Archive for ‘Alumni Spotlight’

Creative Writing Students Win Awards

0 Commentsby   |  09.21.15  |  Alumni Spotlight, Awards and Honors

Two students who produced work in creative writing classes taught by Al Haley have each won first place in the annual Texas Association of Creative Writing Teachers student writing contest.

  • Alikay Wood won first place in fiction for her story “Academy 6”
  • Alikay also won first in nonfiction for her piece “All That’s Left to Do Is Fall”
  • Stephanie Martin won first place in poetry for a group of poems

In this contest members are allowed to nominate one undergraduate and one graduate work in each of the three major literary genres. Al Haley is the ACU member of TACWT who nominated these students.

The honor includes a $100 prize and an invitation to read at the annual TACWT meeting held in September.

Alikay graduated in May. She is headed to New York City where she has a job at a Christian publishing house. Her short story was a witty, satirical take on a dystopian high school in which it’s not clear, until the end, if this is just a somewhat eccentric school or a mental institution. “All That’s Left to Do Is Fall” ponders some of the recent knowledge obtained about the origin of the cosmos and how this could affect one’s sense of who they are in day-to-day life.

Stephanie graduated in December 2014. She was accepted into the Professional Science Masters in Biotechnology at the University of San Francisco. A notable feature of her poetry was how she integrated her knowledge of science into the poems.

(Thanks to Al Haley for this article.)

Tanner Hadfield and the Writing Life

0 Commentsby   |  02.02.14  |  Alumni Spotlight


Tanner Hadfield, Selfie, 2014

When we last saw English major Tanner Hadfield he was headed off to the land of the Rockies (and the Broncos! for football fans) as he prepared to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Tanner was certainly qualified. Prof. Al Haley remembers making a major discovery in Eng. 323: Poetry Workshop in the Fall 2009:

“There was this quiet person who wrote surreal poems with the most amazing language, and you could still understand them. It was like John Berryman meeting up with John Ashberry and someone much more sober and coherent. I’d never seen anything quite like it from a student.”

Tanner went on to prove that his real forte was in fiction writing. His story in a semi-magical realist mode, “Snowing in Darling,” written a year later, won first place in the 2011 Texas Association of Creative Writing Teachers (TACWT) contest.

With that kind of “back story,” we’re not to surprised to get this update about what’s been going on in Boulder.

  • Tanner finished runner-up in the fiction category of an annual writing contest for authors from western U.S. states. The story will be published in an upcoming issue this year of the University of Utah’s “Western Humanities Review,” a journal founded in 1947:
  • He continues to serve as assistant editor for Caketrain Journal whichis associasted with a publishing house in Pittsburgh.
  • Since joining the UC program, he has been teaching freshman and sophomore classes.

Having learned of the above accomplishments from a well-informed source, we thought we’d conclude this post/update by contacting Tanner himself and asking him to respond to a couple of questions about the writing life.

INKWELL: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about writing since studying it at the graduate level?

TANNER: It’s still an ongoing process, and definitely a scary one, but the biggest advance would have to be learning to remove myself from my writing vacuum. That is, letting go of empty self-expression and vague notions of success in favor of writing for an actual real world audience, with an actual purpose in conversation with contemporary culture and literature. Very many people are very good writers inside the safety of their own vacuum and most of them stay there forever.

INKWELL: As someone who works as a fiction editor, what kinds of stories attract you and what do you see in stories that immediately generate a thumbs-down?

TANNER:  I’m attracted to stories with a rich, economical prose style and angle. The knowing chance of folly via abstraction. An immediate thumbs-down comes from a lack of immediacy. If one waits even until the second paragraph to get to the good stuff, one’s odds become abysmal. Merely competent writing is of no use and won’t buy one time outside the classroom (though achieving competence is certainly a necessary step in the process of becoming a real writer). This is just the nature of the present world of writing. It may not be cutthroat, but it’s incredibly competitive!

Bethany Bradshaw awarded Fulbright scholarship

0 Commentsby   |  09.24.13  |  Alumni Spotlight



Bethany Bradshaw (’11) has been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Program 
scholarship for an English teaching assistantship position in Turkey.

Bradshaw learned this summer that she would be teaching English at a 
university near the western coast of Turkey. Bradshaw is one of 1,700 U.S. 
citizens who will work abroad during the 2013-14 academic year.

“It’s just great because I had thought about teaching overseas anyway, and 
to have it funded from such a reputable institution–I feel really good 
about that,” Bradshaw told the Henderson (Texas) Daily New. “It’s 
definitely a great way to make connections, and Fulbright has a really big 
alumni network that can hopefully benefit me in the future.” Bradshaw 
alsoeager to be immersed in Turkish culture and learn more about 
Eastern Europe.

Bradshaw graduated from ACU with a B.A. in English. Earlier this year, she 
graduated with a master’s degree in American and British literature from 
North Carolina State University.

According to the U.S. State Department and the J. William Fulbright Foreign 
Scholarship Board, recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis 
of academic and professional achievement, as well as demonstrated 
leadership potential.

Brent Hines: A Journey to Global Writer

0 Commentsby   |  10.24.11  |  Alumni Spotlight

After 2 years in Armenia Brent enjoys a Texas H.S. football game with his sister

I  remember one of my students from the spring 2007.

First impressions: He was tall, had a winning smile, and was unassuming in demeanor. He was especially keen to receive ideas about how to improve his writing.

Even more I remember the pleasant surprise when he turned in his first piece for Eng. 323: Creative Nonfiction Workshop. “Stridulation, Wings on Teeth” was a meditation on crickets (which seemed to be everywhere at ACU the previous fall), a journey to Guatemala, and more. With the writer’s permission I sent the piece off to the annual Christianity and Literature student writing contest.

It took first place in the nonfiction category.

That was only the beginning for English major Brent Hines

A Chance to Write for a Living

A few weeks ago I heard from Brent that he had just landed his “dream job.” What would be a dream job for someone like Brent? As he puts it, “I’m actually getting paid to write.”

Brent will take on the role of Roving Correspondent for the American Refugee Committee. He’ll be based at the ARC’s headquarters in Minneapolis. From there he will travel to the places like Rwanda, Somalia, Thailand, Haiti, etc., to write, shoot film and photos, and generally create content for the ARC blog, twitter, youtube channel, and per Brent’s email, “just about anything else they need me to create.”

Wow. Pretty impressive!

From Blog to Dream Job

In December 2008, Brent got in touch with me.  He was working as a temporary stock room clerk at a college bookstore.  It wasn’t a career choice, but it wasn’t a bad gig either. He had found that some of his fellow employees were so interesting that it inspired him to write about them. Brent’s writing by then had gravitated from the page to a blog he had begun, Bread to be Eaten

Brent noted:

“I’m still struggling to make writing a part of my regular lifestyle.  It is hard to do without an audience.  I get the most thrill out of sharing my writing, out of the telling.  But, I get such a buzz out of the process that once I start I can’t stop.  So, whatever writing will be, it will definitely be here with me.”

Flash ahead to the summer 2009. Brent joined the Peace Corps. He went to Armenia for a two-year stint. 

Brent with Meri, his "little sister" from his host family

At that point, Brent’s blog took on a whole new flavor. One might say there was much more “bread to be eaten” and it was reflected in his remarkable posts and photographs.

The blog was so well done that it showed up in my classroom. In Eng. 323, besides our usual look at authors who brought a creative flair to nonfiction (e.g., Annie Dillard, Tom Wolfe, Loren Eiseley) I had begun to acquaint students with writing in the blogosphere and encourage them to create, let’s call them, “literary quality blogs.”

Brent’s blog became one of my Exhibit A’s.

After two years in Armenian and amazing opportunities to serve people and feel comfortable with a foreign culture, Brent was well prepared to pursue the ARC position. Plus, he had his ace in the hole, a tangible credential he could offer in the interview process. His blog. Solid evidence that he could write the kind of new media content that people will want to read.

So congratulations to Brent! We look forward to the stories he’s going to bring us from the most challenging places in the world, where people have been displaced and their very lives are threatened. I am especially proud that one of our own is going to share with the world these stories and bring more of the help that urgently needs to be extended to the “least of these.” – A.H.



Alumnus Note: Meet Commander Wesley

0 Commentsby   |  06.06.11  |  Alumni Spotlight

Commander Darrell Wesley, Navy Chaplain

Recently when we heard from one of the alums of this department we were reminded of that old question that haunts English majors.

“But what will you do with that degree? Where will you go?”

In the case of Darrell Wesley the answer is two-fold. 

He’s done a lot

And he’s gone a long ways since leaving ACU in 1988 with his BA in English. 

Darrell is now Navy Chaplain Wesley, possessing the rank of Commander.  

That’s not all. 

Recently Darrell finished his second Doctorate, a PhD in Religion from  Claremont Graduate University.  

In addition to his ACU English degree, he already had a Doctor of Ministry Degree from United Theological Seminary, an MS in Biblical and Related Studies from ACU, an MA in philosophy from University of Tennessee, and a Master’s of Sacred Theology from Yale University. 

Before any of our current majors groan about their course loads, they might want to contemplate the stunning number of classes Darrell attended, the stacks of books he read,  and how many papers he must have written over the past 23 years. Not to mention the wealth of knowledge  he has obtained in the process of earning his many degrees. 

Darrell has put this education to use in ways perhaps few have dreamed of while walking the hallway in Chambers to find the English office to talk to the advisor about the next semester’s classes. 

There's an ACU English alum aboard this ship...

He’s  done two tours in Iraq with Marines and served as chaplain and Ethics Professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.  

And he has a new assignment, a really big one.

He has recently been selected to be senior Chaplain on Board the USS Ronald Reagan, one of the Navy’s newest aircraft carriers. 

Our sincere congratulations go out to Darrell for all his achievements to date. We’re proud of how he is serving his country and those who are willing to put their lives on the line. He represents ACU well!

CCTE Awards

0 Commentsby   |  04.25.11  |  Alumni Spotlight, Announcements, Faculty Spotlight

Congratulations to Dr. Nancy Shankle, recipient of the Frances Hernández Teacher-Scholar Award.  Dr. Shankle was presented this award at the Conference of College Teachers of English luncheon on March 5, 2011, in Stephenville, Texas.

Each year the Conference of College Teachers of English honors the memory of Dr. Frances Hernández, longtime member of CCTE, with this award given to recipients who manifest the excellence in teaching, scholarship and service exemplified by Dr. Hernández herself.  Specifically, this award acknowledges recipients’ dedication to the profession through outstanding teaching; service to CCTE, to college or university, and to other professional organizations; and academic and scholarly achievement.

ACU graduate student (MA in English) Brent Dill won the William E. Tanner Award for the best rhetorical paper by a graduate gtudent. The title of his winning paper was “Ghostbook: A New Rhetoric of Grief.” His paper will be published in the 2011 issue of CCTE Studies.

ACU English professor Dr. Mikee Delony presented a paper on popular culture titled “Cinematic Guinevere.

Susan Jeffers and The Twilight Mystique

0 Commentsby   |  11.12.10  |  Alumni Spotlight, Announcements

2010 has been quite a busy year for me. My husband and I moved to New Jersey in May. We miss all of our friends in Abilene and it has taken us a while to get settled, but we are adjusting. We finally unpacked the last box just this weekend. We also had our first little one in October. Jacob Nathaniel is the cutest baby in the world.  He brings us a lot of joy—even at 3 in the morning (though I admit there’s less joy than there is yawning at that hour). It probably shouldn’t surprise me to discover that he is, in fact, a real person with preferences and a personality, but it does. We feel very blessed to have him in our family.

Also this year, an essay of mine was published in a collection about Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. The editors, Amy M. Clarke and Marijane Osborn, noticed that undergraduates wanted to think and to write papers about these books, but that there weren’t enough critical resources to help these students produce good scholarship. The Twilight Mystique attempts to begin filling this gap. There is a broad range of articles in this collection, considering topics from Meyer’s use of Quileute legends to the economic transformation of the real Forks. Other essays look at Twilight in the contexts of the gothic, abstinence, feminism, and religion. My article, titled “Bella and the Choice Made in Eden,” considers how Latter-day Saint theology intersects with the Twilight series. LDS doctrine on the Fall situates Eve as a hero and an active participant in her own salvation. I argue that Bella can be read similarly. Bella is only a victim when she’s denied status as an agent. I also briefly discuss how the happy ending of the series mirrors aspects of LDS ideas about the afterlife, specifically the idea of eternal families. If you’re interested in buying The Twilight Mystique, you can find it on It is also available as an e-book for Kindle.

Getting this essay ready for publication was a challenging process, but a rewarding one.  I love seeing my name in print as an author! Thanks to Mikee Deloney and everyone else there in the English Department for supporting my efforts. You’re invaluable friends.

God Bless.

Heather Brown

0 Commentsby   |  10.29.10  |  Alumni Spotlight

Extreme Right - Heather Brown

As both an undergraduate and graduate student at ACU in the English department, I spent some of my most formative years walking the (two) halls of Chambers.  My history with ACU goes even farther back as many of my family members attended and I spent large chunks of my childhood summers there attending the leadership camps.  I love ACU because she gave me the tools I need to excel in the odd job I have found myself in.

After graduating with my Ma of English lit in 2009, I worked for a year as an adjunct teaching English in a community college.  During the summer, after a fruitless job search, I was gearing up for another year of starvation, and I got a call from a woman who had been a church mentor to me when I was in high school.  She asked if I was still looking for a job, and I indicated that I absolutely was.  She said, “Well, I’ve got one for you.  Call this number.”  The number turned out to be Bill Harris, the chair of the English Department at The University of Texas at Brownsville.

It turned out that their freshman enrollment had exploded, and they needed a full-time  teacher to commit to taking a job if offered so that they could push through creating the position.  I told Bill that I would take it, and he said he’d call me back.  The next 45 minutes were the longest of my life.  Amazingly enough, he called back and said the position was approved.  I had a week and a half to move my life down to the border before beginning of the semester meetings started.

My students here are poor, many of them with only the most elementary understanding of English.  They are attending a university with open admission because, for many, it is the only one that will take them.  They are incredibly special.  My time at ACU, where I thought that if I heard the word diversity one more time, I would scream, prepared me in a special way to show love to these kids.  If there is anything I learned about God while I was at ACU, it was that, to paraphrase Judith Ortiz Coffer’s lovely poem, if God is not omnipotent, at least He is bilingual.

Todd Womble

0 Commentsby   |  05.13.10  |  Alumni Spotlight, Graduate

After graduation, I plan on working at Camp Olympia, a summer sports camp for kids ages 7-16 in Trinity, TX, for my 6th straight summer, and then start the PhD program at University of Texas at Arlingtion in the fall. I will be a Graduate Teaching Assistant and will be teaching two classes and taking three each semester. As of right now, I want to focus on contemporary American and British literature. While authors like John Steinbeck and Flannery O’Connor are the reasons I became an English major in the first place, I think that I will best be able to make a contribution to my field by focusing on more contemporary works. Authors such as Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, Jonathan Lethem, Ian McKewan, and Dave Eggers are a few of my favorites, and I hope to be able to teach this type of literature in the future. While at UTA, I will be living with my older brother–a nurse in Dallas–and going to as many Ranger and Cowboy games as possible. I hope to budget my monthly expenses at Half-Price Books, and I look forward to starting at a brand new school and hopefully represent the ACU English Department well.

Todd Womble

Shanna Early

0 Commentsby   |  05.03.10  |  Alumni Spotlight, Announcements

Shanna Early feels blessed to have been involved the ACU English Department as an undergraduate major (2005), a graduate student (2008), a first-year composition instructor for the past two years, and on-site director of the Writing Center this spring. This fall, Shanna will begin work on a Master’s in Irish Culture and Literature at Boston College.  She is excited about this opportunity to study with some of the most well-respected scholars in the field at one of the top Irish Studies programs in the country.  After completing this degree, she intends to pursue a PhD in English with a focus on Irish literature.  Shanna would love to hear from you if you’re visiting Boston, or for any other reason.  Her email address is

Shanna Early