Category Archives: Regular Features

Hayat Bedaiwi Discusses Great Grad School Opportunities

Hayat Bedaiwi received her BA and MA in English Literature from King Saud University in 2007 and 2012, respectively. She is currently a third year PhD #bsuenglish student who aspires to specialize in Ethnic American Literature with a major focus on Arab American Literature. Here’s more info about our graduate programs. 

hayat
When I first started my graduate studies at Ball State University, I took great courses that helped me become the scholar I am today. There are two experiences that come to my mind when I think of the courses that I have taken so far in graduate school. I turned papers I had written for two courses into conference papers. One paper was for a 657-postcolonial studies class, where I was blessed with the help and support of a great professor, Dr. Molly Ferguson. In that course, we read different postcolonial texts in the light of trauma theory. I was anxious when the course first started, but as we read and had different discussions every week, I knew what I wanted to write about for the seminar paper in that class. I wrote about Women at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi concerning the ideas of silence and bearing witness to the many traumas that filled the main character’s life.

Coincidentally, Practical Criticism Midwest was announced to take place in February that year, and I decided to submit my seminar paper for this course. I polished it to become a conference paper by revising it with Dr. Ferguson and making some visits to the Writing Center. My paper was one of the first papers to get accepted, and I had the opportunity of presenting this paper and getting feedback from different academic voices attending the conference.

I’m also presenting another paper at PCM 2017 this year which is a seminar paper for an Ethnic American Literature class entitled “Understanding the ‘Other’ in Naomi Shihab Nye’s You & Yours.” This course has helped me become more confident in my own academic voice. Dr. Emily Rutter’s approach to teaching this class was a very fascinating one. We were introduced to theories, texts and cultural material that helped us understand the texts we were reading for the class. As a class, we couldn’t stop talking about all the texts that we were reading, and all the new things we discovered everyday led us to write some interesting strong papers, which we shared together at the end of the semester. I was very hesitant to write about poetry, but Dr. Rutter helped me improve my writing about poetry and become a more confident scholar in Ethnic Studies.

My other paper was the fruitful product of my ENG 693 “Writing in the Profession” course, where I learned different ways of maintaining and creating my professional identity by revising my CV and exploring different ways of writing cover letters. Dr. Deborah Mix offered many great opportunities and great venues for us to learn the different ways of writing in our profession. We learned how to look for conferences and participate in them, how to find the journal that is of interest, how to become successful in submitting and publishing an article in that journal, and how to apply for a grant, from writing the budget narrative to crafting a proposal in a very professional way that would make us succeed in the application process.

I am the recipient of the 2016 Francis Mayhew Rippy Scholarship. I used the knowledge I learned in class about grant writing and took the opportunity to apply to this grant that was offered by the English Department. I also applied to attend a conference in New York as part of a panel with another colleague, and we both got accepted. Dr. Mix supported us and pushed us to do our best in order to become successful in all our assignments in that course, and we would have never gotten anywhere without her guidance and belief in our success.

My experience in graduate school has been a rewarding one, and as I am currently preparing for my comprehensive exams, I am very confident in my abilities, as my writing and thinking have evolved immensely over the past two and a half years because of the full support and unlimited guidance I get from the phenomenal faculty members at the English department, my colleagues, and my family.

John Maust: The Importance of Encouraging Writers

John Maust is president of Media Associates International (MAI), a publishing training agency based near Chicago, Illinois. John directs MAI’s global training programs to strengthen Christian publishing worldwide and to foster the development and publication of gifted local writers. John became president of MAI in 1998 after more than 20 years of experience as an editor, author and journalist. He graduated from Ball State University in 1975 with a B.A. in Literature, followed by an M.A. in Communications from Wheaton (IL) College Graduate School in 1978.

You have had such a varied career in publishing, including working for a newspaper and a magazine, as well as publishing three books of your own. In what ways did your English literature degree help to prepare you for these various endeavors?
John Maust 2.jpg

Within weeks of graduating from Ball State, I got a job as a 20-year-old editor of a small-town weekly newspaper in nearby Dunkirk, Indiana. Editorially, it was a one-person operation. So, for the first time in my life I had nightmares: would I find enough to fill the newspaper?

Fortunately, we never published any blank pages, and the work got done through long hours, hard work, a finely tooled typewriter, and more than a few prayers. I look at that experience as a time of real growth both as a person and as a communicator. They say you learn to write by writing, and that was surely the case at this newspaper.

Next came graduate school, followed by work as a magazine news editor, and then as a roving reporter and writer trainer based in Lima, Peru. There, this English major learned enough Spanish to meet and marry my beautiful wife, Elsa, of 32 years.

For the last 20 years, I’ve been helping to equip and encourage Christian publishers and writers in the Majority World as president of Media Associates International.

My English degree helped prepare me for all this simply through the act of reading—reading widely from the best authors and doing so critically. Almost unconsciously, one
begins to absorb and understand the difference between good and not-so-good writing and literature—skills needed by any editor.

Similarly, I began to learn there’s a wide chasm between the almost right word and the right word—as Mark Twain quipped, “it’s the difference between the lightning bug and lightning.” It’s hard work,  crafting words to say exactly what you mean.

Finally, I learned about the skill required for boiling down an immense amount of information and ideas into a concise piece held together by a unifying theme that could be expressed in one sentence. Readers want us to write clearly and concisely.

You are now the President of MAI, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping authors around the world to write and publish Christian literature for their local audiences and communities. Why did you move into the world of non-profit administration, and how do your writing and communication skills come into play in your current job? 

John Maust.JPGI didn’t go looking for work in non-profit administration. It came as a surprise. When
the founding president of Media Associates International began making plans to retire, he invited me to succeed him. And here I am after 19 years. It’s encouraging to look back at the bits and pieces of my life—including the years at Ball State—and to see how God put them together into what I’m doing now.

Today, instead of books and articles, I’m writing more grant proposals, Board reports and emails. Not so exciting perhaps. But I face the same need to write clearly and concisely, and maybe even more creativity is required to keep these reports from being deadly boring.

In my work, I have the privilege of interacting with gifted men and women who are creating excellent “homegrown” content for readers in places like South Sudan, Laos, Peru, Bulgaria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Helping these friends write and publish stories that would not otherwise have been told is a bit like uncovering buried treasure.

By the way, I vividly remember my Ball State course on “The Modern Continental Novel” because it exposed me for the first time to the (translated) work of international authors and the world of words outside American and British borders. 

As someone who has worked in writing and publishing for nearly 40 years, what advice would you have for current English majors who are worried about their future employment prospects? What can English majors do now to prepare for future success?

To be effective in the workplace, you need to be an effective communicator—both spoken and written. An English major is better equipped than most in this regard.

Employers in business, mass media, education, social services and other fields will value your English-major skills to think critically and creatively and to express yourself clearly.

Through reading of fiction and nonfiction, you are also developing a greater sense of empathy for others, plus a broader worldview and a sense of how ideas shape culture and history. In this way, I think that being an English major makes you a better person by giving you valuable tools both for work and for life.

If you are thinking about work in publishing or writing, there is no better major than English Literature. Both now and in the future, keep on reading, and keep on writing. It’s a corny saying but true: “To write good readin’, you need to read good writin’.”

An awful lot of people in our world live without hope. Your published and spoken words, hammered into shape with faith and hard work, can shine a ray of hope and leave a legacy for future generations.

Prof. Scalzo Publishes Book (And other March Good News)!

We’ve got a lot of good news this month, so we’re dividing it into faculty and student/alum accomplishments. Check out all the amazing things your friends and colleagues have done!

Faculty Good News

Prof. Emily Scalzo’s new book The Politics of Division was published on Mar. 27!

The Indiana Writing Project was awarded a $15,000 grant titled “2017-2018 SEED Invitational Leadership Institute to Invest in Developing New Teacher Leaders.” The money from this grant will be used to support summer programming for teachers.

The Indiana Writing Project was also thrilled to send two local teachers to Washington D.C. in March for the National Writing Project’s Spring Meeting. In their time in D.C., teachers Jeri Tarvin and Katrina Gibson met with legislators to increase awareness about the work of NWP/IWP. They shared student writing and examples of professional development happening at our site.

Prof. Carolyn MacKay was awarded an NSF/NEH Documenting Endangered Languages Fellowship for her project:  A Grammar of Pisaflores Tepehua, an endangered language of Mexico.  It is a one year fellowship.

Prof. Susanna Benko and her colleagues Emily Hodge and Serena Salloum have had their work featured in Ed Week on the blog, “Curriculum Matters.”  The blog post highlights major findings from their study that was published in AERA Open.

Prof. Mark Neely has poems out or forthcoming in spring issues of FIELD, Passages North, Birmingham Poetry Review, Southern Indiana Review, and Timber: a Journal of New Writing.

Prof. Mary Lou Vercellotti published “The Development of Complexity, Accuracy, and Fluency in Second Language Performance: A Longitudinal Study” in the most recent issue of Applied Linguistics (the flagship journal of her field). It is listed in the top 5 most read articles of the journal. (Also, she will be dancing later this month in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Dance for Kid’s Sake event, so come out and support her!)

Prof. Emily Rutter’s article “‘Straighten Up and Fly Right’: A Contrafactual Reading of Percival Everett’s Suder and Bernard Malamud’s The Natural” was published in the recent issue of Aethlon, the journal of the Sports Literature Association. Her monograph Invisible Ball of Dreams: Literary Representations of Baseball behind the Color Line is also now under contract with University Press of Mississippi.

Prof. Frank Felsenstein spoke at the annual day conference of the Harry Friedman Society at the Jewish Museum, New York, where the title of his talk was “From Shylock to Fagin: Jewish Caricatures in English Prints.” He also lectured on “What Middletown Read: Rediscovering Late Nineteenth-Century American Reading Habits” at Ball State University.

Prof. Cathy Day was just featured on the CitizenLit podcast, which is produced by Aubrie Cox, who got her MA with #bsuenglish in 2013.

Prof. Jennifer Grouling was awarded as a finalist for the Outstanding Graduate Faculty Mentor Award.

Prof. Megumi Hamada’s paper “L2 Word Recognition: Influence of L1 Orthography on Multi-syllabic Word Recognition,” was accepted to the Journal of Psycholinguistics Research.

Prof. Rani Deighe Crowe’s short film script Heather Has Four Moms is an Official Selection for the Austin Comedy Short Film Festival Spring 2017. She is also directing the short film Welfare Check by screenwriting faculty Kathryn Gardiner this April. The film will star Muncie native and Ball State alumna Cynda Williams and Golden Glove Champion William Lee. The cast includes additional members of the Muncie community, and the crew includes many Ball State TCOM students.

Students and Alumni Good News

Daniel Brount (2016 graduate) was just featured on the Dear English Major blog.

Student Amanda Byk is the new Content Manager at the Facing Project.

#bsuenglish grad Rachel Hartley-Smith published her essay “Dumb Blonde” in feminist journal So to Speak.

Rachael Heffner (2014 graduate) was recently featured in the Daily Mail. Currently she’s working at a marketing firm in Indianapolis, Dominion Dealer Solutions, as their Social Media and Reputation Specialist.

#bsuenglish grad Abby Higgs recently published the final installment of her series “My Life with Annie Lennox” on The Rumpus.

Brittany Means has been accepted in the Nonfiction program at the University of Iowa.

Elyse Lowery had three poems (“Blood and Diamonds,” “Crosshatch,” and “Five Cigars”) published in the 3288 Review this month.

#bsuenglish grad Robert Young had his piece “11 Useless Kitchen Appliances: Crock Pots” published in Midwestern Gothic.

Current #bsuenglish students Kathryn Hampshire and Nikole Darnell, as well as recent graduate Lauren Birkey, all received Academic Honors in Writing.

Hannah Partridge was offered a summer internship in acquisitions from Wiley Publishing.

15 English graduate students were recognized at a graduate student recognition ceremony. (Ceremony attendees pictured from left to right: Nuha Alsalem, Hayat Bedaiwi, Andrew Wurdeman, Matthias Raess, Mary Carter.)

Rachel Tindall's Advice for Grad Students

Rachel Tindall received her Bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in Literature from the University of Southern Indiana in 2015. Now, she is working towards achieving her Master’s of Arts in English here at Ball State and plans to graduate in May of 2017. 

preview-chat-20160822_132743I’ve always been one of those people who knows what they want to do. I came straight from my undergraduate degree into my Master’s program at Ball State as part of my plan to become a university professor of American Literature. My degree, when I graduate this May, will be a Master’s of Arts in English, with which I hope to become an academic advisor or career coach at a university in Indianapolis or the surrounding area. Not the same as the aforementioned “plan,” right? Well, as I’ve come to realize, sometimes things change.

From the time I arrived at Ball State, the faculty and staff in the English program have been so helpful in helping me achieve my goals. I am a Teaching Assistant (TA) in the Writing Program, which means that once I completed my first semester of classes and observed my mentor’s English 104 class, I was assigned to teach my own. This semester is the fifth English 104 class I’ve taught while at Ball State, and I finally feel like I’m getting the hang of it.

During my time teaching, I’ve learned that my favorite part of being an instructor is actually meeting with students one-on-one during conferences, hence my desire to go into advising or career coaching. Having developed multiple teaching philosophies for pedagogy classes, I have found my core values as an educator. But two years ago, I had never taught a class, and to be honest, couldn’t even really picture myself in front of a classroom. Sure, it was a passing thought for some time in the distant future, but it wasn’t concrete. Thankfully, my professors and mentors saw my potential and worked with me every step of the way to help me become a confident graduate student and instructor.

I’ve also grown in two other important ways through grad school. First, as a student. Second, as a person. In order to really understand this growth, it’s important to know a few things about me:

  1. I live, and have lived for the duration of my degree, an hour away from campus.
  2. I was engaged when I arrived at Ball State, and now I’m married.
  3. I didn’t know anyone at Ball State when I arrived straight from my undergraduate institution.

My experiences at Ball State have shaped the way I act as a student, and how I handle life as an adult. The intensity and learning curve as a grad student have affected me profoundly. As a student, I am much more resourceful and confident than I was as an undergrad. This is partially because of skills that I have learned, but also because of the encouragement I receive on an almost daily basis from my support network. I feel confident that I can achieve my goals, and because of that I do better work. As a person, I am much more aware of my own impact on the people around me. I know that I need to spend time with my friends, my family, my dog, and most of all my (new) husband. All of those people support me daily, and they need me to pull back from school sometimes and just be a person. Probably the biggest (and hardest) thing I’ve learned is how to manage my time. I drive to Ball State an hour each way every day, so every minute I’m home or at school needs to matter for something – whether that’s personal “break” time or school work time.

My story is one of many at Ball State. For the most part, I’m just like any other graduate student struggling through, trying to figure out this whole “life” thing. However, I think there are a few things I can share that could be useful to new graduate students.

  1. Graduate school is HARD. You will be tested in ways you didn’t know you could be tested. You graduated in the top 10% of your undergraduate class? So did everyone else! You love researching and writing papers but tend to procrastinate? Try doing that with a 20-page seminar paper that’s worth 50-60% of your grade – on second thought, that’s a terrible plan.
  2. You will fail at something, and that’s okay. So you didn’t go to every single social event, finish every assignment exactly on time, or build the most fun assignment for your classes. You may have even have lost a library book that you later found stuffed under the seat of your car because you were carrying too many books at one time and it slid underneath the seat. It’s okay, you’re just human! Everyone else around you has also done these things (at least once) and survived.
  3. The people around you, your cohort, your professors, your mentors, your office-mate(s), understand your pain. They get it. Use that to your advantage. Talk through issues about your classes. Ask professors how the heck they made it through their education. These people want to help you – let them!
  4. Take advantage of opportunities. Every semester you will produce some sort of project, whether creative or research based. When your professors suggest conferences or publications to submit to (and then offer to help you get there), go for it! Getting accepted to a conference and then sitting in front of a room full of people who want to hear about your research is awesome (and validating)! Collaborate with your colleagues, go to events, network with people. Not only does that change your perspective about your research interests, but it also might help you get a job.
  5. Plans change. So you had a “set” plan and now you’re questioning whether it’s what you want? You’ve wanted to be a professor for years, but now you like the job description of something else better? Like failing at some things, changing plans happens to most people. Some people “stay the course,” but if that’s not you, that’s okay. Part of grad school is figuring out what you want, and no one will blame you or judge you (hopefully) for making the best decisions for you.
  6. You CAN do it, AND it IS worth it. When you’ve cried 3 times in the past week because you have so much to do and you don’t think that one person can possibly do all of the tasks you know you have to accomplish, life can seem bleak. Finishing your education to get to your goals can seem impossible, and sometimes you will probably feel like you’d rather binge watch Netflix with your dog and a tub of ice cream than read one more article. But, when you finish eating all the ice cream and run out of your favorite show (this definitely happens) you will find the strength to read that last article and write that 500-word discussion board. You will write that 20-page paper and do well, even if you have to ask for help a hundred different times from ten different people.

You may be wondering why (or if) you should trust me. After all, what can a twenty-something year old know about the big world of academia and grad school? I guess my short answer would be: don’t just read about it and silently chuckle at my experiences – come experience all of these things for yourself. Live them, suffer them, grow from them. Have your own crazy experiences. But, if you have the opportunity to go to grad school, if that’s how you get to the job you want, or if you’re still unsure but you love to learn: go for it. Take the leap of faith – it won’t let you down.

Writing Project Grant (and more February Good News)

iwp_primary_logo_colorThe Indiana Writing Project directed by Professor Susanna Benko was recently awarded a $20,000 grant for the College Ready Writers Program, sponsored by the National Writing Project. This program focuses on teaching argument writing in middle and secondary classrooms. The grant money will be used to invest in 12-16 experienced middle and high school Writing Project teacher-leaders. These teachers will engage in extensive professional development studying argument writing through the summer of 2017 and the 2017-2018 school year. Congratulations!

On Thursday March 2, Prof. Cathy Day will be reading from her work at Franklin CollegeOn Saturday, March 25, she will be speaking on “Getting the Most out of Your Writing Life” at the Antioch Writers Workshop. In June, she’ll be traveling to the 2017 NonfictioNow conference in Iceland, speaking on a panel about “Obsession in Nonfiction.”

The English Department’s undergraduate ENL license recently received National Recognition.

Prof. Frank Felsenstein and Prof. Jim Connolly were guest speakers at Columbia University’s Book History Colloquium.

Prof. Michael Begnal published an essay on the Chinese Taoist poet Li Po in the new issue (#7) of the Free State Review. Prof. Begnal also presented at this year’s Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture since 1900, on February 23. His paper was titled “Modernist Mythologies and the Poets of Santa Fe in the 1920s.”

Prof. Mary Lou Vercellotti had four submissions,”Research Faculty Fellow,” “Taking Steps to Control Variables in a Quantitative Quasi-Experiment,” “Interdepartmental Faculty Collaboration,” and”Building Institutional Support for SoTL” accepted into a new book on the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), It Works for Me with SoTL, edited by Hal Blythe, Charlie Sweet, and Russell Carpenter. The goal of the book is to give interested teachers information about the scholarship of teaching and learning (researching the practice of teaching.) The book will be released this fall.

Prof. G. Patterson was invited to be the keynote speaker for Miami University Hamilton’s Women’s History Month event. The talk is called, “Don’t Despair. Organize: Activist Feminisms and Intersectional Futures.” They will be giving the keynote on Monday, March 6. The event is open to the public.

Prof. Joyce Huff  will be inducted as an alumni member of Phi Beta Kappa by St. Mary’s College of Maryland in recognition of her scholarly achievements since graduating.

Prof. Rani Crowe‘s short film Beautiful Eyes was screened in Berlin at the Final Girls Film Festival, a women’s horror festival.

Prof. Molly Ferguson‘s article, “Clowning as Human Rights Activism in Recent Devised Irish Theatre” was accepted for publication in the 2017 “Resistance in Modern Ireland” issue of Studi Irlandesi: A Journal of Irish Studies.

Prof. Jennifer Grouling‘s and Ph.D student Elisabeth Buck’s article, “Colleagues, Classmates, and Friends: Graduate v. Undergraduate Tutor Identities and Professionalization” will be published in Praxis: A Writing Center Journal in their May 2017 edition.

Pat Grabill: A Love for the Written Word

Pat Grabill graduated from Ball State with an MA in English in 1968 and pursued a teaching career for 30 years. After retiring from teaching in 2004, she worked as a technical writer for Precisely Write in Indianapolis and also became President of the Watercolor Society of Indiana, where she made use of her English skills and her love of art to promote painting in Indiana.

preview-full-unnamedWhy English?

I’ve always been a good student. Not a great student—although I have had some great moments—but a good student. When I graduated from high school in 1961 (yes, I’m old), I really wanted to go to college, but my dad wasn’t sure. So he picked my school—Purdue—a great choice for me, as it turned out, and he also picked my major, elementary education. Not a good choice. I would have been a barely adequate elementary teacher, so I changed my major to Secondary Education/English. I graduated four years later with many, many semester hours in literature, writing, linguistics, and rhetoric and went on to spend 30 classroom years mostly at the high school level. I retired in 2004 having taught all secondary grade levels and loving it. While my undergrad degree was at Purdue (Boiler Up!), I studied for my MA degree at Ball State (Go, Cardinals!)  I taught freshman comp in the BSU English department as a TA while doing my own course work. I wrote my Master’s paper on “The Myth of the West in Steinbeck’s Fiction.” I remember it well. I wish I still had my copy. I had some great teachers at Purdue and at Ball State, and I am grateful for the time they took with me.

Why major in English? 

You’ll know more than most people doing crossword puzzles. (A flippant response, I know). You will understand allusions to literature in ordinary conversation, news, plays, movies – conversations that people who are not avid readers may not get. But most importantly — and this is VERY important — you will learn to read critically and write clearly. You will have to read great books, short stories, poetry — all genres — and you will LOVE reading them. You will write — and you will become very good at it, too. Your speech and your writing will become more persuasive, and via your communication skills, you will become a leader. Your parents want to know what you’ll do with an English major, and the easy answer is that you will become language literate in a society that lacks many of those skills. That ability can be money in the bank in this culture where we write MORE than before, both because of and in spite of technology. It’s also true that an English major is great preparation for law school or for many graduate programs. There are also many opportunities in areas of corporate and non-profit communication given technology experience. My advice to you: take all the writing classes you can. You’re already a reader, or you wouldn’t even consider becoming an English major, so become a first-rate writer, too. Learn the concept of audience. Learn to be persuasive. Learn to love the language and to use it correctly.

While I loved teaching, after I retired I went to work as a technical writer.  My job was to write for and edit user Help files for a medical document written by a major pharmaceutical company. Our team’s job was to look at the plan for the program and, from that plan, write user-friendly Help files. It WAS an adventure, to say the least. I received a generous hourly wage, met some really good people, visited often with the software engineers, and learned a great deal about the very specific requirements for tech writing as opposed to regular writing. I’ve also been responsible for writing newsletters for one business and writing and editing for a not-for-profit organization, The Watercolor Society of Indiana, where I am a Board member.

Some years after getting my MA at Ball State, I again attended Ball State as a participant in the Indiana Writing Project, which was life-changing for me as a teacher. Finishing my MA did not finish my participation in learning more. I went on to take 30 hours past my MA simply because I wanted to learn new “stuff.” I applied for an Eli Lilly Teacher Creativity Grant at the end of the 90s because I wanted to study connections between writing and painting, and Lilly gave me $5,000 to spend during the summer on anything I wanted to do to enhance my knowledge of the written story and the painted story. That summer changed my life, too, because I have continued to be a painter. I have a studio in my home, and right now have three different paintings in process and some sketches I’m also working on. I am a past president of the Watercolor Society of Indiana (we have a Facebook page), and currently am Board secretary.

Finally, in answer to the question I posed in the title, “Why English”? My answer is, why NOT English? If you love the language and you love the written word, and you love writing and want to become better at it than you already are, major in English. If you’re good at it, do it. You’ll find a job, and maybe it will even be a job you like.

Tara Olivero: Teacher at Homestead High School and Writer at Book Riot

Tara Olivero is a teacher at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne and a contributing writer at Book Riot. She graduated from Ball State in 2014 with a degree in English Education. In this post, she discusses her job as a high school English teacher and how her time at #bsuenglish helped her find her passion for teaching.

How would you describe your job?

My main career will always be my teaching career – I’m in my third year of teaching in Fort Wayne at Homestead High School. As any other high school teacher knows, it’s an exhausting job but one that’s personally satisfying beyond all compare. I also have two side-gigs outside of teaching. I’m a contributor at Book Riot, which I really love because it gives me a platform for my own writing. And my “purely for fun” job is that I work at an Escape Room in Fort Wayne on the weekends; I also write blog posts for the Escape Room’s website.

What’s a typical work day like for you?

I usually try to get to school between 6 and 6:30, so I can set up all the documents I need and make copies for students who have laptop issues. That’s when I don’t oversleep, of course. I teach five classes of freshman high school English, where we do the standard reading/writing you’d expect. I also teach one class of juniors and seniors in Film Literature, Tara Oliverowhich is essentially how to write thoughtful and critical analysis of films. After school, I’m usually still there until 4 or 5, either running one of the clubs I sponsor (including the school’s Creative Writing Club) or helping the theatre department with costuming. At the end of the day, I’ll finally head home to grade papers, work on my current Book Riot pieces, or pet my cat.

How did your English major affect your career path?

I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have the teaching position I have today without an English major. One of the strengths I bring to the table in terms of serving my students IS my English content knowledge. While I’m always trying to work on improving my teaching strategies, inclusion of technology, etc., I know I never have to worry that I’m not hitting at the heart of the books we read in my classes and the structure and content of the essays my students write.

When I was student teaching, I was overwhelmed with the experience, too. I didn’t realize how stressful it would be until I was already in it, but I knew that I wanted to teach English more than anything. I was armed with so much knowledge from my English classes, and I knew how painful it was to be in non-English classes at Ball State and see that writing was something that plenty of other students desperately needed to work on. All of that made me want to teach English even more. Reading comprehension, critical analysis, and the ability to put that comprehension and analysis into words are some of the most important skills high school students need to master, so I’m honored to have a part in that now.

What skills did you pick up in your major that have proved useful in your job?

The English Department did a bang-up job helping me hone my analytical writing skills. Until I started teaching Film Lit, I didn’t realize how helpful it was that I can actually write well. I’m able to show my students examples of my own analytical writing that they can use as models for specific tasks, which is nice.

The instruction I received in my writing classes also helped me hone my style and build my confidence in my own writing. The voice present in my writing and my passion for literature, both of which grew throughout my time as an undergraduate, helped me land a spot as a Book Riot contributor. For the longest time in college, I was a “quasi” book blogger; I ran a YA book blog but didn’t interact much with the blogosphere because I was intimidated. I feel like I can run with that crowd now and not feel inadequate, which is partially because all of the Book Riot people are lovely individuals and partly because I know I’m now a decent writer when I put in the time and care about what I’m writing.

Is there a particular class or professional opportunity that you remember having a big impact on you?

The young adult literature class impacted both the way I teach English, especially the way I run the student-chosen summer reading activities in class in the fall, and my experience writing for Book Riot as a critical reader of YA fiction. The ideas that were covered in that class – how to talk about tough subject material, how to tie in relevant current events, etc. – were more helpful than I could have anticipated. I also know that the entire education program, but specifically the English education classes, helped prepare me for how to design the best reading and writing lessons that I can.

What advice would you give current English majors?

If you’re trying to get onto a writing staff, be brave and apply when there are job openings, even if you think you won’t be good enough! You never know until you try. Write your passions and your voice will come through.

The Twittersphere is on fire right now, and Book Twitter is one of the greatest social platforms you can engage in. There is so much critical analysis happening in 140 characters, it’s madness. So find some authors, publishers, book bloggers, etc., to follow so you can get in on all of that action. It’ll also help you make connections that can further your own aspirations once you graduate.

Save all of your notes! I had to teach The Scarlet Letter my first year at Homestead, and I knew I had taken such great notes in Dr. Habich‘s class, but I tragically couldn’t ever find them.

Morgan Gross on Balancing Work and Life as a Grad Student

Morgan Gross is a current #bsuenglish graduate student pursuing a PhD in Rhetoric and Composition. Below, you can view a video starring Morgan and detailing “A Day in the Life of a Grad Student.”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4sXqNEWUk4&w=560&h=315]

Originally from Texas, Morgan has taken the opportunity in her new home to make many long lasting friendships, including current grad student Kelsie Walker and #bsuenglish alum Elisabeth Buck. She provides advice for students considering graduate study below.

gross.jpgGrad school is HARD. I’m going to say it again, for emphasis. Grad school is REALLY HARD. My work keeps me busy, for sure, and my life isn’t all just fun and friends. In the video, you can see me walking around campus, teaching ENG 213 Intro to Digital Literacies, and studying, studying, studying for my comprehensive exams, which I took in January 2017 and passed! You’ll often hear people talk about grad school as isolating. After you finish course work, that’s kind of true. I read something like 125 books/articles just to prepare for my exams. Now I’m working on the dissertation, which boils down to engaging in an extensive research project and then writing, essentially, a book. That’s a lot of quiet time, a lot of introspection that I’m engaged in for the final two years (let’s hope) of my degree. Of course, it’s work that I (almost always) enjoy, feel excited about, and find meaningful.

I guess I’m promoting an idea in this blog post that likely won’t be new to you. The idea is that we strive for balance in all that we do, and the grad school experience is no exception. I work hard at school and my assistantship—often long hours, in chairs that hurt my body, and occasionally with doubts about the payoff. But I also enjoy my life, and friends are such an important part of that. As often as possible, I try to find ways in which I can bring business and pleasure together. From working quietly at a café next to each other, to attending and presenting at conferences, to co-authoring a book chapter for publication, I’ve been able to merge my friendships with my academic interests and pursuits. For some, you might prefer to keep the two separate from each other, but for me, having shared interests with my grad school besties invigorates and motivates my scholarly/professional life.

Here’s my shout out moment: Elisabeth and Kelsie, you two have commiserated with me during the difficult moments, you’ve offered distractions when I really needed them (and, let’s be honest, sometimes when I didn’t), and you’ve started with me what I know will continue on as lifelong friendships. My hope for any potential grad students reading this is that you’ll find new friends in your grad program who will do these same things for you. My advice to potential grad students is that you build your own luck by putting yourself out there and taking chances. Ball State offers plenty of opportunities to get involved and meet people—via the Grad School, the English department, the Writing Program community, and so on. You might be surprised at how well it turns out.

Professor Mike Donnelly Publishes Book (And More December/January Good News)

Prof. Mike Donnelly‘s book, Freedom of Speech and the Function of Rhetoric in the United States, was released on December Donnelly book15.

Prof. Jill Christman recently had two essays published: “The Alligator and the Baby” in TriQuarterly and “This Story” in Phoebe: A Journal of Literature & Art Since 1971Prof. Christman is also chairing the conference committee for AWP this year and will be delivering a welcome address on the opening night of the conference.

Prof. Lyn Jones‘ immersive learning class explored #blacklivesmatter for Rethinking Children’s and YA Lit. Their magazine is out now! Download the BSU NOW app to read the #blacklivesmatter edition.

Prof. Pete Davis‘ fourth book of poetry, Band Names, will be published this fall.

Prof. Matt Mullins had two filmpoems (“Aubade” and “After Image”) screened at the 5th Annual International Video Poetry Festival in Athens, Greece.

Prof. Mai Kuha is serving on the steering committee of the newly formed Ecolinguistics Association.

Prof. Emily Rutter published “Contested Lineages: Fred Moten, Terrance Hayes, and the Legacy of Amiri Baraka” in the African American Review (vol. 49, no. 4).

Recent #bsuenglish graduate Lauren Birkey (December 2016) was hired at Spotted Monkey Marketing in Muncie. Go Lauren!

#bsuenglish student Elyse Lowery had three poems; “Crosshatch”, “Blood and Diamonds” and “Five Cigars;” accepted for publication by The 3288 Review. They will be published in late February 2017.

Students Brittany Mayfield, Josh Mooshian, and Julia Robben presented a project called “Mock Spanish” at the Unity Connections Conference on January 21, and they facilitated a substantial discussion on linguistic diversity and inclusion following their talk. The project was inspired by Prof. Kuha’s ENG 220 (Language and Society).

#bsuenglish MA graduate Heather Gemmen Wilson recently had two pieces, “How to Deceive Yourself” and “Divine Tantrums” published.

Hold Onto Your Passion: Advice from Audra Dittlinger

Stars to Steer By presents Audra Dittlinger, a Marketing Content Manager and Client Experience Director. Ms. Dittlinger began her journey at Ball State in 2001 and officially graduated in 2014 with a degree in English Studies.   

How would you describe your job?Audra Dittlinger

I would describe my job as fast paced, exciting, and unpredictable. It’s a mixture of editing, brainstorming, and creating some amazing content for a start-up company that is growing quicker than we ever thought possible!

What does a typical work day look like for you?

A “typical” work day depends on the day. I am able to work about 75% remotely, with the other 25% happening onsite, usually at our office headquarters. On my work-from-home days, I get up, check in with my team, and work through daily tasks. Since our company is still relatively small, all team members are able to take on multiple positions at the same time. My day may consist of mostly writing and editing, or I may find myself conducting interviews with prospective customers. It’s never the same and it’s certainly never boring. The days that I am able to spend in the office are often charged with enthusiastic co-workers and inspirational leadership. Team meetings are perfect opportunities for us to collaborate and afterwards we all leave the office feeling recharged. It’s a relief, really. A lot of times, meetings can get a bad reputation in the corporate world. In our company, we’re constantly innovating and creating so we all get jazzed about coming together for a meeting of the minds.

How did having an English major affect your career path?

My English major heavily affected my career path. I graduated as a married adult with a 2 year old toddler at home. I was not a traditional student. At the time that I graduated, I was actually going into my 9th year of being an insurance agent. I had known for years that my true love is writing and editing, and that is what I wanted in my life. I wasn’t going to stop until I found it. After multiple freelance gigs, I finally landed my “dream job,” if you will.

What skills did you pick up in your major that have proved useful in your job?

I picked up a lot of useful skills in my major, but I think the most useful was that it really honed my craft as an editor and it allowed me to be more patient than I would have otherwise been. I now have a distinct process when editing, something I could have only learned through my classes as an English major. I now slow down and I perfect my work. I am not naturally patient, but as a writer, I can block out the world and take my time.

Is there a particular class or professional opportunity that you remember having a big impact on you?

I was in a few classes led by Dr. Rai Peterson (Rai, as most English majors know her) and she definitely had an impact on me. I took two classes with her on campus and one online course. She really boosted my confidence and I’ll never forget the first time she wrote “You’re a writer!” at the top of one of my papers. It was one of the first times in my adult life that I really felt that I was moving in the right direction.

What advice would you give current English majors?

My advice would absolutely be this: hold on to what you love. If you really love Sci-Fi lit, hold onto that. If you really love Vonnegut, keep studying him. If you really love to edit, keep finding ways to do it. I let go of something that I loved to do and I spent 10 years of my life running in place and not living up to my potential. As soon as I found my passion again, I never let myself forget that feeling. That feeling is what drove me and what really helped me land my dream job. Don’t let people tell you English majors “have to be teachers.” Prove them wrong. It’s in you.