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Alumni Achievements - Columbus State University

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Department of English

Alumni Achievements

Selfie of Justin Briley

Since graduating CSU, I've begun graduate study at Kennesaw State's Master of Arts in Professional Writing program, and I've had publications in Rattle Magazine, Barren Magazine, and Collective Unrest. I recently completed work designing the jacket and layout of Dr. Nick Norwood's forthcoming book of poetry, Eagle & Phenix (Snake Nation Press, 2019).

At Kennesaw, I‘m a graduate research assistant for Mitch Olson, where we are working on two film projects. I‘ve also completed a novel since leaving CSU. I recently accepted a job as a technical writer for CribMaster in Marietta, and continue to write poetry, essays, and fiction.

Aliyah Anglin in leading a class

My ability as a communicator was enhanced by the TESOL certification program. The TESOL program molded my mind into that of a linguist. There is not a day that I don't go without analyzing some kind of language that I hear or read. I analyze EVERYTHING. As a communication major, it is natural for me to analyze how people communicate. I have become far more aware of the processes that it takes to use language as a communication tool and understand the function of words and parts of languages. It has not only allowed me to understand Japanese better as a self-teaching learner but also it has allowed me to understand English as a tool rather than something that is just always there.

Aliyah Anglin smiling on outdoor steps

Ultimately, the TESOL program has allowed me to hone my linguistic skills and take command of the English language. It has allowed me to experience teaching in South Korea where I was able to practice and experiment with teaching methods like the total physical response method for lower level/younger students and the communicative language teaching approach. I used knowledge of how the mouth makes sounds to teach pronunciation. I also used these tools in a demo lesson, which has gotten me a job offer to teach at an Eikaiwa (English language school) in Japan. The TESOL program really prepares you for whatever and wherever your linguistic journey may take you and for that reason, it is awesome.

Amanda Woodruff

As a teacher, I must be open-minded and respectful of my students' diverse cultures and unique perspectives. It can be difficult to gain a true understanding of diversity when you have lived in the same community for your entire life. Studying abroad in England as part of my B.A. program helped me become more knowledgeable of values, beliefs, and cultures outside of my own. England was the place where I realized how beautiful and diverse our world truly is, and I have been able to use my study abroad experience to create a warm and welcoming environment that is accepting of cultural diversity and differences for my students. Doing so has transformed my classroom into a place where all students are made to feel important and embraced for who they are.

After graduating with a B.A. in English and Secondary Ed from Columbus State University, I had the opportunity to work overseas in Bogota, Colombia for two years as a high school English teacher. I was able to work with all four grade levels and really put to practice the training and education I had gained as a secondary English major. Working overseas my first two years of teaching was an integral part of my career as it helped me to develop my skills in instruction, planning, and management in a school with small class sizes and a very encouraging atmosphere. It was a wonderful way to begin my career as a teacher. The experiences I gained abroad have greatly helped me as I have now transitioned back home to teach locally in public school.

Brandi Ford

Studying abroad in Ecuador was one of the best experiences I had while at CSU. After graduation, I was offered and accepted a job teaching English III and IV for Union County Public Schools in North Carolina. Because of my previous study abroad experience, I applied for a program that sends teachers to China during the summer to teach English as a second language. In the summer or 2016, I was chosen to accompany a team of the best teachers in the county to visit and teach in Nanjing, China, allowing me earn the status of an international teacher. Studying and teaching abroad has expanded my horizons and afforded me with unparalleled opportunities.

Cailee Davis and friends in red jacketsCailee Davis and friends in front of a castle

My name is Cailee Davis, and I graduated from CSU in May 2017 with a B.A. in English Literature, a History Minor, and certificates in Medieval and Renaissance History and International Studies. During my time at CSU, I had the privilege of studying for a year at the University of Oxford, England. My time in Oxford got me involved in volunteer non-profit work with anti-human trafficking organizations like International Justice Mission.

Inspired by this work, before I returned to CSU for my senior year, I spent the summer undergoing a service internship at an orphanage in Ecuador. After graduating college, I accepted a position as a Senior AmeriCorps Member with City Year New Orleans, an educational non-profit working in urban school systems and supporting students in academic and behavioral interventions. With City Year, I’ve spent the last year serving as a team leader at George Washington Carver High School, an HBHS in New Orleans’ historic Desire Neighborhood.

I am incredibly thankful for my year as a co-teacher and AmeriCorps Member, both for the incredible staff and volunteers I worked with and for the amazing children, families, and communities that I was able to serve. Moving forward, I intend to continue to work in education at the collegiate level, teaching Holocaust and Genocide Studies. In order to do so, I will be moving to England in the fall to pursue an MA in Holocaust Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Danielle Melissovas Thompson

Since graduating in 2011, I’ve spent the last half-decade answering the question, “What do you do with a BA in English?”! Well, let’s see... Having spent the most incredible year studying abroad with the CSU in Oxford program, I eagerly applied and was accepted for a Master’s program in Film Aesthetics at Oxford University, and graduated in 2012. Then, pursuing my goal of being a film writer/director, I earned my MFA in Cinema & Television Directing at Regent University in 2014. I met and married my husband, Adam Bova, who was in the same program and who shares my passion for film. We frequently work together, running our own businesses doing film & video production. Currently we’re working on our first feature-length movie. I also work as a field producer for the show “The 700 Club,” which is part of the Christian Broadcasting Network. I travel in the U.S., writing, directing, and editing documentary stories. So I’m thankful for my BA in English, and most importantly for the amazing CSU faculty and staff who taught and guided me, and encouraged me to pursue my passions!

Laurie Nix

Since graduating from CSU in May 2012, I’ve earned a Master’s in English Literature from Auburn University, and am now working as a writer at a financial firm in Columbus. I studied modern literature and film at Auburn, with an emphasis on women in both fields. I put together a portfolio that included pieces about novels and film from the first two decades of the 20th century (the novel Quicksand by Nella Larsen and the silent political film Traffic in Souls); gender and sexuality in the film adaptation of The Exorcist; a series of short pieces for an on-campus film festival, in which I wrote about Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Strangers on a Train and Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-up; and an analysis of a painting, Reginald Marsh’s City Street, that I presented at the Jule Collins Smith Museum in Auburn.

As a project outside of my job, I am currently in the process of (hopefully) starting a blog on film. This is very much in the infant stage, and I am still deciding on the theme and focus of the blog, if I decide to have any. I hope to examine major motifs and tropes in the movies I write about, and, as of right now, the blog will be somewhat casual and informal – part analysis, part review, part general commentary. I hope to explore a variety of films from multiple genres and eras (this will be largely subject to which films I love and have interest in), and I’d like to make an effort to include films that have been adapted from novels and plays, since literature was my focus of study in college and grad school, and is another love of mine.

Trinity ChaviraTrinity Chavira

Hello there, and greetings from South Korea! I see you’re considering joining the TESOL program here at CSU. As a graduate of that particular program, I have to say that’s a wise move to make. A college degree is a great starting point, but adding additional certificates can open so many new doors in your future. For me, the TESOL program allowed me to join a major schooling company here in Busan immediately after college. No interning. No being a student teacher to try and worm my way into the school. Two months after graduating and I had a solid job in a whole new country on the other side of the globe, and this is only my first stop. With the TESOL certificate, there are job postings all over the world that I can apply for and explore the world while doing what I love by teaching.

Aside from the perks it has career-wise, there is a great deal to learn in the program. Personally, the most important classes were the Methods course and the Intro to Linguistics course. The Methods course was so useful because while it teaches techniques for working with speakers of another language those same techniques can be used in all classes and improves you as an overall teacher. The Methods course also offered a new aspect to teaching. Most EDU courses are focused on prepping the material, matching the rubric, lesson planning, and self-review. TESOL courses differed in that they focused on how to actually teach English and how to explain the parts of English that most of us simply take for granted. So even if you aren’t looking to go globetrotting, the TESOL program can improve you as a teacher and make you far more marketable to local schools. Overall, the TESOL program was a wonderful addition to my time at CSU and something I will be benefitting from for many years to come.

Essie Ndem

I am a scholarship awarded first-year law student at Mercer University School of Law, and I attained a B.A. in English with a concentration in Professional Writing at Columbus State University in 2015.

While studying English Professional Writing at CSU, I gained insight on the importance of effective communication and the power of written words. The various assignments consisting of independent and group efforts were synonymous to typical workplace occurrences, which instilled universal skills that can be used in any professional environment. What I love most is the immediate use of my learning. When drafting my personal statement for law school, I often referenced old assignments for format and structure accuracy.

After graduating, I wanted to raise international awareness on the importance of professionalism and career development. I created a two-branch campaign, designed to help students abroad attain optimal levels of success through joint endeavors in academia and mastering of vocational skills. The campaign was launched in 2016 with an essay contest for high school students in Nigeria. The essay contest was designed to encourage students to use writing as a formal means of communication while empowering the students to think and write critically and effectively on various topics. I returned to Nigeria in May 2017 and hosted a 6-day career development seminar with over 100 high school student participants. The students received information on how to set and achieve goals, time management skills, and effective communication. The seventh day was a variety show celebration where the students showcased their talents.

CSU plays a vital role in my achievements. I couldn’t have made it this far without the incredible support of the English department professors, who always challenged me to give more and do more. I am a CSU cougar for life, GO COUGARS!

Toni Stauffer and cat

After graduation, I began looking for a full-time job. I haven't found anything yet, but it's only been a few months; however, I have kept busy. I just had a profile article published about Kim Harrison, a New York Times #1 Best-selling paranormal fantasy author. I had a chance to interview her at Dragon CON, a science fiction and fantasy convention held in Atlanta every Labor Day weekend. You can read it at Target Audience Magazine.

I just finished my novella DYING MOON, which is about Nick Moon, a rock star who is dying from lung cancer. He goes back home to small town Georgia to spend his last days with his mother and friends. All he wants is to die in peace, but as strange events start happening and he battles a couple of insane werewolves who threaten those he loves, it seems that dying peacefully is not going to be his end. I've sent it to a press, and now I'm waiting for a response. I've also written a related screenplay that I am currently editing.

I'm freelancing for a local newspaper and other places. I just finished collaborating on a screenplay (113 pages) with a current CSU student, and I'm about to start work on my next book, which I am currently outlining. I've found the trick to producing writing is to make a schedule and stick to it. Right now, I write about four hours a day, Monday through Friday. The other time is spend job hunting, or working on other writing-related business. My time at CSU showed me that I can finish longer projects, if I just stick to a plan.

2018 Southern Literary Festival Writing Competition
Creative Nonfiction, 2nd Place: Justin Briley
Formal Essay, 3rd Place, Justin Briley
Print Journal, 1st Place, Arden (Justin Briley, editor in chief)

2018 Carson McCullers Literary Festival Writing Competition

Brick Road Greear Prize for Poetry
Justin Briley, first place
L’Anita Heiss, second place
Olivia Ivings, third place

Joe Francavilla Award for Fiction
Justin Briley, first place
Amy Crawford, second place
Rachael Mockalis, third place

Paul Hackett Award for Creative Nonfiction
Toni Stauffer, first place
Renee Simmons, second place
Lindsay Allday, third place

Naartjie Multimedia Award for Expository Writing
Edna Robinson, first place
Lauren Miley, second place
Justin Briley, third place

Award for Screenwriting
Ira York, first place
Kristen Broyles, second place
Tanner Coleman, third place

2017 Southern Literary Festival Writing Competition
Leah Vahjen, Poetry, first place
Alex Chapman, Formal Essay, first place
Mark C. Ray, One-Act Play, second place
Brea Walker, One-Act Play, third place
Cody Bishop, Print Publication (Arden), honorable mention

2016 Southern Literary Festival Writing Competition
Leah Vahjen, Poetry, Third Place

2015 Southern Literary Festival Writing Competition
Alyssa Hudson, Informal Essay, First Place

Poems published in national undergraduate literary magazine, Albion Review—Leah Vahjen (2017)

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