Lindsay Saunders

Alumna Spotlight! Lindsay K. Saunders

Linday Saunders

Lindsay Saunders

Lindsay K. Saunders Spotlight

A graduate of ECU, earning her Master’s degree in Technical and Professional Communication, Lindsay has used her education and talents to pursue an extremely interesting career in international work.  Through hard work, she has achieved her dream job of working at the American Embassy in Lusaka Zambia for the United States Government.  Lindsay agreed to be a Spotlight for the English department and through her interview, tells of her education, journey, and advice she wants to give to potential students, interested in following their passions.  Thank you, Lindsay, for your time and wonderful answers, we are proud to call you an ECU Pirate!!


Where are you from?

Originally, I’m from Kill Devil Hills, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I spent most of my life there before moving around a bit during undergrad and following graduation. Then I settled in Raleigh, NC for nearly a decade before recently relocating to Zambia, in Southern Africa. NC will always be home.


What brought you to ECU?

I actually didn’t want to go to ECU because both of my parents went there and I wanted to do my own thing, but ECU has top notch education and English programs, plus it’s very affordable and close to home so it made sense. Later on, it also ended up on the shortlist for graduate school because of the quality, affordability, and accessibility of the programs. Thank Dr. Richard Taylor for encouraging me to reconnect with Dr. Brent Henze for advice on graduate studies.


What did you study while you were here, and how did your interest in this area begin?

I’m an Alum three times over between my Bachelor’s in Elementary Education with a concentration in English, 2006; Professional Communications Graduate Certificate, 2013; and Master’s Degree in English concentrated in Technical and Professional Communications, 2014. My interest for these stemmed from a love of learning, stories, and creative digital projects.


What have you been up to since your graduation?

My life has been far from dull. Following undergrad, I moved across the country to teach for two years in Alaska. Upon return to NC, I transitioned to working as a paralegal. With the 2008 downturn of the economy and teacher job fair cancellations, I needed to adapt. Working in law gave me an avenue to help people by listening to client stories and support the long-term, detail-oriented, meticulous law process that might resolve  issues. Once I determined becoming a lawyer wasn’t the right move for me I chose to seek work in communications and programs that would still educate people, while also supporting long-term change and innovation.

Google, Unicef, and United Nations were the brands and organizations I set before me as my goal because of their work and ideals. When I finished grad school, it was still hard to get a job in government or nonprofits, even though that was where I longed to be. I decided to hone my creative skills at marketing agencies and then become more tech savvy by taking contracts at tech companies, like Lenovo and Red Hat. Meanwhile, outside of work I was a volunteer-holic building up my repertoire serving nonprofits such as the Society for Technical Communications Carolina Chapter, RESULTS, and UN Women Carolina Chapter, and helping with meetups. This led to communications projects, event planning, and public speaking, as well as national, and international travel, while I continued to push hard towards my professional goals. Eventually, I ended up working for a great team at the NC Department of Information Technology and now I work for the federal government, serving as a Development, Outreach, and Communications (DOC) Specialist for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) / Zambia Mission at the American Embassy in Lusaka, Zambia. USAID is the United States’ largest and oldest foreign aid agency, incorporates public-private partnerships, and works to end poverty. It’s basically my dream job since I get to do communications, events, photography, social media, promote programs serving communities, travel, and collaborate with numerous government agencies and nonprofits.


What recognitions/achievements are you most proud of and why?

I’ve pushed myself hard for my achievements. It’s still hard to believe that I finished my graduate degree with a 4.0 while working to support myself through grad school.

I’ve done public speaking in my home state of NC, nationally in Washington, D.C., and internationally. I speak about how we frame messages, public policy, advocacy, and the importance of storytelling for change. Becoming an activist, working on projects both as an advocate and professional to make change in communities is something I could not live without. That is ultimately what I’m most proud of — being a part of long-term change for so many. I’ve devoted the past four years of my life to speaking out, writing, facilitating meetings, and trainings to fight U.S. and global poverty. I strongly believe we have a duty to speak out about the injustices in the world and use our skills to the greatest extent in order to do so. I hope that when I leave this earth I can say I did everything I could to change it for the better and also took advantage of every opportunity, no matter how large or small, that came my way.

Quite possibly the biggest thing I’ve ever done was to give up everything in my life and make the international move, all on my own, to serve my country and our dear beautiful host country Zambia. In order to take this job at USAID, I left a job with a good team with the NC Dept of IT, signed the house I owned over to some tenants, and had to say goodbye to organizations and friends I really loved, while resetting everything I’ve ever known. I’ve learned a new job, a new country, new languages, new food, and new cultural norms. I knew I’d learn so much and this would be an invaluable experience. I’ve learned so much about myself, the United States, and the world.


What elements of your education in the Department of English have been most instrumental to your success?

One thing that’s pretty incredible about the ECU Department of English is that it has many facets so you can kind of carve out your own path. I intentionally selected courses for my graduate degree to be really dynamic because I knew I wanted to do work that required a range of skills and perspectives. Critical thinking through analysis and research. Design of communications from layout expectations, styles, and traditional hard copy or print and digital online. How to target your audience and be aware of user experience. Detailed editing to enhance content. Be in tune with overall project needs. Framing different styles of writing — I learned editorial, grant, public policy, and technical writing! During my graduate work with the Department of English, I learned that I would need to anticipate content needs before the audience might even need to know. Determining that through content strategy is imperative to reach your target demographics and find the most success in your messaging.


What was most rewarding/exciting about your time in the Department of English?

That would be the relationships I developed with other colleague students and my professors. I actually studied abroad with the Department of English for 3 weeks as an undergrad in 2005 and then again as a grad student in 2013. Those trips were really powerful. It was especially memorable because both Dr. Richard Taylor and Dr. Brent Henze were on each trip. I know that I can run into them and no matter how long it’s been we can connect again and have a great conversation. The professors in the Department really care. I also studied under Dr. Michael Albers, Dr. Matt Cox, Dr. Guiseppe Getto, and Dr. Kirk St. Amant, who has moved on to another university, but we’re still in touch. But I even enjoyed engaging with Dr. Michelle Eble, Dr. Donna Kain, and Dr. Erin Frost, even though I never took classes with them.


What would you say to someone considering coming to ECU to study English?

If you’re considering coming to ECU study English, assess the program strengths and what your objectives are. I wanted a program that would provide me with more technical background, but equip me with a diverse set in terms of professional communication for both print and the digital. Communication and outreach was my long-term interest and my interests are a little more “creative” than the typical person going to study technical communication. Thankfully, ECU really does allow you to customize your educational journey. What you get out of it is up to you. Even though my Master’s Degree was through a distance education program, I developed friendships and real relationships. My academics, both as an undergrad and graduate student, came first and foremost. I still enjoyed myself, but my academics were my priority because I knew if I got the most out of it then I’d be more armed to be effective in my career and support the organizations and people around me best.


Is there anything else you would like to add?

Put in the time and effort to build relationships. They will serve you well in the long run. Contribute in ways that out of the ordinary — volunteer work and nonprofits are just as valuable as your day job, will enhance your resume, and also produce more references. Don’t be afraid to take risks whether academically, professionally, or personally. It’s okay to question yourself — that’s normal, but push yourself beyond your comfort zone. We change and learn more when we’re uncomfortable. I would know — I’m living that now while living and working serving two interests — the U.S. and Zambia’s — in Southern Africa! I have never feared a challenge even if it overwhelmed me in the interim. Because of that I’m stronger as a person and more well-rounded educationally.


Author Bio

Lindsay K. Saunders, originally from North Carolina, is enjoying the lessons of life abroad in Zambia and privilege to serve as a Development, Outreach, and Communications Specialist for USAID. She has a weekly email newsletter and shares her journey on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. You may reach her by email via, visit her website at, or follow her on social media @LindsayKelleyS.

Alumna Spotlight! Kristy Woodson Harvey

Kristy Woodson Harvey is an alumna of ECU and a national bestselling author who focuses on southern fiction.  After graduating from ECU with her MA in English and a concentration in multicultural and transnational literature, Kristy went on to produce many great works including “Slightly South of Simple” and “Dear Carolina”.  Come and see her speak on March 22, 2018 at the Greenville Hilton!


Where are you from?

I’m originally from Salisbury, NC, but now I live in Beaufort, NC.

What brought you to ECU?

I was graduating from UNC’s school of journalism and had planned to continue with either a master’s in journalism or a law degree. But I was marrying my now husband, who was working in New Bern, and I decided to just take a peek at what ECU had to offer so we could stop our long-distance commute. I read an article about a new concentration in multicultural and transnational literature that was coming to the English master’s program, and I was so intrigued. I decided almost right away that I wanted to do that instead. It was a great choice.

What did you study while you were here, and how did your interest in this area begin?

I received a master’s in English with a concentration in multicultural and transnational literature. Even though I was a journalism major at UNC, I did a lot of English and creative writing, which I absolutely loved. I think reading is one of the best ways to learn about other people and cultures and to expand our horizons, and after years of writing, I wanted to do more of that.

What have you been up to since your graduation?

I actually went to work for Northwestern Mutual in the financial services industry for a bit after I got my master’s. It was perhaps an odd choice, but it was an opportunity presented to me and a chance to have another, completely different life experience. But now I write novels for Simon & Schuster, which is a dream job to say the least!

What recognitions/achievements are you most proud of and why?

My latest novel, Slightly South of Simple, was an instant National Bestseller, and that felt huge to me because I have worked so hard to get where I am. Being an author is about writing, of course, but so much of the job is promotion and marketing. I travel all year long speaking and expanding my audience and love meeting my readers. Two of my books are being considered for film and one was a finalist for the Southern Book Prize. So many amazing things have happened along this journey. I think, at the end of the day, simply being published by a “Big 5” New York publishing house was my dream, and I am so proud that I hung in there, fought the hard fight and made it. My fourth novel, The Secret to Southern Charm, will be released April 3, 2018, and actually, my first North Carolina event will be a fundraiser for ECU’s Joyner Library in March. I’m proud to be able to give back to organizations I support and love with my work. It is incredibly rewarding.

What elements of your education in the Department of English have been most instrumental to your success?

This may sound odd, but for some reason, reading about all of the different cultures I read about during my time at ECU made me realize how special my southern upbringing and childhood were. I realized that I lived in a very unique place and that I wanted to be able to share that with the world. I think that’s one of the reasons I write southern fiction now.

What was most rewarding/exciting about your time in the Department of English?

I loved my professors at ECU and felt like they were so committed to giving me the best experience I could have. Their doors were always open. I learned a lot of practical things there that I still use, like grant writing. And, though I haven’t actually taught English, the courses I took in that field gave me a really strong foundation, and I know I would be able to do that if I ever decide to go down that path. But most of all I think learning about other cultures so intensely changed the way I thought about the world and opened my eyes to other people’s struggles. It was an important lesson, especially at that time in my life.

What would you say to someone considering coming to ECU to study English?

Learning to read and think critically are two of the most important skills I know of for being able to be a part of a workplace environment, no matter what that is, and I definitely received that during my time at ECU. In addition, being a strong writer is a critical skill no matter what area you choose to pursue in the future. The English program at ECU is a large university experience with a small college feel. I got to know my classmates and my professors, and I think that is a critical part of any good education. For me, English has always been a passion and, when you follow your passion, amazing things happen. I’m living proof of that. You will get a broad-based education at ECU no matter what your major, so my advice is always to do what you love. It can’t help but make you a better student.

Jared Price smiles at the camera

Alumnus Spotlight: Jared Price

Jared Price (1995) earned the Department of English’s graduate certificate in TESOL–Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

Where are you from and what brought you to ECU?

I was born in Raleigh, N.C.

What brought you to ECU?

My love of Spanish and desire to study language(s) brought me to ECU.

How did you decide to pursue the graduate certificate in TESOL, and what else did you study?

When I first sought to get my teaching license in Spanish, they suggested that I also get certified in ESL, since they were critical areas and gave me a better chance to find gainful employment as a teacher. Ha ha when I first went back to ECU, I didn’t truly understand what an “add on” licensure really was at the time. I just did what I was told. To be very honest with you, I didn’t realize how important my TESOL certificate would be on my resume until years later (Dr. Cope can attest to this).

What have you been up to since your graduation and what are your goals for the future?

After graduating in 1995, I began teaching in 1997. I have taught Spanish and ESL grades K-12 for about 15 years now. I have spent the last 4 consecutive years living, working, and studying in Bangkok, Thailand. My son, Gabriel, was born here. I also studied and received my Master of education. I am very proud of these accomplishments. Although I am certified in Spanish and ESL, I have taught grades K2 and 2 in Thailand. I consider all of the kids my ESL students. I especially love my K2 babies.



In terms of academics, I do aspire to get my Masters in Hispanic Linguistics. I have such a love for the Spanish language. In terms of ESL and linguistics, I am fascinated how the learning of one’s L1 can affect their L2. I am so psyched about studying at N.C. State University. I truly love to learn! Getting my PhD is a definite possibility. I would like to do research in perhaps Sociolinguistics or bilingualism. I would enjoy teaching as a college professor. Only time will tell. God has blessed me with this opportunity and I will definitely take advantage of it.


What recognitions/achievements are you most proud of and why?

I am most proud of being offered this fine opportunity at N.C. State University. I am also very proud of my Eagle Scout award.

What was most rewarding/exciting about your time in the Department of English?

My entire experience at ECU was a joy! I absolutely loved college! In 1994, I received a $1500 scholarship to study in Monterrey, Mexico. It was awesome!

What elements of your education in the Department of English and/or your TESOL studies have been most instrumental to your success?

Thanks to Dr. Cope and my studies in the areas of Second Language acquisition and Second language learning, I have become much more aware of how languages are acquired and learned. I want to learn more so I can be a better educator. I thirst for knowledge. Being able to study both language and linguistics at N.C.S.U. is so exciting! I can’t wait!

Anything to add?

Life is like a thick, juicy steak. Dig deep and take a big bite!

Alumna Spotlight: Sarah Castle

Sarah Castle is a 2010 ECU graduate who works at a small private wealth investment company brokered by Ameriprise Financial.

Where are you from and what brought you to ECU?

The Annapolis, Maryland, area. I am a third generation Pirate! My grandfather attended East Carolina in the late ’50s, followed by both of my parents who met at ECU in the ’70s , leaving me to continue the purple and gold legacy from 2006-2010.

What did you study while you were here, and how did your interest in this area begin?

I studied the English language, American history, Shakespeare, linguistics, and writing. I became interested in pursuing my Bachelor’s in English through the course studies of linguistics. I excelled and enjoyed using the International Phonetic Alphabet to accurately pronounce any word in any language.

What have you been up to since your graduation?

Since graduation in 2010, I have found employment in several different fields. Immediately following graduation, I worked for a law firm doing mortgage modifications. Then I went on to teach special education in the Annapolis, allowing me to give back to my home community. Following that, I gained my license to sell health, life, and variable annuities and was introduced to the world of sales. Most notably perhaps was when I was directly contacted and referred for employment by a financial firm which specifically hired me based on my degree in order to fulfill writing demands to keep clients engaged.

What recognitions/achievements are you most proud of and why?

Receiving recognition from the English department at East Carolina for being the most dedicated and highest achiever in my American history class was a pretty big deal for me. The professor I had was one of my hardest but he pushed me to the tip of my potential and it has long stood rewarding. I have remained in contact with my professor and together we have edited one of my research papers written about Thoreau for a number of years, using it as graduate school application material and the like.

What elements of your education in the Department of English have been most instrumental to your success?

The English department at East Carolina assisted me to develop skills such as implementing effective grammar, manipulating the written word, and exercising research techniques which have led me to excel in several areas of business and communication in the professional setting.

What was most rewarding/exciting about your time in the Department of English?

My most rewarding time with the Department of English was choosing to study overseas in Manchester, England for a semester. Upon the advice of my mentors, professors, and advisors I chose to finish up my required courses in the first semester of my senior year so that I could open my eyes to the world outside of America in my last months of study. It was the number one decision I made in my undergraduate career and I could not thank the English department more for pushing me in this direction!


What would you say to someone considering coming to ECU to study English?

As a graduate holding my Bachelor’s degree in English, I would say to any incoming English scholar, remember “if you can write well, you can do anything.” My mother told me that a long time ago and as it turns out, she was right. Having a strong command of any language will allow you to advance in the work force, in the social sense, and can capture your memories in time. With enough creativity, you can find a need in almost every profession so do not hesitate, take your English background and run with it! Oh and, Go Pirates!




Alumna Spotlight: Catherine McCabe


Catherine McCabe is the author of A Rose Out of Ashes.


Where are you from and what brought you to ECU?

I am originally from Hyde County so I definitely consider myself ‘a country girl.’ Being a homebody, ECU was a good choice for me because it was close to home and I felt I would get a quality education as well.


What did you study while you were here, and how did your interest in this area begin? ?

My areas of study were English (Writing) and Communications. My interest in these areas grew from a natural love of writing and wanting to make a career out of it. I have been writing since I was twelve, and the high from writing a piece and having your peers enjoy it, there is nothing quite like it!


What have you been up to since your graduation?

I actually had the opportunity to work with a couple of local newspapers, one before I actually graduated from ECU in 1993. The experience was wonderful; I got to travel, meet new people and do what I love; write. Sometimes we don’t make the best choices and life takes you in a different direction then the one you thought you would be on. My current career, and the one that I have been pursuing for several years now, is in the helping field, particularly working with the elderly. I am currently the Program Director with the Creative Living Center, a very rewarding position. Although writing isn’t my career per se, I still enjoy writing my poetry and sharing it as I am able to.


What recognitions/achievements are you most proud of and why? ?

I would have to say becoming a mom was a great achievement for me. My daughter is now 17. My second greatest accomplishment would have to be self publishing my book of poetry, ‘A Rose out of Ashes’ through Bookstand Publishing in 2008. I did a lot of the editing work, etc on my own so it was definitely a rewarding experience.


What elements of your education in the Department of English have been most instrumental to your success?

I think just being able to hone my English writing skills in an atmosphere that allowed and encouraged creativity such as ECU’s English Department would have to be what stands out the most for me. And having instructors who are receptive of your talent in whatever form, and encouraged rather then discouraged you from that talent meant a lot as well.


What was most rewarding/exciting about your time in the Department of English, and what would you say to someone considering coming to ECU to study English?

I think I would have to say my most rewarding experience, not necessarily in the department, but as a student was writing for Expressions, the minority magazine. Getting to work alongside other students, feed off their writing energy and having my work recognized was very rewarding.

I would have to say if English is your passion, ECU is a good place to pursue it. The department was great when I was there and I am sure it has only gotten better in the years since I graduated so I can only imagine the wealth of information waiting for someone there.


Alumnus Spotlight: Stacey Cochran

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 12.26.33 PM > Why did you choose ECU?

Well, the truth is both of my parents are ECU graduates and met on campus in the early 1960s, and so ECU has been a part of my family my entire life. It was one of my first choices, and I was honored to be accepted.

> What drew you to English as your Major?

I knew I wanted to be a writer, and the faculty were amazing. As a grad student, the TA opportunities were a draw, and I started to learn the craft of teaching writing with the help of some outstanding mentors in the English Department at ECU.

> What is the best part of the program?

I think the thing I loved the most was the encouragement and support that faculty in the English Department offered. I was very much finding my way when I was a student, and their guidance shaped who I am as a writer and teacher today.

> What course would you most recommend to other students, why, and who taught it?

Well, that’s forcing me to choose sides isn’t it! 🙂 I loved all the classes I took in the English Department at ECU, but at the end of the day my heart probably lies with the CW folks. Although the Lit folks, FYW folks, and the Rhet/Comp folks are pretty amazing, too. Not to mention some of the amazing NTT faculty, too!

> What published work (article, book, etc.) had the greatest influence in development of your research interests?

Getting to know Ron Rash in the past few years has had a tremendous impact on my writing. I thank Amy Rogers (formerly publisher of Novello Festival Press) for first introducing us a good decade or so ago. Ron has become my literary idol in many ways.

> When did you graduate?

I graduated in 2001.

> How has your major benefited you since graduation?

Well, I’m not sure I can put into words all of the ways it has helped me. I mean, it’s shaped my entire adult life. I met my wife as a result of my success in the program. We have two kids. I taught at NC State University from 2006-2015, and we’ve most recently taken positions at the University of Arizona to begin in the fall (2015).

> What are you engaged in now?

My novel Eddie & Sunny launched in March 2015. Ron Rash gave me a nice blurb, and the News & Observer wrote a pretty darn nice review of it. An excerpt of the novel was originally selected as a finalist for the James Hurst Prize for fiction, and the novel itself was selected for publication by Kindle Press as one of the first ten novels acquired via Kindle Scout. I also have a co-authored textbook coming out this fall with Bedford/St. Martin’s Press titled The Insider’s Guide to Academic Writing.

A couple of links:

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Alumnus Spotlight: Brandon Sneed

Landing a book deal was the culmination of six years of hard work and passion for East Carolina English department alumnus Brandon Sneed.

“Getting a book deal with one of the Big 5 publishers has always been a dream,” said Sneed, who describes the project as “a crazy, fun, top-secret project for HarperCollins.”

However, this top-secret project is far from Sneed’s debut as an author. In fact, it’s just one of many projects he’s embarked on as a full-time author and freelance journalist.

“I grew up absolutely loving reading and always messed around with writing funky stories as a kid, and I still love trying to write great stories now,” he said.

Sneed was raised right here in Greenville. He graduated from Barton College in Wilson in 2009 and moved back to Greenville in 2011 to pursue his Master’s degree at ECU.

“I liked that I could finish it in a year and a half, and I thought their English department looked great. Plus, Greenville is home,” Sneed said. “I wanted a master’s so that I could teach college writing and literature classes—I very well may end up getting my Ph.D. at some point—and I focused on Nonfiction Creative Writing because I majored in journalism as an undergrad.”

Sneed earned his M.A. in English with a concentration in Nonfiction Creative Writing. He said some of his favorite parts of the program were spending time with professors who were as passionate about good writing as he is, and working with other students who were improving their writing–“that was all really fun and invigorating.”

Since his graduation, Sneed has been writing full time as well as teaching writing classes at area colleges. He’s also been publishing “longform, in-depth narrative journalism” for a variety of outlets, including CNN/Bleacher Report, ESPN The Magazine,, SB Nation, Pacific Standard, Outside, and more. His story, “The Prospect,” was named a Best American Sports Writing 2014 Notable Selection.

And besides all that, he’s also been writing books. Aside from his current project with HarperCollins, he’s written The Edge of Legend (2010) and Behind the Drive (2015). Sneed put these books out via a small publishing company that he created with his wife.

Sneed has a lot of work to be proud of, and he’s happy with the path he’s chosen.

“It’s taken tons of time, effort, and sacrifice, and my goal has always been to write stories that entertain and/or inform, sure, but also offer something that can make people’s lives better.”

“I believe in moving stories that explore the stunning things human beings are capable of.”

People wanting to learn more about Sneed’s work can visit his Facebook page, his Twitter feed, and his personal website at, where Sneed posts regular updates there about his work, hosts monthly book giveaways, and offers interviews and updates about other people doing remarkable things.


Alumna Spotlight: Christina Eftekhar Mayr

ChristinaMayr2Christina Eftekhar Mayr

Alumna Christina Eftekhar Mayr is the President of a local chapter of Society for Technical Communication (STC) for the 2015-2016 term. She also recently won an Award of Distinction (and candidate for Best of Show) in the STC Carolina technical communication competition and an Award of Merit at the STC International Summit. Her current success in the field of technical communication is the product of years of hard work, determination, education and experience, many years of which came from her time in undergraduate and graduate programs at East Carolina.

Christina chose East Carolina because, out of all the colleges she visited, ECU “was the only one that felt like home.” Though she initially had some trouble during her freshman year deciding on a major, with some well-placed guidance from her friend and mentor, Dawn Keller, Christina quickly found that English was something she both enjoyed and excelled at. She graduated with her BA in 2006, and continued into the English MA program the following fall, where professors in the Technical Communications program helped her discover the greater potential of a degree in English.

Not surprisingly, Christina cites interactions with the English department’s passionate professors as the best part of her ECU experience, and time spent in the study abroad in England program and late-night discussions of Foucault rank high on her list of favorite ECU memories. She also highlights the importance of developing professional communication skills regardless of where you believe your degree may take you, those are the skills that will always be in high demand. For that reason, Christina recommends taking any available introductory courses in business and technical communication.

After graduating with her MA in English with a concentration in Technical and Professional Communication in 2008, Christina worked as a technical writer, developing her knowledge base by accepting a variety of positions across multiple fields. She believes it was majoring in English that taught her the many necessary skills to further her career. In her own words, “majoring in English taught me how to research properly, read for understanding, and think critically and logically, all of which have helped me learn and master new technologies quickly, a necessity as a technical writer.” Now she works as a technical editor, using DITA, an “XML-based open-source structured authoring architecture” for content management. She uses her knowledge and ability with DITA to enhance user experience and increase content availability as needed. Her recent award from the STC International Summit competition was for a book she wrote on DITA, called the DITA Dictionary.

Christina is grateful for the time she had at ECU, and invites recent graduates of the TPC program here to contact her at for more information about the Society for Technical Communication, for job search assistance, resume help, or for information about mentoring opportunities.

Alumna Spotlight: Jamie Johnson

IMG_9184Jamie Johnson


Jamie is a recent MA graduate who started ECU as an undergrad pursuing a major in nursing. Despite the seeming practicality of choosing such a major, Jamie soon discovered that her real passion was in English. After earning her BA, Jamie decided to further her education here at ECU, and enrolled in the English MA program. With so many years of experience to draw from, we decided to ask Jamie a few questions about her time at ECU.

Why did you choose ECU?

I completed my undergraduate career at ECU. I applied for several different schools for grad, but staying at ECU just felt right. I had such a great experience with my undergrad career that I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else!

What is the best part of the program?

The best part of the program is the support. I truly felt like everyone was on my side and wanted to help. The faculty was always encouraging and allowed me to explore areas of interest. The PhD students were like older siblings (the good kind) and could relate to my struggles and offer valuable advice. My classmates evolved into great companions; someone was always there to help me brainstorm, vent, or review one of my papers. Finally, the administrators and office assistants were always quick to assist me with making copies for my classes and answer any questions I had. I consider myself lucky; not many programs have such a great support system.

How has your major benefited you since graduation?

After I tell my story of starting as a nursing major and eventually getting my MA in English, sometimes people will assume that it wasn’t practical; but the opposite is true. The graduate program challenged me to think in different ways and apply my thinking to every situation. It has also given me the comfort of knowing I have lots of options; I could apply for PhD, I could teach at the college level, I could teach high school, or I could have any type of writing/communications job.

Is there any advice you’d give other students in the program?

I want current students to know that they deserve to be there. Sometimes when I was surrounded by extraordinarily bright people, I felt like I wasn’t good enough. But that wasn’t true for me, and it’s not true for anyone in the program. If you’re graduating soon, you have the right to feel incredibly proud of yourself and it is okay to be afraid of the next step. You’re never alone!

What were your favorite undergrad and graduate courses?

My favorite undergraduate class was English Grammar taught by Ms. O’Neal (rest in peace, Ms. O. You had a huge impact on me). It was my favorite because I went into the course thinking it would be easy and maybe boring considering the title. But I was actually very challenged in the course and learned several concepts I will use for the rest of my life.

My favorite graduate class Writing Systems taught by Dr. Aceto. There weren’t many students enrolled so the course was more like a conversation than a traditional instructor-led class. Similarly to my undergraduate experience with English Grammar, Dr. Aceto challenged my thoughts and taught me how to think critically. But you should know it’s hard to choose just one favorite graduate course. I had excellent experiences in every course.

What was the most influential work you read during you time at ECU?

The most influential work I read during my time at ECU were pieces by Christina Rossetti explored in Dr. Mallory’s British Literature course. I believe Rossetti was an early feminist and I can identify with her tones of sarcasm and wit in much of her poetry.

Jamie Johnson graduated in 2014 and has been working hard to build up her resume with teaching experience since then. Last semester, Jamie taught eight sections of English through four different schools, and though she would not recommend teaching more than six sections if possible, she appreciates the fact that teaching so many sections allowed her to work with a wider variety of students than she otherwise might have. She is also grateful for the early teaching experience she gained while in the graduate program.

Alumna Spotlight: Laura Wright

wright.lauraLaura Wright

ECU Alumna Dr. Laura Wright is the Department Head of English at Western Carolina University, where she currently supervises around 200 students and 30 faculty while teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in World Literature in English, gender studies, environmental literature, and postcolonial theory.

After receiving her undergraduate degree from Appalachian State University, Laura came to East Carolina University to pursue her MA in Literature. After graduating, she continued into the PhD program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Since arriving at Western Carolina University, Dr. Wright has been the recipient of several WCU awards, including the Arts and Sciences Teaching Award, the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, and this year’s University Scholar Award.  She is also a long distance runner and an ethical vegan with two amazing dogs and two lovely cat.

As part of the Spotlight, we also asked Dr. Wright about her time at 
ECU. Here’s what she had to say:

 What drew you to English as your Major?

I became an English major because I loved to read — and I was good at writing about literature.

I also chose English because that major gave me an immense amount of freedom to take courses that were interesting to me.  I had been a psychology major first and then a biology major, but I loved literature, and I made the decision to study it because it was the thing that I was the most passionate about.

What was the best part of the program?

Being in graduate school at ECU was one of the best experiences of my life.  At ASU, I had tried to carve out a niche for myself as a student who was focused on women’s literatures and minority literatures.  When I came to ECU, Dr. Gay Wilentz had just established the Multicultural Literature concentration in the MA.  I knew immediately that this was the focus that I wanted to pursue, so I studied with her, and she directed my thesis, which was on three works of African literature by women authors (Tsitsi Dangarembga, Flora Nwapa, and Buchi Emecheta).  I also got my first opportunity to teach at ECU, and I worked as an assistant editor for the student newspaper.  All of these experiences were incredibly valuable in terms of my future career.

How has your major benefited you since graduation?

Well, my MA and teaching experience at ECU helped me land a job at NCSU after graduation.  I taught as a lecturer there for four years prior to moving to Massachusetts to pursue at Ph.D.  At the University of Massachusetts, I focused on African literature and wrote a dissertation on South African author J. M. Coetzee.  My dissertation later became a book.  My experience at ECU gave me the foundation to do this work, and the faculty at ECU — particularly Gay and Dr. Roberta Martin — were amazing advocates for me in terms of my getting into graduate school and getting a teaching assistantship while I was there.



Dr. Laura Wright has written three monograph studies and been the lead editor of another book; my next book is forthcoming from the University of Georgia Press in the fall.

More information regarding her latest work can be accessed at:

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