can’t wait to see where she’ll land. If you’d like to find out more about DPI, contact our internship coordinator Mary Hickey, mary.hickey@colostate.edu

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Kaitlyn Phillips, an English major with a concentration in education and one of the Communications Interns for the English Department this past spring, has been involved with an organization in northern Uganda called Far Away Friends. She has been working with them as the Director for Development for about a year and has also been involved in one of their newest initiatives, Operation Teach. Below, she shares some of her experiences working with teachers and students in Namasale, Uganda this summer.


 

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On the other side of the world in a rural district of Northern Uganda, there’s a pink building with a blue roof. Its rooms are lined with desks and handmade posters; there’s chalk dust on the blackboards and textbooks on the benches and bins full of cars and jump ropes and soccer balls. Early in the morning, students will show up in brown and white uniforms; they’ll walk down a red dirt path, smiling and joking with one another, and — at the sound of Madame Judith’s bell — they’ll begin class for the day.

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This is Global Leaders Primary School in Namasale, Uganda. It is a project of Far Away Friends, a nonprofit focused on ending global education poverty by fostering global empathy in the next generation of leaders. I’ve had the great privilege of working with this organization for the past year, and the honor of traveling with a team to Uganda this summer to see the school and meet the students and teachers that make it the amazing place that it has become.

And it truly is an amazing place. When people care so much about a place and the people in it, the result is tremendous joy; I’ve never seen a place so tremendously joyful as Global Leaders. The students come to school early with smiles, and stay until our principal and co-founder, Collines Angwech, has to march them off the grounds. After lunch they skip rope and play soccer and are just genuinely and joyfully kids; during class they study under some of the most compassionate and determined teachers I’ve ever met.

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One of my favorite moments of the trip was meeting and talking with one of these teachers, Teacher Joshua, a P2 (or second grade) teacher at Global Leaders. Joshua has lived in Northern Uganda his whole life; when he was only twelve, he was removed from his home and relocated to a displacement camp due to the violence caused by the LRA, a rebel group that terrorized communities in Northern Uganda for nearly 30 years. Despite this, he is genuinely joyful and welcoming and kind, and teaches his students with as much love and friendship that he extended to our team during our entire visit.

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These are the moments of the trip I will never forget — the moments of genuine friendship. Like trying on glasses with Sara and Michella, or laughing with Apio Janella because we were taking way too many pictures, or dancing outside the school with all the kids, Jonathan and Smiri shuffling their feet and smiling at each other in their borrowed sunglasses.

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And in the middle of it all realizing that this school exists not just for these kids, but because of them; without their fierce commitment to their own educations and the teachers’ genuine belief in Global Leaders and all its promises, none of this would be possible. None of these moments could ever have happened.

The people I have met here and the places I have been have changed my life. They welcomed me with open arms and let me learn and love and live with them.

I owe this place and these people everything that I am right now. I’m honored to call Namasale a home and the people I’ve lived with there a family.

I am working on paying them back for that.

Far Away Friends’ newest initiative is called Operation Teach. By providing a full or partial sponsorship for one of our teachers, you are ensuring that not only do our teachers receive a fair wage, but that Global Leaders continues to be the tremendously joyful place it is now, and that these kids continue with the education that will equip them to one day change the world.

To learn more about Operation Teach and become a part of the Global Leaders community, go to farawayfriendsglobal.com/operationteach.

 

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Last week (June 13th-21st), Dr. Tatiana Nekrasova-Beker served as the Project Director for a cultural exchange project, titled Territory Identity of Russia and America through the Eyes of Young Generations, carried out as a part of the 2015- 2016 Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The project was conducted in collaboration with the National Research Tomsk Polytechnic University in Russia. Dr. Anthony Becker also assisted in organizing this event and helped to co-host the Russian team during their stay in Fort Collins.

From June 13th through the 21st, students from both universities met for a weeklong seminar in Fort Collins, CO and began compiling information for an online encyclopedic dictionary (in English) of culturally significant places in Northern Colorado. They worked in international teams with 1-2 representatives from both universities.

To see their work so far, visit:  http://peertopeer.colostate.edu/

The second seminar will be held in Tomsk, Russia (August 4-15, 2016), and the students will do something similar, focusing on regions that reflect the uniqueness and significance of Tomsk and compiling information for an online encyclopedic dictionary of cultural places. Activities will include lectures, focus group discussions, visiting unique locations and places in the region, and working in international teams to develop and present their projects.

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(From worldatlas.com)

Check out the following interviews with participants, Kiley Miller and Sarah van Nostrand:


Kiley Miller

Joint Master’s Student in Teaching English as a Foreign/Second Language and French, Spring 2018

What inspired you to apply for this program? 

After taking a class with Tatiana in the fall, I was really interested in getting to work with her on such an interesting project that appealed to so many of my interests: writing, travel, and making connections with different cultures. I love writing, and I kept a blog when I studied abroad as an undergraduate. I really enjoyed travel writing, and I haven’t written in a long time. I believe part of the project description mentioned writing a “place dictionary,” which seemed a lot like travel writing, so I was hooked from the start. As I learned more about the project, I really liked the idea of showing others around Colorado. I’ve been living here for almost a year and I’ve had several friends visit. I love showing them around, and getting to host a group of international students and show off my new hometown seemed like fun. Of course, the chance to go to Russia was also really appealing. Seeing a small town in Siberia through natives’ eyes and getting a chance to build friendships with people in a completely different part of the world was one of the biggest draws to the program for me.

What culturally-specific place did you choose to research in Colorado? Why did you choose this place? 

I proposed Estes Park, which sort of spilled over into Rocky Mountain National Park. When my family moved me out here last summer, we spent a few days in Estes and I fell in love with it. The drive from Fort Collins goes from sprawling plains to a crazy ascent following the Big Thompson, and the view of Estes nestled in the mountains when you finally crest the last hill always takes my breath away. I wanted to share this feeling with our Russian team, to show them the town of Estes, and for them to experience being in the mountains of Colorado. The Stanley Hotel was a big draw too. I love the spooky atmosphere and how the great white building contrasts the rest of the little mountain town down below.

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Participants at Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, outside of Estes.

What culturally-specific place will you be researching in Russia?

My partner, Andrei, chose the Museum of Slavic Mythology. I love mythology, but I realize I know nothing about Russian mythology! I was really excited to see what Andrei had chosen, and I’m looking forward to spending time in the number of museums the Russian team chose. Here, almost all of us chose outdoor locations and activities, which seems very “Colorado” to me. The Russian team chose a number of museums and famous houses, so I think the contrast here will be really interesting to see.

What was it like to collaborate internationally with students from Tomsk Polytechnic University? 

My partner and I started Skyping about a month before the team arrived here in the US. It was difficult at first, getting to know someone just online, but it was really interesting to have a common goal and to help prepare my partner to come to the US. On Skype, we talked about our locations, what we envisioned the article to look like, and just chatted. When the team actually arrived, it was bizarre to have a real life person to talk to! They were all so energetic and eager, and everyone asked great questions about the locations we visited and about American culture in general. The team was so friendly and they were really easy to get along with. When Andrei and I sat down to write about the Stanley Hotel, it was most interesting to see our two perspectives come together. I think we complemented each other really well, too. Andrei is more technologically inclined, which was really handy for the website building, and I was able to help more on the language and writing side of things.

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The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. Photo Credit: Miguel Vieira from Walnut Creek, CA, USA – Stanley Hotel in Estes ParkUploaded by xnatedawgx, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6959186

What was the most rewarding part of this experience so far? 

I feel like I’ve made a lot of new friends in a really short time. We’re working together on a big project, but in just the week the Russian team was here, I think we started to make some really strong bonds of friendship. I think that working toward a common goal made it easy to get acquainted and their enthusiasm for everything that we did was infectious. I think I was as inspired to be in Colorado as they were! It was great getting to spend more time with the American team too. A lot of us have classes together, but there are some students from other programs and having this unifying experience with the American team definitely helped us to bond too.

What are you looking forward to most when you travel to Tomsk, Russia?

I’m eager to meet back up with the Russian team and get to know them even better, and I think seeing their hometown through their eyes will be a great way to do that. They talked a little about Tomsk in comparison to what we saw and did here in Colorado, but talking about a place can never really do it justice, so I’m looking forward to experiencing the city firsthand. I’m really interested in seeing what sets Tomsk apart, in their eyes, and making those same comparisons that they made. I want to try the food, see the museums they have lined up, and even fumble around with a new currency. I love traveling to any and all new places, so just the prospect of traveling again is really exciting. Traveling with a purpose, coming together cross-culturally and solidifying these new friendships, makes the prospects that much more exciting.


 

Sarah van Nostrand

MA in Teaching English as a Foreign/Second Language, May 2017

Participant, Sarah van Nostrand on top of Arthur's Rock

Participant, Sarah van Nostrand on top of Arthur’s Rock

What inspired you to apply for this program? 

I was inspired to apply for this program because of the prospect of traveling to Siberia, a place that I could never have imagined I’d get to in this lifetime, and a place that I admittedly knew very little about. To be given the opportunity to travel across the world to meet and work with Russian university students, learn about Russian culture, and promote cross-cultural dialogue between our two countries is all incredibly inspiring, and made applying for this program an easy decision.

What culturally-specific place did you choose to research in Colorado? Why did you choose this place? 

For my project, I chose to research Arthur’s Rock in Lory State Park. Arthur’s Rock was one of the first hikes I went on when I moved to Fort Collins in the summer of 2014, and the foothills served as a welcome escape from a city that, at the time, I felt intimidated by. Two years later, hiking in the foothills has become a strong part of my Fort Collins identity and a big part of what I think makes this community so great. Colorado is no doubt a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, and Fort Collins in particular is known and celebrated for its numerous open spaces and quick and easy access to the outdoors. I could think of no other place that I’d rather share with our Russian teammates that better embodies what Fort Collins culture is all about than a Saturday morning stroll up Arthur’s Rock.

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Participants climbing up Arthur’s Rock

What was it like to collaborate internationally with students from Tomsk Polytechnic University? 

Collaborating with students from Tomsk Polytechnic University has been a wonderful experience so far, and I feel fortunate that I was able to spend a week working with them here in Fort Collins. Coming from a technical university, all of the Russian students are currently pursuing various advanced degrees in the hard sciences, including Physics and Chemistry. On the other hand, everyone on the American team is pursuing degrees through the English Department here at CSU, either in TEFL/TESL or Creative Writing. I thought the pairing between the tech-minded engineering students that approach their work very systematically and the more artistically-inclined and creatively-minded students was a nice blend of talent that resulted in a great final project.

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Sarah and her teammate Nastya (on the left) at Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

What was the most rewarding part of this experience so far?

The most rewarding part of this experience so far has been taking our Russian cohorts to the different project sites in and around Fort Collins. Seeing the look of wonder on their faces when we arrived at a new location, whether it was the high alpine lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park, plates of sizzling Cajun chicken tacos from Dam Good Tacos, or the view of the Horsetooth Reservoir from the top of Arthur’s Rock, I’m so thrilled that we could be the ones to introduce them to some of the best of what Fort Collins and Northern Colorado has to offer.

What are you looking forward to most when you travel to Tomsk, Russia? 

Of course I am looking forward to reuniting with my Russian cohort and exploring all that Tomsk has to offer, but I am most looking forward to the food! I’ve been googling piroshky recipes ever since I learned I was heading to Russia. Seriously, though, food is culture, and trying foods that are unique to an area is a great and tasty way to experience a new place, which is why it has become the one thing I look forward to most when I travel.

 

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Last week (June 13th-21st), Dr. Tatiana Nekrasova-Beker served as the Project Director for a cultural exchange project, titled Territory Identity of Russia and America through the Eyes of Young Generations, carried out as a part of the 2015- 2016 Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The project was conducted in collaboration with the National Research Tomsk Polytechnic University in Russia. Dr. Anthony Becker also assisted in organizing this event and helped to co-host the Russian team during their stay in Fort Collins.

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Dr. Tatiana Nekrasova-Beker

From June 13th through the 21st, students from both universities met for a weeklong seminar in Fort Collins, CO and began compiling information for an online encyclopedic dictionary (in English) of culturally specific places in Northern Colorado. They worked in international teams with 1-2 representatives from both universities.

To see their work so far, visit:  http://peertopeer.colostate.edu/

The second seminar will be held in Tomsk, Russia (August 4-15, 2016), and the students will do something similar, focusing on regions that reflect the uniqueness and significance of Tomsk and compiling information for an online encyclopedic dictionary of culturally specific places. Activities will include lectures, focus group discussions, visiting unique locations and places in the region, and working in international teams to develop and present their projects.

Ice Cream in Fort Collins with Students from Tomsk, Russia

Participants from CSU and Tomsk Polytechnic University enjoying Ice Cream in Old Town

Check out the following interviews with CSU participants, Jenny Stetson-Strange and Adele Lonas: 


 

Jenny Stetson-Strange (MA in TESL/TEFL MAY 2017)

What inspired you to apply for this program?

The desire to be in a classroom again and teach English to non-native speakers. I thoroughly enjoy building relationships with other people from various walks of life and this inspired me to go back to school and obtain a master’s degree.

What culturally-specific place did you choose to research in Colorado? Why did you choose this place?

The Mishawaka Amphitheatre. It’s unique to Colorado and this year it’s celebrating 100 years. Walter Thompson discovered Mishawaka in 1916 and deemed it a dance / music hall. It has kept its heritage for 100 years. Various musical bands frequent this hot spot throughout the year. As well, the restaurant and venue sit along the Cache La Poudre River in the canyon.

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The Mishawaka Stage (photo from http://www.themishawaka.com/)

What culturally-specific place are you going to research in Russia? 

My partner from Russia selected her place in Russia – a Monastery.

What was it like to collaborate internationally with students from Tomsk Polytechnic University?

I believe the word collaboration is key when it comes to this project. Two countries coming together to work on a single project is special. Collaboration is vital for success in this world and for us to work on a project together is of important significance as it brings unity.

What was the most rewarding part of this experience so far?

Collaborating with my friends from Russia!

What are you looking forward to most when you travel to Tomsk, Russia?

Seeing my friends again, traveling with my colleagues and professors, building relationships with friends, and working on a unique place in Tomsk, Russia.


 

Adele Lonas (Joint Masters TEFL/TESL and Spanish Language and Literature, Spring/ Summer 2017)

What inspired you to apply for this program? 

There are various things, all kind of intertwined/ connected that inspired me to apply to the exchange program. My mother had traveled to Russia (at that point, the USSR) in 1965, and had studied Russian Language and Literature in college, so my first introduction to a second language as a child was to her books in Russian. Similarly, she would tell stories to me of what she saw. The impact of this was heightened by the fact that this was in the 80’s when Russia was still the USSR.

This led to my own fascination with Dr. Zhivago as a teenager (the movie and the book, although the movie was filmed in Spain), which led to a very romanticized version of Russia as being a land of intellectual revolutionaries and endless snowy expanses.

So the idea of being able to go to Siberia, of seeing this dot named Tomsk on a map in the middle of Siberia, just north of Mongolia and Kazakhstan, a place where I would never be likely to have the money to visit, was exciting, to say the least. Also, the fact that the exchange program involved a concrete outcome (the website) really interested me. It seemed like a great opportunity to learn a skill (designing a web page) that could be used in multiple professional situations.

What culturally-specific place did you choose to research in Colorado? Why did you choose this place? 

I chose Soapstone Prairie Natural Area. I had learned about within the first month of being here, and visited, but then didn’t have the chance to go back until applying for the program. It interested me because of it’s rich historical, ecological and recreational role. The archaeological site there rewrote the understanding the human history at the time it was discovered in the 1930’s. And it is an open space–a massive expanse of protected prairie.

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The arroyo surrounding the Lindenmeier archaeological site (Folsom culture) on Soapstone Prairie Natural Area near Fort Collins, Colorado. By Sethant – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4374884

What culturally-specific place will you be researching in Russia?

My partner chose a house/ building famous for it’s architecture (I don’t remember the name of it because various of the proposals are on similar places). It is very beautiful though, because of the latticed and intricate woodwork around the eaves, windows and doors. Tomsk is surrounded by forest, and so is very famous for its woodwork according to my partner in the project (and what comes up on the internet if I google it)

What was it like to collaborate internationally with students from Tomsk Polytechnic University? 

It was really interesting and a positive experience to see how animated and expressive and engaged/ engaging the students from Tomsk were. They were excited about everything, and also very interested in everything, in listening to what we had to explain or tell about the places we visited, in experiencing new food, in the geology and history of everything we visited. In working more specifically with my partner, we each did a separate web page, but supported each other in terms of our varying strengths and weaknesses and just overall advice or suggestions. The fact that we had been skyping with our partner a few times before they arrived, really helped to set the tone for when they came, since there was then very little awkwardness in meeting them and getting to know them. It made meeting them in person even that much more interesting I think.

What was the most rewarding part of this experience so far? 

So far, the most rewarding part of the experience–that’s hard to say, because it’s every aspect of it altogether. Both getting to know the students from Russia and seeing them experiencing Colorado, getting to know the people in my own program, visiting the places (many of which I’d never been to) and learning to build a website about the different places (and seeing the webpages each team designed)

What are you looking forward to most when you travel to Tomsk, Russia?

Going! Seeing the reality of a place that otherwise would only exist as an illusive idea? Encountering and experiencing the reality behind the illusions and ideas we concoct of places in other countries and cultures is always a fascinating experience. The first time I traveled to Mexico and tasted mole, this sauce that is made from multiple spices, chile, chocolate, and other ingredients, I couldn’t even figure out if I liked it or not because it was so different from anything I’d ever tasted. I kept wanting to eat it again, to see if I could figure out whether I liked it or not, because the mix of ingredients was confusing (to taste). I think traveling to a new country and experiencing the culture there is like that, you have to keep immersing yourself to see what it is you’re experiencing and understanding about yourself within that totally new dynamic, based on how all the surrounding details and people become immersed within you.

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CSU professor Dr. Roze Hentschell recently returned from a trip to England after accompanying a group of students to Oxford University and teaching HONR 392/492, “Shakespeare in Oxford” (3 credits). This CSU faculty led summer program was sponsored by the University Honors Program.  Dr. Hentschell and her students arrived at Oxford, one of the oldest universities in the English-speaking world and one of the world’s most prestigious and rigorous centers of higher education, on May 24th and returned on June 21st. While there, students were enrolled in a 3 credit one-on-one tutorial in their major area of study taught by Oxford-affiliated faculty.

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After “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at The Globe in London

Here is an excerpt from their class blog written by Roze on June 11th: 

Quick dispatch from the professor:  This is an amazing group of women. They are smart, kind, savvy, responsible, easy going (an important trait for international travel), and a lot of fun. Not one is an English major, but they read and analyze Shakespeare like pros. It has been my privilege to get to teach them and drag them all over southern England to see Shakespeare plays.

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Getting ready to see an evening play, Taming of the Shrew

We have seen two plays at the Globe in London, Hamlet By Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-Upon-Avon, and Measure for Measure by students from the Oxford School of Drama. They have heard lectures from Oxford Professors Laurie Maguire, Tiffany Stern, and Simon Palfrey. We’ve spent hours during regular class time.  Next week: a field trip to the Ashmolean Museum and the “Shakespeare is Dead” exhibit at the Bodleian Library and our final class in which the students will present their ideas for their final papers. Oh, and they will also keep up with reading and writing for their tutorials. See? Wonder women.

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Atop the tower at St. Mary’s University Church, after class in the Old Library

Make sure to check out their blog to hear more about their adventures in England!

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Five CSU students – the most in recent memory – will be headed to four different continents to study during the 2016-17 academic year, thanks to grants from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. One of those students is Teal Vickrey, a recent alumna from the English Department. Teal will be serving as an English Teaching Assistant in Prague, Czech Republic.

These Colorado State students were selected as recipients of the 2016 Fulbright Scholarship.

Fulbright Scholars from Colorado State for 2016-17 are (from left) Erin Boyd, Rina Hauptfeld, Tomas Pickering, Suzanna Shugert and Teal Vickrey. Photo by Cisco Mora, CSU Photography.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program of the United States, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The CSU recipients are among the more than 1,900 U.S. citizens selected this year on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as their record of service and demonstrated leadership in their fields.

Recipients represent the U.S. as a cultural ambassador while overseas, helping to enhance mutual understanding between Americans and the people in their host country. More than 100,000 Fulbright U.S. Student Program alumni have undertaken grants since the program began in 1948, including four from CSU last year.

Teal Vickrey graduated with a B.A. in Communication Studies and English in May of 2016. Her passion to work with youth began while she was growing up Louisville, Colo., where she loved playing with her little brothers and volunteering at her local library reading with youth in her community. In college she has spent her time volunteering as a Reading Buddy at Cache la Poudre Middle School in Fort Collins and last fall she acted as a mentor for CSU’s very own Campus Connections. She will be returning for her second year as counselor at Rocky Mountain Day Camp  before she embarks on her journey to the Czech Republic in August.

Teal became enamored with Czech culture last spring when she studied abroad in Prague at Charles University. While she was abroad she had the opportunity to teach English at Londýsnká Elementary School. Teal plans to pursue a career in educational leadership upon her return to the United States.

These CSU students were selected as recipients of the Fulbright Scholarship.

The following is an interview with Teal:

You were recently named a recipient of the Fulbright Scholarship and will be traveling to teach in Prague. What inspired you to choose Prague?   

I will be teaching an hour outside of Prague in a town called Vimperk. I first went to Prague in 2014 as a part of the AIFS study abroad program at Charles University. I took a number of literature classes and an even more interesting surrealist film class that I will never forget. I fell in love with the people, the culture, the food, the beer, and the moment I got home I began researching a way I could get back!

What are you most excited about for your time abroad? What are you most nervous about? 

I am excited to become fully immersed in the small town of Vimperk, its people, and its culture. To the point where I will become a regular at the local coffee shop, grocery, and make friends and connections with my students that will make saying goodbye hard.  But what I am most nervous about are the initial introductions and “firsts” that I will endure when I arrive: the limbo between leaving home and becoming a stranger to somewhere new. I guess that is the necessary discomfort and growth that will allow me to transition as a local and have the experience that I am hoping for.

Do you have any plans (career or otherwise) after your time in Prague?

At this time, no. I have a goal to receive my Masters in the next 10 years and get published at least once in the next year, but that is the limit of my “plans” so to speak. I have entertained the idea of becoming a principal and I have also entertained the idea of becoming a screen writer- so no I haven’t decided on anything concrete.

How do you think your degree in English has prepared you for teaching abroad? 

What I found the first time I was abroad was that connecting with the literature allowed me to connect with the culture. Reading “Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka in high school was a wildly different experience than when I read it again in Prague- this time sitting in the same school Kafka attended. Suddenly the culture, the motivation and the setting was tangible and the story was one I could share with those around me.  I plan to connect with my students through common stories such as popular Czech lore, pop culture, news, and as an educator, I  hope to discover the common stories that bond youth around the world.

 What did you like about the English program at CSU? Why did you choose to study here?

To say I took a lot of time picking a college would be a lie. I grew up in Boulder and wanted a change in scenery so I picked the next best thing, CSU. I majored in the Communications Department before finding my way to the English Department to finish up my second major senior year. I was already extremely impressed with the professors and education I had encountered in the Liberal Arts Department, and the English Department was no exception. I felt comfortable connecting with professors on a personal level which allowed me to feel comfortable when stretching my creative boundaries-because I did not fear being criticized or discouraged by professors. Their over all focus wasn’t to teach us one way of learning, or one school of thought but to expand out horizons and allow us to discover the terrain on our own. So no, I didn’t put much thought into coming here but I believe it was where I was meant to be.

Was there a specific class, professor, advisor, or fellow student who made an impression on you, helped you, or inspired you when you were at CSU in the English Department?

I spent only a year in the English department itself, but the teacher who challenged me the most was Mathew Cooperman. He had such an inspiring outlook on education and he designed our capstone in such a way that if we wanted to succeed, we needed to rely on ourselves not the complex system set up by higher education- based on passing a certain number of tests and writing enough convincing essays to get a decent grade. We had to put ourselves in the field and force ourselves to discover the world around us. There was no right or wrong answer; our class was just based on the mere speculation about place and where we came from and it’s where I discovered the most about myself and my values.

What advice do you have for current CSU English Department students?

In the words of Cheryl Strayed and the words I live by…

“The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.”

You can read more about Teal and the other Fulbright scholars here.

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Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri

MFA Candidate in Fiction, 2018

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While getting good grades is vital, I’ve learned it’s the grade I give myself as a writer that has driven me to write, revise, and to craft smooth, well-developed short stories to send into the world, a marker by which to define myself, to sound my “barbaric YAWP over the roofs of the world.”


What inspired you to get a degree in English? 

I became fascinated by creative writing after taking several fiction classes as an undergraduate, and joined a writing group in my hometown (Boise, ID). During that period, I became intrigued by the idea of pursuing an MFA, and taking my fiction to the next level. I knew that writing was driving me intellectually, and I could spend my life pursuing a career as a fiction writer.

Why do you think the humanities are important? 

There is too much of an emphasis on material profits, as opposed to profiting in the sphere of ideas and discourses. Students need to be grounded in a healthy discussion of ideas and principles, to have a sense of their place in the great pantheon of history, of art, of literature. Society cannot function without healthy, intellectual debate, and without freethinkers to challenge problematic assumptions and norms, we are fostering a dangerous climate, driven by conformity and gladiator mentality, a society driven by brutal competition. As Kevin Spacey said in “Horrible Bosses”, “Life is a marathon and you cannot win a marathon without putting a few Band-Aids on your nipples.” Let us put Band-Aids on our preconceived notions, and heal our minds, rather than thinking of writing and life as brutal competition. 

You are teaching E210: Beginning Creative Writing in the fall. What is your favorite thing about teaching? 

The idea of instigating a dialogue about creative writing, and thus leaving a mark on my students. The beauty of teaching creative writing is that it opens itself up to vigorous but civil debate, a debate in which healthy dissent is encouraged, and students can begin to form their own particular philosophies and principles on the subject. I want to get students thinking about all the possibilities available to them, rather than guiding them in one particular direction.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments (both personally and professionally)? How did your experience in the English Department help you with these achievements?

I have had the good fortune to get short-stories (namely flash fiction) published in various on-line journals. I’ve seen the highest caliber work from my cohorts in the program, and have subsequently been driven to better myself as a writer and self-motivator. While getting good grades is vital, I’ve learned it’s the grade I give myself as a writer that has driven me to write, revise, and to craft smooth, well-developed short stories to send into the world, a marker by which to define myself, to sound my “barbaric YAWP over the roofs of the world.” 

What was the last piece of writing you read or wrote? OR, What are you currently reading, writing? 

I recently wrote a story called, “Abide”, about a young woman who is a single mother, posing as the child’s older sister. She is grappling with the ramifications of this lifelong charade, as she contemplates leaving home, and leaving her son in the hands of her autocratic, overbearing father.

What are you doing with your summer break? 

We might imagine faculty hidden in secret teachers’ lounges, plotting nefarious schemes. But the only thing I’ve been plotting is publication, shooting high. With a kind of manic energy, I’ve plunged myself into a regimen of writing, revising, and submitting to top literary journals, including the Holy Grail of them all: The New Yorker. To me summer is a time to challenge myself, to push myself as far as I can go. Every day I submit, I feel an ultimate satisfaction at sending my work out into the world. With each rejection, I send a new piece out, determined to fight on. And I feel confident that I will reach “the unreachable star” to quote a favorite song.

What are your hobbies or special interests, what do you enjoy doing with your free time?

I like to listen to Tchaikovsky and other great classical composers, in addition to my Netflix and Amazon prime binges. I feel like classical music truly induces creativity, and puts me in the proper emotional mood to write, to produce the stories that matter, the stories that induce what Nabokov referred to as “that little sob in the spine of the artist-reader.”

What is something most people don’t know about you? 

I adore Tchaikovsky and consider myself a Romantic, with a capital R. A 19th century Romantic.

What is your favorite word and why? 

Abide. I love the word. The word conveys the mantra of The Dude from my favorite movie, “The Big Lebowski.” It holds a soothing, peaceful connotation, and a signpost by which to guide my daily outlook. The word guides me away from conflict and dwelling on negativity, and into a gentle dreamlike state.

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CSU professor Dr. Roze Hentschell is currently accompanying a group of students to Oxford University and teaching HONR 392/492, “Shakespeare in Oxford” (3 credits). This CSU faculty led summer program is sponsored by the University Honors Program.  Dr. Hentschell and her students arrived at Oxford, one of the oldest universities in the English-speaking world and one of the world’s most prestigious and rigorous centers of higher education, on May 24th and will be returning on June 21st. While there, students are enrolled in a 3 credit one-on-one tutorial in their major area of study taught by Oxford-affiliated faculty.

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Still smiling after a three-hour class on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo outside the classroom at New College.

Students are studying four of Shakespeare’s plays and have an opportunity to engage with them well beyond the page. Students have taken or will take field trips to see performances at the Globe Theatre in London, by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-Upon-Avon, and by actors at Oxford University. Students will also visit London, Bath, and Windsor. In Oxford, students will have access to examples of Tudor architecture (including the spectacular Duke Humphrey’s Library at The Bodleian, known by most as the library of Hogwarts), art (at the Ashmolean Museum), and religion (Oxford was the site of the prosecution and execution of Protestant martyrs).


Before students embarked on this journey, they met during the week of finals to prepare for the trip. “It’s hard to think about the experience of a lifetime when you are in the middle of finals at CSU, but we took a break to gather one last time before we meet in Oxford on May 24th. We went over the “Shakespeare in Oxford” syllabus, assignments, and schedule of classes and activities.” (Quote by Roze Hentschell taken from the Shakespeare in Oxford blog)

 

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Here is what students were most excited about:

 

And what they were nervous about:

 

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After being there a week, Roze posted this update: “We have been in Oxford since the beginning of the week. The students have: settled into their flats, had orientation, met or set up a meeting with their Oxford tutors, had their first Shakespeare class, visited Windsor Castle, been inducted into their colleges (New College or Christ Church), received library cards at the Bodleian, explored the city and its environs, met other students from U.S. universities, and have basically taken Oxford by storm.  Except, they’ve brought the sunshine instead.”

Make sure to check out the class blog to read more updates from the students!

 

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After a very successful inaugural year in 2015, Dr. Ellen Brinks will be taking CSU students to Livingstone, Zambia from May 22-June 11, 2016 to contribute to community education and community health initiatives. For three weeks, they will be taking part in experiential learning and internships through our Colorado State University Study Abroad program (and African Impact). The following pre-trip field report is written by Madeline Kasic.

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As an English education major I originally thought studying abroad would take me to England to pore over the works of Shakespeare, Marlow, Beckett (who is actually Irish), Dickens, and hopefully J.K. Rowling. Studying English literature in its native country would be an amazing experience, and is something I hope to someday have the opportunity to do; but at this stage of my life I want an experience abroad that would offer me a new perspective and help me gain experience towards my goal of becoming a teacher. Unfortunately, no matter how wonderful literature is, and the inexplicable way reading allows us a window into the experience of others, there is something to be said for gaining experience firsthand.

Enter the opportunity to teach and do community service in Zambia. When I first heard of the program I did not know what to think of it. Zambia offered all the experiences I was seeking, but I did not know what I was seeking when I began looking at study abroad programs.

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My realization of how incredible this opportunity might be happened slowly over Thanksgiving break after my adviser recommended the program to me for the second time. I was staying in my uncle’s town house in Frisco, CO where my younger brother was frantically filling out college applications. He inspired me to get my own computer out and start working on finding a study abroad program for the summer. I found myself taking a closer look at the organization African Impact that Dr. Brinks was working with to create her program and something sparked. Here was a program that would help me gain experience in the field of education and take me somewhere I would never have thought to go otherwise. It was the opportunity to help people, become a better teacher, and gain a new outlook on the world.

The next morning, I told my family that I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity, and they were stunned. My parents were comfortable with the idea of me fending for myself in Europe because we had taken a few family vacations there and had lived in France for six months when I was little, making Europe an easy place for them to visualize me by myself. I also have relatives in France so there would be someone relatively close by if I needed help, which helped set their minds at ease. But now I was presenting a very different idea of how I wanted to spend my summer.

My uncle started looking up facts about Zambia on his phone while my parents and aunt began asking me questions about the county and the program. We quickly discovered a couple of facts: I would be in Zambia during the dry season, the Zambian government is relatively stable; Zambia is landlocked and bordered by seven countries; that just outside the city of Livingstone (where the program takes place) is Victoria Falls, one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world; and there was the ever so slight chance that I would see my brother’s favorite animal the Pangolin.

A pangolin. Photo Credit: David Brossard

A pangolin. Photo Credit: David Brossard

The more questions were asked the more excited I became. I was planning a journey that was different from what I was expected to do, and that made me feel like I was making the right choice. I don’t identify as a rebel, but I do believe that the best things happen when we reach for the unexpected. As a teacher, I want to empower my students to think outside the box, and go take the chances they feel need to be taken, making this trip to Zambia a chance to practice what I plan to preach.


My hope is that by teaching and serving in Zambia I will gain a better understanding of what our world needs to successfully continue into the future. I believe that education is one of the best ways to help enable young people to inherit the world and to make better choices than their predecessors. 


After deciding to go to Zambia came the many stages of getting to Zambia. It started with applying to Dr. Brinks’ program. I enjoyed the shock and awe that accompanied my friends’ reactions to my summer plans, and as I looked further into the program I decided to extend the original three week trip by eight more weeks, enabling me to stay with the Zambian class I will be working with for almost their full term.

Then after I was accepted into the program came the academic and physical preparations for the trip. To prepare academically the other students going to Zambia and I read A Thousand Hills to Heaven by Josh Ruxin, Mistaking Africa: Curiosities and Inventions of the American Mind by Curtis A. Keim, The Ponds of Kalambayi by Mike Tidwell and a number of short essays depicting the experiences of aid volunteers in third world countries. And to prepare physically we each subjected ourselves to multiple vaccinations to protect ourselves against typhoid, malaria, and yellow fever.

My hope is that by teaching and serving in Zambia I will gain a better understanding of what our world needs to successfully continue into the future. I believe that education is one of the best ways to help enable young people to inherit the world and make better choices than their predecessors. This applies to me as well as my future students. Through this trip I hope to not only educate myself, but help the youth of Zambia receive an education as well as emerge with a story and example for my future American students of how they can impact the world.

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