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.

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

 

EL Alum Amy Schroeder (’09) Chosen As Lilly Grad Fellow

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Congrats to Amy Schroeder (’09), one of 16 graduate students chosen this year for the Lilly Graduate Fellows Program!

The Whitworth web site reports: “After graduating from Whitworth, Schroeder taught literature courses for a year at Payap University, in Chiang Mai, Thailand. During this time she developed a strong interest in pursuing her Christian vocation, which she says has led her toward becoming an English professor.

‘The English department at Whitworth taught me to love the difficulty of poetry; I probably would not have pursued it further had I not had such excellent literature professors,’ Schroeder says.

Amy will soon begin her Ph.D. at Baylor.

Read the article here.

Kelsey Bumgarner (’09) On How Majoring In English Prepared Her To Champion Student-Athletes

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Kelsey Bumgarner (above) graduated from Whitworth in 2009 with a degree in English (literature), followed by her Masters in Sports Administration & Leadership at Seattle University in 2011. She now lives in Portland, OR, and works in the athletics department at Lewis & Clark College.

Kelsey recently sent this update to the Whitworth English blog:

At the time I graduated from Whitworth, I knew I was headed to Seattle University to pursue my master’s in Sports Administration & Leadership. I had worked in the Whitworth athletics department for four years, culminating in a senior year internship that solidified my desire to continue working in collegiate athletics.
While at SU, I became an intern for the Northwest Conference office while also working in the Seattle U athletics department, first within the ticketing department for men’s basketball in their first full season at KeyArena, and then as an Athletics Communications Assistant, handling men’s and women’s cross country, swimming, and indoor/outdoor track & field.
My time in Seattle taught me many things, least of which was that my education at Whitworth trained me how to think in ways that many of my peers had never been introduced to. While I was never more grateful for the ability to write a 15-20 page research paper with ease (thank you Doug, Leonard, and Laura), the real value was in the components of a liberal arts education that gave me a holistic mindset and a set of skills that was easily transferable.
I am now in my second year as the Athletics Development & Sports Information Assistant at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR, a position created through a grant from the NCAA. I gained this position through that annoyingly cliché yet oh-so-truthful push made by career counselors everywhere: networking. It was through my internship at the NWC office during grad school that I met athletics administrators at all levels in our membership colleges and universities, and with a little insider knowledge gained from my continued relationship with Steve Flegel in the Whitworth office, I was in the perfect position to contact the L&C department before the position had even been posted on job boards.
I love my job. I do a lot of things, but work mainly with alumni and parents through our booster club, the Pioneer Athletics Club, in putting on events structured around competitions to help the fundraising efforts that supplement our programs. The best part is I get to talk about something I love (our student-athletes and sports) with people who are already invested (in their children and Lewis & Clark), and aid the process of them not only staying connected, but recognizing the opportunity they have to make a significant difference in the L&C student-athlete experience through a financial contribution.
I wish I had a dollar for every odd look I get when people ask what I majored in during college, but the truth is I use my degree every single day. I write feature stories, compile newsletters, analyze information, and communicate with many departments across campus. I may not be studying the Romantic movement through Whitman or the moral dilemma facing Anna Karenina, but the same skills I learned in order to do well in Westminster I now utilize to do well in my career. I like to think I make my major work for me, not the other way around.

Chris Dorn (’11) On Teaching, Love, and the Purdue OWL

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After graduating from Whitworth in 2011, Chris Dorn set out for West Lafayette, Indiana to pursue an M.A. in Rhetoric and Composition at Purdue University. He is currently in his last semester at Purdue, during which he is finishing coursework and composing his thesis on writing center studies. This summer he and his fiancée, Tammy McGough (’11, pictured above), plan to return to her home state of Washington, get married, and start their life together in the Olympia area.

Here are some of Chris’s reflections on grad school, teaching, and writing centers.

It occurred to me just recently that, in terms of time, the only equivalent to a master’s program is the most uncomfortable of life’s phases: middle school. Two years, in and out, and then poof – it’s gone. Such has been my experience in grad school, where, as I entered my second and final year this past August, I felt like I was just starting to get properly adjusted. The movement from newbie to novice to exit strategist has been so swift that I’ve had trouble reflecting on my experience as I go.

While it’s hard to believe that I’m already wrapping up my graduate studies at Purdue, it’s also quite encouraging. One major lesson I’ve learned in the past 18 months is that grad school is temporary, and necessarily so. In no way is it a sustainable lifestyle for more than a few years. I remember reading more articles in a single class my first semester than I had read in my entire career at Whitworth. Of course, that was before I had learned another major lesson: no one reads it all.

So it’s been rigorous, and trying, and exhausting, and sometimes just defeating. Coming off of four gold-speckled years at Whitworth, I struggled, especially in my first year of the program, to cope. Nonetheless, my time in Indiana has also been a deeply rich experience. If I had to name one highlight, it would be the opportunity to teach. Each semester I have taught one section of introductory composition. Purdue gives their English graduate instructors fantastic support and remarkable liberty, both of which I have been glad for. My experiences at Whitworth have come in handy in surprising ways during my brief teaching career. I am reminded of Laurie Lamon’s poetry seminars when my students and I consider argument as a way of seeing the world. I put to use the goofy skill set required to create Prime Time activities when I plan class days that won’t have students fending off sleep. And I even get to share a slice of Core 250 with my students when I explain basic Platonic philosophy as it relates to images and words. (I guess I’ll always be somewhat counter-normative in my support of the Core program.)

Another delight has been returning to a Whitworth niche of mine: the writing center. In addition to teaching, this year I am working as a Writing Lab tutor. Purdue’s exceptionally high international population means that most of the writers I work with are nonnative English speakers, which is both challenge and blessing. (Are those two ever separate, anyway?) I also take pride in getting to contribute in a small way to the one and only Purdue OWL. No, I haven’t written any content for the OWL, but I do respond to OWL Mail inquiries. Next time you email the OWL about when to hyphenate compound nouns or how to cite municipal codes in APA, it just might be me who responds!

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And an update on my life – now, or at any time – would not be complete without mentioning the people who color it. Purdue’s program drives in high gear at all times, and I could not have survived the intensity were it not for the genuine kindness and camaraderie of my cohort (pictured above). Tammy and I have also been adopted into the most caring and active church communities we’ve ever been a part of. Because we prefer the traditional service to the contemporary, we are typically the youngest attenders by a good 40 years. Some of our first friends in Lafayette, in fact, were retired grandparents. But now I’m beginning to write another blog post altogether…

Laura Rooper (’11): From Westminster to “Writer’s Loft” and All the In-Between

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Laura Rooper (above right, with Thomas Robinson) graduated from Whitworth University in 2011 with a degree in Secondary Education and English. She now lives in Portland, Oregon, where she is attending graduate school at Western Seminary pursing a master’s in counseling. She recently sent us this dispatch.

After leaving Whitworth’s English department, I took a position as a youth pastor in Pendleton, Oregon. It was a challenging and rewarding position. I ran youth group twice a week, once for junior high and once for high school, and led classes on Sunday mornings.

There were some fun moments. One time one of my youth group kids called me to come to her house and remove her pet lizard that had crawled on her face. We went on some cool trips too, such as an enormous youth conference in Denver (yes, the convention center with the gigantic blue bear peeking in the window). These were all meaningful experiences. I stayed there one year.

In August 2012 I packed all my belongings and drove west, to the Oregon coast, and unloaded half my life there. My time is now divided: I spend half of my week in Portland, where I live with two Whitworth alumni (Erica Hoffman ’10 and Lydia Chenoweth ’10) and where I am attending graduate school. For the other half of my week I’m in Cannon Beach, living with my boyfriend’s parents (Trina and David Robinson) and spending time with my boyfriend (Thomas Robinson ’09).

Living with my boyfriend’s family is fun. They are incredible people and have always made me feel welcome. Plus, they’ve got a stellar coffee machine. I live in an upstairs bedroom with a sign the family put over my door—“Writer’s Loft.” I must say, living there is inspiring. I have gotten plenty of writing done in my spare time. Graduate school, where I am pursuing my masters in counseling, is going well, too.

All in all, my time since Whitworth has been similar to that of any alumni: full of changes, challenges, and delights. I certainly miss Westminster and all who dwell there.

Pax Gutierrez-Neal (’11) On The “Fun Bits That Punch Through The Lovely Chaos of Academia”

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Pax Gutierrez-Neal (’11) poses with Zee Captain, a character from the web-comic Romantically Apocalyptic. Pax recently sent us this post about life in graduate school (and the photos, including ones below of her and her colleague’s tiny study Cube of Doom and the “literature-loving robot ninja” who guards said Cube.)

Here’s Pax on Pax:

I’m a medievalist, almost halfway through my second year of graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin. I’m looking forward to an Old English course in the spring, will be presenting a paper at the 2013 MLA in January, and will hopefully have my Master’s by next fall.

 I spend my free time (my what now?) enjoying fairy tales and folklore, reading beach trash, and watching walkthroughs of horror video games on YouTube (in the dark, with headphones). I play WoW, but had to let my subscription expire when the academic term started back up; I eagerly await December, when I can in good conscience renew it again.

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Here’s Pax on her grad school experience:

So it turns out time flies when you’re going delightfully insane. I say “delightfully” because I’ve always been rather fond of my insanity, and its recurrences are like family visits—you look forward to it, revel in the first few days, then realize why you moved out and slowly start going cross-eyed and twitchy before the expected final day, in which you are honestly both sad and relieved to see the visit at an end.

That is what grad school is like for me. The middle slump is the truest part of the insanity—the few “So, this is what going insane feels like” weeks in the middle that culminate in the “Oh my God, I must be a masochist” handful of days, only to give way to that relieved, accomplished high once finals have passed. I’m in that middle dip right now, which means I spend an inordinate amount of time holed up in my tiny Cube of Doom; luckily, though, I live in one awesome city.

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 You see, there are fun bits that punch through the lovely chaos of academia—and which are not themselves academic in nature, and the insanity-fun-times hit during some great events. The Celtic Festival is a good example—with its caber-toss competitions (which they put right next to the sheep-herding demonstrations, despite stray logs flying into the pasture), viking invasions (only mostly staged), and faux-but-very-convincing-haggis (which is also deep-fried, because America), there’s fun for every kilt-wearing, kilt-admiring, and kilt-unsure-of-where-I-stand-(or-how-I-sit-in-these) festival goer. That’s next weekend, and I’m shifting my nerd-gears in preparation because I just finished a different excursion in the geeks’ Mecca: Comic-Con.

It comes to Austin every fall, and I’m pretty sure I’ve ‘squee’d every time. This year’s con was even bigger than the last, and I spent a solid six hours or so wandering around wide-eyed and playing guess-the-cosplay and planning on maybe-possibly-would’t-it-be-great-to-try a cosplay of my own for next time. You can always tell what’s happening in the (geek) cultural climate by the cosplays; for example, there were tons of Batmans, amazing Spidermen and various Avengers running around (all summer blockbusters), quite a few Eleventh Doctors (the new season just hit its mid-run break a few weeks ago), and so many Star Trek uniforms we could have formed a fleet right there (Sir Patrick Stewart and crew were guests at the Con). There were also quite a few Ghost Busters, and the DeLorean was on display, as well as the usual cadre of Naruto characters (I’m still working on an explanation for those).

And that’s how I survive grad school: insanity, chaos, and so much geekiness I’ll probably take an arrow to the knee while explaining to a zombie that it can’t eat my brains because The Harley Lyrics have already exploded them.