Catching up with Decaturian alums

Denny Patterson, Senior Editor

David Wright – Class of 88’ with an English major and music minor

Q: What have you been doing since graduating from Millikin?
A: I did graduate work in English at Truman State University and Loyola University-Chicago then taught writing and literature at Richland Community College for six years before teaching at Wheaton College. During that time, I had two children and published a collection of poems. For the past three years, I’ve been teaching at University of Illinois in Urbana and earned an MFA in creative writing from Ashland University in Ohio. And this fall I’ve started a new tenure track position teaching creative writing and American literature at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Ill. I have another book of poems due out this fall or winter.

Q: What was your involvement with the Dec?
A: I wrote a column called The Wright Stuff (the title wasn’t my idea). I did an occasional reporting piece as well.

Q: Did the Dec help you or prepare you in any way personally or professionally?
A: Producing those 500 word opinion/reflection/humor pieces helped me improve my writing, taught me a great deal about condensing language and thinking about audience. I suppose these days that personal voice in a confined space would be a blog post, but I’m glad I had the outlet of the student paper. Personally, the column got me in a little trouble, especially when I wrote a piece critical of Greek system and then, a couple weeks later, my younger sister pledged a sorority.

Q: What was your favorite part of your Millikin experience?
A: I loved my colleagues in the JMS honors program and in English and philosophy classes. Conversations that started with those people are still ongoing for me in my writing and in my own teaching. I also enjoyed the cross-disciplinary connections I got to make between lit, writing and music. It shaped the way I think about every kind of art–no art works in isolation from the others, which I learned from hanging around with pianists, music historians and jazz heads and singing in choirs at the same time I was learning about poetry.

Q: What were some of the top stories happening on campus while you attended?
A: I remember the Dec pretty extensively covering the college president’s removal of a controversial painting from an art exhibit in Kirkland. He ordered it taken down during intermission of a concert, as I recall. The Dec went ahead and printed an image of the artwork. Nationally, I remember where I was in the hallway when news hit of the space shuttle explosion and I recall the emergence of the AIDS epidemic, all of which made their way into the columns I remember writing.

Caitlin Hennessy – Class of 10’ with an English writing major, creative writing emphasis and French minor

Q: What have you been doing since graduating from Millikin?
A: After graduation I moved to Alaska for a few months to do some hiking and writing, more or less get away from it all and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I then moved to Chicago, and lived with another Millikin alum, Joel Kim Booster. I worked various jobs in the restaurant industry, and did some office work the first two years. The past year I have been the general manager of Grass Fed, a steakhouse in wicker park that features all grass fed and organically raised meats.

Q: What was your involvement with the Dec?
A: I started writing for the Dec my freshman year. I then was the assistant arts editor, the arts editor, the features editor and then finally the co-editor in chief.

Q: Did the Dec help you or prepare you in any way personally or professionally?
A: Working for the Dec, I learned a tremendous amount about myself and how to work with other people. I formulated ways to ask people questions that wouldn’t just provide the answer I wanted to hear, but an answer that would truly tell a story. I gained a lot of knowledge about managing and working with other people, some who may have been older than me yet I was their superior, some were peers, some friends. We were a very close knit family, which I have luckily enough been able to create in my jobs since.

Q: What do you miss the most about Millikin?
A: What I miss the most about Millikin would probably be my friends. Many of them have moved to the city, but due to living in different areas, having different jobs or life styles, we don’t see each other as often. I took for granted being able to see them every day, live with them, go to LSB on Thursdays and such. I also miss Stephen Frech’s classes. He is truly brilliant, and I by far learned the most from him in my time there, and I miss daily being engaged and having my mind challenged in that way.

Q: What was some of your other involvement at Millikin?
A: While at Millikin, I helped found Blue Satellite, I was a house manager and box office manager for KFAC, I took a class in Paris, had a few pieces published in Collage and I did some work with the art department.

Jake Ray – Class of 12’ with a communication major

Q: What have you been doing since graduating from Millikin?
A: For 10 months I worked at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Illinois as a Case Manager Assistant serving seven counties including Macon. Since leaving there, I am a DJ with the Cromwell Radio Group in Effingham, Ill where I have worked live shows in the evening, afternoon, midday and morning as well as serving as the Production Director.

Q: What was your involvement with the Dec?
A: I started out as the Assistant Arts Editor under the great Sarah Nielsen, and then moved on to be the chief film critic. I often wrote “Top 5’s” for the film section, including my favorite “Top 5 Films That Will Make You Vomit.”

Q: Do you have a love for Millikin?
A: I have nothing but love for Millikin. It’s a pretty magical place when you think about it – a small school with great people and world class teachers.

Q: What do you miss the most about Millikin?
A: Honestly, I miss the magic. I know it sounds cheesy, but you don’t really get that Milli-magic anywhere in the “real-world.” Millikin was a small campus, but still featured people from all walks of life, many of whom thought differently than me. I miss learning from those people.

Q: What was some of your other involvement at Millikin?
A: While I was at Millikin I was lucky enough to work for the Dec, be the President of WJMU, be a member of Delta Sigma Phi and Lamda Pi Eta. I was also a part of the Student Senate for one year, and a baritone in Millikin Men for 2 years. I was also a member of the 2012 Homecoming Court.

Amy Fehr – Class of 13’ with a English literature major

Q: What have you been doing since graduating from Millikin?
A: I am currently in graduate school at the University of Rochester in New York, where I am working toward a master’s degree in English literature.

Q: What was your involvement with the Dec?
A: I became involved in the Dec my freshman year after taking Newswriting with Priscilla. After that, I was involved in a number of roles including co-editor-in-chief, copy editor and staff writer.

Q: Do you have a love for Millikin?
A: I have a great love and gratitude for Millikin, and I know that I could not be where I am today, professionally and personally, without my experiences at the university. I am mostly indebted to the English department, which is comprised of some of the most talented people who have a rare quality in that they are just as invested in their students as in their research. As a paraprofessional hoping to follow their lead, I have been thinking about how influential these people have been in my life. I also love that Millikin takes its mission seriously and helps students develop professionally through hands-on work such as the Dec or the English department’s casebook. Furthermore, if you can’t tell by this response, Millikin’s constant requirement to reflect — something I hated when I did it — has become a habit that I cherish in that it has helped immensely with my studies as well as in my personal life.

Q: What do you miss the most about Millikin?
A: I miss the exploratory environment of being able to try new things (such as newswriting), make mistakes, going out on a limb and feel that I was a productive and protected student. I also miss long talks with friends in the honors garden, Poe in the Pit, Theatre Department productions and Donnie’s pizza.

Q: What was your favorite part of your Millikin experience?
A: Going to London was one of the best experiences I have had in my life, and I would encourage anyone to take a semester abroad. I am still trying to figure out how to get back!