How a Finance Professor Writes

Quick Facts

Favorite word?


Favorite music to write to?


Favorite place to write?

My kitchen


Todd Erkis
Visiting Professor of Finance


SJU Writes: How did you learn how to write in a business environment?

TE: It really was just practice. When I first started, I really didn’t write very well. You just have to keep at it. It’s like anything else in life–you have to just do it multiple times. I had some good mentors in business who helped me become a better and more effective communicator, and I think that helped a lot too.

SJU Writes: What is your revision process like?

TE: It’s just constant. I put down stream of consciousness as best as I can. The process is the revisions. Get the important stuff down; have a plan of what you want to say. I don’t care if it makes sense, and I don’t care if it’s full sentences. I want to get everything down, and then I will make passes through it until it turns out what I want it to be.

SJU Writes: What advice do you have for students writing in your discipline: insurance and finance?

TE: Please, start. I think most finance students think “I don’t really need to be a good writer. I just need to be good with numbers, and I’m good with business,” but the people who are going to really excel in finance are going to be the ones who can communicate well to their clients. You need to be able to write, write consciously, and write in a way that people understand.

—David Kadysh ’20

How a Campus Ministry Associate Writes

Quick Facts

Pen or pencil?


Favorite word?


Favorite punctuation mark?

Em dash


Katie Seibly
Campus Ministry Associate


SJU Writes: What kind of writing are you doing now?

KS: Primarily generating content for reflection spaces with students. That can look like drafting meeting agendas and then developing supplementary materials for those meetings, writing prayer and reflection guides, pulling poetry or prayers to use for those, and developing that content to guide that space. I also use journaling as a tool for reflection–journaling in kind of an unstructured way, with some guided questions or just open time to think about what’s on your mind, what’s on your heart. It’s a space for release.  

SJU Writes: What is your writing process like?

KS: I would say, primarily, I start with a brainstorm, a rough brainstorm or notes. I’ll put things down as they come to me, brainstorm whatever I might need to include in that. Then when I sit down to draft it, I’ll try to block out time when I can do it all at once; but, if not, I’ll create the draft and then just develop the logical flow of streamlining all those different pieces. Then I’ll compile it in a way that makes the most sense or that I think would be the most digestible. I would say there’s this large information collection process that I do, and then I carve out the time in my schedule to streamline it.

SJU Writes: Is there something you would say is the hardest thing you ever had to write?

KS: My freshman year–I had a final project for a year-long course. For one of our final exams, the prompt was “What is the best way to live?” I think it was really challenging, because it asked me not only to look at the content from a distance, but  at my own life. I think that there was an invitation to engage with the material in a way that was still academic but nonetheless personal. I think it was a challenging writing process, because I felt like I could have spent years on it, and I had to do it in a limited time frame. I wanted it to be something of meaning that I could look at later and say I would still think that’s true.

—Emily Graham ’20

How a Political Science Professor Writes

Quick Facts

Favorite music to write to?

Beethoven cello music

Favorite place to write?

Dining room

What’s a word you always misspell?



Susan Liebell, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Pre-Law Advisor


SJU Writes: What is your favorite aspect of the writing process, if you have one?

SL: I love finding things. I work with a lot of really old books. I might be reading about some really obscure legal textbook from 1801, and all I need to do is go to this archive and it comes up as the book. You can see the book, and you can turn its pages. I find that to be super fun and really impressive.

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

SL: I like paper, and I like really good pens. I have a little Thomas Jefferson writing desk which looks like a wood laptop. I try to clear a space, and I try to draw. I draw diagrams, so I’ll make circles, and I’ll draw an arrow. I’ll try to conceptually map it first–but on paper–and then move from there.

SJU Writes: Do you seek advice as you write?

SL: Yes. I have a writing group on this campus. I find it really helpful for them to say, “I have no idea what this is. Please explain it to me.” I also give it to my oldest son who was an English major that graduated from Rutgers, and he has proven to be really good at saying things like “I think this is a terrible sentence.” He’s actually a pretty good editor. I try to share. It’s hard, because it’s raw and you don’t want to be embarrassed.

SJU Writes: What is your revision process like?

SL: It’s too extensive. I revise and revise and revise. If there’s a problem in my writing, it’s that. I wait for it to be perfect before I send it to a journal when I should send it a little earlier, so I end up wordsmithing each sentence.

—Carly Calhoun ’21

How a Theology Professor Writes

Quick Facts

Favorite word?


Favorite music to write to?

Classical Chinese or jazz hip hop

Favorite place to write?

My office


Aaron Reich, Ph.D.
Professor of Theology


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

AR: My favorite part of the writing process is when I lose myself in the creative process. I just get so excited by whatever it is that I’m working on. To me, academic writing is not just typing and writing words down–it’s running into new ideas. That’s what I would say: the pursuit of curiosity.

SJU Writes: Can you describe your ideal writing environment?

AR: I prefer the morning because I find my mind is the freshest in the morning. When I was an undergraduate I would be burning the midnight oil, as they say, just trying to meet deadlines. As I’ve gotten older I’ve changed, so I definitely prefer the morning with some coffee. Some type of caffeine is very helpful to me. I like this office, I’ve got my statues from Taiwan and I’ve got all my books–basically all my books–I’ve got hardly any books at home.

SJU Writes: What is your advice to become a better writer?

AR: I found it really useful to carve out blocks of time for writing and almost treat them with a religious reverence, almost like you would a prayer. For writing I think it has to be that same type of reverence. You just say, “nope, the door is closed and I can’t make any exceptions.”

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

AR: In my discipline and any other discipline, good writing is important. I would say that if you can write well, it’s only a matter of implementing the material you learned into that writing.  I think that to be a good writer you have to write for at least 30 minutes a day.

—John Slusser ’21

How An Athletic Communications Director Writes

Quick Facts

Favorite word?

Favorite place to write?
At my desk in my apartment

What is a word you always misspell?



Nicole Philpot
Assistant Director – Athletic Communications


SJU Writes:  What kind of writing do you do now: academic papers, creative writing, diary, blogs, tweets, social media postings, etc?

NP: A big portion of the writing I do is game recaps and game previews. So, telling the story, in a sense, of what happened in a specific meet. And it’s always different. That’s what I like about it. It’s always interesting to tell a story in a different way, whether someone is achieving a personal milestone or a historical milestone.

SJU Writes:  What is your favorite aspect of the writing process, if you have one?

NP: I think that in terms of my job right now, it’s figuring out the story and telling it well. I think I’ve always been strong in writing, and I’ve always loved writing ever since I was little. I thought that I wanted to be an English teacher, and then I decided against it.

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

NP: I’m going to have to go back to my thesis for this one. I took a class with Fr. Tom Brennan—he was actually my thesis advisor—which was super challenging, but I always got the best out of it. I always left my sessions with him thinking like, did I just go through a therapist session or something because it went so deep.

SJU Writes: Tell me one thing about your revision process.

NP: I am someone who will write everything out, mistakes included, and just get words down. And then I will go back and take on the chunks paragraph by paragraph. Editing and grammar—all that is at the end. My most important thing is getting all the ideas down. I just like bang-it-out in a sense. But I go idea first, content first, and then worry about all the other stuff.

—George Steinhoff ’21

How a Marketing Professor Writes

Quick Facts

Favorite music to write to?

Southern Hip Hop

Favorite place to write?

Living room

What’s a word you always misspell?



Janée Burkhalter
Professor of Marketing

SJU Writes: Why do you write?

JB: I started because I wanted to, and then this career was a really good fit for that. Now I think it’s a combination of the two. My mom is an English teacher and a librarian, so writing was always a thing that was encouraged whether it was poems or letters or whatever I did on my own.

SJU Writes: What kinds of writing do you do ?

JB: Academic papers, social media postings, and emails. Social media is everything, but mostly Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. I make jewelry, so the focus is more on the visuals and the hashtags than on the caption. In the spring semester, the students live tweet TV shows for their Entertainment Marketing class, and I live tweet with them. That is really fun, because then we can talk about how people watch all different kinds of shows, sometimes shows I have never seen before. Then I have to figure out what the community is like and what people mean when they say different things.

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

JB: The best things I like to go back and read are recommendation letters. I think it is interesting—not recommendation letters written for me but recommendation letters I have written for students—because it is interesting what stands out and because of what I do for the peer evaluations. That is always interesting to read and see how my style has changed.

SJU Writes: What is your ideal physical environment in which you like to write?

JB: My requirements are noise. Noise makes me happy. As long as I could put my feet up, I’m happy, so I could prop up my laptop if I want to or prop up my book. And morning or night? That is not consistent. I just have to be inspired to do it.

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

JB: Read! I think reading will let you see different styles. I think you can get different inspiration from reading different stuff. Sometimes you read something and say “That’s really cool!” It gives me something I would like to practice—let me try my hand in XYZ. So I think reading is the best. And practicing, practicing your writing.

—Jacqueline Collins ’21

How a Residential Area Manager Writes

Quick Facts

Pen or pencil?

Felt tip marker

Word you always misspell?


Favorite punctuation mark?



Courtney LaGanke
Residential Area Manager

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

CL: Not the final product–except getting something off your desk sometimes, which is nice. I would say brainstorming and doing an outline of all the possibilities of where your piece is going to go.

SJU Writes: Who was the most influential English teacher you’ve ever had?

CL: My first year English 101 professor. She was just very eccentric; she taught in a very different way. She was relatable to students, but sometimes she was really harsh because she was so blunt. But I really connected with that because she gave us so much freedom in what we could do.

SJU Writes: Where do you feel like you learned a lot of your writing skills?

CL: I would say this job, truly. My involvement in writing things that impact the university taught me that you have to write things very clearly, be very detail oriented, and make sure you get names, dates and times right–all those things are important because they could impact processing those concerns.

SJU Writes: How does your writing of community standards connect hands-on to your job?

CL: As a hearing officer, I help to enforce any policies of ours, interpret them, and explain them to students. So, upholding our standards of the university is really important, and of course the language in there is important. How you interpret that and break it down more for students is helpful, too. It’s making sure that it’s clear, or if there are questions or maybe perspectives that are not being considered–I love when students tell me that. I think it’s important for students to ask questions and to think about those things, too.

—Lisa McKeon ’21

How a Campus Ministry Associate Writes

Quick Facts

Favorite Word?
“Esperanza,” which means hope in Spanish.

Pen or Pencil?

Favorite Punctuation?
Exclamation mark



Grace Davis
Campus Ministry Associate

SJU Writes: What writer inspires you?

GD: Henri Nouwen. He’s a spiritual author. He has a journal about his time in Latin America, those experiences and how they’ve connected with his faith. He also has a lot of books on prayer and spirituality.

SJU Writes: What kind of writing do you do?

GD: A lot of journaling. Also, I have been writing a lot of letters–emails, too–to friends who are not around me, sharing with them what I’m doing and where I am. Journaling is, for me, very reflective.

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

GD: Getting things out there, seeing them on paper and getting to further expand on those thoughts and feelings, like “Where is this coming from? Why? What’s it connected to?” Writing helps me to release a lot, work through it, put it all there and get it out.

SJU Writes: Tell us more about writing letters.

GD: I started writing letters last year, being in Ecuador and not necessarily having as much electronic communication. That’s carried on into this year, now, having people that I love living in Ecuador ,and I’m here. It’s something special to write to people. For me, in that writing process, I think a lot more deeply than I would if I was just texting or calling.

SJU Writes: How does writing a letter differ from, say, writing a text?

GD: Writing letters challenges me with patience and a lot of gratitude too. I want to talk to this person right now and tell them everything that’s going on, but it takes a long time to write a letter and a long time to get there. With instant communication, I could tell them right now how this letter made me feel and how I want to respond, but I can’t. It’s a slow process that feels more real because I can put time into my response and spend more time.

—Andrea Mueller ’21

How A Philosophy Professor Writes

Quick Facts

Pen or Pencil?
Pen, preferably one with a fun color (especially metallics)

Favorite place to write?
Home, at the table next to my guinea pigs

Favorite word?



Ginger Hoffman, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy

SJU Writes:  Are there people you try to emulate as you write?

GH: Not necessarily. I often think about how Nozick used the phrase “superduper neuropsychologists” and got away with it, and wonder if I could do something like that. That’s one of the most famous writings, and “superduper” is in there. I try to stick in some fun phrases, but you want it to be professional and scholarly.

SJU Writes: Do you have any specific advice for writing in philosophy?

GH: Make sure you know the contours of your argument first, and then write it, maybe revise it immediately, but at some point revise it after you haven’t been working on it. So revise a ton, and at least between some of those revisions, have a day.

SJU Writes: So it’s really just a matter of taking the time and letting it mull in your brain while not actively working on it?

GH: I would say letting it not mull in your brain, so that when you approach it again, it’s approaching it anew. So then you say, “Oh, wait, I thought this followed from this, but now I don’t see why I was thinking that.” It’s just amazing what you’ll find after you’ve set it aside. When you step away from it for a day, two days, it’s not in your mind anymore, so then you can see where the gaps are.

SJU Writes: Do you enjoy revising?

GH: It comes with a lot of anxiety. I want what I produce to be good, and it’s hard work to do that, so it depends. But revising can sometimes be fun, and putting it down is, for me, hardly ever fun. Thinking of the ideas is fun. Getting them on paper for me is very hard. I love the ideas. That’s my very favorite part. But, that’s not yet to the writing.

—Nathan King ’20

How an English Professor Writes

Quick Facts

Favorite Word?

Oxford comma, or no?

Music you listen to when you write?
Drafting something new: classical guitar. Something I’ve already done: the Simon and Garfunkel station on Pandora



Jason Mezey
Professor of English

SJU Writes: What writing are you currently working on?

JM: I’m writing an essay on the Bollywood-style movie “Dil Se.” I’m also writing an article version of a paper on “Reunion”–the Google advertisement–where two men, separated by Partition, are reunited by Google. It deals with how we understand India and how Google is integrating into Indian culture.

SJU Writes: Can you describe your writing process?

JM: A lot of flailing, running into dead ends like a brick wall. Reading, more reading, stalling, distraction, grinding out chunks of text, repeating the cycle. When I’m in a groove, I can produce a lot of halfway decent text pretty quickly, but it’s hard to get in a groove when I see all that I still have to learn.

SJU Writes: Is there a certain book, poem or play that has influenced your writing?

JM: I don’t write fiction or poetry, so it’s basically just works of fiction. There’s this book, “The World According to Garp,” that’s really impacted my writing in terms of my writing process and what inspires my creativity. I find that I’m usually influenced by books with perfect endings that I’ll never be able to write about like “100 Years of Solitude” or “Song of Solomon.”

SJU Writes: What do you hope to pass onto your students as an English professor?

JM: I had a professor who always told us to “have fun” with our assignments, and I always put “Good luck and have fun!” at the end of each assignment. Even if the chances of having fun are very slim, well, it’s still an idea. It’s great when I see students working on a topic that they’re passionate about, and I hope they get at least some joy out of their work.

—Jillian Buckley ’20