Tomás Q. Morín

Nov. 19th, 2019

Standing on East San Antonio Street and gazing across the lawn towards the Hays County Courthouse, an architect might realize that the building’s domes and coulomb-supported, peaked entrance are reminiscent of Thomas Jefferson’s neoclassical plantation house.A headshot of Tomàs Q Morín Walking the downtown streets, that same architect might notice the many arched windows patterned with painted brick that decorate the businesses lining the square. Poet and professor of creative writing Tomás Q. Morín, who earned his MFA in Creative Writing at Texas State and is the author of the recent collection Patient Zero, says that, through exploring the “history, style, technique, and the interaction of [these elements] in design and culture,” one uncovers stories hidden within the details. He encourages students and young authors to read as writers, “mov[ing] through a book the same way an architect moves through a city.” Moreover, he says these young writers must experiment with the forms and techniques they find in the texts they read.

Among the texts Morín admires for their enlightening takes on craft and storytelling is Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada, a nonfiction text he taught over several semesters at Texas State during his time as a Senior Lecturer. This text was originally written in German, an acquired language for its Japanese-born author. Morín appreciated the complexities of an author writing creatively in a second language, a subject the text explores. Incorporating a similar method in his own poetry, he brings his knowledge of the Spanish language and the Latinx community from which he comes to his writing. In his debut collection of poetry, A Larger Country, Morín explored “other countries, whether they be real or countries of the mind.” The manuscript was selected for the prestigious American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize from over one thousand entries, with the book being named a runner-up for the Joyce Osterweil Award from PEN America, which recognizes important literary achievement by emerging authors. In addition to his two poetry collections, he also has published a translation of Pablo Neruda’s The Heights of Macchu Picchu.

Morín today finds inspiration for his work at a window-side desk in Lubbock, Texas, where he has a view of the green foliage around him. In this space many of his recent poems have taken form, though the city he writes from has changed in the years since his time at Texas State. These poems comprise his recently published collection, Patient Zero, whose title poem was prompted by the question “if ‘Love’ were a disease, who is patient zero?” In this collection Morín explains the poems are written from a “persona” that fits the poem’s subject, rather than Morín’s own point of view. By contrast, the political, emotional, and cultural issues that impact his life and the lives of his loved ones inform his upcoming collection, Machete. Father figures, mental health, toxic masculinity, and the intersections of nonfiction and poetry are featured themes and concepts in both Machete and the memoir Morín is currently writing. Reflecting on the year so far, comprised of writing, revising, teaching, and parenting, he says the poems in Machete and the material in his memoir “may be [his] most personal yet,” featuring his investigation of his own father figures as he begins his new role as a father himself.

Now a Visiting Writer-in-Residence at Texas Tech University, where he is currently teaching undergraduate nonfiction workshops, Morín has found that his reading and research for his classes support the memoir he is completing. These nonfiction courses and writing, while not the poetry Morín is most experienced with, have allowed him to explore a new writing medium. To describe this change, he says, “poetry is focused on a much smaller canvas,” and he is enjoying making broader strokes through nonfiction.

Of his time at Texas State, he remembers the people he worked with and studied alongside most fondly. “These are the people I call on my weekend phone calls,” he says, describing his hobby of calling old friends and having long conversations over the phone. He delights that he can send them a poem to critique in a pinch “or even call them to talk about basketball,” having found true friends in his academic peers at Texas State who continue to shape his writing as much as they shape his life.

-Kennedy Farrell, English Major

Chelsea Wunneburger

March 2019

 

Where modern architecture meets ancient neighborhoods, Master of Arts in Technical Communication alumna Chelsea Wunneburger witnessed the passage of time on her tour of Beijing. Wandering the city’s streets, she passed intricately ornamented doors and buildings painted in the lively red color that for the Chinese means luck. Later, she hiked the Great Wall of China, which was so steep at times that she had no choice but to hold on to a pole to continue climbing. The Forbidden City, formerly a palace complex barred to common people that now serves as a museum, was filled with beautiful buildings and lavish gardens. Many people dream of traveling the world, but Wunneburger took her dream of traveling to heights she never imagined for herself before she graduated from Texas State. Now she continues a years-long exploration of foreign cultures as she teaches English as a Second Language abroad.

In addition to her MATC degree, Ms. Wunneburger earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from Texas State. While in graduate school, Wunneburger took her first trip outside the U.S. with the English Department’s Texas State in Ireland study abroad program. One place that struck her as particularly beautiful in Ireland was the town of Killarney, in Kerry County: “Hiking out there, being on the beach, the fresh sea air and the Atlantic Ocean meeting you, it was just so gorgeous.” On top of the beauty of Ireland’s terrain, Wunneburger discovered the connection between literature and place as she read the works of authors like James Joyce and then saw the reflection of the texts in contemporary Ireland. Her experiences on this trip were enough to convince her that she needed to continue traveling, but a love of travel isn’t the only thing Wunneburger gained while at Texas State University.

Wunneburger’s degrees lend themselves well to the teaching of English, especially since she teaches writing in the majority of her classes and her Technical Communication classes focused mainly on different types of writing. “The main reason why I studied technical writing was because it’s like an umbrella of different types of professions.” As a student in the Technical Communication Masters program, Wunneburger had the opportunity to learn about grant writing, medical writing, technical writing in multiculturalism, and writing centers – all of which played a role in preparing her to teach writing. With the variety of writing classes she took and the different perspectives on writing that she explored, Wunneburger felt prepared to teach writing, even without any previous teaching experience. In fact, even now Wunneburger works to improve and maintain her writing skills, as she is constantly refreshing herself and furthering her own understanding of English communication to better educate her students.

In August 2014, when Wunneburger was on her flight to Spain to begin living and teaching abroad, she was terrified and filled with anticipation all at once. Like any person might be, she was worried about how well she would be able to integrate into and navigate a new culture, but she also was excited to learn. Because she didn’t have any previous experience teaching, her first classroom was co-taught with a native Spanish teacher, and she originally intended to work in Spain for only one year. She instead co-taught for two years before moving to an English classroom of her own. While teaching in Spain, Wunneburger did her best to engage students through interesting activities, like speaking games and charades, and cultural exchange. Among her cultural exchange activities was one in which students were asked to cook a simple dish of their choosing, filming and describing the process in English for a grade. Among the dishes the students produced were paella and tortillas, traditional Spanish dishes, and one of Wunneburger’s students even brought tamales wrapped in banana leaves (as opposed to the corn husk tamales Wunneburger was familiar with in Texas). The ability of students to participate in an engaging activity and share the fruits of their labors was important to Wunneburger because it connected with the students more personally than typical book-based work. She answered their efforts by sharing foods from her own culture, including the Texas staple, Dr. Pepper, as well as English slang words that brought more life to the English language for her upper-level students.

As much as Wunneburger loved her job in Spain, after four years there she realized that she was becoming too settled. “I knew that I thrived in situations where I was uncomfortable.” With this in mind, Wunneburger moved to South Korea, where she continues to share her culture with her students. To celebrate the end of the most-recent term, they brought in traditional Korean dishes to eat while they did their lessons. Cultural exchange has been an important part of Wunneburger’s experience abroad, and so she strives to make it a part of her student’s experience in her English classrooms. On top of wanting to make the language accessible to students, she always wants to help them succeed by exposing them to one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. “Living overseas constantly reminds me that I am lucky to be a native English speaker.” Wunneburger is preparing students for the global arena that she has spent so much time exploring, confident that the English skills she teaches them will serve them well in the future.

When she completes her assignment in South Korea, Wunneburger hopes to return to the U.S. to visit her family for the first time since 2016. Despite the physical distance, she and her family remain emotionally close, even closer than when she was still living in the U.S. “Because of living abroad I’m more frequently in contact with my family.” Unable to see her family whenever she wants to, she has grown to appreciate the time that they do get to spend together even more and values their time talking over WhatsApp and Skype. She and her father remain particularly close, and he occasionally contacts her across multiple different messaging platforms just to say hi or tell her that he loves her. Though Wunneburger doesn’t intend to move back to the U.S anytime soon, she looks forward to seeing her family in person again and sharing with them the many remarkable moments she has enjoyed abroad since she departed Texas State all those years ago.
– Claryssa Luera, English major

Dr. Terri Leclerq

June 2018

Texas State alumna Dr. Terri Leclerq didn’t consider herself an activist when she heard about the torture techniques being taught inside the U.S. Army School of the Americas, but she felt compelled to do something about it. In 1998, she and her daughter flew to Fort Benning, Georgia to join four hundred and sixty-four other people to peacefully protest. “We filed in two by two, walked into an open army post, and were arrested for trespassing on a military installation,” says Dr. Leclerq. Sixteen of them, not including Dr. Leclerq or her daughter, were sentenced to six months in a federal penitentiary.

Letters from those imprisoned described inhumane conditions, including denied access to medication and punishment by being fed a diet of “green loaf,” a mix of vegetables and food scraps that met the minimum dietary requirements while being nearly inedible. When Dr. Leclerq, a professor of Legal Writing at UT in Austin, read these letters, she decided to write a Law Review article to expose these injustices. She spent years studying the Prison Litigation Reform Act and trying to understand the cases that litigated it. Upon its publication, she realized that people who taught Criminal Law already knew about the issues in prison litigation. Her article wasn’t helping those who needed it most.

To reach that ignored audience, she decided to cut her forty-page legal article down to a more accessible graphic novel. “I turned it into a graphic novel to teach the inmates. They’re the ones who needed to know this stuff,” she says. However, this decision posed a new challenge: Dr. Leclerq had little idea what a graphic novel was, let alone how to create one. Fueled by her conviction that she could change the world, one she realized during her time on the Student Senate while earning her undergraduate degree at Texas State, she set out on a decade-long project to create what would eventually become Prison Grievances.

First, she had to determine what exactly a graphic novel was, and then she enlisted the help of a student at LBJ to learn how to format one like a screenplay. After it was written, there was the issue of finding and paying an artist to do the artwork, and then a letterer to write letters in the speech and thought bubbles. When all of this was done, she discovered that publishers were uninterested in buying it, and so Dr. Leclerq also had to learn about self-publishing. Her friend offered to buy a copy for every prison library in Texas, and then the Texas Board of Criminal Justices had the book banned from prison libraries. “That was the lowest point, for me,” says Dr. Leclerq. “Their own authorities had helped me with the book.”

The finished product is a graphic novel titled Prison Grievances, a handbook for prisoners to navigate the grievance process. The novel follows a no-nonsense pro-bono lawyer named Mr. Dibs—an acronym for “don’t be stupid”—as he enters prisons to teach inmates about their rights while incarcerated. It also teaches them how to file grievances, which are complaints against unjust treatment of prisoners by the prison system; and warns against filing excessive or petty grievances. By doing this, it empowers inmates to have their problems properly addressed rather than overlooked due to a litigation error.

By offering this power, the novel has impacted many prisoners who have read and used it. In Dr. Leclerq’s office, there are plastic tubs crammed full of mail from inmates, and more mail comes in every day. Some of these people write to express their gratitude, while some write to express confusion as to why their grievance got rejected by the system. Dr. Leclerq replies to them, explaining what went wrong with their grievance. “Sometimes it’s too scattered,” says Dr. Leclerq. “And sometimes it’s a perfect grievance and they just got screwed.”

For the book, Dr. Leclerq has been awarded the 2018 Golden Pen Award, which honors those who make a significant advancement in Legal Writing. She is the first activist to win the award and hopes to represent fellow activists working in her field. Although her career has included many accolades and important publications, this one holds special significance. “We all need to do something about injustice,” she says. “This book was my attempt to do something.”

Moving forward, Dr. Leclerq has been asked by the Texas Juvenile Justice System to put together a book like Prison Grievances for children in the JJS. She’s excited that people understand “they need to change their approach to educating people who need it, to find a way to reach them without letting the legalese get in the way of the message.” She encourages everyone to use their voices to rectify injustices in the world, through whatever means available, to make a positive impact.

Dr. Terri Leclerq received both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Texas State University and is a founder and active member of the Donor and Alumni Advisory Council for the Department of English at Texas State. The council works to create a bond between the English Department’s faculty, students, alumna, and donors. Dr. Leclerq offers insight into the legal community’s expectations for the English Department and its students.

 

— Gloria Russell, English major

Dr. Courtney Werner

January 2018

Dr. Courtney Werner grew up in a tight-knit family in a small town in the forests of Pennsylvania. During her undergraduate program at Moravian College, she worked at the school’s writing center. From this experience of helping people with their writing, she found her life’s work. After graduating, she decided to pursue advanced studies in the field in order to improve writing centers and make them more accessible to students and faculty. Her undergraduate advisor put Werner in touch with Dr. Rebecca Jackson at Texas State University, who was accumulating students for a new Masters in Rhetoric and Composition program that dealt with writing center theory. Intrigued by the possibility of studying writing centers at a graduate level, Werner decided to make the move from Pennsylvania to Texas She didn’t want to leave her family and her home, but she knew she needed to get out of her comfort zone if she wanted to fulfill her dreams.

The dramatic change in environment made Werner feel isolated at first. Separated by half a country from her family, Werner called her mother every day that first semester. When she returned for the second semester, though, she overcame her loneliness by introducing herself to her peers and bonded with fellow graduate students. After finding fellow classmates with similar interests, her sense of isolation and dependency decreased. “I learned that I could be an independent person,” Dr. Werner says.

With more confidence, Werner also rediscovered a love for computers and digital media while taking a class called “Computers and Writing.” She realized that she could combine her love of writing, her love of digital media, and her love of writing centers. To help hone her interests and skills into a thesis, she worked closely with Dr. Jackson. The two now have a close relationship, personally as well as academically. Dr. Jackson particularly noted Werner’s ability to “work in her field with compassion and heart.”

Werner graduated from the Master’s program and went on to Kent State University in Ohio for her PhD, where she worked as the Assistant Director of Digital Composition, helping faculty to integrate technology into their classrooms. In the meantime, she wrote her dissertation on how scholars and faculty in rhetoric and composition programs discuss new media. She realized that there isn’t a precise definition of “new media,” and as she says, “while there really isn’t anything new about it, we talk about new media in ‘new’ ways.” For example, where a web designer might focus on the form or layout of a website, Dr. Werner interprets design as a form of rhetoric. Specifically, a website with only videos conveys information differently than a website with only text. So, if a person goes to a writing center’s website and sees only videos, Dr. Werner asks, “what are they trying to convey to their audience with their layout?”

After spending time in her first teaching role post-PhD, Dr. Werner decided it was time to return to the East Coast to live closer to her parents. She found an ideal opportunity at Monmouth University, where Dr. Werner is now an assistant professor, teaching entry-level composition courses to incoming freshman as well as upper-level courses in digital media. In her composition courses, she teaches students the importance of writing for an audience. She also uses the different forms of writing, such as making and labeling charts, to challenge her student’s preconceptions of what it means to write. Dr. Werner argues that to write means to convey information, not just to adhere to certain written sentence structures. Although Monmouth is a private university, the interesting student population still offers insightful perspectives into the world of digital media.

For Dr. Werner, it all began when she decided to take a chance in moving from Pennsylvania to Texas. She had a lot to lose, but her choice ultimately paid off. Now, Dr. Werner has developed her passions and will continue to do great work in developing those different perspectives to help writing centers across the country.

 

–Gloria Russell, English major

Enkay Iguh

June 2017

Moving from Nigeria to the United States at nine years old, Texas State alumna Enkay (Kay) Iguh experienced intense culture shock. She found herself in a new place, surrounded by new people, and overwhelmed by the vast size of America. “There was so much of everything and so it took me a long time to feel like any of that was mine,” she says. Despite the dizzying change, there was a distinct feeling of optimism surrounding her new life. Kay describes that one of the biggest surprises was “the sense that you could be free to explore and be whatever you want to be—you’re told that everywhere, but nowhere did I fully believe it more than in America.”

From a young age, Kay enjoyed writing. However, she didn’t realize that writing could be her career until she reached Texas State.  Before she arrived as an undergraduate, she considered her writing to be personally fulfilling, but not necessarily a lifetime vocation. She largely credits her professors at Texas State for realizing her potential and pointing her in the right direction to pursue her writing professionally.

Her professors in the English Department often suggested she seek advice from other professors who could help her with individual projects as well as planning for her future. Their availability and encouragement greatly motivated Kay to write more seriously and find a clearer path for her future. Professors were also available to speak with her about her personal life, serving as mentors for her outside of the classroom. “There were so many people shuttling me along in a really nice way,” she says.

She is grateful in particular for the positive influence of Twister Mariquiss, her instructor in an undergraduate creative writing class. Mr. Marquiss remembers that Kay had enormous talent as a writer even as an undergraduate. “She was the best undergraduate writer whose work I ever had the privilege of reading,” he recounts, recalling her mastery of the English language and her “storytelling ability to transport readers outside of the American mainstream.”

Although she considered joining Texas State’s MFA program in creative writing, Kay decided to move yet again, from Texas to Brooklyn, to attend New York University’s MFA program. There, she found herself challenged immensely. “I felt like I was in class with the best writers and the best readers. It was an environment that made you want to be better,” she recalls. Kay learned quickly that it didn’t matter how talented or supported a student was—regardless of a person’s gifts, the only way to succeed, she says, is through grit and hard work. This hard work proved to be instrumental in winning a NYC Emerging Writer’s Grant, which provides a monetary reward as well as opportunities to meet with agents and mentors; and the Disquiet Literary Prize, for which her story “House Girl” was published in Guernica and for which she received a trip to Lisbon, Portugal to attend the Disquiet International Literary Program.

The complications of immigration are a large part of what drives “House Girl.” The story is one part of a novel-in-progress titled A Fine Thing. In this book, Kay hopes to discuss issues of immigration, identity, family, and the meaning of home. “The big question the book asks is what happens when a person leaves their home for somewhere else?” Growing up, she obsessively read stories about Jewish immigrants, realizing later that she loved them because she could relate to them as an immigrant herself.  Young immigrants and their children often feel disconnected from their culture and struggle to find a sense of identity. Kay hopes that her novel will resonate with people and provide the same connection that stories of immigration provided for her.

Kay currently teaches high-school students creative writing. She enjoys connecting with students, breaking down their barriers, and engaging them in new literature and writing to which they might be initially opposed. “Teaching is a way for me to connect with students and also to re-connect with the young student that I was. I think back to the great things my teachers did for me and try to share that with my students.”

And of course, she continues to write—for Kay, writing is a compulsion. “Writing is how I think. I express myself better on the page,” she says. She emphasizes reading as vital to the writing process, and personally enjoys experimenting with different styles. “It’s a balance of storytelling, recognition, and experimentation.” She draws inspiration from Toni Morrison, Chinua Achebe, and authors who have unique styles. She especially enjoys literature written by black women. She points out the importance of readers encountering a diversity of voices in literature.

As is true of many immigrants, Kay continues to feel connected to her former country, and she plans to do work for Nigeria in the future. “I have many dreams of what I want to do in Nigeria. I definitely want to give back to my Nigerian community there, whether it’s through education or promoting literacy.” For young writers who haven’t found their footing yet, Kay offers this advice: “Whatever the raw material is at your core that makes you want to write, protect that thing. Keep it pure. Don’t adulterate it with desires to be the most published or the most awarded.”

 

by Gloria Russell, English major

Gabriella Corales

Large expanses of perfectly trimmed grass, gargantuan brick buildings with rust-colored roofs, and downtown streets lined with palm trees – one thing was for sure, Gabriella Corales was not in central Texas anymore. Corales, a first-generation college student from San Antonio, remembers her first day at Stanford as if it were a scene from a movie. As her classmates introduced themselves, one stated that his father worked at the Pentagon, another boasted that hers was a Harvard professor.

“And my dad,” Corales recalls, “is in prison.”

Unlike many of her Stanford cohorts, Corales grew up in poverty, and while having an incarcerated father put a strain on her, emotionally and academically, she never saw her relationship with her father as a hindrance. Looking back, Corales chooses to focus on her love for her father and the growth that came from that struggle: “It made me the person that I am today.”

Additionally, completing her undergraduate degree at Texas State had also prepared Corales to hold her own among the best of the best in education research. But when the pressures of balancing part-time teaching, developing a thesis, and clambering through mountains of homework consumed all of Corales’s free time and became too overwhelming, she would take a trip to the beach and watch the waves dance on the shore, her grandma’s words lingering in her mind: “You’re going to be someone in life, and education is your way out.”

Now, after earning her Masters in Education from Stanford, Corales teaches 11th grade American Literature at Impact Academy in Hayward, California, and she shares her success story with her students, many of whom are also first-generation students of color. This new role at Impact Academy has given her the freedom to create an innovative curriculum tailored to students from all backgrounds. Her goal: to train them to think critically about the pressing issues that our nation faces. Corales first realized the importance of critical thinking while she was at Texas State, where she pursued degrees in English and Communications.

During her first semester of college, Corales sought advice from a professor who has a passion for educating Chicano-American students, Dr. Jaime Mejía. She asked him which skills he thought were fundamental for high school students to succeed at the university level. He replied simply, “They need to know how to read. They need to know how to think, and they need to know how to write.” Corales puts this advice to use daily at Impact Academy.

One especially effective unit on activism, Corales’s favorite, employs all of these skills. Taught after her Civil Rights unit, in an effort to give students a picture of what fighting for a cause looks like, the activism unit allows students’ to use their individual passions to guide their learning. In an end-of-the-year project, students choose a research topic that influences their generation and is problematic in our society. Their final product – a video, speech, artwork, or any other medium the student finds effective – should propose a solution to reduce or bring an end to that issue. The school invites family, friends, and community members to hear the students present. In the past, these exhibitions have been moments of pride for Ms. Corales. One student courageously admitted to having been abused in childhood. Another confessed his struggle with an eating disorder and pleaded for his audience to reduce the stigma surrounding men with crippling body image issues. The topics are often personal, so students are excited to research, write, and present their solutions.

As this unit also demonstrates, Corales’s approach to American literature isn’t typical of most teachers. She tries to relate every iconic novel or literary movement to things that are still affecting adolescents today. Additionally, by featuring prominent authors of color in her curriculum, her largely Hispanic and African-American students see experiences similar to their own being discussed and hailed as important to American literature.

Corales recognizes that many teachers fear bringing sensitive issues into the classroom, but she doesn’t hesitate to teach students to think for themselves and understand complex problems in America. She understands that once students leave the classroom, they are immediately bombarded with news and social media sites, and they will need to be able to make informed opinions. “So, while we have [students] in our classrooms,” Corales reasons, “let’s prepare them to talk about it.”

Corales’s story, from San Antonio to Stanford, is a symbol of hope for her students. By sharing her experiences at Texas State and the $30,000 Rockefeller Fellowship award that allowed her to attend Stanford, she encourages students to set high goals for themselves and to take charge of their education, especially those who are first-generation or those whose families struggle to support them. Just as her grandmother taught her, she wants her students to believe that they too can overcome imperfect childhoods. “If I can get to this place in my life without being prepared,” Corales tells her students, “imagine how far you can go.”

 

By Sammi Yarto, English Minor

Aaron Barker

December 2016A photo of Aaron Baker

One day in 2003, Aaron Barker sat in the office of English Professor Tom Grimes, who leaned back in his chair, scratched the whiskers on his beard, and with a few words, changed the rest of Barker’s life.

“He encouraged me to take myself seriously, and take my education seriously,” Barker says of that conversation.

Like so many college freshman, Mr. Barker enrolled at Texas State unsure of what the future might hold. Up to this point, his academic career had been pretty average: he was smart, but he never pushed himself to succeed academically. After reading Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath in high school, his curiosity for literature came knocking. This curiosity spurred him to write his own short stories and get his Bachelor’s in English with an emphasis in creative writing.

But the upfront conversation he had with Professor Grimes became the pivot point in Mr. Barker’s life. He went from a “knucklehead kid to somebody who really cared about what [he] was doing.”

This clarity, however, didn’t immediately cement a path for his future. As a newly-minted graduate, Barker was still wondering where his passion for literature might fit into the “real world.” By chance, he came across an LSAT prep book and realized that he already possessed the skills necessary for taking the test. He decided he had nothing to lose.

Barker scored well enough on the LSAT to earn a spot in the University of Texas School of Law, a program regularly rated in the top 15 in the nation, according to U.S. News and World. Many of his classmates came from Ivy League schools and spent their holidays in places Mr. Barker could only dream of visiting. He remembers thinking, “These kids from Harvard are going to destroy me!”

However, as the first year wore on, Mr. Barker found that his English background gave him a unique competitive advantage: all of those analytical literature papers taught him the critical problem-solving skills lawyers need to craft arguments and counter-arguments. That same advantage also helped Mr. Barker land a position with the Texas Law Review, the most highly regarded academic journal at UT. As an associate editor, Barker led the review’s web component, which involved contacting law professors from all over the country for their responses to published articles. Barker also won Outstanding Constitutional Law Note of the Year for his poignant paper that analyzed constitutional law and school integration.

Today, Mr. Barker practices corporate and securities law at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, an internationally recognized firm that specializes in technology. Corporate law examines how stakeholders interact with each other, while securities law handles the ownership of stocks and bonds. For Barker, this means working with tech companies and their investors to assist in negotiating high-stakes deals, while also crafting the contractual documents that ensure the agreements don’t end up in lawsuits.

Often, Barker acts as a mentor for tech start-ups, assisting them in navigating the intimidating world of corporate and securities law. “I’m helping these companies grow, acting as their advisor in a very close way,” Barker said.

Without the advice of his mentor, Professor Grimes, Mr. Barker might never have found this level of success. Now, Mr. Barker seeks to pay forward that simple act of kindness by working in local non-profits like the Texas Civil Rights Project, where he’s done various jobs, including reading prisoners’ mail to look for signs of systematic abuse. Mr. Barker also represents numerous charitable organizations on a pro bono basis.

In September, Mr. Barker joined the Liberal Arts Advisory Board at Texas State University, becoming both the newest and youngest member. The board meets twice a year to discuss the current financial status of the college. Board members also share their time and expertise as ambassadors for the College of Liberal Arts and by giving input to those in charge. This new position has Mr. Barker back at Texas State – this time not as a “knucklehead kid,” but as a distinguished graduate and a rising attorney.

When asked for a piece of advice he wishes to pass on to current and prospective English majors, Barker urges them to “Embrace [your] passion. Dive into it headfirst, and allow yourself to be everything that you can.”

 

By Sammi Yarto, English Minor

Tina Žigon

June 2016A photo of Tina Zigon.

“The extraordinary has always been ordinary to me,” explained Tina Žigon, who earned her MA in Literature at Texas State a few years ago and recently completed her PhD at the University at Buffalo while also accepting a position as Assistant Professor at the American University of Kuwait. Indeed, Dr. Žigon’s journey from undergraduate student at the University of Maribor (Slovenia) to Assistant Professor in Kuwait is nothing but extraordinary.

In 2002, while pursuing her degree in English Language and Literature, Tina took an American Literature course with Texas State’s Professor of English, Steve Wilson, while he fulfilled his Fulbright assignment in Slovenia.  One afternoon while they were having tea, Prof. Wilson encouraged her to apply for the MA program at Texas State University. Prof. Wilson explained that he saw in Tina not only an insightful student of literature but also a person who had the tenacity to excel at the sort of challenges faced by those who pursue graduate studies in countries other than their own. “I always knew I wanted to do something more than just get a BA, but until Steve said those words, it never occurred to me that studying in the U.S. was even an option,” said Dr. Žigon.

After working through the complicated process of applying to study in the U.S., obtaining a teaching assistantship in the English Department in spite of speaking English as a second language, and traveling half way around the world to a place she had never visited before, Tina proved Prof. Wilson’s intuition right by thriving in Texas State’s MA in Literature program. “When I moved to Texas, I immediately felt at home,” she said, recounting how she began her academic career as a Bobcat in 2003. After graduating with her MA, Dr. Žigon stayed at Texas State for three years as a Lecturer in the English Department, teaching and serving as Assistant to the Director of Lower-Division Studies.

This past April Dr. Žigon defended her PhD dissertation at the University at Buffalo by Skpye from Kuwait, where she had moved with her husband the previous fall. “I’ve always had the desire to study the understudied,” stated Dr. Žigon, “and my main study interests have always been women writers as well as feminist and gender theories.” Her dissertation focuses on poet kari edwards’ a day in the life of p., which was written without using gender pronouns such as “he” or “she,” as well as the poet’s unpublished manuscript. “I am very interested in language and how it can enforce gender norms,” said Dr. Žigon.

“Books and literature are the one constant in my life,” says Dr. Žigon. From a very young age she knew she was passionate about teaching and has shaped her academic career with that passion as the guiding principle: “this love of reading and teaching are the constants that came with me from Slovenia to Texas, then Texas to Buffalo, and now Buffalo to Kuwait.”

One thing that took some getting used to in Kuwait was “that things don’t necessarily operate here on our idea of time…. Everything seems to move slower, “ stated Dr. Žigon, “but when you have to take care of something at the bank and you need to wait, they will serve you coffee or tea, and make your time there comfortable.“ To help her understand more of the culture, Dr. Žigon hopes to start learning Arabic, their official language, this summer. She also looks forward to teaching in the fall after having met some students at different university events over the past nine months. She states, “everybody here very much appreciates and even in a way reveres education…. It’s amazing.”

For Dr. Žigon, home is the place we make for ourselves: “Humans are the same fundamentally everywhere you go… although they may lead a different way of life and embody a different culture from your own. You can teach wherever you are and you can pick up a book and get lost in it wherever you are…. That’s what makes home to me.”

By Leeann Cardwell, International Studies major

Sonia Arellano

April 2016A photo of Sonia Arellano.

Chances are, you probably have never thought that making a quilt could help you earn your PhD. Neither did Sonia Arellano. However, as she completes her dissertation for a PhD in Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Arizona, she also will be assembling a quilt for the Migrant Quilt Project, a non-profit organization that gathers clothing left behind by migrants in the Tucson sector of the desert and uses them to create a quilt memorializing each person who died crossing the desert that year.

Sonia started her PhD program with an interest in the history of Mexican-Americans, which has only grown during her time in Tucson; the experience that comes from working to change anti-immigration legislation, teaching English to immigrants and refugees as a volunteer, and working at an immigrant intake center have caused her interests to develop into an analysis of the discourses about immigration. Her dissertation invokes the “larger immigrant conversation, looking at how we deem lives grievable or not grievable and therefore worth memorializing or not worth memorializing.”

Sonia earned her bachelors in Mass Communication and English from Texas State University in 2006. While at Texas State, Sonia took a Chicano literature class “that really changed a lot of (her) choices.” She also studied abroad in Spain while completing her bachelors; after graduation, she moved there for a year and a half. While abroad, Sonia decided that she wanted to pursue a Masters in Literature and returned to Texas State University. During this time, Sonia was asked to chair a panel discussion at the Conference on College Composition and Communication, an experience that allowed her to meet “a bunch of people interested in the same things as (she) was,” giving her encouragement to pursue her interests. She says it was at that point that she was convinced to apply to PhD programs in Rhetoric and Composition. Her current doctoral program is focused around cultural critique, meaning that her studies focus on the ways language is persuasive, as well as how things such as body movements or artifacts portray a particular message in literature.

In February, Sonia was featured on the Conference for College Composition and Communication Latin@ Caucus Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/nctecccclatinocaucus.

By Leeann Cardwell, International Studies major

Shawn Reagan

March 2016A photo of Shawn Reagan

Shawn Reagan graduated from Texas State in 2010 as an English major with a concentration in Creative Writing-Poetry. “People still ask,  ‘why did you study poetry?’ and I feel like there was no better way for me to experience and understand the world than through that medium. I studied English because I couldn’t find anything more valuable, so I figured I better not waste my time studying something else.” A few of his favorite classes in college were The Meaning of Life in Filmwith Dr. Jeff Gordon, his study abroad program to Ireland with Steve and Nancy Wilson,Philosophy of Education with JoAnn Carson, and The Beat Generation with Steve Wilson.

While finishing up his undergraduate degree, Mr. Reagan applied for and received an offer from the Peace Corps to be sent to Malawi one year after his graduation date. During his two-year assignment, he taught English in a rural secondary school, organized and ran a national education camp for 80 students and 20 teachers, and taught at the national teacher’s college. After returning to the States, Mr. Reagan went to work as a trainer for the Posse Foundation, a national non-profit organization that aims to select, prepare, and support students with diverse backgrounds to graduate from college in a “posse” of ten. Mr. Reagan travels across the country to three universities to support students by facilitating discussions that promote cohesion, leadership, cross-cultural dialogue, and academic success.

While Mr. Reagan’s post-grad endeavors may not be typical for an English major, he states that the degree prepared him to be “an excellent communicator; an adept listener; and empathetic to cultures, people, and places” he had not yet heard of. “I’d probably tell students who were considering studying English that, if they think there’s something to be found, then they should seek it out and follow that trail. Don’t undervalue yourself.”

 

By Leeann Cardwell, International Studies major