Thursday, December 11, 2014

Recent Graduate Blended Creative Writing Minor with Marketing Major

By Erynn Franks, class of 2014

Erynn Franks in New Zealand, working with the education-focused nonprofit organization Capital E
About half way through my first real semester in college, I was sitting in Dr. Margot’s Introduction to Information Systems classroom when he came up to me and asked, “Erynn, what is your major and minor?” To which I answered, “I’m a marketing major and a creative writing minor.” I could tell he was somewhat surprised by my answer; his original purpose of this question was to convince me to add an information systems minor (which he succeeded in doing), but it turned into a several-minute conversation about how great of a combination marketing and creative writing were and how well they complemented each other.

Four years later, I am taking my last finals of my undergraduate career, remembering that conversation. The combination has helped me create content for many different target markets. One example is this past summer. I interned with Capital E, a non-profit organization in New Zealand who focuses their energy on teaching children through entertainment. It was my job to help promote Capital E and their upcoming events, mainly the Big RevEal, the reveal of their new location, to both parents and teachers. I had the opportunity to write press releases, create a scavenger hunt, communicate with magazines and newspapers, and help with social media. All involved different forms of writing, but with a whimsical spin, as Capital E had built an image of whimsy and fun. The combination of creative writing and marketing helped me maintain that image while reaching target audiences.

As I prepare for life in the real world, I am grateful I chose to pair my marketing major with a creative writing minor. I celebrate the struggle of switching between the two writing techniques, the creative versus analytical and the business perspective versus the English perspective, and remain confident in my ability.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Alumni Spotlight: Kathryn Simmons

By Kathryn Simmons, class of 2012, Integrated Language Arts major

I am a ninth and eleventh grade English teacher at a charter school in Columbus. My class is comprised of students who dropped out and regretted it, had to take maternity leave, were expelled, or moved after open enrollment. Most of my kids are either homeless, in gangs, parents, or a combination of those.

I really love my job, though I never expected to end up here. I had an interview that I thought I had nailed at a public school in my home town; I had prepared for hours for it. When I got the “Thanks, but no thanks” email, I went on an application rampage on the Ohio Department of Education website and filled out applications for every school within a forty five minute drive, including the schools I had no interest in. I am so glad I did. Most of my students come from a world vastly different than my own even though they are a twenty-minute drive away. They are gang members, refugees, homeless, parents, addicts, children of addicts, etc. I get stories from international students who had to flee their country in West Africa in the middle of the night because rebels were opening fire in protest to the government. One of my students told me how excited he was that in America he doesn’t have to pay for elephant insurance since there is no worry about elephants trampling their house, unlike their hut in Nepal. My proudest moment is seeing a male student completely turn his life around. After he spent several months in jail for a drive-by shooting in which he was the shooter, he got shot last Christmas and it was a close call. It scared him and I saw a complete turnaround. For one of his writing assignments, he wrote a twenty-page narrative about a young boy in the gang life that closely followed his own experiences. Their experiences have really opened up
my understanding of what my students need in their education.

To help make the connections between the students and the curriculum, I’ve been pulling up old assignments and notes from my English classes to brush up on books I never thought I would need, like The House on Mango Street. It was the first book I had to teach and one I never expected to see again (Thank you Dr. Waterman!) Sometimes I end up wanting to kick myself for not taking some parts of a lecture more seriously so that when I need to trace back the entire history of the English language I can do so (Thank you Dr. Donatini!).

Another professor I owe a thank-you is Dr. Knickerbocker. I remember so clearly that she would spend the first half of every class period discussing the books she had recently finished. Working in a charter school, our curriculum is preset and the students work at their own pace, which has its advantages and disadvantages. One disadvantage is the possibility for cheating—when students finish a novel unit, for example, they hand off answers to students approaching the unit. An advantage is the flexibility I have. Since we are a credit recovery school, the students work at their own pace and aren’t typically working on the same novels or assignments at the same time. I can change books for individual students as I see fit, and many of the books I have swapped were books Dr. Knickerbocker told us about. She would only discuss young adult novels. The books were never within the same realm; she covered books that would work for a variety of demographics and helped me to discover a number of books that my students relate to.

Going into my second year, one of my priorities is my international population. The modifications they need are tricky sometimes, and I wish I had more resources to support me. In particular, I have a small group of students who are from Senegal. They grow up speaking Wolof and Fulani, which are both complex languages. They can barely speak English, but in school, in Senegal, they speak French. So I’ve had to go back to my high school days and try to remember elementary level words to communicate with these students.

Charter schools can be tricky sometimes. The classrooms are not traditional, because these students are unable to function in a traditional setting. They need more individualized attention. I think they can be great stepping stones for beginning a career. My advice with charter schools is to find one that fits. Some charters are focused on specifics skills or subjects: job prep, athletic training, art and design, or, like mine, credit recovery. Each type of school creates a different culture because the goals of the students are different.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

High School Workshop Welcomes Area Students

On Monday, November 3, the Ashland University English Department held its 29th annual High School Workshop. We sent invitations to 250 different schools, and 18 of these responded, six of which had never attended before. We ended up welcoming a total of 155 students and teachers from these institutions, ranging from Willard to Cuyahoga Valley Christian.

The day began with a gathering in the piano lounge of the Hawkins-Conard Student Center where coffee, juice, and pastries were provided. To start the day off, we gathered in the Hawkins-Conard Auditorium for a brief presentation by Kara Metcalf of the Ashland University Admissions Department who described for the attendees the programs AU offers to its students and something of what life is like on campus. Then we sent our visitors on their way to attend three of the six workshops being offered this year.

The sessions included discussions of Frost’s and Roethke’s poetry, a discussion of what film studies is, a discussion of writing very short pieces, a discussion of the value of the first sentence in a work, and a discussion of Elie Wiesel’s Night. After the workshops, the visiting students and teachers were treated to lunch at convo, and then some attended readings by creative writers Jasmine Dansler and Megan Porhts and some went on a campus tour.

We are proud of this event’s longevity, its continuing ability to bring students and teachers to campus as well as providing members of the department the opportunity to engage in serious discussions with many of the brightest high school students in the area.

Monday, November 24, 2014

English Minor Travels the World During Semester at Sea

By Sarah O'Connell, Strategic Communication and Public Relations major, English minor

My view from my bedroom on the lowest level of the ship.  That's right, I woke up to this every morning.  Sometimes I would even see a new country outside.
One of the greatest Christmas presents I've ever received was a giant styrofoam board map of the world. I was able to stick pins into it, to places I've been to and places where I wanted to go, and it was one of my top priorities to bring with me when I went away to college. It was a way to set goals for myself and to imagine what I would and could do in certain places when I would finally be able to travel. During my freshman year, I came across a poster for a study abroad program that would not only accomplish my set goals I had made on my map, but also change my life. 
Standing in front of the Largest Pagoda in Myanmar and surrounded by one of the most colorful of cultures encountered on the voyage.
The Semester at Sea program has been active for over fifty years, sailing around the world and serving as a floating college campus for its students. The program currently takes place aboard a ship called the MV Explorer and provides typical classes that could be found on campuses around the country such as arts, sciences, and even business. Of course we were given more of an opportunity being distracted and let our minds wander at the impressive views of new oceans or countries we could see from our classroom windows.

I had planned most of my college career around this opportunity to travel and study on the ship. When I finally found myself taking my last step off of dry land and walking onto the shifting vessel I would call home for the next four months, I felt a rush of excitement mixed with anticipation. What glorious adventures were waiting for me on that golden blue horizon? Back then I had no idea, but what I know now was something more remarkable than I could ever imagine.

Our itinerary included eleven different countries for us to explore. We ventured across the rough Pacific Ocean and made our way through Asia in; Japan, China, Vietnam, Singapore, Myanmar, and India. When we sailed down the Indian Ocean we found ourselves in Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana, and Morocco. We had accomplished so much before we made our final stop in England. Even now, the memory is still as fresh in my mind as spring. I can recall what it was like scaling the steep stairs of the Great Wall of China, or stalking elephants and giraffes in the wilds of Africa, or looking out on the deck of the MV Explorer and being unable to tell where the sky met the ocean. 

Henna artists at work during a home visit in India.
Every day that passes pushes me to try to remember every specific detail and commit it to my memory. I look at my map now, decorated with colored pins of the locations I have visited and dream about going back someday, but for now I am so thankful I was given this wonderful opportunity in the first place. And it all started with me having a goal on what I could accomplish with my small map of a very large world. 

My blog:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Recent Graduate Thrives in Higher Education Master's Program

By Erika Gallion, class of 2013

As an undergraduate English and Creative Writing major at Ashland, I knew I was going to have to think
eventually about graduate school. Majoring in what I loved as an undergraduate is a decision I did not regret and still do not regret at all. Getting to do what I loved the most for four years with professors and peers who also held similar passions was a privilege I will remember and treasure forever.

Working within the Admissions office at Ashland for four years introduced me to a career I never before knew existed: Student Affairs. I loved my on-campus job; it gave me crucial leadership and interpersonal communication skills. What I enjoyed the most, however, was actively helping someone make an important life decision. Hearing that I had impacted a potential student’s college decision gave me satisfaction, and when I realized I could do this as a career (mostly by inquiring as to what my supervisors held degrees in), I began looking for programs.

From my experience thus far as a first year master’s student within Kent State University’s Higher Education Administration & Student Personnel program, my past as an English major has been essential to my success within graduate level work. Graduate school expects students to know how to write well, a skill that is (sadly) very scarce amongst college graduates. Classmates within my master’s program seem intimidated and insecure about paper assignments whereas I feel confident and even excited to utilize my skills. I also feel some hesitation when class involves open discussion—coming from an English background, however, I am used to and happy to engage in discussion. My experience as an English major has given me academic skills needed to succeed in any graduate program, especially one such as mine that includes interpersonal skills, confidence in participating within class and/or group settings, and strong writing capabilities.

I have decided to specialize in Internationalization within Higher Education for my Master’s degree, a decision also rooted in my love of literature. With this focus, I will hopefully one day have a career as an Education Abroad advisor or a director of International Student Services at a university. Confronting social justice issues such as racism and immigration is something I began to do in my English classes. It’s amazing how much a book can truly change and inspire you. Travel and culture have become fundamental to my identity, and I can say with complete truthfulness that this transformation began in English classes at Ashland. I miss my English classes daily and often long to read Invisible Man again and discuss it for class, but I am confident that this path I am now on will be rewarding and fulfilling. I encourage anyone to major in English if he or she loves the subject. It will not only captivate your interest but will also revolutionize the way you think and potentially shift the very core beliefs within you. Thank you to the entire English department at Ashland—you have truly changed my life. Best of luck to all!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Alumni Spotlight: LeeAnn Larson

By LeeAnn Larson, class of 2002, Integrated Language Arts major 

My current position is Professional Academic Advisor, working with students in the College of Education, Department of Psychology and any freshman who is undeclared. But, this isn’t where I began.

I taught 7th and 8th grade Language Arts for three years, post-graduation, in Medina City Schools. Following that position I found myself working for The Office of Admission at Ashland University. I had the opportunity to travel around to high schools in Ohio and basically brag about how wonderful Ashland University is and how much I loved my experience as a student. I worked in Admissions from 2006 until 2011.

I then moved on to Coordinator of Retention because I longed to have meaningful relationships with students that were built on more than recruitment—relationships that gave me the opportunity to make a difference. I held that position for two years.

In May 2013 I moved into the Professional Advising position and it is my favorite position thus far.

I received both my undergraduate (Integrated Language Arts) and my graduate (M.Ed. Curriculum Instruction with a focus in literacy) education degrees from Ashland so I am very familiar with the program(s) and their requirements. I am also very familiar with the professors and the expectations they have for their students.

In my current role I have the opportunity to work with students, helping them navigate the transition from high school to college. I get to interact with those who are unsure about what they want to do with their lives, and also those students who’ve wanted to teach since they entered kindergarten. I learned in my education classes the value of building rapport with students early and it is something that I seem to do well.

My student years at Ashland University really helped to prepare me for life. Majoring in Integrated Language Arts taught me more than how to be an English teacher. It taught me how to read, write, and communicate effectively. These skills are necessary in any career, and I value the degree to which they were developed during my time. I also learned the importance of being a lifelong learner and this is something I strongly encourage with each of my advisees.

The professors at this institution are top-notch and every professor I learned from I enjoyed. However, when students ask me about my favorite professors I reply Dr. Weaver, from the English department, and Dr. Knickerbocker, from the College of Education. Students will ask if they were my favorites because, ‘they were easy.’ No. No, they were not easy, and that is part of the reason why they were my favorites. Both of these professors challenged me to dig deeper, to work past the superficial, and to find the potential that cannot be found in gliding through an easy class.

When I graduated from AU in 2002 I was certain I’d be a classroom teacher until retirement. Twelve years later, I still consider myself a teacher, just not in the traditional sense. I get the opportunity every single day to teach, guide, encourage, support and challenge students. To me, those are the best parts of being a teacher, and these tasks can be done in and outside of the classroom.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Evelyn Palik: Lifelong Learning and a Passion for Life

By Naomi Saslaw

What is the role of learning in the life of an individual?  For Evelyn Palik, reading and lifelong learning are a significant part of her identity.

Evelyn and her husband, Emil, chose to retire to Ashland, because Ashland College could satisfy their passion for lifelong learning and growth.  They soon became deeply involved in courses in Philosophy, such as Doug Chismar's class in Empathy and his Oriental Philosophy.  Evelyn was challenged by Russell Weaver's course on the Russian novel and very deeply involved in the discussions in Naomi Saslaw's Readings in Jewish Literature.  Each course they audited provided seeds for further exploration.

Evelyn became fascinated by philosophical and theological questions about Judaism.  She became particularly interested in Rabbi Harold Kushner's books, starting with When Bad Things Happen to Good People and his many other books including When All You've Ever Wanted Isn't Enough:  The Search for a Life That Matters.  Rabbi Kushner taught Evelyn how to deal with suffering in her life, including the death of her first baby.  Evelyn met Rabbi Kushner at Fairmount Temple in Cleveland when he was struggling with his own pain after the death of his son.  Evelyn learned that if she shares her pain with another person, she can more easily deal with her problems, rather than keeping the pain locked inside.  At the age of 85, Evelyn now has no fear because of what she has learned from Rabbi Kushner.  Although Rabbi Kushner is Jewish, Evelyn believes that her understanding of Christianity has also deepened because of her reading Kushner's books.

Evelyn reads daily.  When I asked her why she loves to read, she first quoted from a Korean film: "Reading is an heirloom that waves to all mankind."  Reading also allows her to keep researching new ideas.  She also believes that reading "takes her into a bit of heaven," that "reading is as much a part of me as breathing," and that reading has helped her to become a more understanding person.   She then added that she is reading because "I am preserving my brain to go to medical school." Evelyn has donated her body to Case Western Reserve University Medical School, and her husband, Emil, has already completed the same donation.

Recently Evelyn has become immensely interested in Korean films.  She is fascinated by the art of Korean film and by studying the different culture of Korea.  One film that combines her love of classical music and Korean film depicts the conductor of a Korean orchestra.  The actor who played the conductor totally immersed himself in the art of conducting and gives an incredible performance.

When I asked Evelyn what advice she would give to college students, she stated that they should find their passion, to see what makes them alive and speaks to their heart and then they should learn about that field.  She also advises young people to be a keen observer of and listener to other people.

Evelyn also believes that "if there is no laughter in Heaven, I don't want to go there."  She lives her life continuously learning and growing, avidly reading, with a love for people, with a passion for classical music, and with healthy, renewing laughter.