Why did you choose this graduate degree program? What interested you in this particular
field of study?
When I was 11 or 12 I told my mom I wanted to write a book, but I made no progress toward that goal until I attended CBU. In my third year of college, I took Professor Helen Huntley’s creative writing class. Without a doubt, I would never have wanted to actually, really write, or think I could, without her. I love stories, movies, books, songs, whatever, as long as there is a story to tell. But, with her motivation and then getting to know other professors at CBU who helped continue flaming that spark of creativity, I continued writing. The more I wrote, the more I realized that I loved creating something from nothing but a pure image in my head. I love watching the stories completely take off and go places I never expected or could have hoped for.
I graduated with my B.A. in English from CBU in 2008. From that experience, I knew the program, the professors, and the focus on and care given to the students. In many ways, I looked at the CBU English department (students and instructors, alike) as a family, and I felt comfortable with the decision to spend another couple years with that family.
As long as I can remember, stories have been my passion: telling, reading, watching and analyzing. Literature and literary studies allow us to learn more about who we are, individually and collectively, than any other field of study. We are able to study human behavior, analyze the human condition, and find out why we care about and believe in the things we do. Literature is invaluable, and I am happy that it is my profession and my passion.
What did you like about being in this program at CBU?
I felt a comfort with the people in the program, both students and professors. The passion for literature is evident in all the instructors, and that passion is contagious. I looked forward to classes each week because I knew I would be talking about subjects that I deeply cared about with people who also cared about those subjects.
What did you think about your professors?
My professors became my mentors, my guides and my friends. They dedicated their time, going above and beyond what was needed and even expected. Additionally, their knowledge of their specific concentrations within literary studies was beyond impressive, and their commitment to getting each one of their students to think outside of the box and challenge preconceptions is something that I find myself imitating as a teacher myself.
How did you grow (spiritually, socially, educationally) while in this program at CBU?
My love of narrative was directed and redirected in the CBU grad program. It was no longer merely a passion, but, rather, it was translated into a brand-new way of thinking about the world around me. I matured, both as an individual and as an academic. Additionally, it was in the program, analyzing and talking about literature with my instructors and peers, that I decided on my career path as a teacher.
What have you done since graduating?
A year after graduating from the CBU grad program, my wife and I moved to the state of Georgia, where I was offered a high school teaching job. While we lived there (for three years), I published my first novel, A Murder Country. I had published various short stories and a couple plays in magazines and journals, but this was my first major writing success. That book went on to be the Finalist in the Georgia Author of the Year Awards—First Novel category. Since then, my wife and I (and our three-year-old son, Sawyer) have moved back to California, where I teach at a high school and am an adjunct professor of composition. In 2016, my second novel, The Valley, was published and went on to be a finalist in the Best Book Awards—Literary Fiction. I am currently talking with a publisher and looking to release a collection of short stories late this year or early next year. Additionally, in December 2017, I graduated with an MFA from Lindenwood University.
How has your time at CBU prepared you for your life and career after grad school?
I have a much more analytical view of the world, as any true reader does, I think. And I push my students to truly examine those aspects of the world that they take for granted, just as my professors at CBU pushed me.
Is there anything you learned at CBU that you still use in your professional life
Nearly everything I learned in the CBU grad program is used in my profession. I recall different teaching strategies from my professors, discussions I had in classes at CBU, and stories and poems I read, and I use the vast majority of them with my own students.
How are you making a difference in the world? How are you living your purpose?
Each day, I look out at a group of students. I get to teach them stories of where we come from, insights into the reasons we are the way we are. I teach them the hopes and desires of authors and thinkers of the past, and I push them to forge their own paths so that their future is brighter than the one of yesterday.
Would you recommend CBU to others?
I would and have recommended CBU to others. It is a place where students come to learn and where students feel a true belonging. There is a genuine quality with the people, a true passion and love of the subjects by the professors. It is a place where I transitioned from a clueless teenager into someone confident in who he is, and I know that I am not the only Lancer to feel this way.