Catherine Hackney
English Major (Literature) with a Business Administration Minor
Graduated Cum Laude May 2012


Why did you choose to study English at CSU?

My sister went to CSU seven years before me. When I was in middle school and high school I was able to visit her in Fort Collins with my parents and quickly realized how beautiful and full of opportunities the city was. Then as I got closer to the age of applying to universities, my parents told me to choose a major that I would enjoy and not to worry about what kind of paycheck it would get me when I graduate. That way studying was not a chore. I took their advice and loved every minute of my time at CSU and in Fort Collins. And learned the income really does follow when you are doing what you enjoy.

Where are you now? What are you doing?

I currently work in the Denver Tech Center at Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), a national professional association for medical administrators. I have been with MGMA for about a year. I began in an assistant role but was promoted after just a few months to Membership Engagement Coordinator. In my position I act as liaison between MGMA and state affiliates across all 50 states, including over 100 local affiliates. My work with the MGMA affiliates ensures that they have the resources to do all that they can do to help further the medical practice management profession. I help in planning conferences where members and nonmembers of MGMA come to learn practical leadership and job skills. Also, I assist in managing an online networking community where over 9,000 members are active.

How did your major prepare you for the work, the life you have now?

English literature turned out to be the best major I could have chosen. As an English major I was allowed a large number of elective classes, which I took advantage of. Simply by majoring in English, I believe a person is taught how to be a critical thinker, well-rounded, and best of all, you are taught how to learn. My ability to enter a new environment and learn new skills is really the best asset I have, not just at my job, but for life in general. So many doors are open to me that I can choose and change my path as I desire.

Please share a favorite memory from your time with the English Department.

My favorite memory with the English Department was when I was a sophomore sitting in Professor SueEllen Campbell’s office feeling uncertain if I had chosen the best major for me because I was struggling to understand the theory being taught in her class. Professor Campbell talked to me about the possibilities that come along with an English degree, then I remember mentioning that I had read Paradise Lost on my own the winter before and she said, in that case, I was exactly where I should be. And she was right. I never again questioned my decision and am very thankful for the support and guidance that I received in the English Department.

Was there a specific class, professor, advisor, or fellow student who made an impression on you, helped you, or inspired you when you were here?

Professor Barbara Sebek. Professor Sebek was endlessly enthusiastic and challenging, bringing out the best in her students. I intentionally took a number of classes with her because of her energy and her ability to get me to appreciate writing that I did not previously understand (such as Shakespeare – not my personal favorite, but I have a true appreciation for him now). She was always encouraging, helpful, and available for her students.

Tell us about the internship you did while at CSU.

While at CSU I completed two internships. I completed a third the summer after graduation. First, I worked on, what was called at the time, the “A” literary journal. “A” showcased student writings and art and was published by the English Department. This internship lasted the duration of my junior year. For the literary journal we submitted our resumes and the advisor chose which position each person would have. I was given the job of overseeing advertising and fundraising. I was hoping for a more editorial position, but was not disappointed in my experience with the business side of producing a journal, and was happy to be able to also help with editing and layout.

During my second internship, with Wolverine Farm Inc. I was able to explore my journalism skills. Wolverine Farm produces a quarterly Fort Collins community newspaper and regular literary journals. This publisher is a nonprofit that receives funding from grants and from revenue generated by a used bookstore in the back of a local coffee shop. While working here I worked in the bookstore, interviewed members of the community for newspaper articles, and helped to select and edit submissions for the literary journal. This was a very unique and fulfilling experience.

Finally, just after graduation and immediately following my time with Wolverine Farm Inc. I began a paid summer internship with Interweave. Interweave is a publisher of do-it-yourself/craft magazines and eBooks. At Interweave I did a number of different tasks for the jewelry team. I was a proofreader, a mail clerk, social media poster, and organization specialist. I created reports, wrote material descriptions, acted as customer service rep for contributors of jewelry submissions, and even got to make some of the jewelry myself. I enjoyed my time with Interweave so much, it showed in my work, and I was asked to stay a few months longer than the regular internship term.

What did you learn from your internship experience? Did your internship impact where you are now?

I would say that each of my internships has impacted each job I’ve held since I completed them, including the internship that came next. Each one was similar due to my interest in publishing, but each taught me very different skills that carry over into my current position. Even though I am not working in publishing as I thought I would, I am with an organization that I had never even considered in the past. And I know that the skills I learned while at CSU and in my internships have helped me shine at work. Also, I know my internships helped me to realize my love of working for an organization with an admirable mission. As long as I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I will love going to work in the morning.

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

The best thing you can do is complete an internship while you are a student. Once you graduate, it gets much tougher. Kudos to you for being on the right track! CSU has so many resources to help get you into a great internship. Use those resources to their fullest extent! There is no way for an internship to be a waste of time. All it does is help you grow in your career and looks great on a resume. You might even be lucky enough to be hired after the internship.

Why is it important to study the Humanities?

The humanities are important to keep alive because without them, there would be very little progress or creative thought in the world. To continue moving forward as a species, we have to learn to be multifaceted learners, understand the past, and open our minds to possibilities for the future. Without the humanities the world would be rather stagnant, and not a very fun place to live.

What advice do you have for CSU English Department students?

You chose a good major. Now to find out what you want to do with it. English majors do not only have to become professors and writers (as everyone assumed I wanted to be when I would say I am an English major). I have held positions where I worked with grant writing, television commercials, magazine publishing, healthcare, big corporations, smaller nonprofits. There is a whole world full of interesting careers to consider for which an English major is ideal. An internship (or several) is a great way to explore and find a path that fits you best.

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

I enjoy reading fictional novels and ancient epics every once in a while. I also love to ride my bike on the Cherry Creek and Highline trails, hike or snowshoe in the mountains, and attend every Oktoberfest our state has to offer!

 Any other news you’d like to share with us?

I just bought my very first home. It’s a small but fitting condo near my current place of work. The process has been an exhilarating step for me to explore my maturity, independence, and freedom. I wouldn’t be where I am now in life, three years after graduating from college, if I hadn’t taken complete advantage of all the opportunities that CSU has to offer.

If you are a current student interested in learning more about internship opportunities, please contact Mary Hickey, English Department Internship Coordinator, at for more information.

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Kaya Chiba was at CSU this past year as a visiting scholar, and also received her M.A. in TESL/TEFL at CSU. Even though she returned to Japan last week, before she left she was kind enough to answer some questions about her time here.

Sakura on Mt. Fuji at Kawaguchi Lake, Yamanashi, Japan (image by skyseeker)

Sakura on Mt. Fuji at Kawaguchi Lake, Yamanashi, Japan (image by skyseeker)

You are an English teacher at Toyo University in Japan, but currently at Colorado State University (CSU) as a visiting scholar, (where you also earned your M.A. in TESL/TEFL). Did you return to Japan after receiving your M.A. in TESL/TEFL and then return later to CSU? Had campus or the surrounding community changed much between your time here as a student and when you returned?

Well, actually, I had to go back to Japan for work before receiving my MA, so I finished my thesis in Tokyo. During that time, I came to CSU on and off to meet with my advisor, Dr. Flahive to ask for his advice, and every time I came to campus, I saw new buildings being built. Not just the campus, but also the town itself seems to be growing larger and larger. I am quite impressed!

Can you tell us a bit more about being a visiting scholar at CSU?

When CSU is in session, I audit classes with other graduate students with the permission of professors. I have my own research project, but learning in class is a great opportunity, because it expands my limits and understanding of the areas that I am particularly interested in. In addition, with longer experience as a teacher, I can digest materials better now by connecting theories and realities better. As the only Japanese native speaker in class, I sometimes offer insight about Japanese and Japanese culture. This makes me realize that speaking the language is one thing and knowing about it is another.

How would you describe your teaching style, your philosophy?

Many of my students in Japan learn English through formal instruction only, and the purpose of learning English for them is mainly to pass an entrance examination to college. They know English is a tool for communication and want to be able to use it, but many of them have to focus on mechanical aspects of English for the exams. So, what I strive to do in my college classes is to let them know they can actually use English to express themselves by writing and talking about themselves. And I also strive to provide them with opportunities to explore different ways to learn English so that they can find the most suitable ways for themselves. Studies suggest specific strategies to learn a foreign language efficiently, but because of different learning styles and individual differences, it is impossible to prescribe certain strategies as the best for my students. Learners themselves have to find what is good for them. What teachers can do, I believe, is suggest what tools are available for learners to use. Of course, I teach technical aspects about English, but I see myself as a supporter for my students’ life-long learning.

What special project are you working on right now?

I am currently interested in vocabulary acquisition. Many of my students are used to memorizing many words and phrases for tests, which are usually multiple-choice. So, their use of vocabulary seems to be rather inadequate for communication primarily due to the lack of pragmatic knowledge. Since I want my students to be autonomous learners, I am currently seeking to find better ways to teach vocabulary for practical purposes, as well as to provide tools that learners will find suitable and useful for autonomous-learning because it takes a lot of time and effort to be able to use a foreign language.

What do you miss most about Japan? What will you miss most about Colorado when you go back?

Thanks to the great environment here, I don’t miss much about Japan. If I have to pick one thing, that would be raw fish. On the other hand, I will miss a lot about CSU and Fort Collins, the people and nature. Everyone is very friendly and helpful. I work in Tokyo, which is very convenient and exciting, but too crowded. People in Tokyo are not unfriendly, but I will definitely miss the people in Fort Collins.

What have you learned about teaching and research while at CSU that you’ll be taking back with you?

Although I am fortunate to work in a career I love, I don’t have much time to reflect on my teaching in Tokyo. Here, learning in class and talking with graduate students and professors has offered me an invaluable opportunity to consider what I have been doing as a language teacher. I was able to decide on my next research focus and project to do and probably more importantly, I think I will return a more supportive teacher now after interacting every day exclusively in English. I relearned how to use English for communication.

What do you hope we have learned from you?

I am fortunate to have met great graduate students in the classes I’ve audited, and I have made some good friends, which I hadn’t expected before I came! It is difficult to say if there is something you have learned from me, but it is important for American TESL/TEFL students to know and see that there are also non-native English teachers who are as serious about teaching English as native English teachers. We may not have the same intuition for English as native English speakers, but we have a lot of insight into what difficulties and frustrations English learners can have, and we share an interest in how intriguing English language is.

Finally, I’d like to say how grateful I am to have been at CSU again, and I wish everyone good luck on your study and research!

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Joe LaFond
English Major (Writing Concentration)
Graduated December 2013


Why did you choose to study English at CSU?

When I was a junior in high school, I had a teacher who insisted that I transfer from her English class into AP English. At the time, I really had no desire to switch from my current class because it was high school, and I wasn’t necessarily looking for a challenge. After a little coaxing I ended up switching into AP English, and I’m very glad I did. Though I knew that I liked English and everything that goes with it (reading, writing, speaking, etc.), I found that I LOVED English and was fairly good at it when I was forced to challenge myself in AP. When it came time to start visiting and applying to colleges, I wanted to stay in Colorado, so I visited CU and CSU. I guess I just felt more at home in Fort Collins on the CSU campus than I did in Boulder. My brother was also going to CSU at the time, so that helped push me towards CSU.

Where are you now? What are you doing?

Currently I am working for the CU School of Medicine on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora (ironic—I know). I am the Benefits Assistant in the office of Graduate Medical Education. In a nutshell, I help administer health and dental benefits to the (medical) Interns, Residents, and Fellows that are in various training programs in the School of Medicine. It’s a fine job, but I am mostly excited about the writing I have been doing on the side. On top of my 9-to-5, I am also a freelance contributor to The Rooster magazine, and I do freelance blogging for two different websites. I write primarily about music, specifically electronic and local music, and that has been beyond satisfying. I get to attend concerts for free, and I get to interview a bunch of artists that are coming to town—it’s pretty awesome. I’ve been really lucky to have so many opportunities. Right now, I’m just working on building up my portfolio, making connections, and trying to pay the bills.

How did your major prepare you for the work, the life you have now?

I think the most valuable skills I took from being an English major, at least in terms of preparing me for entering the workforce, are critical thinking and analyzing skills. My current job requires a really sharp eye for detail, and it requires me to wade through a lot of information and pick out the things that are important or that affect me and my work in some way. Critical thinking skills and being able to think outside the box to solve problems creatively are definitely the most important skills that anyone could have as he/she enter workforce. Regardless of what he/she studied in college or what he/she plans on doing for work, critical thinking and problem solving skills are paramount. Outside of my working life, being an English major taught me to see below the surface of things; to look, listen, examine things carefully; to find the beauty and excitement in the little details of life that usually go unnoticed.

Please share a favorite memory from your time with the English Department.

I’m not sure I have one particular memory that sticks out as the best, but I look back fondly on my time as an English major. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but nowadays I love thinking of all the times I would cozy up in bed with a stack of books next to me and nothing but time (usually between the hours of 11 pm and 4 am) to read. Without being interrupted; that doesn’t really happen anymore (mainly because I can’t stay awake past 10 pm). I miss walking around campus and people watching. I also really enjoyed my internship. But perhaps the most important memory that I have is when I switched my concentration from education to writing. Looking back, it wasn’t necessarily a great time for me because I was experiencing lots of inner turmoil about switching from education to writing (which was somewhat riskier in my opinion). In the end, I know that I made the right choice, but I do sometimes wish that I were in a classroom every 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 here?

Where do I start? Just about all of the professors that I had were pretty amazing. Perhaps those who made the greatest impression on me were Carrie Lamanna, Lisa Langstraat, Sarah Sloane, Michael Boatright, Kathleen Kiefer, and Pam Coke. I owe these people a BIG thank you! Some of my favorite (or at least most important classes) were: Reading & the Web, Writing Online, Principles of Literary Criticism, Writing & Style, English Language For Teachers, Advanced Composition, the Rhetoric of Sports, and Communications and Pop Culture.

Tell us about the internship you did while at CSU.

In my fourth year, I was an intern at Bailiwick Press, home of the Aldo Zelnick comic novel series. While I was at Bailiwick, I helped with various tasks while Karla (author), Kendra (illustrator), and Launie (graphic designer) were busy working on the latest book called Hotdogger. I contacted youth literature blogs and websites to get the word out about the new book. I participated in editorial meetings and helped brainstorm ideas for the story. I helped maintain the Aldo Zelnick website. I even helped write the back cover summary for Hotdogger!

What did you learn from your internship experience? Did your internship impact where you are now?

I learned a lot from my internship experience. I think the most important thing that I learned was that I had in fact made the right choice by choosing to pursue a career in writing. I learned that a writing career is possible, but it does require patience, time, and hard work. Before my internship ended, Karla gave me the best advice that a young writer could get: “Find someone who will let you write for them. Chances are that you won’t get paid for it immediately, but the experience is priceless.” That advice has had a huge impact on where I am today. Even though I don’t get paid for most of my writing, I do get some cool perks every now and then (free concerts, meeting artists, etc.), and I have been able to make really valuable connections that will help me in the future. Plus, having some published writing is invaluable as I try to take my writing career even farther.

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

The same advice that Nike gives everyone: Just Do It. That’s the first step; internships and the experience you get with one are a game-changer when you start looking for other jobs. My other advice is to be open-minded and eager to work and learn. I would also recommend staying in touch with your internship supervisor as they can often help you network with other professionals and jobs. Also, I would recommend that you try to get in with Bailiwick Press—really fun experience and great people to work with.

Why is it important to study the Humanities?

Because there are too many people in the world that think studying the Humanities and liberal arts is pointless. Math, Science, Economics, Business, Technology—those fields helps us understand how the World works. But fields in the Humanities and liberal arts help us understand the people that we share the World with. Those are equally important understandings if you ask me.

What advice do you have for CSU English Department students?

My advice to English students—and any soon-to-be graduates for that matter—is something that I wish was more clear to me when I graduated. The time immediately after you graduate college is by far the strangest, most stressful, exciting, and (sometimes) disappointing time in your life. Chances are that your dream job is not waiting for you right after you graduate, so don’t expect it. Searching for a job that fits you is difficult, time-consuming, and stressful; most likely, you’re going to end up doing a job that isn’t a good fit for you—everyone does. But this is also one of the most important times in your life; it’s when you really find out who you are and where you want to go—it’s all up to you! That said, my advice is to STAY POSITIVE AND CONFIDENT. Life won’t hand you anything; go out and make things happen for yourself because that’s the only way that you will get to where you’re trying to go!

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

Shockingly, I love to read and write in my free time. I wish I had more free time because I end up doing more writing than reading, and I have like 100 books that are waiting for me. I also love spending time with my beautiful fiancé and our friends. I am addicted to live music, and I spend a lot of time going to concerts and discovering great new music. And, of course, I am guilty of the (not so) occasional Netflix binge, but I recommend finding a better use for your time.

If you are a current student interested in learning more about internship opportunities, please contact Mary Hickey, English Department Internship Coordinator, at for more information.

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The sky over Ingersoll, image by Jill Salahub

The sky over Ingersoll, image by Jill Salahub

  • Dan Beachy-Quick participated on a panel on “Translation and the Fluidic Text” at the &now conference at CALARTS. He’ll also be giving a lecture for the Monfort professorship in Wed @ 4:00 in Pathology 101. Read more about it here:
  • Leslee Becker’s “Terrier,” a story that appeared in The Kenyon Review, will be published in Redux, a journal of writers’ and editors’ favorite stories.
  • Sue Doe’s article, “Performing Horizontal Activism: Expanding Academic Labor Activism Throughout and Beyond a Three-Step Process” which was coauthored with former graduate students Vani Kannan (now a doctoral student at Syracuse) and Joe Schicke (now a full-time instructor at Tulsa Community College), was recently released by Literacy in Composition Studies and is viewable at
  • Sue Doe chaired a panel at the Conference on College Composition and Communication called “Student-Veterans in Their Own Words: Results of a Longitudinal Research Project on Student Veterans and Their Transitional Literacies.” She also chaired a full-day workshop on student-veterans at the same conference. The workshop was titled: “Working with Post-9/11 Student Veterans: A Workshop for Composition Teachers, Scholars, and WPAs.”
  • Tobi Jacobi presented the keynote address at the prison teachers and researchers workshop at the Conference on College Composition and Communication in Tampa.  She also presented a briefing statement on self-care strategies for prison volunteers, presented a paper on a girls’ prison in the 1920s, and co-led a special interest group on prison writing teaching and research.
  • EJ Levy took part in a webinar on March 22 with New York Times’ Modern-Love editor, Daniel Jones, and several other contributors to the column on how to write a successful Modern Love essay.
  • Meagan Wilson will be presenting a paper, “The Light That Shines Above the Grocer’s Store: David Bowie’s Domestic Spaces,” at the The Stardom and Celebrity of David Bowie Symposium this July in Melbourne, Australia.
  • Five Star/Cengage Publishers has offered James Work (Professor Emeritus) a contract to publish his tenth western novel. It’s titled The Contractor and concerns an actual murder that took place in Wyoming in 1868 during construction of the transcontinental railroad.  Two of his other westerns have been re-issued in large print editions. The Outcast of Spirit Ridge is now available from Center Point Large Print books in Thorndike, Maine. Ride South to Purgatory has been re-published by Gunsmoke Editions, Oxford England.

Upcoming Events

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The National Council of Teachers of English at Colorado State University (NCTE@CSU) is a non-profit, student-run organization on campus for teacher education students of all content areas. As a professional organization NCTE@CSU provides its members with informative and education-based information through the form of monthly meetings, where they invite professionals in the education system, including student teachers, principals and other administrative staff, and seasoned teachers, to share their expertise with NCTE@CSU membership.

The purposes of this organization are:

  • to create a community among future teachers of literacy;
  • to help develop professional attitudes, standards, and awareness of current issues within the profession through meetings, discussions, lectures, and publications. (e.g., electronic newsletters, journals, blogs, and professional speakers);
  • to encourage inquiry and research in literacy teaching;
  • to enhance ties between pre-service students and the professional education community; and
  • to engage in service projects supporting the above purposes.


NCTE@CSU Officers

Please note: Three NCTE@CSU officers (the President, Vice President, and Secretary) will be student teaching in the Fall so NCTE@CSU will be holding elections for all five positions at the last meeting of the year.

Anton Gerth: President — Anton Gerth is currently in the MA English Education program. He is teaching as a GTA for CO150. His interests include Professional Development through critical immersion.“My favorite event is the Mock Interviews held in March. It is fantastic to speak directly with a principal, ask questions, and receive immediate feedback. It has changed the way I present myself in an interview and I have reformatted my resume to meet the needs of the profession. I recommend it to every student no matter where they are at in their academic career.” Anton will be going on to student teach in Germany Fall 2015.Contact info:
belleBelle Kraxberger: Vice President – Belle is currently a BA English Education. Her interests include literature and critical thinking.“I really enjoyed attending the Colorado Language Arts Society (CLAS) conference in October. My experience with NCTE@CSU has made me more aware and up to date on many of the topics discussed over the course of the weekend, despite only being a preservice teacher. In general, I like being knowledgeable about subjects such as PARCC and Senate bill 191. I’m typically ahead of the curve compared to my classmates because of NCTE@CSU.” She will be student teaching Fall 2015.
alexAlex Andrews: Secretary – Alex is currently a BA English Education. He likes to write novels in his spare time. His favorite quote is “Never laugh at a live dragon” because he believes teaching is like laughing at a live dragon.Alex joined NCTE 3 years ago. And his favorite thing about NCTE is “the fellowship and willingness of the members to share their knowledge with each other.” He will be student teaching Fall 2015.
emilyEmily Rice: Marketing Coordinator – Emily is currently in the MA English Education program. Her interests include Adolescent Literature, Writing, and brain-based and cognitive learning.“I joined NCTE@CSU when I moved here from Minnesota in January 2014. I have learned so much in this one year of meetings, and I am so appreciative of this knowledge. The speakers are so insightful into the world of education, and the members of the organization have become my friends, as well as a valuable resource for my professional development.” Emily will be student teaching Spring 2017.
jennaJenna Franklin: Treasurer – Jenna is currently in the MA English Education program. She is a current GTA teaching College Composition 150.“I joined NCTE@CSU because I am interested in improving my professional teaching knowledge and I want to make connections with professionals in the field. Last semester, I had the opportunity to attend the Colorado Language Arts Society (CLAS) conference in Golden, CO with members of NCTE and Dr. Pam Coke. This was an incredibly fun and inspirational introduction into the world of teaching secondary English in Colorado, an experience every English teacher in Colorado should have!” Jenna will be student teaching Spring 2017.
pamPam Coke: Faculty Sponsor — Dr. Pam Coke Is a former middle school English Teacher. She has been teaching at CSU for 13 years. In addition to teaching, she enjoys reading, running, and cooking.Contact info:



Recently, NCTE@CSU held a mock interview event. Speakers included current administrators from neighboring school districts. Mock interviews were held for those looking to gain some experience, practice and advice from current administrators from local school districts. The event was also a great opportunity to ask questions.


NCTE@CSU’s next event, “The Private, Charter, and Alternative Perspective,” is Wednesday, April 22nd 5:30-6:30 pm in Clark C360. Speakers will include current teachers from a Private, Charter and Alternative school, and will be discussing their experiences as educators outside the Public School perspective. This event is free.

Please note: at this final meeting of the year, elections will be held for anyone interested in becoming an officer of NCTE@CSU. Those interested need to email Pam and Anton (Pamela.Coke@colostate.eduand with their name, the position they are interested in, and what they can bring to that position and to NCTE@CSU.


Visit the NCTE@CSU Facebook page:



What: Monfort Professor Lecture
When: 4 pm April 1st
Where: 101 Pathology
Who: Dan Beachy-Quick, a CSU English professor, will present a talk entitled “Considering the Made-Thing: Thoughts on Poetry, Ancient Greek, and the Strange Difficulty of Quietness.”

Dan Beachy-Quick, the first CSU faculty member in the humanities to receive a Monfort Professorship, is fascinated with silence. So much so that he is writing a book-length essay on the topic. The talk will include readings from his essay on silence, as well as the important role the humanities plays in the way society deals with current events and pressing issues.

Beachy-Quick said he is concerned that the humanities have fallen to the wayside of central conversations at universities across the country. “I want to bring to light some of the larger ecological and philosophical concerns about humanities in a STEM-based university,” he said in a recent interview with CSU SOURCE. “The university system arose from the humanities. We need as multi-faceted of an approach to the problems we are facing as possible.” Read more:

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Photo by Joni Kabana

Photo by Joni Kabana

Chery Strayed is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling memoir Wild, as well as the advice essay collection Tiny Beautiful Things and the novel Torch. “Her books have been translated into more than thirty languages around the world. Wild was chosen by Oprah Winfrey as her first selection for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. The movie adaptation of Wild was released in 2014…Strayed’s essays have been published in The Best American Essays, the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post Magazine, Vogue, Salon, The Missouri Review, The Sun, Tin House, Glamour, and other magazines. She is also a regular columnist for the New York Time Book Review. Strayed is the co-host, along with Steve Almond, of the WBUR podcast Dear Sugar Radio, which originated with her popular Dear Sugar advice column on The Rumpus. Strayed holds an MFA in fiction writing from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband the filmmaker Brian Lindstrom and their two children.” Find out more about the author and her work:

Author Cheryl Strayed is coming to Fort Collins Thursday April 2nd, and will be reading 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm in the Hilton Hotel Ballroom. The event is free and open to the public; seating is on a first come first served basis; NO ticket required.

Due to time constraints and the large audience expected, she will not be signing books, but pre-signed copies of Wild will be available for purchase.

From Communications Coordinator Jill Salahub
(Excerpted from posts originally published on her blog, “An Open Love Letter to Cheryl Strayed” and “An Evening with Cheryl Stayed“)


Cheryl Strayed is a master of the opening line. She doesn’t hesitate, but rather drops you directly into the dead center of the story. In her essay “The Love of My Life,” she starts with “The first time I cheated on my husband, my mother had been dead for exactly one week.” In her piece “Heroin/e” she begins with “When my mother died, I stripped her naked.” Her novel Torch begins simply “She ached.”

My husband first brought home a hardback copy of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild from the “Here & Now” collection at the library a few months after it was released. He loves stories of climbing Mount Everest or sailing around the world alone, so a book about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail seemed like something he’d want to read. But it’s not really a book so much about hiking as it is a story about, as Cheryl says, “learning how to bear the unbearable,” a story about acceptance, her journey from lost to found. He really wanted to read about hiking the PCT so lost interest, didn’t finish the book, handing it to me one day saying, “It seems like the kind of book you’d like.”

I love memoir – coming of age stories, stories about finding oneself, narratives about becoming, about coming undone, about catalyst and transformation and salvation, about what it means to be human. These are my favorite kinds of books, the journey from lost to found. And my favorite ones are written by women who aren’t afraid to tell the truth, even when it doesn’t make them look good, who talk candidly and elegantly about the brilliance and the mess.

So Wild is exactly the kind of book I’d read, but I hadn’t read it yet. It was too popular. When that happens with a book, I find myself avoiding it. It’s something about being an introvert. When everyone is reading and talking about it, it feels too crowded somehow. I want my experience of it to be private. I want to be alone with it, so I wait until things quiet down. But my husband had already checked out the book, and the “Here & Now” collection is limited to seven days so I started to read. Once I did, I could barely stand to put it down.

I confess, at first I was irritated by Cheryl’s story. The deeper she dug herself into the hole she was in, the more my discomfort grew. By the time her story got to [spoiler alert!] her decision to have an abortion, I wanted to stop reading. I couldn’t stand to witness it — the self-destruction, the suffering she was generating on top of what she’d already experienced. And yet, this was a book that I just couldn’t stop reading. I couldn’t help myself. I had to stay with it, had to “keep walking” right along with her until the end, no matter how painful.

Having lost so much to cancer myself made some parts of this book especially difficult to read. Many times I had to pause because I could no longer make out the words through my tears. This is the impact much of her written work has on me. I’ve given away 20+ copies of her book Tiny Beautiful Things in the past few years, always with the warning “don’t read this in public if you are uncomfortable letting people see you cry.”

One night when I was getting toward the end of Wild, I was reading in bed and my husband, who sometimes can’t sleep with the light from my book lamp, asked “can you be almost done?” I did something I never do: I got up and went out into the living room so I could keep reading. I had to finish. The memory is still fresh of being alone in the living room, sitting in the gold chair in the corner wrapped in a blanket, finishing the story, closing the book, and sobbing. That weird and wonderful mix of wishing so hard that none of those awful things ever had to happen to her, to any of us, but also wishing they’d happened to me so I’d have that story to tell.

Cheryl Strayed does not shy away from the truth. She tells the whole story, even the parts that might make her look bad. And yet, she doesn’t add things for the sake of drama. Telling readers about her heroin use isn’t done to shock, or to make the story more exciting, it’s there because it’s essential to the narrative — tender and terrible, beautiful and brutal. And when she’s telling the truth, she does it with an elegance that presents the truth in its full measure, all its brilliance and all its mess. She says things like “Healing is a small and ordinary and very burnt thing. And it’s one thing and one thing only: it’s doing what you have to do,” (in her essay “Heroin/e”). I confess that the library copy of Wild I read was returned with corners of pages bent down, a sign of my need to mark the shiny places, the burnt places.

In the introduction to Tiny Beautiful Things, Steve Almond says, “With great patience, and eloquence, she assures her readers that within the chaos of our shame and disappointment and rage there is meaning, and within that meaning is the possibility of rescue.” He’s talking specifically about what Cheryl did in that particular book, but I’d argue that’s what she does in everything she writes.

Last September, Cheryl gave a reading at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins, and I was lucky enough to attend, got to meet and spend some time with her before she took the stage. She is more genuine, more vibrant and friendly in person than I could have hoped. I was so nervous when it was my turn to have her sign my book, but she smiled and held out her hand, said “Hi, I’m Cheryl.” It wasn’t that she thought I wouldn’t know, but rather a true offering of connection, grounded and kind — genuine.


Cheryl Strayed and Jill Salahub

One of the first things Cheryl said when she took the stage was, “I love when people gather together in a room and listen to an author talk about books — especially when that author is me.” The audience that night was relatively small, with all of us clustered towards the front of the theater. It made for a much more intimate, cozy event, more like we were sitting around someone’s living room than a large concert hall. Throughout the night, she kept saying that she was telling us things she hadn’t before, much more than she’d revealed at other events, and with a smile swore us to secrecy. She also said at one point that “If I had known that many people would read the book, [Wild], I wouldn’t have written half that sh*#.” Cheryl Strayed is one of the best sorts of people — smart and funny and compassionate and honest and humble, even after they are met with success.

Cheryl talked about how when she was six years old, when she learned to read, she felt called to be a writer. She added later that even so, “most of us who want to be writers resist writing.” Cheryl talked about suffering, which she defined as resisting what is true, saying that “to surrender and accept what is true is a radical thing.” She spoke about how the power of literature is to “build a bridge between my experience and yours, the human experience,” and that it took so long to write about hiking the PCT Trail because she first had to figure out what her story might mean to a reader, to figure out how to tell a story that was bigger than just her own personal experience, and that when she did, “I was writing about you from my vantage point, telling you a story about you too.”

Hearing Cheryl talk about her life as a writer, listening to her tell her story and talk about her perspective on memoir was inspiring. Please do join us for her upcoming reading on April 2nd, 7:30 pm in the Hilton Hotel Ballroom.

The Creative Writing Reading Series at CSU is organized by English Department faculty and the Organization of Graduate Student Writers (OGSW); Creative Writing faculty serve on a rotating basis as director of the series and faculty advisor to OGSW. The series has an annual budget of only $1,200 and relies on the support of the Associated Students of Colorado State University (ASCSU), the College of Liberal Arts dean’s office, donors, local businesses, and CSU’s English Department. Its spring 2015 events are made possible with support from CSU’s Lilla B. Morgan Memorial Endowment, a premier funder of the arts at CSU.


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image by Jill Salahub

image by Jill Salahub

  • Spring Break at CSU begins Saturday, March 14 and ends Sunday, March 22.
  • Next week, Tim Amidon will be traveling to Tampa, Florida to attend the Conference on College Composition and Communication. While at CCCCs, he will be leading the annual meeting of CCCC Intellectual Property (IP) Caucus, attending a meeting of the CCCC (IP) Committee, chairing a roundtable discussion of IP luminaries that includes a representative of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, and presenting a talk during a roundtable entitled “Researching Extracurricular Literacies through Interdisciplinary Practices. Follow the conference virtually with hashtag #4c15; follow activity related to the CCCC IP Caucus by following #4cIP and/or #ask4cIP.
  • From March 10-12 Camille Dungy was the Aetna Writer in Residency at the University of Connecticut where she gave a poetry reading, visited classes, and conducted several tutorials.
  • From March 13-15 Camille Dungy was a presenter at the Geography of Hope: Women and the Land.  “The biennial Geography of Hope Conference brings together leading writers and activists in the coastal village of Point Reyes Station for a three-day feast of readings, discussions, and activities to inspire and deepen an understanding of the relationships between people and place.”  Presenters: M. Kat Anderson; Camille Dungy; Gretel Ehrlich; Carolyn Finney; Susan Griffin; Robert Hass; Brenda Hillman; Wendy Johnson; Robin Wall Kimmerer; Kathleen Dean Moore; Melissa K. Nelson; Ann Pancake; Claire Peaslee; Rhiannon; Kim Stanley Robinson; Lauret Savoy; Rebecca Solnit, Priscilla Ybarra.
  • Antero Garcia has a co-authored study on “Race to the White House” featured on the recently launched Civic Media Project Website. His work is featured in the Play & Creativity section found here:
  • EJ Levy was a visiting writer at Hope College and Albion College in Michigan from March 3-6.
  • Man in the Moon: Essays on Fathers & Fatherhood (Center for Literary Publishing, Stephanie G’Schwind, ed.) has been named a finalist for Foreword Reviews’ Indiefab Book of the Year Award in the anthology category. Winners will be announced at the end of June at the American Library Association’s annual conference. maninthemoon

Outstanding Literary Essay Awards – Submissions due by April 6th


The English Department’s Literature Program announces the 12th annual Outstanding Literary Essay Awards contest, which recognizes outstanding critical writing and interpretive work in literary studies. Applicants must be registered graduate or undergraduate English majors.  Awards of $100 for first place, $75 for second place, and $50 for third place will be offered at both the graduate and undergraduate level.  Winners will be honored at the English Department Awards on Monday, April 27, 2015.


Submission Guidelines: Students should submit an essay that represents their best critical work in literary studies. Undergraduate essays should be no longer than 15 pages and graduate essays should be no longer than 20 pages. Shorter papers are welcome. Only one submission is allowed per student.


Submission deadline is Monday April 6, 2015, at 5:00 p.m.

Please submit TWO clean copies, with no name, address, or instructor’s comments. Only a title and page numbers should appear. Include with your essay a separate cover letter with your name, address, phone number, e-mail address, university ID number, and title of your essay. Also indicate the course for which the essay was written (if it was composed for a course) and the professor who taught the course. Indicate whether you are an undergraduate or graduate student at CSU. Address your cover letter to: Professor Aparna Gollapudi, Department of English, Campus Delivery 1773, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1773. Cover letter and submissions can be dropped off at the Behavioral Sciences Building, Room A104.

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Kimberly Townsend
M.A. English: Literature, Peace Corps Masters International (PCMI), Fall 2013

Kimberly Townsend in Tirana, Albania's capital

Kimberly Townsend in Tirana, Albania’s capital

How did your major prepare you for the job, the life you have now?

Currently, I work as a Management Support Assistant in the Office of Curatorial Affairs (OCA) at the Smithsonian’s National Museum for African American History and Culture (opening in 2016). In this role, I act as the curatorial staff’s Procurement Official writing simplified acquisitions for museum collections, independent contractors, various services, and Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) in compliance with federal purchasing regulations. As one would imagine, my degree in Literature and experiences in technical writing very much prepared me for this job.


My degree has also prepared me well for life. Having a strong base in communication, both written and oral, has helped me in every aspect of my career and life. Too many times I think people forget how much English is based on the ability to communicate. Creating messages; analyzing the messages and how they may, or may not, be received; how different people are affected by different messaging are all things that I’ve learned through Literature.


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?

Completing Peace Corps has been my greatest accomplishment personally. During my time as a Peace Corps Masters International (PCMI) student (Albania 2011-2013), my advisors and professors were great in helping me develop my final project and working with me to figure out how best to apply my (and future PCMI students) experience to fulfill program requirements.

I like to think I haven’t reached my greatest accomplishment professionally, yet. My goal is to use the knowledge, skills, and experiences I’ve gained through Peace Corps and my education to continue to work in international project planning and development. I would very much like to work with Peace Corps again, ideally to improve their PCMI and Coverdell Fellows programs.


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

I was very impressed with the diversity of courses, internships, and study abroad opportunities offered by the English program. Being a PCMI student allowed me to gain experiences in international project planning and development and obtain real-life skills that can’t be taught in the classroom. I appreciate that CSU, and the English department, value that type of education and continue to offer students the opportunity to expand their learning environment and capabilities.


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

I remember being very stressed one semester during finals (like every other grad student) and emailing my mom at 2AM saying, “MOM! I need help ASAP!” with an attachment for one of my papers. My mom, of course, knew that meant I needed an extra pair of eyes editing, but what I didn’t realize until the next morning was that I had sent the email to my professor (with no attachment), so he probably thought I was crazy. Luckily, he never mentioned it.


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?

Yes, my project advisor and professor, Ellen Brinks. She challenged me in such an amazing way, probably without even realizing it. Her perspective on life and the world is incredible. I started to pick up on it during a colonial and postcolonial survey class I took with her during my first year. The books she choose and the questions she posed to the class, and her insights into the reading forced me (and I would imagine everyone in the class) to think about life and humanity in a different way. I remember being in that class, talking about Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, hearing her insights, and being provoked, for the first time, to really think about philosophical questions regarding how the interactions we all share effect how we perceive the world, others, and ourselves.

On top of that, Ellen is incredibly supportive. During my Peace Corps service, she worked with me (which wasn’t easy to do while I was half-way across the world) without hesitation or frustration. Even now, almost two years after I’ve graduated, Ellen continues to be support me in pursuing my goals. She is a professor who genuinely wants her students to succeed and who works to help them succeed in any way she can. No amount of praise would do her justice.


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

I would tell prospective CSU English Department students to take advantage of the wide array of opportunities the English Department, and CSU as a whole, offers students. Your degree, and experience, is what you make of it!


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

Don’t limit yourself to ‘typical’ English degree careers! When looking for a job after graduation, know that advanced writing skills, the ability to perform and analyze in-depth research, and high level critical thinking skills are highly sought by employers in every career field.


What was the last piece of writing you read or wrote? OR, What are you currently reading, writing? OR, You have an hour to spend in a bookstore. What section do you make a beeline to?

Right now, I’m reading My Sallinger Year by Joanna Rakoff.  Usually in a bookstore I will beeline it to Historical Fiction – that’s my favorite.


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

I try to spend as much of my free time as I can outside. I really enjoy hiking and skiing; although, since I’ve been in DC, I’ve been spending more time inside exploring museums.


How did you learn about this exciting opportunity (the Peace Corps Masters International)?

I learned about Peace Corps after taking a short trip to Ecuador with the Judith Lombeida Medical Foundation (JLMF), a Colorado based nonprofit. JLMF was providing general healthcare to underserved communities in Ecuador and while working there, I met three Peace Corps volunteers. During that time, I got to see where the volunteers were living, the work they were doing, and talk with them about their experiences. I knew before leaving Ecuador, Peace Corps was what I wanted to do. So, I started doing research online about PCMI programs and found CSU’s program.


What was your favorite experience in the Peace Corps?

My favorite experience from Peace Corps was getting to learn and live within a new culture. It’s an amazing experience because you not only get to learn a new language, but you also get to learn about different ways of life, different beliefs, different values, and so much more.

Kimberly with her Albanian host grandmother. Kimberly lived with their family for 10 weeks during pre service training.

Kimberly with her Albanian host grandmother. Kimberly lived with their family for 10 weeks during pre service training.

How did this experience impact your perspective, influence your goals?

Peace Corps definitely changed my perspective and influenced my goals. I feel like now, after Peace Corps, I’m much more open-minded and accepting of different cultures and beliefs. The whole world doesn’t live like the US – we all have to learn to respect that.

My goal now is to use the knowledge, skills, and experiences I’ve gained through Peace Corps and my education to continue to work in international project planning and development. I would very much like to work with Peace Corps again, ideally to improve their PCMI and Coverdell Fellows programs.

Kimberly's host sister (Leda, 16), Kimberly, Kimberly's mom, and her host mom (Arta) when Kimberly's parents came to visit her in Albania

Kimberly’s host sister (Leda, 16), Kimberly, Kimberly’s mom, and her host mom (Arta) when Kimberly’s parents came to visit her in Albania

Do you have any advice for future English majors interested in the Peace Corps?

Do it! It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but also the best!

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The English Department Non-Tenure Track Faculty (NTTF) Committee does all kinds of good work. One good thing is their newsletter “In Addition…News from the English Department’s NTTF Committee.” One of the features of the newsletter, which is sent monthly to NTTF in the department, is a faculty profile, which they’ve agreed to let us share on the blog.


Catherine Ratliff

What name do you prefer to go by? Where are you located on campus?

I go by Catherine and most days on campus I can be found in the Behavioral Sciences (BS) building or the library. Nearly every MWF around 11:00 I can be found eating lunch somewhere not too far from the Department copy room in BS. My office is in Ingersoll 251.


What courses do you teach at CSU? What (if any) courses have you taught before?

This semester I’m teaching CO 150 and AMST 101, which I teach as an American Studies course that examines aspects of US culture since 1877 through literary and cultural narratives. Last fall I also taught Modern Women Writers, E332, and included texts by contemporary women writers such as The Bluest Eye, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, and The God of Small Things.


What has been your greatest challenge while teaching here at CSU?

The greatest challenge so far has been adapting to a new campus and learning as much as I can about the student body here at CSU. I find that each university has its own personality when it comes to students and campus, and for me learning this vibe is essential to being an effective teacher. Sometimes it’s seemingly the simplest things, such as figuring out where certain offices are located or what resources there are for students, so that I can pass that information along to students. Other times it’s getting to know the overarching values of the institution and student body. Having just taught one semester here at CSU I’m still learning but definitely getting the hang of things.


What do you like to do when you are not teaching? What do you like to do for fun?

I’m in the process of completing my dissertation on female expatriate literary communities of early twentieth-century Paris. So, in all honesty I don’t have much free time right now. When I can squeeze in some fun I do like kayaking, hiking, traveling to new places, listening to music, and finding new local restaurant spots. Being new to Colorado I’m still enjoying exploring new outdoor spaces. There are so many great outdoor activities here!


If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be (and why)?

What a great (and tough) question! I think that I’d have to incorporate something connected to the ocean because I absolutely love the water and grew up in Florida so I feel a strong connection to the Gulf and Atlantic waters. I’d love for the title to include a connection to Paris between the World Wars too because I adore that time period and city. Perhaps Floating on Parisian Dreams.

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