Tag Archives: Ashley Alfirevic

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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Michelle Wilk

Michelle Wilk

Michelle Wilk
Working on her MA in Rhetoric/Composition
Associate Director of the Writing Center

[The following was transcribed from a video interview with intern Ashley Alfirevic]

What do you like most about your work at the Writing Center?

I like the fact that I get to work with all the consultants because they are very, very intelligent people and they all have different ways of approaching and talking to people about writing. It’s really interesting to see all the different ways they go about doing that.

I just like working in writing centers in general because you get to talk to a bunch of people about their writing. You hear and you get to read about a lot of different things, and it’s really fun – it’s really fun to read a piece of a PhD dissertation in Biology and you have no idea what’s going on but they’re really, really into it and they’re excited to talk to you about it about, and you are like “yeah, this is really neat,” but you have half an idea what they are talking about.

Do you have a favorite Writing Center experience?

I’m the one who checks the Writing Center email a lot, and I remember very specifically there was one email that we got from a student who was incredibly thankful for our services. She was talking about how she submitted a paper for an undergraduate conference and she got accepted. So it was really, really neat to hear that from her.

What brought you to CSU?

It was actually on recommendation from an instructor an my undergraduate university because I wanted to get a Masters in Rhetoric and Composition and the first thing he said was “Colorado State.” So I applied, and here I am.

Describe Eddy Hall in one word.

Can it be two words? Elementary school-esque – because of the colors, the color scheme.

Who is your favorite author?

My favorite author is probably Margaret Atwood. She’s fantastic. I read one of her books in high school and I immediately went out and got all of her other books, and they’re all excellent.

If you were to give advice to someone coming to the Writing Center, what would it be?

Writing is hard. Writing is absolutely very difficult, incredibly hard, for anybody and everybody, and anybody who tells you that writing is easy is lying to you.

What’s your biggest goal or priority right now?

My goal, my main priority is to successfully defend my thesis so I can go to East Carolina [University] in the fall for my PhD program.

Why is it important to study the Humanities?

Just off the top of my head, I know that a lot of major corporations when asked what they are looking for in job applicants say “written communication skills,” and I think it’s just incredibly important in general to study communication — how people communicate with each other, as well as what some of the ethical ramifications are for specific kinds of communication.

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The Colorado State University Writing Center is a free service open to Colorado State University students, staff, faculty, and alumni as well as the local Fort Collins community. Their goal is to engage their community in conversations about writing; to that end, they provide face-to-face and online consultations for writers in all disciplines working on all types of writing from traditional research papers to electronic texts such as websites and blogs.

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Beginning with writers’ needs and concerns, they use their knowledge and expertise to enhance writers’ understanding of a variety of rhetorical issues, such as purpose, audience, style and conventions. Writing Center consultants can assist writers at all stages of the writing process, including brainstorming, drafting, researching, revising, and polishing. They strive to help writers develop the confidence to make effective writing choices in any writing situation. In these ways, they support the shared goal of writing centers everywhere to help create better writers, not just better writing.

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During the final weeks of Spring semester, Intern Ashley Alfirevic, (who was also in the final weeks of her time at CSU, about to graduate), spent some time in the Writing Center with various staff members, talking with them about what the center has to offer, taking pictures and making some videos. (P.S. We apologize for the background noise in the videos made that day — the Writing Center was hopping!).

Writing Center Director Lisa Langstraat tells how the Writing Center got started.

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The Writing Center believes that writing is not a solitary act and that writing becomes more effective when discussion/conversation surrounds it. The Colorado State University Writing Center is dedicated to providing advice and help in every stage of the writing process. Their goal is to engage the community in discussion about writing by providing face-to-face and online consultations, classroom presentations, and outreach to faculty, staff, and students.

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Writing Center Director Lisa Langstraat talked specifically about the myth that the Writing Center is only for people who aren’t good writers.

One of the myths that often disturbs me about writing centers is that they’re a place where people who are not good writers come. And I think that is really problematic because we see writers who are certainly developmental writers – people who’ve been out of the university for a long time, maybe they’re rusty, or people who are just learning US academic discourse – but we also see people who are working on dissertations and masters theses.

The Writing Center is based upon the philosophy that to become a better writer you need to talk about your writing with writers. And of course, this is what all writers do, right? In my field, when I’m publishing an article in a journal , I get feedback from editors, and that’s the same thing that happens in the Writing Center – we get feedback. So I guess something I would really like to dispel is this myth – that only people who are not strong writers come to the Writing Center. It’s a place for everybody.

Writing Center Associate Director Bruce Shields agrees.

Absolutely. I think that’s what the Writing Center offers – that chance, that opportunity for conversation, to talk about your writing in new ways and explore new ideas, to bounce ideas off of another person, and to challenge yourself as a writer, try to find new processes, new ways of looking at whatever it is you are working on. So that’s applicable to all writers at all stages of the writing process as well. It doesn’t matter whether or not you are new, whether or not you’re comfortable with writing, whether or not you feel as if you are a relatively good writer, you just want somebody to have a conversation with [about your writing], to look at it [your writing] from a new point of view.

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Lisa asked Writing Center consultant Alyson Welker, “do you think this is the same kind of dynamic that happens in synchronous online consultations?”

I do. I think some students who are hesitant to come in to the center actually find that [a synchronous online consultation] is a way to get involved and practice, to get a feel for what happens during a consultation. Sometimes people feel more comfortable with that space in between, practicing, and then they kind of get hooked, “I want to come do this again,” and if they’re close, coming in is available.

Alyson talks more about the synchronous online writing consultations.

While face-to-face consultations can provide more opportunity for conversation with consultants and immediate feedback, the Writing Center understands that not all students can visit the physical center locations during their hours of operation. For that reason, they offer the online draft review queue. Writers submit a draft to the queue, and a consultant will respond in the order in which they receive drafts. Assistant Director Michelle Wilk talks about online consultations.

Writing Center Associate Director Bruce Shields talks about Writing Center consultants.

Wonder what a face-to-face consultation is like? Consultations last for 30 minutes, and in that time we typically discuss the equivalent of 4-5 pages (double spaced) of writing. Using the hierarchy of rhetorical concerns, consultants and writers address issues of audience, purpose, context, focus, development, organization, style and conventions. CSU students can request that an email notification be sent to their instructor outlining the work that was done during a consultation. Face-to-face consultations are open to CSU students, staff, faculty, and the general public.

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Some Writing Center statistics from the 2014/2015 academic year:

  • In 2014-2015, 1609 students used the Writing Center services.
  • In 2014-2015, there were 4730 total consultations.
  • In addition to offering face-to-face consultations, the Writing Center also provides feedback online. In 2014-2015, 1712 of their consultations were conducted online.
  • The Writing Center is a great resource for ELL students. In 2014-2015, 49% of their consultations were with students whose first language was not English.
  • In 2014-2015, 14% of their consultations were with graduate students.
  • In 2014-2015, 10.4% of their consultations were for courses that have a special collaboration with the Writing Center (e.g. BUS300, Psych100).
  • Students visit the Writing Center for help with hundreds of different courses. In 2103-2014, students received help with more than 350 courses.
  • The Writing Center assists writers from many different fields of study. According to their registration data, in 2013-2014, students came from 191 different academic programs across campus.
  • In 2013, international students from 41 different countries using the Writing Center services.
  • 19.3% of registered clients were students from under-represented populations at CSU.

 

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Writing Center Associate Director Bruce Shields had this to say about visiting the Writing Center,

Something I’m always surprised by is how many people return to the Writing Center to use our services, and I think that sometimes there can be that initial discomfort of walking through the door, coming to a new place, new space, but I think that the Writing Center’s always been a warm, welcoming environment, and once people sit down and have that conversation, that it’s not evaluative, there’s no judgment involved at all.

Writing Center Director Lisa Langstraat added, “No judgment at all. There’s just help.”

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Director Lisa Langstraat had this to say about what is so special about the Writing Center.

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Writing Center Associate Director Bruce Shields had this to say about the Course Collaborations service.

I think it’s really cool because it allows for us to take advantage of different genres of writing other than what you would expect to see from the English department, from other disciplines other than the English department. One of the cool things about the Writing Center is that it is a multidisciplinary resource, meaning that we see writers not only from English but from Business classes, from Science classes, from Psychology classes, from Biology classes, from all kinds of different disciplines and backgrounds. We’re always trying to keep an eye open to see what backgrounds and experiences that they’re [students] bringing in to the Writing Center.

So the Course Collaboration Program is an opportunity for faculty to reach out and say “hey, a lot of my students could really take advantage of this resource – what kind of opportunities do you offer for us?” And what we have is a way for us to develop and cultivate a much more direct relationship with faculty from other disciplines. Faculty who are interested typically submit some of their materials, so a lot of their assignments, syllabi, whatever resources might be useful during a consultation. Sometimes faculty give us textbooks that our consultants will refer to, just to get a deeper understanding of some of the conventions of those genres that they’re writing in, as well as a deeper understanding of some of the concepts that they’re going to be working with. That allows us to be better informed when students from those classes come into the Writing Center. We’re approaching their writing from a much more informed position. Right now we have course collaborations from Psychology classes, from Human Development and Family Sciences, from Business writing classes, from Biology courses – a variety of different disciplines.

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New Writing Center initiatives:

  • Synchronous online consultations: Piloting in summer 2016; in effect Fall 2016
  • Greater options for graduate student writers: writer workshops and weekend-long “boot camps.”

 

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Writing Center Director Lisa Langstraat’s advice for students coming to the Writing Center.

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Intern Ashley Alfirevic sat down with Associate Director of the Writing Center Bruce Shields (who is also teaching faculty AND a department alumnus) to talk with him about the Writing Center, what brought him to CSU, the community of Eddy, the importance of the Humanities, his favorite books, and his current goals, (spoiler alert: they include finishing the semester strong and getting ready for a new baby).

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As the semester, and this academic year, comes to a close, I’ve been working my way through my inbox looking for loose ends. What a surprise to find this great piece from our outgoing, graduating intern Ashley Alfirevic on internships and finding work after graduation. Our original plan was to do a whole series about this topic, which is why we held this post back when it was originally written.

~from English Department Communications Intern Ashley Alfirevic

As English majors, many of us are subject to the faux impression that there’s a crisis among our graduates, that after leaving the wonderful world of CSU there will not be enough job opportunities for those of us who chose a major built on our beloved books. The reality is that many companies are searching for applicants with the writing ability, the critical thinking, the creativity, and the interpersonal skills we’ve developed through our courses in creative writing, literature, languages, and education.

CSU has the advisors, career experts, and student experience to prove it. This article may be comprehensive, but it is just a brief sampling of the resources available to help attain internships now and jobs after graduation.

First, let’s take a look at the job statistics for past graduates. CSU Institutional Research and the Career Center put together a PowerPoint recording the “First Destination, Satisfaction, and Success” from a sampling of 2013-2014 undergraduates.

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Over 60% of undergraduates found jobs after graduation. Among that percentage, 85% secured an offer or plans before graduation. Only 20% were still seeking employment and the other 20% had gone on to continue their education.

 

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Plus, the average starting salary from those first time jobs isn’t too shabby either.

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Now, what can you do to make sure you’re among that 60% of the employed Liberal Arts majors? What should you do to make sure you’re in the 85% that has plans set before you put on your cap and gown? Taking the right pre-emptive steps with the available CSU resources can increase your ability to find employment after graduation. Four important factors are maintaining a GPA of greater than 3.0, completing internships, having on campus employment, and making use of Career Services.

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But out of all of those four factors, internships are immensely valuable. They allow you to gain experience, beef up your resume, and figure out what you want to do in the working world. Campus-wide, internships gave students a huge boost in finding employment, especially employment relevant to their majors.

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The CSU English Department conducted an Internship panel earlier this academic year featuring four current students (including yours truly) who obtained internships in their field of study. With internships paid or unpaid, spanning from CSU to NYC, whether facilitating workshops or editing commercials, we had a wide range of experience to offer. If you didn’t have a chance to make the panel, here’s the best advice we had to offer.

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Taylor Heussner – Greyrock Review, NBC Universal, 303 Magazine, F and W Media
Breanne Work – Writing Center, Greyrock Review
Sarah Rossi – Community Literacy Center (CLC)
Ashley Alfirevic – Prime Publishing, Greyrock Review, Dublin Globe, English Department Communications Intern

The panel

The panel

 

What was your internship search and application process like? That is, how did you find the internship and what was the application process like? 

Taylor highly recommended LinkedIn as a great networking tool. Though she knew of the internship through a family friend, networking was key. She went through two very intensive Skype interviews to get the job, but being informed about the network helped her through quizzes and tests included in her application process.

Breanne heard about her internships through Mary Hickey’s office and the English Department Newsletter. She stressed that being aware and glancing through those emails is important. She could have missed the opportunity by deleting it on accident.

Sarah heard about the internship from fellow classmates and her professor. Cultivating connections with the professionals around you is crucial to finding out about good opportunities.

I used online tools and the Education Abroad office for my internships outside of Fort Collins, but my two other internships came through Mary’s offices as well. Scheduling a brief appointment can help with give the resources and information you’re looking for.

 

What were/are some of the most important takeaways from your internship and skills you gained?        

Taylor gained a lot of computer skills working with Photoshop and video editing. Media skills make you marketable in today’s high tech world.

Breanne talked about her enjoyment working with different patrons of the Writing Center. Interpersonal skills are always something to put on your resume.

Sarah works with at-risk youth for the SpeakOut! program, and emphasized that empathy, compassion, and understanding are hugely important when working in groups.

I found that learning a new skill – like search engine optimization – makes you especially appealing to employers, especially when you’re creating web content.

 

What did you find to be challenging, unexpected, and/or surprising? 

Taylor initially felt daunted by all of the other interns, who had tons of experience. Since then, she’s worked even harder on her credentials to be competitive on the East Coast.

Breanne said it can be disheartening to have a bad editing session with a patron, as people won’t always listen. You have to be prepared for the good days and the bad days. 

Sarah talked about always being flexible in the workplace, and to always be prepared for changes.

I found that a lot of content jobs are now tied in with social media. No matter what you specialize in, you’ll probably have to work on connecting with your social media audience.

 

How did your degree work prepare you for the internship? 

Taylor discovered that her poetry work really helped her to be creative and bring different perspectives to the table while making commercials.

Breanne found that her editing skills were a great asset in both her internships.

Sarah’s work with lesson plans and teaching skills prepared her to facilitate workshops with youth.

I love writing for a specific audience whenever I’m creating content. Every paper I write helps me figure out how to do just that.

 

What advice can you offer to current English students who are considering an internship/have not yet completed one? 

Taylor said there’s no downside to doing an internship. You get great experience and great skills that will make you more marketable when looking for future jobs.

Breanne said to look around the department and see what the opportunities there are. There are usually quite a lot of them!

Sarah talked about going above and beyond the job expectations. Impress your supervisors and good things will come out of it!

I talked about how there are so many new jobs emerging in our field, especially since we are moving towards an emotional age that values our skills.

 

For more information about internships, Mary Hickey serves as our English Department Internship Advisor. She has a wealth of resources and internship opportunities to help you figure out the best moves for your future. If you’re looking for something out of state or want to get into a specific industry, set up an appointment with the Career Center (Katie Russo specializes in Liberal Arts). You can start using the Handshake tool, which pulls internships from tons of different websites to help find the best options for you.

The English Department website has a new and improved feature to help you navigate your internship search and experience. Apply for internship credit and check out quotes from previous interns.

Start looking at your options, and get your future started!

 

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~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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~From English Department Communications Intern Ashley Alfirevic

Cover of the latest edition

Cover of the latest edition

The last few weeks of my senior year have been filled with nostalgia for CSU, a calm fondness and bittersweet assurance that just as I finally understood all the ins and outs of the English Department, I’d soon be leaving. And as a former editor of the Greyrock Review, I thought I knew just what this year’s Release Party would entail: a little bit of mingling beforehand, selling books with an outdated credit card carbon copier, and readings from a brilliant new batch of authors, with a few returns from the last issue.

Nostalgia can also be hampering, and the present rarely resembles the past. The changes that have taken place for the Greyrock Review have been amazing for the editors, authors, and readers, but not so much for the former editor who declined to rush over on the assumption that mingling and an outdated carbon copier would delay the actual start time.

When I arrived at Wolverine Letterpress and Publick House, the room was packed to the brim, the journals nearly sold out, and the readings already underway. As I noticed how this Release Party had diverted from ours, it was so spectacular to see the changes this year’s editorial team had made. The crowd seemed to have doubled, maybe tripled in size, as had the number of authors featured. The sleek new copies had an updated format and gorgeous design. And, thanks to a strengthened affiliation with ASCSU, the journals were now free to students, eliminating the need for outdated and cumbersome carbon copiers for credit card purchases.

As I stood in the threshold of the doorway, the downstairs music from the Publick House mingled with the spoken words of former classmates and acquaintances whose insightful writing I had admired and envied, and nostalgia blended with an equally wonderful reality.

A former classmate from my creative nonfiction course read her short story “Petrichor.” With lines like, “golden, but dulled in the diffused light of a cloud-laden, late afternoon sky,” her voice sounded just as it had when she would read lines in workshop.

Another read, “Small Lipstick,” a piece we had discussed all together. Hearing where she honed certain images or paragraphs with lines like, “Her body weakens, her mind festers,” made the ambiguities all the more mysterious and poignant.

One more from our class read “Song.” A poem filled with lines like, “where buds, blossoms, and broken stems are buoyed by equal eyes,” it so gorgeously expressed the zest for life and incredible kindness that accompanied all of her writing and critique.

A fellow editor from last year read her poem “Decomposition.” Seamlessly combining beauty and decay, lines like, “the weeds swelter in the noon-day heat. I wonder if I were to lick the stems, would their dirt coat my tongue?” brought back fond memories of our poetry fundraiser.

Upon my return home, I couldn’t stop turning the pages of the new Greyrock, filled with both unfamiliar authors I would not have the chance to meet, and ones I had always felt in awe of but had never quite gotten to know.

Nostalgia can be dangerous when it constitutes what you think will happen next. But being surrounded by such passionate authors, editors, and classmates, I couldn’t help but be in the present in those moments. CSU is filled with so many talented thinkers and writers that must be appreciated while they’re here, before they’ll have to be relegated to memory.

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~From English Department Communications Intern Ashley Alfirevic

Leslee Becker

Leslee Becker

Name: Leslee Becker
Title: Professor of English
Program: Creative Writing MFA Program

 

How would you describe your work in the English Department?

It’s not that different from everybody else’s. It’s teaching, committee work, and in Creative Writing – for me anyhow. I think my colleagues see the same way – much of our work is reading short stories and novels. So it’s like, “Oh, this is wonderful.”

 

Yeah, it doesn’t sound like work if it’s doing things you love.

I had somebody visit me onetime, and I wanted her to shut up so I could get some work done. I think she was feeling sorry for me. And she kept leaning over my shoulder when I was trying to read this short story [that a student wrote] and then I’d turn a page and she’d say, “No! Don’t do that. I want to go back and re-read this part.” And then I was trying to put comments on and I said something about the dialogue and the scene, and she said, “No, that’s all wrong! That’s fantastic dialogue.” She, I think, envied me.

And I’m teaching a literature course right now and I love it. It’s something I’ve never taught before. It’s an E370 – American Lit in Cultural Contexts. And we’re doing it under this umbrella heading that includes celebrities, popularity, myth, violence, scandal. The reading that I’m giving the students and the papers that they’re doing, some of them are meant to probably exercise some things that are brand new for students: writing letters to writers, imitating a writer…

 

That actually sounds really interesting. I’ve never heard of that in a literature course. I’ve always kind of envied the creative writing side of that.

Oh, well there was a student presentation today on Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, and we had to write an opening line from that character’s point of view and pass it to the next person. By the time it came around – there were twenty students in the class – somebody had done something so funny and written about where to get donuts. It turned into the evil character in the story just trying to find a good Mexican burrito. I loved it.

 

So what brought you to CSU?

Well, a job description that I read. I can’t remember how I found out about it, but the chance to teach in such a prestigious MFA program… I didn’t know anybody, but I knew Stephen Schwartz’s work and read his stories and I loved them. And to tell you the truth, I didn’t want to move. So it was an unusual interview because supposedly I wanted to stay back in California with my friends. And then I was so charmed by everybody in the department here, plus I had meals with students, went to potlucks. And everything I saw then is how it is now. I better just stop there, because otherwise it’ll get dark by the time we finish [this interview].

Leslee Becker talks in her living room, January 25, 2003.

“Leslee Becker talks in her living room,” 2003.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I have to say – and I really mean it – interacting with students and my colleagues. I think I came to school moaning today, getting up at four. I was just dragging today and then low and behold, [I had] that student’s presentation in a class and then [I was] talking to a student after class, getting to know more about him. And my colleagues too, when I come in, there’s something so genuine and accepting about the people, our quirks, and they tolerate it.

 

Why are the humanities important?

I’ll tell you, I always think when somebody asks why the humanities are important – it’s not that I feel defensive – I think, “Where’s that question coming from and why?” And there might be some sort of false idea that what we do is sit around and, you know, chat about books and fictional characters and everything else.

I have to steal from people. “You cannot get the news from poetry, but men die every day for lack of what is found there.”

I had never thought of that word “humanities” before. I would think of movies, theater, art, as having something mysterious happen to me. Whenever my friends hear me get highfalutin about this, I say, “Something just happened. I watched this movie and it just affected me.” Has it ever happened to you, when you look up from the page, and oh my god? Someone’s just said something that’s affected you. I like being affected.

 

What inspired you to pursue a degree in English?

To tell you the truth, I was absolutely lost and I wasn’t going to go to college. I grew up in this small town, really backwater. We didn’t even have a guidance counselor. And I stupidly, without any background in theater or drama, thought that I wanted to go to New York and study acting and go on the stage. And a man at the school who took on the job – I think he was a basketball coach – took on a role of trying to guide people during the day. And he said, “Have you thought about college?” And I said, “No, I’m going to go to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.” And he said, “Well, just to be on the safe side…”

So I thought theater and English sometime around my sophomore year, and with this particular teacher we were reading Faulkner and Melville. I was pretty stupid about both writers and he liked that. Every time I’d say something, he’d say, “That’s so fresh and original.” I was responding from passion and I just loved it.

 

In terms of some sub-careers, I’ve heard that you’re designated as the Hall Monitor of Eddy.

It’s a role I took on because I really wanted to have a belt that said, “Hall Monitor.” And sometimes I’ve gone down the hall and it looks like I’m checking to see if people are in their offices. I have a pass to go to the bathroom.

When I was first in college in dorms they had hall monitors. Did you ever hear of such a thing? Oh, it must bring up stuff for people, cause sometimes I’ll walk down the hall and go, “Hall Monitor!” And people… [She turns quickly to her desk and types to demonstrate.]

It’s something I call myself. And I never got a badge or a belt or anything.

 

Maybe that’s something we’ll have to fix. I’ll make a note of this.

You think there’d be power as a teacher, and there is. Probably like my colleagues, I do not like the power it has when it comes to grades and how it’s going to affect students. So this is kind of a silly way to exercise it. Without, I hope, hurting people.

Professor Leslee Becker back on duty as Hall Monitor after the remodel

Professor Leslee Becker back on duty as Hall Monitor after the Eddy remodel

 

And I’ve heard you are also the English Department Movie Maven.

When I first came here there were very few theaters. One time I sent out an email, and the reactions were amazing saying, “Thank you! Thank you!” And all I was doing was recommending a movie. And then people started to ask me, “What have you seen lately?”

And I haven’t done it for a while, and I actually haven’t seen a movie in a long time. I thought that last year’s movies were pretty meh – no matter what they say at the Academy Awards. Maybe it’s a confession of how much time I spend watching Netflix picks and things like that.

I do remember recommending a Coen Brothers movie called A Serious Man. And it was really about a teacher facing tenure and facing much more. It was done with their humor and it was so incredibly funny and bleak. Some people were walking out of the theater when it ended saying, “What was that all about? What a waste of money.” But there was some man in the back, and he laughed every time I did. So in a way it’s like having company, but I don’t have to sit with them and put up with their noise.

 

What’s on your movie list right now, out of curiosity?

Oh, that’s interesting because I’ve got The Revenant up there because of that director. It has more to do with that director, to see what he’ll do.

Some of the people won’t watch the movies I recommend because they think they’re going to be very dark, always set in Eastern Europe.

Oh, I know the movie I’m dying to see. It’s Son of Saul. It won the best foreign language movie this year.

 

By the way, I’ll have to take a picture of your office. There’s so many fun things in here.

[Gesturing to a picture of a cat] That’s from the Clinton’s. You can write to the White House and ask for pictures of their pets. You get one, if you’re lucky. Somebody must have a job in the White House answering mail from the pet’s point of view. But I remember composing the letter saying, “My little friend says hi” – I don’t know what I was trying to imitate – “and would love a picture of Socks.”

Leslee's office, a treasure trove

Leslee’s office, a treasure trove of fun things

 

lesleesoffice03

 

Are you working on any special projects right now?

Yes, I’ve been working on a novel for a long time. Novels – that would be a first for me. I thought I had finished it about three years ago. Thanks to colleagues here and Judy Doenges and EJ Levy and getting it to some places in New York that really let you know what’s wrong with stuff, [I’m revising].

Something I’ll never do again is have a kid as a protagonist. But this past summer, I made a major change to the beginning of it. I keep going back to it because I can’t let it go, Central City, about a bus driver taking people to Central City to gamble. Not a lot to go on, you might say. I like to write about jobs that I don’t have or know anything about so that I can learn about them. I might have goofed a lot. I set it back in the past so I wouldn’t have to deal with cellphones and that kind of thing.

I’m going to go back to it because the secondary characters, the people on the bus, are more colorful than the main character. I’m not sure if she has a history of kindness towards her ten-year-old son, and that’s one of the more controversial parts of it. She’s kind of referring to her son a lot, I think, to get sympathy that she doesn’t deserve. I never thought of it as taking a risk. It was one of the first things people reacted to. She’s driving the bus. So I think there’s more suspense about what’ll happen to the son, so what happens to the woman I don’t think is interesting. But she meets an odd man with an odd job on the bus, so you’re expecting a romance.

 

Do you have a moment in the classroom that stands out as the most memorable?

It goes back a long way. In one of those big literature classes, there was an especially shy young man. He stuttered a bit. I’ll just say they all had to do presentations, and I probably worried too much when his was coming up. He latched onto that Hemingway story, “Big Two Hearted River.” Boy, he brought in his fishing equipment which had been handed down through the generations, and told us all about fly fishing and looked at lines in the story. It was, for me, an opportunity that I don’t know if we get that much to really shine, to bring out something that maybe people don’t know about us. There was a whole change in his demeanor. There was a prize for favorite presentation and the students voted his. It was just the enthusiasm, the story. I think in that class we had also done Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It, so that young man connected with it. That should be the story about the humanities, actually.

 

What’s your favorite thing to teach or your favorite thing about teaching?

It’s listening and hearing other people’s responses and being absolutely inspired. It comes from the students who see something that I’ve never seen before. Or when we’re in Creative Writing Workshop, it’s how they encourage other students. It comes out in a spirit that is really wonderful to watch.

Leslee at the recent department retreat, which she helped plan

Leslee at the recent department retreat, which she helped plan

 

What advice would you give a student taking a class in the English Department?

Count your blessings, lucky child.

 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

I could quote Queen Victoria, but before Victorian women got married, the advice they were given was, “Close your eyes and think of England” (laughs). I never got that advice, but it’s kind of funny. I don’t know. But that was the advice that maidens got on their wedding night in England. And I think it could apply to lots of things. Whenever you’re in a bad, place – not in your car though, don’t do this – close your eyes and think of England. God only knows what that would conjure up.

 

Who or what inspires you?

What I admire about CSU students is they’re open. They’re not jaded. Most of them, lots of the students I’m working with this semester, are working forty hours a week. Many of them are first generation college students and I was, too.

And my colleagues. Louann Reid inspires me. You’re inspiring me right now.

 

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

I’ve gotten a couple of awards from CSU for service and teaching and I’m really proud of those. And one year, I was actually selected to give the commencement to the College of Liberal Arts. There were all these parents out there and I thought, “Does anybody listen to these?” People really do.

Dean Gill and Leslee Becker, receiving her award for being selected John N. Stern Distinguished Professor

Dean Gill and Leslee Becker, receiving her award for being selected John N. Stern Distinguished Professor, 2015

 

What are you currently writing or reading?

I’m reading a novel called Mr. Splitfoot by contemporary writer Samantha Hunt. I was intrigued by the setting because whoever had reviewed it said that it was using an upstate New York setting. And in my novel I’m using the Adirondacks. I wanted to just read this novel and actually, it’s very funny. It’s my treat. Late at night, when everything is done, there’s a certain time that feels like it’s okay to indulge.

 

When you’re not working, what do you do?

Weep (laughs). Oh, I don’t mean to be so glim.

I like fishing but I haven’t done it. And the fishing surprises me, because I’m not really a patient person. But something about getting out there with other people. Actually, I go alone and other people talk to me.

 

What don’t your colleagues know about you?

I tell everything. But most of my colleagues here would not know that I dated someone who worked in the White House.

 

I won’t press further, but I think everyone’s going to be very intrigued.

I know, and they might ask me questions and think, “My God, what administration? The Eisenhower or Truman? Roosevelt?”

 

What is your favorite word and why?

Evening. I love the sound of it. Evening. It feels southern to me. But during one of those big moments when I was in college when things were coming together, a professor had us read “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” And then I heard a record of T.S. Elliot reading it. It was really kind of nasally (she does an imitation). It’s just – evening.

 

Which people – living or dead – would you invite to dinner?

Elizabeth Bishop, Fran Leibowitz, Helen Mirren, and I’d like to invite Kafka and his former fiancé. I’d be scared to meet James Dean.

 

Why would you be scared to meet James Dean?

I was so young. This might surprise people – in our little town the movies hadn’t even come there yet. And everybody has these highfalutin ideas what he represents. I just remember thinking, “Boy, I wish I could look like that.” And I don’t even know what that meant, being like him. Was I already infatuated with the idea of somebody who would die at age twenty-five? I haven’t been able to explain it.

Vintage Leslee, looking very James Dean

Vintage Leslee, looking very James Dean

 

What’s one thing you dream of being able to accomplish in your tenure at CSU?

I’d like to publish the novel that I mentioned and I’d like publish another story collection.

 

I have to ask about the boxing gloves.

I wish I could tell you a big story behind them, but it’s something I like the looks of.

lesleesoffice

 

 

 

 

 

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Professor Roze Hentschell

What were you working on while on Sabbatical?
I was working on my book, tentatively titled, “The Cultural Geography of St Paul’s Precinct.” I also finished an article for Early Theatre, submitted final page proofs for an essay in The Oxford Companion to the Age of Shakespeare and worked on promotion study abroad experience I will be leading this summer,

What did you miss or not miss while you were away?
I wasn’t really away, since I was hiding out in an office in Aylesworth writing, so I popped into Eddy every once in a while. I did miss casual hallway conversations, but despite my deep affection for my colleagues, I did not miss committee work.

What are you working on now?
I am writing the final chapter of the St. Paul’s book and am also writing a proposal for the book to send out to publishers.

Can you tell us about the Shakespeare summer course in Oxford that you are organizing?
Last summer I was sent to Oxford learn about setting up a summer course for CSU Honors students and in the year since, we have worked with International Programs to get it started. I will be taking the first group of student this May. 10 students will be taking a 4 week, 3 credit experiential Shakespeare course with me, in which we will see plays at the Globe in London, by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-Upon-Avon, and by Oxford drama students. We will also have field trips to Bath and Windsor and will have several well-known Shakespeare scholars come speak to us. In addition, the students will take a 3-credit independent tutorial with an Oxford professor in their specialized field of study. None of the students are English majors, which I hope will change in future years. I am beyond excited for this opportunity.

You and Ellen Brinks have both worked with the Honors Department to help create English-focused study abroad opportunities. Can you tell us a little bit about working with them?
The Honors Program is very keen to expand the opportunities for study abroad experiences in summer. Many honors students don’t feel that they can take a whole semester off, so summer is an ideal time to get a study abroad experience. Once we decided to go ahead with the Oxford program, CSU’s amazing International Programs office has taken over the business side of things.

Roze Hentschell discussing a text with her E630C: Special Topics in Literature-Theory and Technique Studies - Space and Place in Literary Studies graduate class

Roze Hentschell discussing a text with her E630C Space and Place in Literary Studies graduate class

After having served as Assistant Department chair, has your advice for students taking a class in the department changed?
I will only reiterate what I said before: take classes in areas outside your comfort zone and outside what you think you are interested in. Those are the classes that can change your life! Also, don’t wait until the last minute to register because it drives the assistant chair crazy!

What would you want a prospective student to know about the Literature program?
The literature program is packed with internationally recognized scholars who are also caring and energetic award-winning teachers. The courses offered are carefully designed to expose students to a vast array of literary genres, historical periods, and critical methodologies. I wish I could sit in on all of them!

Have there been any big developments since your last faculty profile?
Alas, no.

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