English Matters. College of Arts and Sciences, Washington State University.

Alumni and Donor Spotlight

Kate Crane (’03 BA, ’05 MA)
Awarded Tenure at Eastern Washington State University

Kate Crane (’03 BA, ’05 MA)

Kate Crane found her love for literature and writing when she attended Running Start courses at Everett Community College as a high school student. Her passion led her to Washington State University where she earned a BA in English studies in the spring of 2003. She then went on to study composition and rhetoric at WSU and received her MA in the spring of 2005. With her BA and MA in hand, Crane spent the next five years teaching at community colleges. In 2006, she took a position at Cascadia Community College where she found another Coug and a wonderful mentor in Todd Lundberg (’94 PhD) who had studied with Sue McLeod. After teaching at Cascadia for four years, Crane realized she wanted more from her career, and she was admitted to Texas Tech University in Lubbock as a Provost’s Fellow.

While working on her PhD, Crane became interested in technical communication with a focus on user experience (UX) which led to her concentration on curricular and programmatic design. She uses her UX research and experience to understand the barriers poor user experience has on vulnerable populations, and Crane has applied her ideas to help revamp programs at EWU. Additionally, Crane worked on user experience and usability projects for EyeGuide and the University of North Texas Libraries’ Portal to Texas History. She is the co-author, with Brian Still, of Fundamentals of User-Centered Design: A Practical Approach (CRC Press, 2017), and she recently co-edited User Experience as Innovative Academic Practice (WAC Clearinghouse and University Press of Colorado, 2022) with Kelli Cargile Cook. Crane has published in the Journal of Technical Writing and Communication and Communication Design Quarterly

When reflecting on her time at WSU as an undergraduate and graduate student, Crane says it was the English faculty who helped her feel at home on campus. Specifically, the courses she took from Deb Lee, Camille Roman, and Joan Burbich “helped me develop my passion.” Studying travel literature with Lee helped Crane focus on romanticism and explorers of the time. When looking at the expedition of Lewis and Clark, Lee brought in a co-writer from England who gave the class her insights into investigating and writing, and the experience gave Crane a glimpse of her future. In Roman’s class, she read Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. During a class in which they were discussing Plath’s admission to a mental hospital and Plath had kicked a black male intern, Roman asked Crane and another student to act out the sequence—twice! Roman wanted the students to see the power and balance between the characters, and the moment was so strong and memorable. Crane also had her first exposure to dystopian literature while an undergraduate English major, and she discovered her favorite author, Margaret Atwood. From Crane’s perspective, The Handmaid’s Tale does not appear to be all that far off from where we are today: Crane observed that “society seems to have taken the book as a challenge.”

Crane also finds Percy Bysshe Shelley’s sonnet “Ozymandias,” which she first read in Deb Lee’s class, continues to resonate with today’s society despite being written about the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses III. While teaching for Cascadia Community College, Crane assigned students to read a June 2003 article from Harper’s Magazine, titled “The Last Americans: Environmental Collapse and the End of Civilization” by Jarod Diamond, which demonstrates how the challenges of ancient civilizations continue in our current society. The article began by citing Shelley’s “Ozymandias” and then expounded on the fact that all great nations end when faced with a scarcity of resources. Diamond reviewed the Maya civilization that fell due to a combination of climate change, environmental degradation, and the wars that ensue when humans face a lack of resources. All these societies believed they were invincible; they believed their leaders could not fail and their societies would not crumble—but they did. Crane believes “these are not new conversations, so why are we so arrogant to believe our problems are new? No society is perfect, and we want a little crumbling in society to help reflect and rebuild.” 

Perhaps one of the most rewarding opportunities as an undergraduate and graduate student at WSU was Crane’s work with Lisa Johnson and Bill Condon at the Writing Center: it was there, she says that she “set the course for her career.” Because WSU has such a strong writing program, she developed her skills with tutoring, assessment, and leading writing programs. The Center gave her leadership opportunities supported by training. She later assisted with reading and holistically placing students’ writing placement exams. Crane became so engrossed in the work that halfway through her master’s degree, she changed her focus from literature to rhetoric and composition. Crane believes in the effectiveness of peer tutoring and notes that not all institutions of higher learning believe peer tutoring is appropriate for students.

Crane found her way back to Washington state in 2016, and today she is a tenured associate professor of English at Eastern Washington University where she specializes in technical communication, rhetoric, and writing studies. Additionally, she has served as both director of the MA in English program with an emphasis in rhetoric and technical communication and as director of the BA in English studies. She currently serves as the interim director of composition. Crane looks forward to settling into her position at Eastern, as well as traveling. Now that she has tenure, she has the freedom to branch out a little more, but she expects to continue studying user experience, especially as it is/is not practiced in situations involving vulnerable populations.

Amethyst Freibott (‘17 BA)
Awarded Fulbright to Study and Teach in Hungary

Amethyst Freibott (’17 BA)

Washington State University English alumna Amethyst Freibott (’17 English, with minors in comparative ethnic studies and communication) received a Fulbright U.S. Student award to teach in Hungary. Her award brought the number to 63 WSU students and alumni who have received Fulbright awards to study, research, or teach abroad. April Seehafer, director of the WSU Distinguished Scholarships Program said that Amethyst will be an excellent ambassador in Hungary for both WSU and the U.S.

Freibott never planned to be an educator, but she is “flooded with gratitude to have Fulbright support me in this opportunity to do something I love so much.” Freibott, who also received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) award, cultivated a love of language and learning from the years she spent in her parents’ bookstore, as well as from her father who was a linguist and spoke German, Japanese, and Spanish. Freibott believes teaching English to people around the world will prepare them to “champion their own narrative, share their story more effectively, and, in turn, accomplish their goals.” Freibott notes that she found her voice by studying English and wants to help others find theirs. With her Fulbright and working for Educate USA, she will teach English to college students in Budapest or Veszprem using methods such as storytelling, movies, music, and translation of American stories. She said she hopes her Hungarian students will consider coming to the U.S. for their education.

Freibott’s time in Hungary will be her sixth international experience. She studied in the UK and previously was a volunteer teaching English as a second language in Kenya, Mexico, Myanmar, and the Dominican Republic. With Hungarian ties from her maternal great-grandmother, Freibott took her own family on her Fulbright adventure. In May, she married fellow Coug and former ASWSU vice president Garrett Kalt (’18 political science and strategic communication) and in September they moved to Budapest.

Abby Gromlich (‘21 BA)
Fourteen Years and a Heart for Forms

Abby Gromlich (’21 BA)

Abby Gromlich earned her BA in English through the WSU Global Campus and landed a technical and professional writing position with a civil engineering firm in Spokane. She spoke with enthusiasm about how her WSU classes and personal background prepared her for the work.

“The civil engineering industry is totally new to me,” she laughed. “I like learning no matter what, so it’s fun to learn new jargon. And the people I work with are amazing people; they’re just—they just have really big hearts.” The ways Gromlich builds upon interpersonal connections in her current position emerge in part from her experiences in WSU’s English curriculum, including her technical writing classes with Johanna Phelps, who “lined us up with different nonprofits.”

As Gromlich describes, “I got with the Eritrean Youth Dance Group of Seattle and put together a funding strategy for them. I researched different grant vendors in the area that support arts and culture in the Seattle area and put together a dossier of different grants—when to go for them; what they fund; why [the Group] is a good fit for [the funders]. I developed content like program summaries [to help them with] grant applications in the future. I liked doing that: it just felt really practical and pragmatic, that I could give them something that they could. . . actually use to apply for grant funding.”

Gromlich’s life and family experiences helped her make some of those connections. “The organization founder is of Eritrean descent, and I got to talk to her; she sent me videos and pictures of the things that they did,” she said. “My mom’s an immigrant from the Philippines, so we immediately connected over shared experiences, food, a mutual love of dance, especially cultural dances.” Gromlich found ways to synthesize some of the theories she’d investigated in English classes with her own experience, describing how “it was really fun to talk to her, I really loved it, like any third culture kid.” Gromlich’s attention to cultural “third spaces” (as in the scholarship of Homi Bhabha) reflects the importance WSU’s English classes place on difference, hybridity, and social justice.

That importance emerges in part from the feminist insight that “the personal is political,” an insight particularly relevant to Gromlich’s experience. She enrolled at Philadelphia Biblical University immediately upon graduating from high school but “dropped out to get married like a crazy person,” she said, somewhat wryly. “I figured I didn’t want to be a newlywed and doing school and us working at the same time. Something had to drop, so I dropped school. And it took me about 14 years to get back to school. By then, I had four kids, including one special needs daughter, and my second daughter. This was in 2014 in Pennsylvania: she was diagnosed after she was born with a very severe set of complex heart defects, and she had her first open-heart surgery when she was 13 days old. She had four open heart surgeries that first year.”

As if these circumstances were not challenging enough for Gromlich, “While that was all happening, my husband was laid off from his job at a software company. And then we were all in a car accident a week after I found out I was pregnant with baby number three, as my daughter had just come out of recovering from open heart surgery number three. We were all in the car together and a lady was high, driving with her headlights off and she ran a red light and T-boned us and my husband’s head hit the driver-side window. So he had a traumatic brain injury from that, and he couldn’t write or really talk for more than 20 minutes at a time without looking like he was having a stroke. So I picked us up and moved us from the Philadelphia area to Spokane,” she explained, noting that her husband’s parents were in Spokane, as were heart specialists for her daughter.

And that, said Gromlich, was how she came to WSU. “By the time we all got settled,” she told us, “you know it’s been 14 years since I left college, and so it took a hot second but it finally happened. I was looking for schools because I knew I wanted to be a grant writer. I just have a heart for forms, I like following rules, I like writing. And I like, you know, convincing people.” Gromlich’s educational priorities were affordability and supporting her career goal of becoming a grant writer, “and WSU hit both targets with its [English Department] Certificate in Rhetoric and Writing. And it was so nice to have the asynchronous classes.”

In retrospect, though, Gromlich sees some additional factors contributing to her chosen path. “I have always been a writer,” she explained. “Since I was eight years old, I don’t know who I am if I’m not writing my thoughts down. They fly away, so I just have to write them down. It’s like breathing. In college my first time around at PBU, I was actually a double major: Biblical Studies and Secondary Education, with a concentration in English.” More recently, in completing her degree online at WSU, Gromlich found value not only in the work she did with the Eritrean Youth Dance Group in Seattle but also in the research projects she completed on the Chinese government’s treatment of the minority Uighur population. In such projects, clarity and precision of expression feel invaluable to her, to the point where she names the Chicago Manual of Style as one of her favorite books. “I have a book in me that’s technical writing, but also because I have all this experience as a special needs mom, and so I want to develop something for parents that have suddenly found themselves with NICU [Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit] babies.” She paused. “But I’m also working on a story that’s like a historical fiction, based on my life and my Filipina grandmother’s life.” When asked about other possible fictional influences, she laughed again. “I don’t know. I think I’d need to read [Vladimir Nabokov’s] Pale Fire like five more times to understand it.”

Difficulty seems not to faze Gromlich. When asked about the Global Campus experience with entirely online courses, she responded, “Yeah, so there was a big learning curve. There was a lot of change in how I organized my day and organized my brain. Because those visual cues—I’m standing up and going to my next classroom now,’ or, ‘These are my classmates and I see what my teacher looks like,’ and to not have those visual cues to orient myself to the classroom context was surprisingly difficult at first. I had to give myself different cues throughout my day, so I organized myself on an app called Todoist and visually laid out my task lists for the week according to classes and the days. I went through each class in the same order every day to pretend like I was going to class. It was fun to fit into that while my kids are at school.” She paused, seeming to search for a thought. “It’s amazing how much you get done when you’re a grown-up,” she concluded.

Jack Davis (‘57 BA, ‘59 MA)

Native American alumnus Jack Davis was the first in his family to graduate from high school before he went on to earn his BA in English at what was then Washington State College. He and fellow English Department TA, Al Feltskog, were inducted into Phi Kappa Phi in 1958 as the top 1% of WSU grad students. After graduating with a PhD in American studies from the University of New Mexico in 1967, Davis went on to teach at the University of Idaho, twice earning the distinction of being selected as one of two  “best professors” at the University of Idaho. While at UI, Davis attended meetings held in Pullman by the WSU American Studies Department, at the time headed by Mary Land. Davis married in 1961 (June House Davis, ’75 PhD Higher Education Admin). The couple has two sons, one a medical doctor in dermatology. The family bought a large sailboat in 1968 and spent 13 summers living aboard with their two sons and sailing the Inland passage between Seattle and Alaska. Today the couple lives in the summer on Stuart Island in the Washington San Juan Islands and winter at their home in San Carlos, on the Mexican Gulf of California.

Cheryl Grey Bostrom (‘80 MA) Publishes Sugar Birds

Cheryl Grey Bostrom (’80 MA)

Cheryl Grey (Hobson) Bostrom released her newest book, Sugar Birds, set in 1985 in Whatcom County, Washington, where Bostrom has lived for more than 40 years. The story skillfully interlaces the parallel adventures of two girls.

The first, Agate “Aggie” Hayes, is a spirited and outdoorsy 10-year-old who accidentally sets her family’s house on fire with her parents inside. She runs to the backwoods riddled with guilt, where she hides from the rescue parties and must rely on her instinct and the resourcefulness her father has taught her. While remaining out of sight, however, Aggie discovers a plot to hurt her family and she must learn to trust and face the truth.

Aggie’s story is interlaced with that of Celia, a 16-year-old transplant from Texas who has come to live with her grandmother on a nearby farm. Hurting from her parent’s recent split, Celia would like to run away as well, but two men will cause her to stay. Celia is fascinated by Burnaby, Aggie’s autistic older brother, who milks cows and hunts for bones, but she develops a crush on Cabot, a 20-year-old handsome farmhand that may lead to trouble.

By applying her knowledge and deep respect for the flora and fauna of the pacific northwest, Bostrom engrosses readers with the intense wilderness descriptions running throughout her writing. Sugar Birds is a truly suspenseful coming-of-age, summertime story of self-discovery and redemption that explores the woods of northwest Washington alongside the complexities of family and faith, friendship, and forgiveness.

Jennifer Lodine-Chaffey (‘17 Ph.D.) Goes Home to Montana State University

Lodine-Chaffey (‘17 PhD)

After two years at Southern Oklahoma State University, Lodine-Chaffey accepted a position with Montana State University in Billings, Montana, her home state. Perhaps just as exciting is the release of her first book published this year by the University of Alabama Press: A Weak Woman in a Strong Battle: Women and Public Execution in Early Modern England. The book is a study of the depictions of women’s executions in Renaissance England. Drawing from a wide array of genres, Lodine-Chaffey investigates the words of women executed in Tudor and Stuart England and how writers of the time represented female bodies as markers of penitence or deviance. To that end, as the female victim stepped up to the gallows or pyre, she was expected to recite conventionally gendered language to demonstrate acceptance of death and godly repentance. Just as important as words, however, were the depictions of women’s executed bodies, which Lodine-Chaffey contends, functioned as a text and were scrutinized by witnesses and readers for markers of the victim’s innocence or guilt. Overall, Lodine-Chaffey argues the intense focus on the words and bodies of women facing execution during this period, became a catalyst for a more thorough interest in and understanding of women’s roles not just as criminals but as subjects. Lodine-Chaffey’s peer-reviewed scholarship has appeared in the Ben Jonson Journal, Parergon, Quidditas: Journal of the Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Association, Marlowe Studies, and Brontë Studies.

Scarlett Anguiano Ošlapas (’15 MA) Finds Her Passion at Brigham Young University–Idaho

Scarlett Anguiano Ošlapas (’15 MA)

Currently, Scarlett Anguiano, now Ošlapas, is teaching online for Brigham Young University–Idaho and she loves it! Last semester, all of her students except one lived outside of the U.S. and many of them started in BYUI’s Pathway program. Pathway is an amazing worldwide program that helps people gain an affordable and accessible college education. Students start in the program and earn certificates that set them up to gain an online bachelor’s degree from BYUI or Ensign College. Ošlapas teaches English 150 Writing and Reasoning Foundations, which is comparable to WSU’s College Composition. The class is set up so that she can spend her time focusing on helping students individually because the learning curve is pretty tough for many ELL students. Ošlapas finds the work very rewarding and working from home works really well since her first baby, named Stella, was born in October 2021.

Amy May (‘16 MA) Enjoys Teaching in Portland

Amy May (‘16 MA)

Amy May is starting her second year teaching at La Salle Catholic College Preparatory, a private high school in the Portland, Oregon, metro area. May has found her dream job because it allows her great creative license to use her skills, ideas, and experience. She teaches all 12th-grade students in non-AP English classes at La Salle, as well as a few tenth-grade English classes. Much to May’s happy discovery, she adores 10th-grade students as much as students on the verge of graduation.

A few things that make May’s job wonderful are the Lasallian philosophies about the role of teachers in students’ lives, working collaboratively with an outstanding group of teachers, and the freedom to design the entire sequence and scope of the non-AP La Salle senior English classes. Senior English combines composition and literature into a single course and recognizes these as complements of one another.

May said she could not give an update on her career without reflecting on the outstanding education she received at WSU and sharing how the variety of classes she was allowed to take while pursuing her degree, in combination with who taught her, prepared her for the kind of job she dreamed of. She thanks Donna Potts and all the WSU Pullman and WSU Vancouver faculty! When she thinks of WSU, which is fairly often since she teaches, she is filled with warmth and gratitude. May aspires to help her students identify and reach their dreams in the same way she said the English faculty helped her believe in and reach hers.

Former Student Honors Late English Professor by Supporting New Scholarship

The Department of English is pleased to offer a new scholarship for students, thanks to generous alumni support in honor of Professor Ruth Slonim (1918–2005). During her 36 years with the English department, Slonim taught literature and modern poetry and organized public poetry readings. The name of the scholarship, “For the Love of Literature,” reflects Slonim’s lasting inspiration.

Kris Conde (’85 BA Business) signed up for English 332, a 20th-century poetry class during her first year at WSU. Always an avid reader, Conde attended a small-town high school that didn’t offer humanities or literature classes and she was excited to learn more. As the only first-year student in a class of seven or eight upperclassmen and graduate students, she said she felt completely unprepared, but Slonim worked with her throughout the semester and inspired her lifelong love of literature.

In her own words

“My four years at WSU were such an amazing experience. I grew up in a small town and, while the Pullman campus seemed huge, it had a welcoming feel as well. I joined the Cougar Marching Band, played all four years and served as its president for my junior and senior seasons. The people and the place—the Pullman campus—quickly felt like home.

“I enrolled at WSU planning to major in business (which I did), but along the way took a 20th-century poetry class, taught by Professor Ruth Slonim, which awakened a desire to study literature. I had always enjoyed reading poetry and novels, but Dr. Slonim’s teaching and love of literature were inspiring. Although I stuck to ‘the plan’ and majored in business, when the time was right to utilize my GI Bill, there was only one subject I wanted to pursue. Thus, the MA in literature I received at California State University, Northridge.

“After graduating from WSU, I had several interviews, but the jobs I wanted I didn’t get, and the jobs I was offered I didn’t want. So, I took on a new adventure and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in June 1986. It was there I learned to tell stories with a camera (a new passion) and served for four years as a combat cameraman. My active-duty tour was completed in 1990, I then pursued camera work in Hollywood while continuing to serve in the U.S. Air Force Reserve (retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2020). I began my career in Paramount Pictures’ film loading room, worked up through the ranks, and today work as a camera operator on television shows. I currently work on the CBS sitcom The Neighborhood (season 5).

Why do I support WSU?

“A lifetime WSUAA member and eternal Coug, I hoped someday to do more. To be able to give something back to a place and atmosphere that gave me so much was always my dream. And now in a position to do just that, it seemed an easy decision which students and course of study to support. Majoring in English is such an enriching course of study whether reading, writing, or teaching literature. Reading stories as a child, enjoying literature as a student, shooting documentaries for the Air Force, my travel photography hobby, and my current camera work on sitcoms—it’s all about storytelling. I feel so fortunate to share my story in the hope that it inspires others to contribute to the next generation of WSU English majors and the stories they will tell.”

If you would like more information about supporting the Department of English or the Slonim/For the Love of Literature Scholarship Fund, please contact the College of Arts and Sciences Development Office at cas.development@wsu.edu or 509-335-1096.