Alumni Update: Dani Douvikas (’14)

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“Not being the maker of what I do,/ but only the one who holds the pencil.” – Mary Oliver

 

Shortly after graduating, I decided to try embracing Eastern medicinal practices. My first thought was yoga. In my first gentle yoga class, I found the one thing that made me feel not only calm, but as if no external thing could interfere with that calm. It was truly amazing.

When I began practicing yoga, I found myself seeking huge sensations and more flexibility. But as the year went on and I kept practicing, I began to notice that the impulse I have had my whole life, to always demand more of myself, was slowly diminishing. I was beginning to relax. I think yoga has really helped my writing seem a whole lot less overwhelming. Through my time at Whitworth, I came to realize that poems sometimes start because we are moved by the words of another person, or an experience that someone chooses to share with us. So through this, you don’t actually have to do anything for the poem to come or happen. In the words of Laurie Lamon, “You don’t have to be brilliant.”

Emily Dickinson once said, “Beauty is not caused. It is.” I like to think of writing not as something I am actually creating myself, but something that comes from a whirlpool of elements. What I see, what I hear, voices I have read: this, to me, makes writing feel a whole lot less scary and intimidating. It also means that everyone is capable of it, which I find wonderful.

Over the past year, I put a few essays of mine aside that I had written in Thom Caraway’s autobiographical writing class. When I came back to these essays I was previously borderline-obsessed with, my ideas, reflections, and connections all began to flow so much more easily than before. I no longer felt like I was pulling teeth. Through this, I have found Thom’s words–to sometimes put writing aside for a few years and come back to it later–to be very good advice.

When I am not writing or practicing yoga, I teach an in-water fitness and stretch class for people with arthritis or arthritis-type ailments. It is truly fantastic to see my participants better themselves in ways similar to how I have learned to better my own self through yoga. I love challenging my participants and acknowledging their hard work and dedication.

And I get so overwhelmed when they come to me enthusiastic about feeling better and enjoying class. It is hard to believe I can actually call this my “job.”

But it can be hard work, just like writing is. Some of my participants hurt every day. It definitely is not always easy.

Although my job is very rewarding, I hesitate to call writing just rewarding. Writing is something different. Something I struggle to even begin to get on the page.

Lately when I pick up something to read, it is by a writer I have met or have gone to see at a reading, or know from taking a class of theirs. It just feels so much more personal that way. This is what I look most forward to as I work on my MFA. One of my favorite things about being a writer is receiving a poem from a student or a professor and wanting so much to expand or look further, or just feel plain happy about the new way they have caused me to look at the world.

Dani lives in the Bay Area where she writes, practices yoga, and teaches an in-water exercise and stretch class for people with arthritis. Her work has appeared in Santa Clara Review. She is pursuing her MFA at Saint Mary’s College where she is a recipient of the Chester Aaron Scholarship. She loves when people share writing with her. You can contact her at danidouvikas@gmail.com.

Alumni Update: Leah Silvieus (’07) On Poetry and Hospitality

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The sun is just beginning to rise through the spindled sailboat masts and motor yacht Bimini tops in the marina, and I’m enjoying the solitary, quiet room that morning is – before the guests wake and I prepare their state rooms for the day, before I arrange the flowers, before I plan the evening’s cocktail party and pair wine with the four-course dinner that will follow, before I move through all of the other rituals and tasks that comprise my day as Chief Stewardess of a 100-foot megayacht. While my current occupation has no direct connection to what I studied as an English major, I still publish regularly, and the financial foundation I’ve built allows me to teach, read, and lecture around the country. My Whitworth education also prepared me to think about how my dual vocation of writer and hospitality professional inform and enrich each other.

The French philosopher and mystic Simone Weil once wrote that academic study trains the mind for paying attention: “that attention which, oriented toward God, is of the same substance as prayer.”[1] The kind of attention I learned through literary studies also energizes the work I now do in the yacht hospitality industry. One of my favorite poets, Jack Gilbert, articulates this power of attention beautifully: “When we slow, / the garden can choose what we notice. Can change / our heart […]”[2] I find that poetry and hospitality both call us to awareness of the world through sense – to make sense of the world through sensing the world in body, mind, and spirit. Another of my favorite writers, Angel F. Méndez Montoya, writes: “[T]here is a relationship between sabor and saber (savoring and knowing). Perhaps the kitchen and the library are in fact united by one and the same splendid desire: the desire to both savor and know.”[3] Both my Whitworth education and experience as a poet in the world suggest that hospitality is about being open to seeing poetry everywhere and being conversant in the many ways that the world communicates to, and connects, us. Likewise, being a poet is learning to see hospitality everywhere, which is to say, learning to listen and welcome those connections (and sometimes the creative tensions and disjunctions) through which others, and perhaps God, speak to us. The life of poetry, like hospitality, allows the world’s garden to change the ways in which we pay attention, and perhaps in the process, allows the power of our renewed attention to transform us.

 

[1] Weil, Simone. Awaiting God, trans. Brad Jersak (Abbotsford: Fresh Wind Press, 2012), loc. 581

[2] Jack Gilbert, “Burning (Andante Non Troppo),” Refusing Heaven (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), 18.

[3] Angel F. Méndez Montoya, The Theology of Food: Eating and the Eucharist (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 28.

Leah Silvieus (’07) is an interdisciplinary artist whose work has been featured at the O, Miami Poetry Festival and the Asian American Women Artists Association in San Francisco. She also has received fellowships from Kundiman and the Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation. Her writing has been featured in Asian American Poetry & Writing, CURA, The Collagist, and diode, among others. She holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Miami and currently divides her time between Florida and New York where she works in the yacht hospitality industry. You can visit her online here.

Alumni Update: A Postcard from Morgan Feddes (’11)

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It’s fascinating to see where life pulls you.

 

For me, it led to a job in Washington, D.C., working as a writer and editor for the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities – but that’s not where I had originally planned to go. After graduating in 2011, I headed to Chicago to work at Christianity Today as an editorial resident. As that position wrapped up its yearlong period, I planned next to join the Air Force as an officer.

 

Or so I thought.

Enter medical issues; add government bureaucracy; mix with a stubborn will to try whatever it takes to get into the Air Force. The end result: me, living at home after a year and a half of waiting for the U.S. military to ultimately say no; me, not quite sure what to do next, but somehow just knowing that something would come if I started dusting off my résumé.

 

Little did I know that something would get its start in a short message from former Whitworth president Bill Robinson, but then, God has always worked in amazing ways.

 

So these days, I get to do work I love, serve alongside a wonderful church community (what’s up, National Community Church?), and spend the moments in between drinking in the history of the D.C. area – an area I’d never even visited prior to the interview for this position.

 

This isn’t where I thought I’d be three years after Whitworth, but I’m thankful for it every day.

 

Morgan C. Feddes, ’11, hails from Montana and now lives in Washington, D.C. She’s the staff writer and editorial director for the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. Before that, she spent a year helping some of her extended family get a café off the ground outside Belgrade, Montana, where she learned some of the best ways to make a sandwich and tried not to eat all of the cookies (she was only moderately successful). Before that, she spent a year working for Christianity Today outside Chicago. Morgan blogs over at The Isle Full of Noises.

Snapshot: EL Seniors on Whitworth and the Future

As graduation grows closer and the epidemic of senioritis reaches new highs,  let’s take a moment to hear from a few of the members of EL Class of 2014 as they share what they have learned during their time at Whitworth and what is the next step after graduation.

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“During my time in Whitworth’s English department, I have had an incredible academic experience, but even the most technical aspects of that education have been made possible by the people who make up this department. Without the support, expertise, and friendship of the faculty, as well as the bonafide family-like community of the students, my passion for English would not have been fostered in the way that it has. This department has given me both a career direction and a sense of home.”

“In the fall, I will be pursuing my Ph.D. in English literature at University of California, Riverside. One of the reasons I have chosen UCR is its commitment to community alongside scholarship, a value I certainly learned from Whitworth. I hope to one day be an English professor who can continue that legacy of academic excellence and mentorship, collegiality, and fun.”

–Ana Quiring

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“It’s not about the work, though the work is considerable.
It’s not about the grade, or even the class.
It’s not even about the future.
It’s about the moment things will never be the same,
pushing beyond what you’ve always known
into a world you never knew existed
and finding there, to your surprise,
wholeness.”

“I want to help people find their wholeness just as Whitworth helped me find mine, whether that’s through work as an English professor, leading a community writing workshop, or writing as a witness and voice for the voiceless. Good things await.”

–Claire Roth

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“One thing that Whitworth has taught me is how to handle myself under intense pressure or stress. As a double major at a liberal arts university, I often feel spread thin, but I have been so grateful for the opportunity to pursue both of my passions that it was all worth it to me. Looking back, I sometimes regret not slowing down, but living life at such a breakneck speed has been both exhilarating and rewarding. As I look ahead to graduate school and my career, I am realizing how unlikely it is that I will ever be so diversified or so busy all at once as I have been these past four years at Whitworth.”

“I will be graduating with my BA in both English and Psychology. After graduation, I will be moving to Texas to attend Baylor University’s School of Social Work in pursuit of my MS.”

–Josie Camarillo

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“Being an English major has, in many ways, been a practice in humanism. I came to college expecting English to be some sort of disconnected study of language and the craft of writing. But the English department has taught me the valuable lesson that good literature and good writing is not disconnected from that which is around it. Indeed, it is integrally connected to politics, globalization, history, pop culture, religion, etc. One cannot be a good writer or a good reader while remaining blind to the world.”

“Next year I’ll be attending beginning a joint degree program, through which I will earn both a law degree and a master’s in mass communication. I will be focusing my studies on First Amendment law — specifically media and speech law.”

–Lindsie Trego (Wagner)

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“I learned that it is important to learn more about ourselves as individuals, and to not be scared to express ourselves, but also that we can never be truly independent from those around us. We need to trust and invest in our friends as we all try to navigate this weird road to adulthood and maturity together.”

“After graduating and raising money over the summer, I will backpack around the UK in September and October, 2014. Then I will spend time with family over the holidays, and then hopefully find a full time job somewhere in film in Los Angeles.”

–Rosie McFarland

 

Summer Job & Internship Fair Tomorrow

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What are you doing this summer?

Find out your options tomorrow at Whitworth’s Career Services’s annual Summer Job & Internship Fair. The Fair is from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday, April 10) in the HUB.

If you are looking to gain some work experience or just don’t know how to spend your summer, make sure to stop by the fair. The following list is a preview to the employers attending:

Designer Fitness LLC
etailz, Inc.
Fastenal
Washington Small Business Development Center
CarMax
SCAFCO Corporation
Next IT
Gravity Jack
Spokane Civic Theatre
People to People
Costco Wholesale
Center for Justice
Spokane Faith & Values
Kalispel Tribal
Charlie Flager State Farm
Make-A-Wish
Olive Tree Bible Software
Saint George’s School
First Call for Help/Frontier Behavioral Health
Whitworth Presbyterian Church

Image from Here.

EL Alum Updates: Dani (Dubois) Erickson and Katie Palmer on Holistic Living

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3 Tips on Living a Holistic Life

by Dani Erickson

Katie Palmer and I went through Whitworth together as fellow English majors with a mutual love of beauty. We bonded over the complicated grace of poetry, the intense yet gratifying allure of writing workshops, and the multifaceted satisfaction of a good cup of coffee.

Beyond that, we both found inspiration in the creativity of lifestyle blogs. And, at the same time, we also had a similar feeling of dissatisfaction in the depth of those blogs. They seemed to be so focused on superficial things: the next great sweater, the perfect hostess gift. We love these things, but we also crave more.

 So, we came together to create our own website — She’s Charming — where women in particular can be inspired to be better people while also getting a daily dose of all things beautiful. We share the latest trends in fashion and decor, our favorite eats and travels, but most importantly, we challenge women to work on their inner-selves and on their career.

Our platform is based on living a holistic life, and we personally try to follow a few tips as we pursue this goal. Take a look, and if our principles ring true with you, head on over to shes-charming.com for more.

1. Invest locally.

Community is arguably the most important part of life, so if you don’t invest in those around you, you’ll never see the importance. Cultivate a solid foundation wherever you are, so you can have the support and confidence to develop all areas of your life. Learn from each other, challenge each other, and grow together.

2. Explore the world.

Just as important as our local community is engaging with new and foreign things. As Katie wrote in one of our recent posts, seeing and experiencing new things informs how we look at the world. She writes, “The reason I travel is for that moment when you return home and your ordinary world looks slightly different.” We fully believe exploring outside of the ordinary is essential to living holistically for this very reason. Chase after opinions and ways of life that are different from you own — there’s always something new to learn.

3. Constantly work to improve yourself.

There are few things more satisfying than conquering the task before you. Maybe it’s a goal you’ve set, a long-term project you finally finished, or simply a bad habit you kicked once and for all. Be competitive with yourself to inspire growth. While it’s important to focus on one thing and hone your craft, it’s also crucial to pursue a balance of all areas of life in order to lead a holistic one. Improve your skills, improve your goals, improve your relationships and in doing so, improve yourself.

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Dani graduated with an English degree from Whitworth this past year, and now lives in Seattle and works at Nordstrom as a product copywriter. She enjoys that fast-paced urban environment, the awe-inspiring views that Seattle has to offer, and passing exactly six coffee shops on her five-block walk to work.

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Katie, a recent graduate from Whitworth University with an English degree, now works for People to People Ambassador Programs promoting travel for young students. She lives in Spokane, Wash., where she enjoys sampling the local coffee shops and is constantly dreaming of her next adventurous getaway.

All images are from here.

Internship Spotlight: Ana Quiring (’14) on The Pilgrim’s Way

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I may be (rather suddenly) a grown-up of some sort, but I’m still writing essays about what I did on my summer vacation, and I can’t say I mind.

I suppose this summer qualifies for a coveted position on the Whitworth English department blog because it was a singularly English-y time of my life (rather like all of them). My plans for the summer were to somehow find a job as a barista, which meaner critics of the English major would call “living up to my potential.” Regardless, it seemed a nice enough way to while away the summer in Carmel, CA, a beach town full of quaint shops, dogs, and Texan tourists.

With my expectations firmly managed, you can imagine how excited I was to find a job at an independent bookstore, of all places—specifically, Pilgrim’s Way Community Bookstore and Secret Garden. Pilgrim’s Way has been around since the 60s, and hasn’t changed owners in twenty years.

That owner is Paul Fridlund, a man with the kind eyes and slow-moving calm of a manatee, who answered me in very friendly monosyllables when I came in to apply. His wife and now co-owner, Cynthia, is a firecracker with her own radio show and the paper-goods-conservation skills of a UC Berkeley Ecology professor.

When these lovely people agreed to hired me, I was invited into an entirely new world of books. See, Pilgrim’s Way used to be called Pilgrim’s Way Metaphysical Books. They’ve changed the name and added a lot of paperback novels to widen their appeal, but Paul and Cynthia’s hearts remain with their hearty metaphysical, new age, self-help, and Buddhist sections (not to mention an incense collection that would make the Himalaya mountain region jealous).

These sections were totally new to me, but I soon learned about Tarot cards, Vedic astrology, personality archetypes, and past lives. A hearty crystal and jewelry collection led me to recommend to a German tourist the cleansing power of citrine, or the general good energy of pink quartz. This is not the kind of stuff they teach us at Whitworth.

Of course, along the way I got to recommend a lot of John Steinbeck (a local celebrity), David Sedaris (a personal favorite), and James Patterson (because there just isn’t anything we can do about it—he’s everywhere). Between the books, crystal, and backyard spiritual garden, it was a busy and interesting summer. For example: my favorite customer was an old-timer named Scott Macbeth who ordered copies of Montaigne’s essays and delighted in recounting to me his adventures climbing Mount Everest.

What’s so great about this place, and why I wanted to tell you this story, is this: we have to remember that places like Pilgrim’s Way still exist. There are still quirky, eclectic stories in otherwise snooty beach towns. There are still places for English majors to feel at home, and find a way to pay their rent.

And I didn’t even make a single cup of coffee.

Ana Quiring is an English major specializing in British literature, writing, and compulsive book-buying.

Famous English Majors

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What do Jodie Foster, James Franco, Steven Spielberg, and Conan O’Brien have in common? Besides being famous? No, they’re not Whitworth grads (are they? I’m sure Laura, Vic, or Leonard would have mentioned this to me by now).

Answer (from the title of this blog post): They’re all English majors.

Check out Tyler Vendetti’s snappy article “Yes, I’m an English Major. No, I Will Not Be Working At McDonald’s.”

Writes Vendetti: “An English major with no internships or writing experience will receive just as much consideration in the real world as a science major with nothing to their name but a diploma and proof of occasional trips to the science building in college. Jobs don’t come from the title of your major. They come from the experience that you latch onto it. The major you choose is only useless if you let it be useless.”

Preach it.

Muppety photo is from here.

Anna McCollough (’08) answers “What do you do with an English major?”

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Anna McCollough (above, with Elorm Atisu ’11) graduated from Whitworth in 2008 with degrees in English (writing emphasis) and Spanish. She earned her Master of Science in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Baylor University in 2011. As an Assistant Director of Admissions, Anna loves sharing Whitworth’s mind and heart mission with prospective students and families, traveling, and rediscovering Spokane. She recently sent this post to the Whitworth English Blog:

I am an Admissions Counselor at Whitworth, providing frequent interaction with prospective students and their families as they go through their college search. When they learn that I am an alumnus, the most frequent follow-up question is, “What was your major?” I enthusiastically say that I studied English. Occasionally, a more probing parent will continue in a skeptical tone, “So how have you used your English major?”

We live in a culture that is growing more critical of the value of both the humanities and the liberal arts education. It is a misperception that English majors only read novels and poetry, and therefore live in an alternate reality of pages and stanzas. While the probing parental question might come across as intimidating, I welcome the opportunity to dialogue about the inherent value of the humanities and my student experience at Whitworth.

The choice of the word “use” in the question implies that the value of a college degree lies in its practicality. To answer in that respect, I consistently use my English degree in practical ways. The critical thinking and reading skills I learned transferred to my graduate work. I learned to connect ideas across the texts and develop my own insights, not to mention expressing those thoughts through copious essays. In my current job, I read hundreds of application essays to gauge a sense of college readiness, as well as coordinate and evaluate the essay component of our scholarship competitions. So yes, I do use my English major. But education is not purely utilitarian.

I think another important question to ask is how studying English shaped me. Not all of the benefits of education can be quantified into a set of numbers and statistics. Through my experiences in the English department, I discovered the power of language and how the words we use shape our understanding of our selves and others. The conversations in and outside of the classroom caused me to reflect and analyze my beliefs and worldview. I learned to think critically about the messages I receive, both explicit and implied. My studies instilled the belief that learning does not stop when you step outside of the classroom, and they nurtured an ethos of life-long learning. To answer the question again, I not only use my education as an English major, but I live it.