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


How an Archival Research Librarian Writes

Quick Facts

Favorite punctuation mark?
Exclamation point!

Favorite word?
Avail (often used with no)

Music you listen to when you write?
Often none, but if so, then it’s country or Mozart.



Chris Dixon
Archival Research Librarian


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

CD: One of the fun things I did was a paper on James Knox Polk and the Mexican-American war. I thought about it years later and actually read all 1,000-plus pages of the Polk 10-volume diary because I was asked to rework the paper. People who really know me know who my favorite president was—and it is Polk. The reason is because I had done that particular paper. It’s always been an interesting topic for me.

SJU Writes: Who was your most influential teacher?

CD: I have a good friend today who was one of my favorite college professors. He was laid back. One of the classes he taught was dealing with the Third World many years ago and the differences between the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere. He drew a line on the board, and he put “north” and “south.” He said, “Do you have any questions about that?” Everybody was blank. He said, “Are you sure no one has any questions that you want to talk about?” Nobody did, so that was the end of the lecture for the class that particular day. It was one of those things to tease him about, but he was an excellent teacher.

SJU Writes: What is your editing process like?

CD: I often struggle with how much punctuation to put in. When I sit down to write, I’m sometimes trying to come up with the right words because I’ll rewrite a sentence three or four times and I still may not have it right. Or, I’ll punctuate it, and I won’t have it right. I usually need someone else to look at it. I need a good editor. I’m a pretty good researcher. If I were to actually write, I would need a writing partner to look at things and edit.


—Brittany Swift ’19

How a Political Scientist Writes

Quick Facts

Favorite place to write?
In my kitchen with a cup of coffee.

Favorite word?

What are you writing now?
little essay about teaching peace in the age of Trump



Lisa Baglione, Ph.D.
Professor of Political Science


SJU Writes: Is your writing primarily academic?

LB: I’m working on a revision of a textbook that I have. But what I do for fun is I– and it started because of my kids and them going away to camp–I would try to think of things to write to them over the summer, so I started to write haikus. And haikus are great because you can finish one–it’s only 17 syllables–and I have started to make them so that they moreso make a whole story. And the goal is either to be very funny or evocative. A lot of times it might be just inspired by a gorgeous day. We go away to New Hampshire in the summer, so I will write something inspired by that for my daughter.

SJU Writes: How do you view the revision process of writing? 

LB: I know that we forget this as teachers sometimes, but I write on people’s papers as if I’m writing to myself. It might seem harsh, and I never really mean to be harsh. I really see the writing and revising process as a conversation, but I forget that students are new writers. Being young is wonderful on many levels, but for some of us who struggle with confidence, it’s just such a hard time, because these blows, these criticisms, can set you back. I was completely set back at various times, and as you’re older, you take what’s helpful, and you leave the rest behind.

SJU Writes: What advice would you give to students writing in your discipline?

LB: You need to find your thesis and realize that your thesis is the guide through your essay or your paper. I would say just like in any other writing, the thesis is key. Terminology and clarity is key, and then again, for all writing, find your own voice. And I say that with a smile because one of my best friends in graduate school, when I was struggling with something, she said, “Lisa, find your own voice.” I didn’t know what that meant. It took me a while. Teaching really helped me find my own voice. I say to my students, “Imagine you’re having a conversation with a friend, or at the Thanksgiving dinner table, whatever. This is how are you going to explain whatever it is to somebody else in your voice.”

—Lindsay Norton ’20



How a Theology Professor Writes

Brendan Sammon, Ph.D.
Professor of Theology

Quick Facts

Pen or Pencil?
Computer, but if I’m writing in a journal: pen.

Favorite word?

Favorite place to write?
The Green Engine Café.

SJU Writes: Describe your writing process. Where does it begin?

BS: I suppose it begins in desire. There are two channels. The first being what already started for me in academia. I have a history of theological thought. The other would be creative and where those things take me. In terms of the process, I will write ideas out. The initial part would be writing down ideas and trying to articulate them. Those that I think can be directed into something more fruitful will take on an outlining process.

SJU Writes: Do you ever find inspiration when you are teaching?

BS: Yes. There will be a kind of interaction between what students know and what I know. Part of the theology of beauty means writing about the way in which the human attempts to create what we call “art.” How humans reflect, speak about the divine, speak about transcendence, speak about God and God’s presence in a variety of ways. There’s so much happening in a work of art, that’s why it pulls us in, but there’s a lot taken for granted. So, a good analysis of that would help us better foreground what it does for us and how it allows us to see things that aren’t so easily visible.

SJU Writes:  Explain your revision process.

BS: Endless. You get to a point where you never feel like it’s finished, but you have to release it at some point. Revision will entail lots of reading, looking at different ways to articulate an idea. I’m looking for context and  clarity,. These are ideas expressed that I want expressed. I’ve learned to distance myself from my writing because when you start publishing, you get rejected.

SJU Writes: Do you have any suggestions for students who are writing in your discipline?

BS: Clarity. And developing lines of thought. I think all writing requires a degree of self-awareness, and I think that the better the writing, the more self-aware an author is. I think students tend to become overwhelmed with the ideas, and they find it difficult then to articulate a line of thought. Or they will do it at the last minute. It’s what people put in that they get out.

SJU Writes: Why do you write?

BS: For the same reason I eat, sleep, and breathe. As another way to engage in the world and make a contribution of some kind.

—Rachel Zablocki M.A ’19

How a Songwriter Writes

Daisy Abrams ’19
Music Major and Singer Songwriter

Quick Facts

Favorite word?
‘Autumn.’ I just love the season, but it’s also a fun word

Favorite music to write to?
Probably Elliott Smith because he’s so bare. It’s a good inspiration to get in the mode.

What are you reading right now?
I’m reading the collection of Mary Oliver’s poetry.

SJU Writes: Do you have a favorite part of the writing process?

DA: Every time I start writing a song, I get a little intimidated, like, ‘What if I don’t have any good ideas?’ So I guess my favorite part is every time I prove myself wrong. I think everybody has their way of expression, and they can get in touch with that. It’s just a matter of working it like a muscle. And the more you do it, the more you get that infinite ability to just tap into something.

SJU Writes: What have you written recently that you really like?

DA: I wrote something called “The Early Riser.” I liked it because I was in this state of wanting to be productive, and I felt if I could just get up early every morning at 6 a.m. that would mean that I’m getting to a better place with achieving my goals. That song was about that battle of wanting to do these things and feeling like I can’t.  I really like that song because it continues to be relevant. It’s about my inner self-sabotaging habits that I have sometimes. It really felt like a genuine thing that I was writing, and when I play it, I really feel that.

SJU Writes:  It must be gratifying to put into words what is hard to comprehend on an emotional level.

DA:  That’s why I love writing music because I feel like the music part adds that element of the thing that you can’t put into words. If you were to just speak out the words, maybe you’d take something from it, but I don’t think that they’re meant to stand on their own if you’re writing a song. So I think that the music plays an equally important role, and the lyrics tell you what I can tell you, and the music finishes the rest.

—Julia Furey-Bastian ’20