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.