Tag Archives: Alumni

~From Communications Coordinator Jill Salahub

Ashley Alfirevic and Cam the Ram

Ashley Alfirevic and Cam the Ram

English major and department communications intern Ashley Alfirevic will be graduating next week. I am incredibly sad to see her go. Ashley has worked with me as an intern doing department communications for the past year. For the past 15 years in the English department at Colorado State University, I have worked with many students – undergraduate to graduate, English majors and otherwise – in various capacities. I have advised, coached, tutored, and taught. More specifically, for the past two years I have worked closely with a small set of communications interns, all of whom have been the best of the best. In my experience, Ashley Alfirevic is in the top 1% of students I’ve had the privilege to work with, and is the best communications intern e-v-e-r.

I wish that we could keep her. The internship we run in the English department is for students who are engaged, self-motivated, responsible, creative, and enthusiastic, with good communication and writing skills to help tell the story of the English Department. Ashley is all of these. As an intern, she’s helped facilitate communication and community with students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the English Department. In her position, she spent most of her time researching, interviewing, attending events, writing, and developing content — both for print and online. She acted as a goodwill ambassador for our department. She was such an exceptional intern that even though typically the internship is only for one semester, we asked her to stay on for a full year, and if I could I would ask her to stay on indefinitely.

Ashley is creative, and was able to express that creativity within the confines of a specific audience and our department’s particular purposes. She had so many good, original, fun ideas for posts, both on our blog and our other social media, way more than we could use. And it wasn’t just that she had good ideas, she was so enthusiastic and excited about the work. She took every assignment I gave her and completed it with care but also included something extra, something special. I could give her any task and trust that she would make her best effort, and that she would consult with me if she was unclear about any detail.

Ashley is compassionate and ethical with her subjects, always taking great care in interviews and at events, and in the pieces she wrote. Various faculty had such good experiences working with her, they requested her specifically for other projects. Through her diligence and curiosity, she taught ME about some of our University’s policies and best practice recommendations. This quality of commitment, care, curiosity, and creativity shows in everything she does – the work she completed for her internship, her thesis, her study abroad, her interaction with classmates and faculty, etc.

Ashley works almost too hard. She was quick to offer to cover an extra event or put together a Humans of Eddy post at the last minute. Sometimes I worried she was doing too much, that she might burn herself out, but she consistently maintained her good attitude and energy. I hope that wherever she lands next, wherever her career and life takes her, that her hard work and kindness is appreciated, that whoever is lucky enough to have her on their team doesn’t take advantage of her diligence and good will, and that her effort is fairly rewarded. May she find a place where what she is good at is exactly what is needed, and she’s as happy to be there as they are to have her.

Ashley was accepted to the Denver Publishing Institute this summer, and has promised us one more blog post about that experience, so we’ll be hearing from her again. In the meantime, I asked her a few questions as she gets ready to go.

 


 

What brought you to CSU?

A call from Louann Reid, actually. I had been looking at colleges outside of the Midwest, trying to explore the country a little bit in the four years that would be available, completely uncertain and anxious about where I would end up. After CSU accepted me, I had a voicemail on my home phone from Louann talking about the English Department. It seemed that CSU hadn’t just accepted me, but wanted me. Incredibly welcomed and relieved, I knew Colorado State was the right choice.

 

What inspired you to pursue a degree in English, the Humanities?

I’ve always loved reading and analyzing texts, so pursuing an English degree just felt like a natural progression.

 

What are you reading, writing? Favorite book or author?

Right now I’m reading From Editor to Author: The Letters of Maxwell E. Perkins. At the moment, I’d say my favorite author is probably Cheryl Strayed.

 

Was there a specific class, professor, advisor, or fellow student who made an impression on you, helped you, or inspired you while at CSU?

Kristina Quynn was phenomenal as my Honors thesis advisor. She helped me push my writing to be the very best it could be, and was a patient guide even when I started to feel overwhelmed with the revision process. She’s also chock full of wonderful insights and stories.

I also have to give a shout out to fellow English major Sarah Rossi. She’s been my best friend and roommate for four years, and I can’t imagine my life at CSU without her.  It’s nice to be able to cook dinner and have a discussion on literary theory at the same time.

I could go on, but I also have to thank Mary Hickey and, of course, Jill Salahub, for their kind and helpful words.

 

How does it feel to be graduating? What are your plans?

It’s very bittersweet. I’m ready to go out and join the work world, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to leave CSU or try my hand at full-fledged adulthood.

I’ll be attending the University of Denver Publishing Institute this summer, which is hopefully the beginning of a long and happy career in books. Then I’ll be moving back to Chicago.

 

What did you learn from your internship experience?

I’ve learned if you’re doing something you really love, then you’ll want to push yourself to do better. Wanting to challenge yourself versus feeling challenged is such a distinct feeling, and I hope the future brings the type of work that makes me want to work even harder.

 

What advice do you have for other students doing an internship?

This job will be really easy and really hard, but not in the ways you would expect. It’s easy because you get to go to cool readings by amazing authors and then write about it, which is basically an English major’s dream. It’s hard because when you’re sharing experiences like that, you’ll really want to get it right. Plus the Department has so many wonderful events that you can’t possibly cover them all, even if you want to.

 


Why is it important to study the Humanities?

So many people have said this before me, and I don’t mind repeating it. The Humanities are crucial in teaching empathy and understanding. They both force and allow you to explore different points of view and challenge your own beliefs.

 

What advice do you have for CSU English Department students?

Go to the readings! I didn’t realize what I had been missing until starting this internship. There are some really wonderful authors there.


 

When you aren’t in school or working, what do you do? What do you love? What are you obsessed with?

In my free time, I’m usually knitting or watching Netflix, or both. I love making dinner or dessert, and I’m obsessed with black tea and chocolate.

 

Where can we expect to find you in five years?

Hopefully you’ll be able to find me working for a publishing company in downtown Chicago.

 

Best of luck, Ashley! We are going to miss you — Keep in touch.

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~Tweeted by intern Ashley Alfirevic on the day of the event

~By Beth Campbell

I strolled into the Lory Student Center that afternoon, drawing confidence from the click of my heels and the swish of my suit’s skirt. My fingers tingled, though whether because of my hot chai tea or my general nervousness, I could not tell. I had never been to a symposium quite like the Rams Leading Rams event, but despite my anxiety when it comes to the unknown, I was looking forward to it. Within a matter of minutes, I was welcomed by very attentive event organizers who guided me to my chosen lectures with smiles. The entire third floor where the event was held seemed to spark with anticipation and hope for the future.

My first seminar was taught by Roze Hentschell, a professor in the English department. She spoke on a topic I had only vaguely considered up to that point – applying for graduate school. I have always intended on some level for my undergraduate degree to not be the end of my educational career as a student, but beyond the occasional daydream or attending MFA readings when I had the chance, I have never really given it the thought such a choice deserves. Dr. Hentschell went over what it takes it get into a graduate program, how to apply, and gave us tips on crafting an excellent application. As intense as the application process sounds, she made it seem achievable. I left the room still scribbling notes on my handout and already drafting a list of schools I would like to apply to.

A little known fact about myself is that while I am someone who will pinch pennies and save money like there is no tomorrow, I have very little idea as to how to actually manage my money. The second seminar was geared toward managing finances, not only after graduation but also in school. David Chadwick Jones, a professional financial advisor for students in the Veterinary College, gave a riveting presentation that covered the basics of managing finances. For someone like myself whose mind instantly shuts down when numbers of any kind are involved, I was able to follow along, ask questions, and finally understand some concepts that have eluded me for years. He touched on very important topics such as budgeting, paying off student loans, and how to responsibly spend your first paycheck. For the first time, I was able to look at my finances and their management, not as a burden but as a tool to succeed.

For my final seminar, I chose what I thought would be something light and mindless – creating an authentic presence on social media. I use social media everyday. Posting to social media is not that hard, nor is making sure all my accounts are similar. Yet my mind was blown. The panel actively discussed using your social media accounts to pursue a job, make connections, and market yourself as a professional. They spoke on allowing your social media to reflect who you are, but still remaining something a prospective employer would not be appalled to see. The panel encouraged dialogue with the audience members, constantly answering questions and clarifying points as the presentation continued. They were clearly passionate about their work, and that passion was contagious.

The keynote address that closed the event was probably one of the most inspiring talks I have ever had the honor of hearing. Before it even began, there were tables of food and desserts waiting for the attendees (always a good sign, in my book). We filled our plates with classy finger food and sipped coffee and ice water as we found seats in the Lory Student Center Theater. We waited with baited breath to hear Joseph Akmakjian, the 2016 Goodwill Ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, speak. He titled his talk “Making Your Dreams a Reality… Because Y.O.L.O.” He told us about growing up with a disability and a limited life expectancy, but overcoming all the doubt to chase his dreams. Hearing him speak was like hearing a shaman or a guru explain the meaning of life. I left that auditorium to rush off to a choir rehearsal right after he finished speaking, but his words continued to echo in my mind and heart.

 

~By Ashley Alfirevic

As graduation creeps ever closer, and lurking underneath the excitement, pride, and nostalgia that will accompany commencement, my stereotypical senior existential crisis has decided to rear its ugly head. Once moving past the more nihilistic questioning – Who am I? What should I do with my life? What does it all mean? – the more concrete, possibly even scarier, questions emerge. What kind of salary should I expect? How am I going to fit into a workplace culture? How can I be a leader in my field? And, perhaps the most terrifying of all, how do I attempt this insanely important thing known as networking?

Thankfully, the CSU Career Center held an event to answer the critical questions that become so urgent before graduation. Rams Leading Rams: Professional Development Symposium for Liberal Arts Students held a variety of meaningful seminars to help students navigate the transition from college to career. The seminars were packed with insights from a network of accomplished and noteworthy alumni, so I’ve summed up my three biggest takeaways from each speech (and the student/alumni mixer afterwards).

 

Session One — Getting What You’re Worth: Negotiating a Competitive Salary
Presenter: Marie Zimenoff (’08)

Low expectations  just prevent you from reaching your full potential. Your talents are worth a lot of money in today’s economy, and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for a salary that reflects it. Here are the concrete tips on negotiating your salary:

  1. Don’t say the numbers first. If possible, wait until you’ve received an offer before negotiating salary. If you’re asked, try to cordially avoid the question or give a range of numbers.
  2. Do your research. There are a lot of helpful websites to give you an idea of salaries for your potential line of work. You can only negotiate well if you’re prepared and you know what to expect.
  3. Work together. Convince the company that you are worth more because of how much you can contribute to them. If they can’t come up on salary, try to work with benefits or vacation days.

 

Session Two — Diversity in the Workplace: Creating a Positive Professional Image While Maintaining Your Personal Identity
Presenter: Aerin Yates (’11, ’15)

Workplaces that have the most diverse minds and ideas will be the most creative and productive. In order to contribute to that diversity, you have to be yourself and let your creativity flow, but in the right way. A Human Resources Manager tells it like it is.

  1. Craft your image. “If you don’t control your image, someone else will,” Aerin Yates told us. Put your best qualities forward from the start, and your new co-workers will learn your true colors.
  2. Hustle every day. Always give your full effort and let your personality shine through your work. You want to people to remember you, and giving it your all will get their attention.
  3. Keep the resume simple. Again, be unique, but let your personality come across through your accomplishments. Aerin shared some horror stories – no pictures, colors, or QR codes, please.

 

Session Three — Tales from the C-Suite: Lessons in Leadership
Presenter: James Iancino (’05, ’12)

Being at the top is hard, but the challenges don’t stop once you get there. If you’ve worked your way up the ladder, always keep pushing forward. People will respect you as an authority and as a thought leader.

  1. Challenge your process. Don’t do something just because that’s the way it’s always been done. If you have ideas for innovation and change in what you do, don’t be afraid to share.
  2. Know what you don’t know. A good leader knows that they don’t know everything, and they’re not afraid to admit it. Take advice from your co-workers, and try to learn from others in your field.
  3. Share your vision. If you have great plans for where your company can go, bring others on the journey with you. Create an image for the future, and ask others what they think it should look like.

 

Student/Alumni Mixer: Networking

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Networking is huge in today’s job hunt, and it’s important to get yourself out there. Don’t worry – I fumbled through the networking process so you don’t have to.

  1. Jump in. It’s intimidating to just talk to a random person, especially if they’re already involved in another discussion. But I realized it’s better than being on the sidelines, so walk up and say “Hi.”
  2. It’s not about you. Don’t ask questions that imply you’re looking for a job from this interaction. Even with good intentions, it comes out a little cringe-worthy. Just make small talk.
  3. Know when to leave. If the interaction is going well but winding down, hand them a resume, shake hands, and walk away. It’s better to leave on a good note than to try and push for a LinkedIn request.

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David Theis
English major, graduated 1989
Chief of Media, The World Bank

David in Brussels this past summer with his wife.

David in Brussels this past summer with his wife.

 

How did you get from your major to the work/the life you have now?

Funny thing about being an English major, in my experience, was always being asked at the time, “Are you going to teach?” This suggested to me that most people had a fairly narrow view of what an English major can become when he or she grows up. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had many a great teacher over the years; however, my aspirations never included being an educator. I had originally thought to go into advertising, but Public Relations – a field I fell into at a tender age – has been a perfect fit, in part, I suspect, because my major focused on writing. By this I mean not only the writing of others, but a lit major must write quite a bit, and often quickly. I was fortunate to have professors at CSU that had a low tolerance for second-rate writing. This raised my game, for which I will be forever grateful. (RIP Doctors Mark and Zoellner.)

 

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?

Working in communications for an organization dedicated to ending extreme poverty and improving the lives of people in developing countries is a daily reward, both personally and professionally. Showing my daughters when I’m quoted in the press is always fun, too. The largest commonality between working in public relations and being an English major is that in both pursuits you have to be able to speak and write forcefully to be successful.

 

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

What DIDN’T I like about the English program? It’s a cocktail party major; you are trained to be charming and clever and to have witty quotes from great authors trip off your tongue. An education in being pithy and droll has little downside. In all honesty, an uncle I admired had attended CSU, and he turned out ok, so I applied to one university. And they accepted me!

 

Do you have a favorite or funny story from your time with the English Department?

I have countless funny stories. A great memory was Dr. Zoellner walking into the first day of American Lit 1914 – 1924 and writing on the chalkboard Ogden Nash’s one-line poem, “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.” He asked, “Who can tell me what this poem means?” A few students hazarded guesses – “It’s more fun to drink than eat sweets” etc. But then Zoellner said, “It’s about how to get laid. Anyone uncomfortable with truths such as this should probably drop this class.” Ha! Bob certainly knew how to shock people. But he was right – that’s precisely what the poem means.

My god, he was a brilliant prof. Taught me how to explicate a novel properly. You probably didn’t want to take the class immediately after his well-lubricated lunches at the Charco-Broiler, but otherwise he was absolutely priceless.

 

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? Do you still keep in contact with your classmates or professors? 

Dr. Thomas Mark was one of the finest gentlemen I have ever met, and he was a wonderful and engaging professor. Dr. Mark was brilliant, inspiring, and utterly charming. I consider myself fortunate to have had him as my advisor and to have struck a friendship with him. Lovely man. I remember once telling Dr. Mark I didn’t know what to take the next semester. He suggested hemlock. I still chuckle as I write this.

And yes, I am happy to still be in touch with dozens of classmates. In the first weekend of December, 1985, two friends threw a party in their dorm room. The next year, they hosted a party the same weekend. The 30th party was held in December of last year. I’ve missed two. Scads of CSU grads come every year. We crank up ‘80s music and dance our faces off.

 


What would you like to tell prospective CSU English Department students?

Don’t let anyone tell you majoring in English will limit your career potential. First, because that’s utterly false – ask Reese Witherspoon, or Stephen Spielberg, or Conan O’Brien, or Michael Eisner, or Diane Sawyer…

Second, the pursuit of a liberal arts education is about far more than making coin. It’s about opening up your mind.


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

Read this: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/23/opinion/sunday/the-decline-and-fall-of-the-english-major.html

 

What are you currently reading, writing? 

I recently read Amsterdam and Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan, of Atonement fame. He has an amazing prose style.

 

You have an hour to spend in a bookstore. What section do you make a beeline to? 

If I’m in a bookstore for an hour it would be in the poetry section. Here’s a tip: the Poetry Foundation has a poetry app that’s absolutely terrific. And free!

 

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

My wife and I go to a lot of concerts. Now my daughters have gotten the bug, too. And I cook quite a bit.

 

Do you have a current photo of yourself we can use alongside your profile?

All my current photos have either my wife or children in them. Darndest thing.

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Felicia Zamora
MFA Creative Writing (Poetry), May 2012
Assistant Director, Beverage Business Institute/Center for Professional Development and Business Research
College of Business, Colorado State University

 

How did you get from your major to the work, the life you have now?

In 2008, the Harvard Business Review online released an article titled “The MFA Is the New MBA” in reaction to Daniel Pink’s New York Times story about the new creative economy, where the senior editor (who has an MFA) argues the benefits of artistic trainings in the workforce. I was in the midst of my program when this article went online, and beyond my love of the program, I completely agreed with the skills attributed to receiving a graduate degree in English. Liberal Arts degrees, in general, prepare individuals on how to think critically, be flexible, embrace criticism, harness relationships, reinvent the box, fill organizational gaps, and grow from failure. This article helped validate what I already knew: my life, both personal and professional, has been shaped by Liberal Arts and English education. This makes me overwhelmingly proud. The perspective I bring to the table, especially in business-oriented programming, adds creativity and value unlike any other. Innovation evolves from different minds working together, and a constant, constant curiosity to learn and develop.

In 2011, I was given an opportunity to transition from academic advising into the assistant director of the newly created Beverage Business Institute and Center for Professional Development in the College of Business. My department offers business-related education to professionals in Colorado and, for certain industries, the entire country. I am in charge of all operations, communications/marketing, event planning, and financial coordination for our department, which only consists of two professionals. The position was offered to me because of my history of staring new programs from scratch and building them into local and national recognitions. My liberal arts undergraduate and creative writing graduate degrees equipped me with the necessary ubiquitous skills to thrive in this highly demanding and multifaceted role.

 

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?

Four very prominent things pop into my mind:

  • Graduating with my MFA. I’m a first generation person of color, and the only person in my entire family to have a master’s degree. Education is a privilege, and many students across this county still do not have the appropriate access and support to achieve their educational goals. This is why having two degrees from Land Grant Institutions means so much to me. The Land Grant mission thrives on educating persons of the state, women, minorities, and the working class… all things that help define me as a human being.
  • In August, I won the 2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize from Verse. This was my first national poetry contest win and it feels amazing! When I started the MFA program I was a mediocre writer, but a voracious learner. Now, I am excited about my poetry and love learning about poetry. I’m working on my fourth poetry manuscript; the MFA program taught me to how to harness the writing momentum, understand that rejection is a component of publication, and to listen to the creative process when writing.
  • In 2011, I won the Jack E. Cermak Advising Award from CSU. I was honored to receive such an award and to read the letters students had written about their relationships with me as their advisor. The MFA taught me how to pay attention. Advising is 90% paying attention, and 10% giving guidance. This simple principle allowed me to be an open and genuine advisor with the student’s best interest as my top priority at all times.
  • While in the MFA, I had the privilege to teach Introduction to Creative Writing (E210). Nothing felt more natural than teaching poetry and fiction. The urge to teach still resonates in my bones. Perhaps this is not an accomplishment, but I definitely see it as one. I grew to be dear friends with a former student in my E210 class after she graduated. She moved out of the US and started a blog on her healthy obsession of birds (while pursuing her massively intense graduate degree). On one of her blog posts, she wrote:I have mixed feelings about the solitude and isolation of the island. Sometimes I miss it because I felt like a wild animal there. A dear friend of mine and one of my favorite contemporary poets (Felicia Zamora) calls it “being a thing.” And if I stay among the land of man-made everything for too long, I do start to feel like I’m losing my “thing-ness.”Being called someone’s “favorite contemporary poet” is overwhelmingly humbling. It’s the best thing anyone has ever said about me. (And…if you happen to ever see this profile, Steph, thank you SO very much. I adore you.) This whole scenario is 100% English Department opportunity driven. I am beyond thankful for it.

 

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

My acceptance into the MFA program at CSU was a very serendipitous affair. I left a position at Iowa State University to take an academic advising position at CSU. I had been contemplating graduate school, and was elated to learn that CSU had such a competitive creative writing program in poetry. Fate took a hand. I am so proud to be a Ram…both as an alumnus and an employee.

I greatly appreciated the MFA program’s emphasis on reading, writing, and high-level contemplations on the academic disciplines of English. You are asked to think, think, think and process, process, process. This type of in-depth work builds more than just one’s ability to read Moby-Dick – it allows personal growth as a writer and a professional. I might also add, reading Moby-Dick in Dan Beachy-Quick’s class did change my life in many, many positive ways. My first published chapbook was titled, Moby-Dick Made Me Do It… enough said.

 

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?

Many individuals positively impacted my experience in the English Department at CSU. However, a few people went above and beyond their regular roles to help shape me into the poet and person I am today… and for this, I am forever grateful.

First, my mentor and dear friend, Stephanie G’Schwind, editor of the Colorado Review and director of the Center for Literary Publishing (CLP), gave (and still gives) me the opportunity to be part of the larger conversation in poetry, demonstrates professionalism to emanate in the writing world, and leads a literary publishing center with a generous heart and a crazy intellectual mind, while simultaneously putting CSU on the literary-map.

Another dear friend and mentor, John Calderazzo, faculty member of nonfiction and literature classes, helped show me how to be a writer across genres, that passion drives writers, to learn from nonfiction as much as poetry, and how to believe in myself as a writer.

Dan Beachy-Quick, my advisor and poetry faculty, inspired me to pursue a life of poetry beyond the classroom, encouraged me to trust the process, and led me through multiple courses that changed perspectives on the ways I see the world. Dan is one of them most humble-geniuses I’ve had the privilege to learn from and work directly with while in the MFA.

Matthew Cooperman, poetry faculty, saw potential in me as a writer long before I ever did. Matthew gave me the chance to build my potential as a poet, challenged me as a student, and made me realize that pursuing the MFA would lead to one of the best accomplishments of my life.

 

How did your CLP internship contribute to your career path?

Stephanie and the CLP gave me opportunities to help shape me into the professional I am today. I remained a volunteer with the CLP even after my internship credits were complete. I’ve been volunteering for over five years now, and I am honored to be the associate poetry editor for the Colorado Review. Stephanie showed me the publication process from editing to completing a book from cost to cover. Understanding the life cycles of publication and planning helped me develop into a more strategic project manager; a skill absolutely necessary in my current career. The CLP was also the first place I became familiar with InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator.

As an assistant director, I use these design programs every day and teach student coordinators and interns how to use them as well. These additional skills have allowed my department to save thousands of dollars a year on marketing, advertising, and communication production fees. The CLP also taught me the internal workings of the literary world, and what it takes to produce a nationally renowned literary journal. In submitting my own poetry, I respect all journals and editors because I know both sides of the publication process.

 

Do you have a favorite CLP memory?

I greatly enjoyed interviewing Rusty Morrison, one of my favorite contemporary poets, for the CLP blog. Not only did a nationally known poet answer all of my bizarre questions about her poetry, she also responded by saying she appreciated the depth of my questions and the intricate read on her poems. What an honor! Again, this was another opportunity to be a part of the larger conversation on poetry.

 


What would you like to tell prospective CSU English Department students?

Studying what you are passionate about will lead to careers and personal fulfillment. Be an English major with gumption. IF you take that leap and decide an English major is your path, consider Colorado State University, especially if you are from Colorado. The faculty, internships, educational staff, and programs will help sculpt your path to success after graduation.

 

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

Alice Fulton said, “It will be new, whether you make it new or not.” Write often and about whatever the creative process requires of you. Don’t be afraid to write about something that has been “written about before”… it all has! But, no one has your perspective, your thought process, or your ingenuity.

During my MFA I realized that I desired the writing life. As I studied, I realized that the writing life, to me, consisted of being immersed in the culture of poetry, and integrating writing as much as possible into my professional career. This sounds simple, but isn’t always. Make writing part of you, if you are a writer. Pursue opportunities and positions where different types of communication can make you satisfied in the workforce as well. While in school, both undergrad and graduate school, take advantage of being part of the writing conversation: go to readings, don’t be afraid to immerse yourself in the reading, ask questions of your professors, and be proud to geek out about English!


 

What are you currently writing?

Currently, I am I in the depths of finishing my fourth poetry manuscript. The unique voice found in these poems emerged largely from the use of limits. Limits in the respect of creating a poetic form to follow which pushes lines, word choice, and requires more from the entire piece. I’m super excited about this manuscript. My first manuscript, Guest, was completed during my MFA. The second and third manuscripts have been written between 2012 and 2014. All three are circulating for publication and have been recognized as finalists in national competitions. As my wise and amazing MFA advisor said about publishing a poetry book, “It can take years.” Knowing this reality allows me to finish a manuscript, and move on to the next project without manuscript-abandonment-remorse. I may have just made that term up, but as my partner says to me, “You love to make up words.”

 

What do you enjoy doing with your free time?

Writing and reading poetry, of course. I love time with my partner, Chris. We both work in beer-related jobs and find ourselves riding our bikes, tasting new craft beers, and learning more about the brewing process. Spending time with my two furry pups (Howser and Lorca), paddle boarding, traveling, volunteering at the Colorado Review, photography, and educating myself in diversity and inclusion areas are also interest that I devote my time to.

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Brittany Goss
Content Creation Manager, Association of National Advertisers (NYC)
MFA: Fiction, 2013

How did you get from your major to the work, the life you have now?

My current day job is in the advertising industry. I write for a trade organization about best practices and new trends in the field. As far as I can tell, writing fiction and teaching persuasive rhetoric for three years is more or less the equivalent of a degree in advertising. When I graduated from CSU’s MFA program I didn’t know what to do. I wanted a job that would use my skills but wouldn’t require too much sacrifice, so that I could still do my creative work. I attended an artist’s residency and met an author who worked as an agency copywriter, and she was so enthusiastic about her work that I was inspired to move in that direction.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments (both personally and professionally)?

Every time I finish a story it feels like my greatest accomplishment to date, just because it’s done. So far I have been most proud to get a story in Joyland Magazine, which led to some fortuitous meetings with other writers who are now my friends. That story was in my MFA thesis.


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

My favorite writing professor from college suggested that I look into the MFA program at CSU, so that put it on the radar for me. And I was very serious about researching programs; I had Kealey’s MFA Handbook all dog-eared and highlighted throughout. What he says about CSU’s program is how happy the students are. You can tell from his tone how implausible it is that a group of writers in workshops could enjoy each other’s company. I applied because I prefer nice people to jerks. It turned out to be true; CSU’s English Department is full of lovely people, and the people were what I liked most about the program.


How did your CLP internship contribute to your career path?

The job I’m in now is all about writing and publishing our own content, and trying to design an experience that’s enjoyable for the reader, so I learned a lot from the CLP internship that applies to my work. I know that it helped tremendously when I got my first job after graduate school, which was in editorial at a publishing house. The internship offers opportunities to play with design, blogging, and social media, which are all valuable for any kind of work in communications. As far as my writing, interning for a literary magazine helped me develop my instinct for good storytelling.

Do you have a favorite or funny story from your time with the English Department?

Leslee Becker is a legend. Every meeting with her was an adventure. I showed up at her house unexpectedly once with a late stack of papers when she was busy gardening, and she dropped everything to offer me a soda and chat.

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? Do you still keep in contact with your classmates or professors?

Everything I read and thought about in Sasha Steensen’s hybrid literature class continues to inspire me. I have been in touch with my classmates and professors, and some CSU graduates also live in New York. Recently, Kir Jordan and I were blessed with a visit from Joanna Doxey, who ventured into the gritty city for Moroccan food and a game of darts.


What would you like to tell prospective CSU English Department students? 

For prospective MFA students, I would say that the MFA is an intensive period of growth for you as a writer/person. Do it because you want that specific experience and not because it seems like the logical next step. It’s a personal decision that should be based on personal desires over professional goals.


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

The wine pours are bigger in Fort Collins. Take advantage.

What are you currently reading, writing?

I’m currently reading Sick In the Head, Judd Apatow’s book of interviews with comedians. I’m still writing fiction and I’m also playing around with theater and screenplays.

What are your hobbies or special interests?

I like to run. I recently completed my first 10K and I see more races in my future.

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Angie Hodapp
MA English: Communication Development, (“Completed my graduate coursework in 2002 but didn’t defend my thesis and actually earn my MA until spring 2010”)
Contracts and Royalties Manager, Nelson Literary Agency

 

How did you get from your major to the work, the life you have now?

My grad-school experience at CSU (more specifically, my internship at Colorado Review and the Center for Literary Publishing under the inimitable Stephanie G’Schwind) led me to attend the Denver Publishing Institute (DPI) at the University of Denver in 2002, where I met fellow student Kristin Nelson. Graduating from both CSU and DPI led to jobs in the magazine and educational publishing industries. Then, in early 2011, I joined Kristin’s staff at Nelson Literary Agency and haven’t looked back. I love what I do!

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments (both personally and professionally)?

Finishing my thesis! Ha! Seriously, though, working with Sarah Sloane on completing that last piece of my master’s degree in 2010, eight years after I finished my coursework, was a joy. Since then, I’ve been writing fiction. I’ve won a couple contests, placed in a couple others, and was even named a 2012 semifinalist in the Writers of the Future contest. But I’ve collected some rejections, too, which is also an accomplishment. Rejections toughen your skin and keep you growing as a writer.

What did you like about the English program at CSU?

I really enjoyed my program, the now-retired Communication Development program, because I had the flexibility to choose courses from the English, Speech Communication, and Tech Journalism departments. I also got to do an independent study in young adult literature and an internship at Colorado Review. So every step of the way, I felt like I had total control over what I wanted to learn. All the courses I chose, regardless of department, synergized to prepare me for my future careers in publishing, writing, and information design.

Do you have a favorite CLP memory?

Stephanie taught me so much about the importance of putting clear systems in place, staying organized, and communicating with a team during every stage of the publishing process. I appreciated that so much and have emulated her systems many times over the years. But what I remember most from my internship there is that she also taught me how to typeset a manuscript. I set the interior of Kathleen Lee’s Travel Among Men, a short-story collection published March 2002. It felt like such a big responsibility! Now I set two or three books a month, and I can’t pick up a book without checking out the design. That experience had such a lasting impact on my current career.

Do you have a favorite or funny story from your time with the English Department?

This isn’t specific to the English Department, but I do remember being late for class one winter day in 2002 because the Olympic torch was being run through Fort Collins on its way to Salt Lake City. I had to park so far away from campus and walk what felt like miles, and it was cold and snowy, and I had to fight the crowds to find a place where I would be allowed to cross College Avenue. I think a lot of classes were under-attended that day.

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’ve already mentioned Stephanie G’Schwind and Sarah Sloane, who deserve millions of mentions for the amazing work they do and their commitment to excellence. Also Gilbert Findlay, who’s retired now; if he’d taught classes in window washing, I’d have been the first to sign up. And Mike Palmquist, whose Writing for the Web workshop introduced me to HTML and information design – both of which I use regularly in my career.


What would you like to tell prospective CSU English Department students?

I really enjoyed my time at CSU and appreciated the variety of courses offered by the English Department. The faculty come from a wide range of backgrounds and specializations, so you’re sure to find an advisor whose academic interests line up with yours. And hey – you’ll be in Fort Collins, Colorado, in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains! A great beautiful town in a beautiful state.

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

Cherish your time in your program. It goes by so quickly! Absorb everything you can – advice, ideas, perspectives – but maintain your own voice, especially if you aspire to be a writer or to teach writers. (Oh, and finish your thesis while you’re still in your program. Going back eight years later to do it is tough!)


What was the last piece of writing you read or wrote?

I just sold a short story, “Jane Doe Must Die,” to Hex Publishers for inclusion in their 2016 crime/mystery anthology, tentatively titled Blood Business. In addition, I’ve recently completed a novel, which I’m polishing for submission, and I’m at work on book two.

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

My husband is a novelist, so he and I spend a lot of time writing together, or reading, or just talking about books. We both love teaching writing workshops at various conferences and serving on writing-related panels at fan conventions like Denver’s MileHiCon and Denver Comic Con. I recently started teaching workshops in writing query letters and writing for the Web at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver. I also take art classes and enjoy experimenting with screen-printing, monoprinting, woodblock printing, image transfer, mixed media…that sort of thing. And I’ve recently started designing books – both for the agency’s authors and for a few select clients on a freelance basis – and I’m having a lot of fun with that.

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Whether you live in the area or will be traveling to Fort Collins for the weekend, we would love for you to join us in our homecoming festivities on October 16th. Come help us celebrate our return to the new and renovated Eddy! Drop by our open house between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on the third floor of Eddy Hall, where there will be a band, tours of the new building, refreshments in the Whitaker Conference Room, and a special presentation at 3 p.m. Please RSVP to Louann.Reid@colostate.edu so we can be sure to have enough refreshments on hand.

In the days leading up to the English department’s “Homecoming Celebration” (October 16th from 2-4pm),we will be highlighting some special memories from our alumni. Here are some special memories about Dr. Robert Zoellnor:  

Paulette Garrison Evans Deutsch (Class of 1967): 

I had Dr. Zoellnor for my Survey of American Lit; Melville and another author; and Steinbeck plus others in the four years that I was at CSU.  He was the professor who taught me how to appreciate American writers, to delve into the topic more thoroughly during discussions, and to write with conviction and support of my ideas.  His teaching has helped me with my career as a middle school English teacher.  Since I began teaching in 1967, I have shared my story of how devastated I was when my first mid term exam was returned with a number of “rough” terms across the front!  I realized that none of my high school teachers had taught me how to be specific in my support.  As a sophomore, I was lucky to receive a C from him.  My junior year, I earned a B, and finally, in my senior year, I was pleased to have an A for his course.  I am fortunate to have attended CSU as I have a strong background in our English language as well as the American writers dating back to the pilgrims!

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Doris Goldsmith Melnick (Class of 1968)

Doris Goldsmith Melnick (Class of 1968):

The memory I will always remember is one of Dr. Robert Zoellner.  I took many classes from him as an English major and there must have been one in my senior year for those of us who were planning to be teachers. I clearly recall him almost screaming at us not to use a RED pen and BLEED all over our students’ papers.  Of course I went on to use a red pen on occasion and always heard his message ringing in my ears.  Sometimes that red ink was needed to get the attention of a few disinterested intermediate students. I am sure I am among many who was greatly influenced by this fine professor and his love of the written word.


To read more memories from our alumni in honor of Homecoming, you can find the whole series here. If you would like to share your own memory from your time with the CSU English department, please send a description of your favorite memory and an accompanying photo to Joelle Paulson at jpaulso2@gmail.com. We’d love to hear what you remember!


 

 

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Yusef Komunyakaa was born and grew up in the small town of Bogalusa, Louisiana before and during the Civil Rights era. He served a tour of Army duty during the Vietnam War, when he acted as a journalist for the military paper, covering major actions, interviewing fellow soldiers and publishing articles on Vietnamese history and literature. Upon his return to the states he turned to poetry, eventually becoming one of the most popular and important American writers of his generation. Yusef obtained his bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs in 1975, an MA in creative writing from Colorado State University in 1978, and an MFA in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine in 1980.

Professor Emeritus Bill Tremblay has known Yusef since he was a student at CSU. In nominating Yusef for the alumni award, Bill wrote:

Early on, Yusef was able to make his poetry out of a fusion between music and magic so that it would be a continuous revelation of the powers that spring from human desires and dreams. The intelligence of his poems reaches back into his formative years when as a child he played beneath the floorboards of his front porch and listened intently so that—as he says in one of his poems about his youth—”I knows things I ain’t suppose to know”—about the mysterious power of the adult world. The speakers of his poems are witnesses to the mystery and power of the spirit world—a world of hoodoo and juju—that is alive and working overtime to generate his extraordinary vision.

Yusef Komunyakaa’s books of poetry include Taboo, Dien Cai Dau, Neon Vernacular (for which he received the Pulitzer Prize), The Chameleon Couch, and the forthcoming The Emperor of Water Clocks (FSG). He has been the recipient of numerous awards including the William Faulkner Prize (Université Rennes, France), the Kingsley Tufts Award for Poetry, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Award, and the 2011 Wallace Stevens Award.  His plays, performance art and libretti have been performed internationally, and include Slipknot, Wakonda’s Dream, Nine Bridges Back, Saturnalia, Testimony, The Mercy Suite, and Gilgamesh (a verse play) with Chad Gracia. He is Global Distinguished Professor of English at New York University.

The College of Liberal Arts Honor Alumnus Award is designated for graduates whose distinguished careers and service to the university, state, nation, or world bring honor to Colorado State University and to the recipient. As the latest recipient, Yusef Komunyakaa will be recognized at Colorado State University in April.

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Whether you live in the area or will be traveling to Fort Collins for the weekend, we would love for you to join us in our homecoming festivities on October 16th. Come help us celebrate our return to the new and renovated Eddy! Drop by our open house between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on the third floor of Eddy Hall, where there will be a band, tours of the new building, refreshments in the Whitaker Conference Room, and a special presentation at 3 p.m. Please RSVP to Louann.Reid@colostate.edu so we can be sure to have enough refreshments on hand.

In the days leading up to the English department’s “Homecoming Celebration” (October 16th from 2-4pm),we will be highlighting some special memories from our alumni. Here is a special memory from alumna Barbara Stimmel Fleming, (BA English 1967, MA Rhetoric 1970): 

Barbara Stimmel Fleming

My father, Les Stimmel, taught at Colorado A&M/Colorado State University from 1929 when he moved to Fort Collins until 1967 when he retired—almost 40 years. A tall, friendly man with a ready smile who wore a fedora over his abundant gray hair, he specialized in 19th-century American literature, mostly existentialists. He was known for his propensity to tardiness (his students used to make bets about how close to the last minute he would arrive for his classes) and his wry, ever-present sense of humor. (His master’s thesis was a study of humor in American literature.) He particularly loved to play with words.

Born to teach, he spent one unfulfilling year as temporary department chair, a position which took him out of the classroom and into having to hire (good experience) and fire (bad experience) staff. He could hardly wait to get back to teaching. His students liked and respected him, for although mild-mannered he held everyone to his own high standards of usage and grammar and one of his strengths was generating substantive discussions.

Whatever talent for writing I have came from him. He wrote essays, short stories, plays, and enough literary criticism to meet the “publish or perish” criterion in the department. One of his plays, If Men Played Cards as Women Do, was performed by the now defunct Town and Gown Theater.

His office was originally in Old Main. How well I remember its high, narrow windows, creaking floors, narrow stairways, and cavernous auditorium. When trains went by everything stopped until they had passed. Classes were suspended, actors froze in place, conversation was put on hold. My father had retired by the time that lovely old building burned to the ground, but he mourned it as did anyone who knew the building’s charms and eccentricities.

Willard Eddy was a colleague of his and a good friend, as were President Charles Lory and botany professor George Lane. My father would be pleased that the Eddy building has been renovated and that his friend’s legacy lives on.


To read more memories from our alumni in honor of Homecoming, you can find the whole series here. If you would like to share your own memory from your time with the CSU English department, please send a description of your favorite memory and an accompanying photo to Joelle Paulson at jpaulso2@gmail.com. We’d love to hear what you remember!


 

 

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Whether you live in the area or will be traveling to Fort Collins for the weekend, we would love for you to join us in our homecoming festivities on October 16th. Come help us celebrate our return to the new and renovated Eddy! Drop by our open house between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on the third floor of Eddy Hall, where there will be a band, tours of the new building, refreshments in the Whitaker Conference Room, and a special presentation at 3 p.m. Please RSVP to Louann.Reid@colostate.edu so we can be sure to have enough refreshments on hand.

In the days leading up to the English department’s “Homecoming Celebration” (October 16th from 2-4pm), we will be highlighting some special memories from our alumni. Here is a special memory from alumnus Robert King (MA 1961):

I was an English major at Colo. A&M 1955-57 and later graduated with a Master’s before going to Iowa’s Writing Workshop as a Ph.D. student. The dates indicate I went to class in “Old Main,” the wonderful stone castle on College Ave.  I can still name many of the professors at that time but the one I would like to mention was Dr. Aurelia Harlan, a figure both friendly and imposing. In a survey course in English literature, she read the opening of Beowulf in Old English, a work and a language I had never heard of. I still remember the resonance of those sounds as they bounced around the high-ceilinged Victorian room. Later, that thrilling introduction helped me get through a year of Anglo-Saxon at Iowa, a requirement that, W. D. Snodgrass told me, pushed him into the MFA program rather than the Ph.D.


To read more memories from our alumni in honor of Homecoming, you can find the whole series here. If you would like to share your own memory from your time with the CSU English department, please send a description of your favorite memory and an accompanying photo to Joelle Paulson at jpaulso2@gmail.com. We’d love to hear what you remember!


 

 

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