How a Professor of Education Writes

Quick Facts

Favorite word?

Sincerely

Favorite punctuation mark?

Exclamation point.

What are you reading right now?

Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming.

 

Shoshanna Edwards-Alexander

Professor of Education

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SJU Writes: What role does writing play in your life? 

SEA: Writing gives me clarity. Even in small things, it allows me to put my thoughts to paper, to look at them, to really think about what I’m trying to say. In a formal process, it allows me to communicate with people and it helps me to think more critically about things, whether it’s personal or professional.

SJU Writes: When you are confronted with a writing task, how do you approach it?

SEA: I used to just sit there and get so stressed out about it, especially depending on what it is. Life is just not that deep. What I’ve found myself doing more recently is I’ll think about the topic, and I’ll just free write. I don’t care about spelling or punctuation.  Then, I’ll walk away from it, think about something else, go back to it, and I’ll figure out how to group those ideas. Then, I’ll start to really put it together as a formal piece. I just put everything out until I can’t come up with anything else. Usually if I do it that way, it doesn’t become overwhelming to me.

SJU Writes: Tell me something about the ideal physical environment in which you like to write.

SEA: I love a “Starbucks” type of environment that’s outside. I don’t like writing in my home. I find that’s the most distracting place for me. I used to go to the sunrooms over in Campion. I like the aesthetics of being able to drift out mentally every once in a while, do my people-watching. It allows me some tranquility. The calmness allows me to better deliver my thoughts on paper.

SJU Writes: Do you seek advice as you write?

SEA: I don’t do a whole bunch in terms of asking people ahead of time for ideas, but I tell people I am not thin-skinned. Take a red pen to my stuff. Go ahead and chop it up. I don’t mind. If it’s all wrong, chop it all up because I’d rather you do that and I end up with a really good piece of writing. If somebody who is not in my discipline can understand what it is that I have said, then I feel like I can move forward with it.

SJU Writes: What advice do you have for students learning to write in your discipline?

SEA: Find something that will make you inspired to write. Write something every day.  Something you observe. Just something that you might think about as an educator going forward, something that you read, or a piece. Just write a paragraph a day.  Free writing is a great way to just mentally dump it out of your head. Once you start to make it a regular part of your day and a regular part of your process, you become more comfortable with it. The more you do it, the better you get.

 –Amanda Roldan ’22

How an Accounting Professor Writes

Quick Facts

What’s your favorite word?

Indeed  

What are you reading right now?

A lot of James Patterson books.

What is a word you always misspell?

Manager

 

Frederick Teufel

Accounting

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SJU Writes: How much writing do CPAs actually do?

FT: A lot of my writing [in my job] was messages to my team. In my last role, I had 450 employees on my team, and I had to write to them often about things that were going on. I had to make sure my writing was clear, concise, and direct. You always had to create a story. Even though the writing is supposed to be specific and non embellished, the writing has to be a story people are going to be able to read and understand.

SJU Writes: Is writing more valuable in business than some people may think?

FT: The more advanced you are in your career, the more important communications become, and the more time you spend doing them. The numbers are the easy part. It’s telling the story where it is difficult. You also have to recognize who your stakeholders are, who your constituents are that you’re communicating with, and understand what their motivations and their role might be.

SJU Writes: You’ve said Jack Bogle, the founder and CEO of Vanguard, is a mentor. Why?

FT: The words that came out of his mouth, and the way in which he used them, were incredible. I never really valued communication until I started to spend more time with him. He was very deliberate in what he communicated and how he communicated. It was very important to him to get the right message across.

—Lauren O’Brien ’22

How a Film Professor Writes

Quick Facts

Favorite music to write to?

Radiohead or Nick Cave.   

What are you reading now?

Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin.

Are you writing anything right now?

A feature script I set aside over the summer.

                         What’s a word that you always misspell?

                                                                   Usually one with two letters that could be doubled, like Cincinnati.

Deron Albright
Associate Professor of Film 

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SJU Writes: What’s your favorite aspect of the writing process?

DA: Occasionally those moments when you have gotten lost in what you’re writing and it’s flowing well. You know when you’re writing, and you’re so in the groove with the characters that you laugh out loud, or you start to cry?  It doesn’t always happen that way, but that’s certainly the most enjoyable thing, being in that flow and having everything work, and then sometimes discovering something.

SJU Writes: Do you seek advice as you write?

DA: When I have a completed draft, I will definitely seek advice. I generally don’t show a draft halfway through unless I’m completely stuck, but when I have a finished draft beginning to end, then I will absolutely go and seek advice in any number of directions. I try to mix between professionals and nonprofessionals.

SJU Writes: What is more helpful to you: advice from people in the industry, or advice from people not in the industry?

DA: They’re different. With industry things, it’s all about marketability, you know?  It [screenwriting] has to be competent, it has to not do certain things and it has to do other things, and I feel very comfortable with those technical baselines.  From those bigger picture questions about story and characters, like “Do they make sense?” and “Do you like spending time with them?”, things like that, almost anyone can respond to those if they take the time.

SJU Writes: Do you have a particular genre you like to write in, or a subject you like to write about?

DA: I think one of the things I learned with the last scripts that I did was that I’m a drama writer who likes to include different elements from different things. This last script, the “blind composer” script, it’s ostensibly a thriller mystery movie, but I did try a version where I was writing it as a genre thriller, and I was far less comfortable with that. So drama is the broadest of the groups but beyond that then, I’ve been all over the place.

SJU Writes: What advice do you have for students who are learning to write in your discipline?

DA: If you have an idea, just sit down and write it. Reading lots of other scripts helps, and it just helps immensely to get the feeling of how to translate images, because you’re really writing in images. The trick of it is putting words on the page that gives this image to a reader to create a visual experience. So for new writers: read as many scripts as you can, find a film you love and find the script to it, see how that writer did it.  Don’t worry about the rules so much. There’s plenty of time for that. 

—Rae Davies ’21

How A Campus Minister Writes

Quick Facts

Favorite word?

Compassion  

Favorite music to write to?

Soft meditation music

What are you reading now?

Trials of Apollo by Rick Riordan

 

Father Dan Ruff
Campus Minister

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SJU Writes: What kinds of things do you write day-to-day?

DR: I suppose something I do regularly that’s closer to the heart of my career is writing homilies. I often do preach from a full text, and even if I don’t, I tend to write a full text version before I kind of boil it down. And then, when I was pastor at Old Saint Joe’s, I used to also write a weekly column for the bulletin.

SJU Writes: When you have a writing task, what is the process that gets you your first draft?

DR: I start “writing” my homilies on Monday morning, and that just starts with reading over and praying with the scriptures. So I carry those scriptures around with me in my head and my heart for the whole week, and I keep thinking about “Alright, where does this connect?” or “How do I make this communicate to people like the college student audience?” or “Are there stories I can think of that will introduce or illustrate this subject?” By the time I sit down to actually write, I usually have a pretty solid outline in my head of what I’m planning, so it usually goes fairly easily.

SJU Writes: Did you have a teacher who was the most influential to you in your writing?

DR: I’d say my fifth grade teacher when I was in public grade school because she strongly urged us to read at least a book a week and to write about the book. I think it was the first time that I had a pattern or a rhythm or a habit of writing. She’s actually also the teacher who taught us how to break down and diagram sentences, so I think it probably illuminated my understanding of grammar and prose and how it’s put together.

SJU Writes: Do you have any advice for a seminarian who is learning how to write his homilies, or for someone who is learning to write like you?

DR: I teach preaching at St. Charles. The first thing I tell them is always that it starts with prayer. Prayer is where you get the inspiration. I also strongly recommend that they start a week ahead, as I try to do, because if you don’t give yourself that time, you don’t have the time for the second thought. When I write a homily, often my second inspiration, a couple days in, will be different than the one I started with. And often the second one is the better one.

—Grace Schairer ’22

How A Program Specialist for Inclusion and Diversity Experiential Programming Writes

Quick Facts

Favorite word?

Tenacious

Favorite music to write to?

Nat King Cole

What’s a word you always misspell?

LinkedIn!

 

Imani Briscoe
Program Specialist for Inclusion and Diversity Experiential Programming

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SJU Writes: What kind of writing do you find difficult?

IB: Cover letters. It’s hard to recall all the things you’ve done in a particular role or something. I think everyone to some extent will sell themselves short. And when you have to write a cover letter, you have to write about why you deserve the job and the different experiences that make you the perfect candidate without sounding obnoxious and full of yourself.

SJU Writes: Do you think being a woman, you feel that even more?

IB: I feel like I’m so conscious of the fact that I might be dimming myself, so I try to not do it. Even in the words that I use in emails, if I say something like ‘I think,’ I’ll take the word ‘think’ out and just make it a statement if it fits in that situation. I’m trying to be more conscious of that, like ‘Why are you being timid? Just say what you’re going to say.’

SJU Writes: Who’s the best or most influential writing teacher you’ve ever had?

IB: My mother. She’s the best writer ever. She’s very eloquent, and I only hope to be that good. If I ever really need someone to give me an amazing phrase or something that I’m trying to say or express, she is the one person I call.

SJU Writes: Do you seek advice as you write?

IB: Not as I write. I’ll complete the whole thing and then I’ll either ask my mom or my best friend who was an English major here at St Joe’s.

SJU Writes: Do you enjoy writing?

IB: I do. And when I’m in the zone to write, I’m in the zone. Like you can’t tell me anything. I know that writing to some extent is meant for me, and it has some bigger part to play in the future in my life. But when I’m not in the mood to write, it feels like I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m just spinning my wheels. But when I’m in the mood, I’m really in the mood.

—Erin Fenzel ’22

How an Athletic Director Writes

Quick Facts

Favorite word?

Extraordinary

Favorite music to write to?

Amy Winehouse, Leon Bridges, Van Morrison 

What’s a word you always misspell?

Entrepreneur

 

Jill Bodensteiner
Director of Athletics 

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SJU Writes: What kind of writing do you do right now?

JB: Currently, my writing is much different than it was when I was a lawyer. When I was a lawyer, it was more advocacy, memos, court documents and persuasive letters. I would be writing a summary of the law and my recommendations to my clients. Now the purpose of my writing, depending on my medium, is to sell people on my vision, whether it’s recruiting prospective student athletes or staff, giving speeches or writing tweets. It’s all to get people energized about Saint Joseph’s Athletics. 

SJU Writes: What’s the best thing you’ve ever written?

JB: There were some really good academic pieces and legal briefs that I’m really proud of that got good results. But I’m going to say, it was a speech I gave in 2012. I was the keynote speaker in New York City at a celebration of 40 years of women at Notre Dame. 

SJU Writes: What’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever written? 

JB: I clerked for a federal judge right out of law school from 1995 to 1996. She was the judge on a very difficult first amendment case where a high school teacher was fired for allowing her students to use bad language in a creative writing class. She got fired and sued the school district saying they violated her First Amendment right to freedom of speech. It was a very public case. I saw both sides of it very clearly, and I had to write the first draft of the opinion. It was both really fun and really hard. 

SJU Writes: Do you seek advice as you write?

JB: Very little to be honest. I would have earlier in my career, but now I am a procrastinator, so it’s usually due in the next hour, and I don’t have time. I am confident in my own voice and message at this stage in my career. I really don’t have anyone review it unless there are political implications. 

 

—Gabriella Bamford ’22

How a Strength and Conditioning Director Writes

Quick Facts

Favorite music to write to?

Something I’ve heard a million times. 

Favorite punctuation mark?

Question mark

What’s a word you always misspell?

Piece

 

Brian Bingaman
Director of Strength and Conditioning 

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SJU Writes: What kinds of writing do you do right now?

BB: A lot of it is reports and note-taking, making sure everything is documented correctly. I updated our policies and procedures.

SJU Writes: What is your favorite aspect of the writing process?

BB: Putting all my ideas down in one place, actually making myself sit down and go through things step by step and implementing it.

SJU Writes: What is your least favorite aspect of the writing process?

BB: Going back through and spell-checking, fact-checking, and revisions. I tend to go really fast, so I’ll miss words. 

SJU Writes: What’s the best thing you’ve ever written?

BB: Master’s project, when I was in grad school. It was a youth strength and conditioning manual for coaches including a detailed literature review.

SJU Writes: When you are confronted with a writing task, how do you approach it?

BB: When push comes to shove, I am someone who has to spit my ideas onto paper, and then I will go through and start working them out. When I try to write something, I always end up revising it like 15 times.

SJU Writes: Tell me something about the ideal physical environment in which you like to write. 

BB: I am listening to something that I have heard a hundred times. But, I can’t have any other distractions. I’m a morning person, so if I’m writing it flows better in the morning. 

—Olivia Clark ’22

How A Student Disability Services Director Writes

Quick Facts

Favorite word?

Honey

Favorite music to write to?

Bob Dylan

What are you reading now?

“The Eldest Daughter Effect” (Schuitemaker and Enthoven)

 

Christine Mecke, EdD
Director of Student Disability Services

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SJU Writes: What’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever written in your life?

CM: When I’ve wanted to be very sincere in writing, like a sympathy note – you don’t want to go on and on, but you really want to choose your words carefully and that can be a hard thing to do.

SJU Writes: When you are confronted with a writing task, how do you approach it?

CM: I roll things around my head for a long time before I get something down in writing. I prefer to do a draft in one sitting. But, there will be multiple drafts and the first will be the most difficult.

SJU Writes: Do you seek advice as you write?

CM: I definitely share my writing with others. I’ll share with Kim Allen-Stuck, who is my supervisor and she is very good at giving feedback. I was fortunate to work with a cohort group and we would often partner up and share each other’s writing, and it was helpful because the person I was paired with wasn’t in my field at all, so she had a lot of questions.

SJU Writes: Tell me more about your revision process.

CM: Thank God there is a computer. I think cut and paste is the best thing in the world. Most of my writing is done on the computer, and so I can look at it again and read through.

—Olivia Cardarelli ’22

How an Economics Professor Writes

Quick Facts

Pen or pencil?

Apple pencil

Favorite punctuation mark?

Oxford comma

Favorite phrase?

Policy implication

 

Laura Crispin, Ph.D.
Associate Professor

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SJU Writes: What role does writing play in your life?

LC: Formally, it’s very much through the classes that I teach and the research that I publish. I do teach at least two different writing intensive classes. Research Methods is the one that I teach most frequently, but I used to teach labor economics. Teaching students how to write for economic discipline is very different than any of the writing that they have ever done. Professionally, I am working on at least three different research projects right now and all of them are in the drafting process.

SJU Writes: Is there something you’re working on now that you’re really excited about?

LC: I am working on a project about art museums, where I am studying who is attending museums and how frequently, with a focus on K-12 students.  Another project I am working on is about high school sports. I am looking at whether or not sports can reduce the chance of being bullied, and I have a couple projects related to that.

SJU Writes: What advice do you have for students learning to write as an economist?

LC: Mostly, get to the point. Tell us something important and what you’re contributing to that greater literature. I also think students have a really hard time talking about empirical findings. A lot of students are really great at getting results and doing the analysis, but when it comes to actually writing about their analysis, there is a disconnect. It’s challenging, but the more students do it, the better they’ll get at it.

—Cara Smith ’21

How an English Professor Writes


Quick Facts

Pen, or pencil?

Pencil

Favorite word?

Freedom!

Favorite music to write to?

I use the Coffivity app.

 

Owen Gilman
Professor of English

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SJU Writes: How would you describe your writing process?

OG: My pattern as a writer is to compose here, in this office. I print everything I write. I read it. I make phrasing changes almost constantly. But, those are the only changes. I hardly ever move anything around. I’ll change the phrasing, make it clearer. Maybe take something out that is kinda stupid. No big chunks moving around. But my latest book, The Hell of War Comes Home, took quite a lot of shifting around.

SJU Writes: What is your favorite aspect of the writing process?

OG: I liked the feel of it, composing. Out of all the courses I ever had, the most valuable course I ever had was typing in high school, which was an elective. Boy, that made a world of difference! I actually inherited a typewriter that my favorite uncle brought back from France. I started writing on that all through college. And I liked it since my handwriting is horrible.  Seeing the clarity of a typed work and hearing keys striking, there was a rhythm. There was something that was very seductive, and I actually became enchanted with the writing process.

SJU Writes: What writing advice do you have for students?

OG: Write fresh, with energy. Use all of the freedom that you need. Don’t write simply how an English teacher tells you to write. Don’t follow every move they suggest. People don’t take to that kind of intense micromanagement from teachers well. Students find freedom in my classes here because it’s all on them. I’m not telling them every move, or exactly what turn to make. They have to figure that out for themselves. But most of them want that freedom because it gives them the chance to use their own voice and produce something that doesn’t sound like everybody else.

—Tom Trullinger ’21