Department of English Virtual commencement and presentation of graduates

Joy at Graduation

(Excerpted from a commencement address given August 13, 2015)

By Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

You graduate in challenging times: wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, and the prospects of financial disasters. ... Though men’s hearts are failing them, you should take heart. There have always been challenging times. We, the generations of your predecessors, have survived daunting challenges, and so will you. The answer to all of these challenges is the same as it has always been. We have a Savior, and He has taught us what we should do. At the conclusion of His earthly ministry He declared: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Graduates

Fall 2018, Incoming Class of English Graduate Students (with Paul Westover, Graduate Coordinator)

º MA º Hannah Azar, Amy Connelly Banks, Mallory Bingham, Amber Bird, Lauren Poet Brown, Katherine Bullock, Rebecca Evans, Hannah DeTavis, Angelina Dulong, Megan Finley, McKay Hansen, Sarah Kate Johnson, Andew Levine, Morgan Lewis, Megan Myers, Maren Nield, Heather Randall, Jacqueline Smith, Michael Walton, Nathan Wood º MFA º Sarah Belliston, Cicily Bennion, Micah Cozzens, Logan Davis, Taisha Ostler, Ranae Rudd, Brandon Stillwell, Alizabeth Worley


Hannah is so supremely stoked to be graduating with her master's degree in English. She has spent the last seven years at BYU studying English (between her BA and MA), and she kind of can't believe it's really over. Her master's thesis is titled: "'Defensive flippancy': Play and Games as Moral Action in the Context of Disorientation in Brian Friel’s The Freedom of the City."

Her favorite memories from grad school are sharing cheez-its with friends during class, dressing up as "creepy" authors for Halloween, and watching two of her Writing 150 students fall in love and get married. She'd like to thank Swig, Extra Toasty Cheez-Its, caffeine more broadly, her thesis committee, her family, and her grad school friends for getting her through to the finish line. Yay Class of 2020!!!


When I found out I was pregnant with my first baby, I felt like I had disqualified myself from accomplishing my academic goals. Three years, two degrees and one more baby later, I am leaving BYU with the ability to hold my own academically, but more importantly, I am confidently stepping forward as a woman who can do hard things. I will forever be indebted to the professors, mentors, and friends I found within the English Department who encouraged me to assert myself and claim my place both as a scholar and a mother. In the fall, I will be starting a PhD program with the Hudson Strode Program for Renaissance Studies at the University of Alabama, but BYU will never be far from my heart!


I graduate with an MFA in Creative Writing, specializing in fiction, from Brigham Young University in April 2020. My favorite memories at BYU include late nights at Inscape with John Bennion and pregnant nuns, poetry group in friends' apartments complete with amateur séances, classes with the oh-so-quotable John Talbot and with sweater connoisseur Steve Tuttle, and procrastinating with friends in the carrels while exchanging scuttlebutt. I will be attending Ohio University in the fall to begin working on a PhD in English, specializing in Poetry.

Dear Graduates: We love you. Though COVID has robbed you of some of the pageantry of graduation, you are still trailing clouds of glory from this program, joining that 30% of the population eagerly degreed. We've been blessed working with you as fellow scholars and learners. Wash your hands, and read some novels and poetry! The future is as bright as your faith.

Professor Brian Jackson


My time at BYU could best be described by the phrase “peace like a river.” While the English Graduate Program challenged and stretched me in many ways, the memories I take with me are all colored by a sense of belonging and connection that created a deep, abiding peace. No one ever told me my writing was terrible (even when it was); rather, people constantly pointed out the good and encouraged me to build on it. The shift from criticism to questioning and encouraging, from doubt to peace, is the gift BYU gave me and the gift I intend to pay forward. Many thanks to all the wonderful people—professors, graduate cohort buddies, and students—who made this experience the best two years for me.


I truly, truly loved this program, and I will miss it so much (in about a month when the high of graduating has worn off). The English master’s program is such a special, uplifting community. I always felt loved, valued, and appreciated here. I want to thank my wonderful committee Amy Williams, Brian Jackson, and Jon Ostenson for all their help with my thesis and with life. I also want to thank my professors and my peers. The best conversations of my life happened these past two years with professors and friends in the program. The thing I will miss the most is talking in the carrels. Hours and hours where no work was done at all! I want to give a final shoutout to my RSA peeps, especially Katie B. and Nathan. We tried!


I owe nearly everything I have become to BYU, and specifically to the English department here. Through the generous mentoring and baffling kindness of my professors, I have been introduced to literature that has radically shifted my worldview, I have learned to sit with contradiction and seek for resolution, and I have come to understand human nature in complex and crucial ways. I can’t imagine my life being this fulfilling had I ended up in literally any other major, and after six wonderful, excruciating, unforgettable years, I am so sad to say goodbye.

You already know this. As a rite of passage, graduation marks an end and a beginning. Losing the rite itself becomes particularly ironic since the embodiment and visibility of the collective transition gets dispersed and muted. So, as faculty we look forward to seeing your graduation adaptations. Celebrate! We are still here to advise and cheer you along your way. We know that you’ve got this. All shall be well. We know this because as English majors, you chose to learn and share more about how words, language, culture, and literature portray, grapple with, and help us think about the ironies and joys of human experience and our divine nature. Our MA and MFA graduates have taken their scholarship, creativity, and resilience to a paradoxically higher and deeper level. A final thanks to the TSPS for showing that the thesis deserves a strong collective effort.

Professor Jill Terry Rudy


As I look back on my experience as a grad student at BYU, I'm overcome with gratitude. Gratitude for the things I've learned, for coming to understand who I am and what I'm capable of, and most especially, the friendships I've made along the way. From my fantastic Professors and mentors, to my joyous and life-sustaining TSPS support group, to my amazing Epistemological Crisis crew, my experience at BYU was one that I will treasure. I go forth now with a new appreciation for education, both as a student and as a Professor. I love BYU, I love the friends I've made, and I'm grateful to everyone who helped me get here. I'm grateful to my Heavenly Father for putting me on this path. As J.R.R. Tolkien said, "Little by little, one travels far." I intend to keep going. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.


The English Master’s Program has been an adventure. I have learned so much over the past two years, studying everything from fairy tales, folklore, and Frankenstein to hermeneutics, history, and Hitchcock. My studies allowed me the opportunity to present at the BYU English Symposium, the Western States Folklore Conference, the Reception Studies Conference, and the International Conference for the Fantastic and the Arts culminating with my thesis titled “Charming Child-Snatchers: Forming the Bogeyman in The Pied Piper, Peter Pan, and The Ted Bundy Tapes.” Given that I spent so much of my time over the past two years researching the macabre, I am looking forward to spending my summer reading, hiking, paddle boarding, stargazing, and staying far, far away from a computer. After that, who knows? I’m hoping that eventually the world reverts back to some state of normalcy and I can backpack across Europe or become a superhero.


I am graduating with an MFA in Creative Writing with a non-fiction emphasis. I am the first person in my immediate family to complete a graduate degree. And I did it while working as an Escrow Officer, teaching as a Graduate Instructor, and being a wife, mom, and a ward relief society counselor. I am proof that, with hard work, it is never too late to achieve a dream. I will miss being on campus as a student, but I hope to become an adjunct instructor as I continue writing. Highlights of my BYU experience include testimony building moments, time spent with amazing friends, working with incredible professors, Mint Brownie Chocolate Milk, and placing second in The David O. McKay Essay Contest. Congratulations to my fellow 2020 graduates.


My graduation celebration will consist of me, food, and Zooming parents. I’ve enjoyed working with my cohort and engaging with the English faculty. My favorite memories are of participating in the Paxman Reading, introducing authors at the English Reading Series, interning to teach Intro to Creative Writing with Michael Lavers, becoming a mentee for Chris Crowe, and teaching advanced writing with Lisa Hale. I’m also incredibly grateful to my committee, especially my chair John Bennion, for encouraging my writing and listening to all my half-baked ideas. I loved my time at BYU!

"I cannot praise a fugitive and cloister'd vertue, unexercis'd & unbreath'd, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race, where that immortall garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat. Assuredly we bring not innocence into the world, we bring impurity much rather: that which purifies us is triall, and triall is by what is contrary. That vertue therefore which is but a youngling in the contemplation of evill, and knows not the utmost that vice promises to her followers, and rejects it, is but a blank vertue, not a pure; her whitenesse is but an excrementall whitenesse."

Professor Kim Johnson, From John Milton, Areopagitica (1644)


I loved my time in the English Master’s Program at BYU. This experience afforded me the opportunity to present and publish professionally, and to turn not just one, but two of my girly, romantic childhood loves into a real contribution to scholarship and art through my thesis, “Fairy Tales en pointe: Fairy Brides, Ballerinas, & Ballets that Made the Tale.” I discovered the joy that teaching can be in both the traditional classroom and my adventure in the rolling hills of Great Britain, and I am looking forward to sharing my love of literature with future captive audiences. Thanks to all the professors and cohorts who encouraged me, especially the TSPS whose insight and laughter will stay with me always. Finally, to my family, for raising me to see the world as a beautiful, fun, fulfilling challenge and for helping me face that challenge—thank you. Thank you all!


You know those moments where you look at the people around you and have this soul-deep feeling that you’re surrounded by greatness? I felt that almost every day here in the MA program. I’m grateful for the professors, leaders, students, and colleagues that inspired me on a daily basis with their brilliance, their kindness, their power, their passion, and their wisdom. I’ll miss laughing in the carrels, compelling hallway discussions, and the constant, insecure, “I-could-be-totally-off” hedging of every comment in every seminar. Thanks, friends, for a transformative two years. Even COVID can’t hold you back!

As you graduate in English now, the skills you have learned are very much needed. Whether by methods of literary and cultural criticism, abilities to refine your own creative expression, or capacities to influence others through rhetoric, you have been learning through your studies how to get your awareness out of yourself and into the minds and hearts of others. We need people who can do that to increase understanding and connection among diverse people in this divided and contentious time.

Professor Greg Clark


I've enjoyed all our great seminar discussions, WIM trainings, RSA chapter meetings, and more than anything, the relationships we've made studying and learning side by side. I did, in fact, deeply enjoy my time hanging out in the carrels despite what my constant use of noise cancelling headphones might have suggested. I'm lucky to continue graduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in composition and rhetoric, but only through the help of great courses from great faculty and great friendship from great friends.


It's hard to say good-bye to the MFA program, but it's been such a great time! I've loved my classes and am so happy to have had such great classmates and professors. Michael and the kids have loved it too. We're hoping to catch some of the Reading Series when things open back up. Other than that, my main plans are to hang out with my little ones and reach a hundred rejections from literary magazines for the year. I've made some good progress so far!

December 2019 Graduates

º English Majors º Jessie Bruner, Hannah Charlesworth, Hailey Kate Chatlin, Emily Cook, Katriel Daniels, Chelsea Eager, Amanda Eldredge, Jensyn Eubank, Erika Free, Haley Gray, Jaxon Hunter, Linesey Meisenbach, Jessica Mellor, Kayla Marie Merrick, Kyler Merrill, Jessica Monahan, Brooke Peterson, Sarah Polhill, Kimber Shepard, Thomas Sorensen, Sydney Squires, Rebecca Stone, Abigail Taylor, Rio Turnbull, Megan Udall, Rachael Witt, Elise McGregor, Rachel Noli, Rebecca Sainsbury º English Emphasis º Holly Beckstrand, Deanna Mobley, Kimberly Taylor º Writing Emphasis º Taylor Miranda


The road to my degree was not always simple, but it was the most rewarding. I am grateful for the skills I obtained and cultivated along the way.

"Knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven" - William Shakespeare


Kayla Marie Merrick, a native of Orem, Utah, is graduating with a major in English, and a minor in both Japanese and Creative Writing. Some of her most memorable moments in the English program include presenting at the 2019 English Symposium on the evolution of the New Woman in Victorian literature, and then getting her essay published in BYU’s literary criticism journal, Criterion. Her future plans are to go to graduate school and to pursue a career as an author of juvenile literature.


Hello! My name is Kimber Shepard. I graduated from BYU with a major in English and minors in Business Management and Creative Writing. During my time at BYU, I initially thought I would study Accounting until I realized my true calling. My growing passion and appreciation for the skills and knowledge obtained through the English program has inspired me to pursue an MA degree. I will be continuing my education at BYU Fall 2020 as an English graduate student.

One of my favorite BYU experiences is when I had the opportunity to intern in the collections department at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. I was able to fulfill a lifelong dream of living in England, and was blessed to share that remarkable experience with my husband.

My BYU undergrad experience has been a dream come true. Thank you to my husband, friends, family, and BYU for making this day possible!

“Conversations are efforts towards good relations. They are an elementary form of reciprocity. They are the exercise of our love for each other. They are the enemies of our loneliness, our doubt, our anxiety, our tendencies to abdicate.

To continue to be in good conversation over our enormous and terrifying problems is to be calling out to each other in the night.

If we attend with imagination and devotion to our conversations, we will find what we need; and someone among us will act—it does not matter whom—and we will survive.”

Professor Miranda Wilcox, quoting Barry Lopez


Rebecca Sainsbury Walker graduated from BYU in December 2019 with a Bachelor of English Teaching. After completing her student teaching at Orem High School, she was offered her first real world teaching position at West Jordan Middle School, where she currently teaches 9th Grade Language Arts and Creative Writing. Rebecca looks forward, with high anticipation, to using her abilities as a teacher and writer to bless the lives of many.


Thom Sorensen graduated with an English major and Arabic minor. He adores words; and saying important things with them; and using them to build understanding between people who are not outwardly similar; and also dinosaurs, he adores those too. (Some of his favourite words are “floccinaucinihilipilification,” “heterodoxy,” and “therizinosaurus.”) He intends to go into non-profit work, starting with grant writing, and hopefully progressing into more hands-on roles—this will lead to either a new anti-trafficking organization he may start in a couple decades, or to being a stay-at-home dad, but either way he’s liable to keep writing stuff late at night and never remembering to submit or publish a bit of it anywhere. For the first time since he came to BYU more than half a decade ago, he is finally enjoying having real agency, and living a life less destructive to one’s testimony.

April 2020 Graduates

º English Majors º Ruth Arce Munoz, Anne Ashton, Griffin Atkinson, Faith Bleak, Candice Boren, Adam Brantley, Emily Bush, Haley Butterfield, Marcus Cain, Adam Call, Anisa Michelle Call, Kiri Case, Holly Castleton, Anna Christensen, Jessica Christensen, Braxton Young Church, Abby Clayton, Emily Cluff, Laura Combrink, Noelle Conder, Jen Conlee, Cameron Carnejo, Jaden Cowley, Clark Cressman, Emma Croft, Katelynn Dennis, Ben Denton, Mandi Diaz, Noelle Dickerson, Kent Dominguez, Ashlyn Earl, Eliza Een, Jace Einfeldt, Sariah Fales, Berlyn Flanders, Chloe Foulk, Emory French-Folsom, Natalia Green, Jackson Haight, Amanda Hall, Seth Haws, Ana Hirschi, Meghan Hoesch, Kayla Jackson, Tess Jackson, Lyndee Johns, Kristina Jorgenson, Kaylee Judd, Chad Kang, Madeline Keepman, Elizabeth Kelly, Malcolm Lamb, Patrick Lamoureux, Berlynn LeFevre, Anne Lester, Lauren Miller, Julie Newman, Aubrey Perry, Kristin Pedersen, Savannah Porter, Conner Rawson, Joshua Richardson, Abbie Robinson, Kirsten Scott, Abby Scoresby, Shelbey Shipley, Hannah Shoaf, Briquelle Simpson, Tiffiny Smart, Sydney Sterrett, Katy Sumison, Natalie Tate, Jacob Theriault, Sabrina Thomas, Kyle Ward, Tanner Weyland, Jordan Hildebrant, Katey Workman º English Teaching º Emily Anderson, Sarah Cannon, Kekai Cram, Brooklyn Davis, Hailey Katherine Dobbs Higham, Megan Hatt, Megan MacOmber, Allie Randall, Rachel Stephens, Brenna Thomas, Abby Zlotnick º English Emphasis º DeLauna Brower, Tara Johnson, Toni Lee, Richard Mackay, Sherrie Mortensen, Megan Myers, Nicole Terry º Writing Emphasis º Alice Logan, Emily Golden


I’ve enjoyed my time studying English at BYU. I loved studying in such a rigorous learning environment and having professors that pushed me to improve. My time at BYU has helped me to develop a talent and a passion for research, editing, and writing, talents that I put to use as I worked in Special Collections. I look forward to continuing to develop those skills in my future career. You’ll find me working through the stack of books on my nightstand as I look for jobs.


The past four years have flown by. In fact, I had so much fun studying English here at BYU that I'll be returning in the Fall to start an MFA in creative writing. In the meantime, I'll be celebrating graduation at home with my family. Since I owe basically every success in my life to my family and their support, I'm grateful that I get to celebrate with them.


When reflecting on my time as an English major at BYU, I echo Wordsworth in that “the thought of our past years in me doth breed / perpetual benediction.” The past years have been full of wonderful memories with friends, classmates, and professors that will always make me smile—from walking through torrential rain in Stratford-upon-Avon, to laughing at Allen Ginsburg impersonations, to slaving away over 11:59pm paper deadlines in the HBLL. However, even more than these, I am grateful for “those obstinate questionings” that I have learned through my English classes to relentlessly pursue, ponder, and research until I find new stories and new truths. I am excited to take these lessons with me and further immerse myself in the joys of nineteenth-century literary studies as I begin the English Ph.D. program at Indiana University–Bloomington in the fall.

What an honor it has been for me to compile this collection. Your curiosity, your compassion, your commitment, and your good humor is revealed in each of the excerpts throughout this virtual space. In your words, I can see the ways in which you each value empathy, connection, and introspection. As English majors you have learned to answer many different kinds of questions. You can respond quickly and easily to writing prompts and discussion cues in lecture halls and Zoom rooms. You have learned how to respond—how to become response-able—and you must go forth in the world willing to take up space and share your insight. No matter how challenging the times may be, remember that you are well-versed in perspective. You have spent the last four years engaging with viewpoints radically different from your own, and it is now your turn to draw attention to the voices that may be passed over in silence—it is your turn to speak powerfully, to disagree productively, to love profoundly, and to express difficult ideas in new and meaningful ways. As English professors, we teach literature and writing and language, but first and foremost, we teach students. It’s been a joy spending these years with you.

Congratulations, graduates; congratulations, parents.

Professor Jarica Watts


I have loved my time as an English major. The professors here are amazing, and I have learned so much from my interactions with them and from my classes. I’ve loved getting to know all the people in my classes – they are all amazing and have such great insights that have helped me to see the world in new ways. I’m grateful for this school and am super excited to come back this fall to attend BYU Law.


Choosing to become an English major at BYU is a decision I would repeat over and over again if given the chance. This experience has been pivotal to my personal development as a both a student and human being.

To every professor and faculty member I have had the pleasure to meet and learn from: thank you for everything; I admire you each a great deal.

I will be applying to law schools this summer and will begin my first semester in the fall of 2021.

KENT DOMINGUEZ (posthumous graduate)

Kent Dominguez was an English major, with a Creative Writing minor, and this would have been his last semester at BYU. Sadly, Kent passed away March 1, 2020, due to complications related to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. He wanted to become an author, and was an excellent writer. Kent had planned to write fantasy novels and had ideas for two different series of books and one or two stand-alone novels.

Although he had many physical limitations in his life, he rarely complained and he loved life. He was a joy to be around, and had a smile that would melt anyone’s heart. He will be missed. We are so grateful for all of you, his professors, mentors, fellow students and friends. He loved his English and Creative Writing classes and learned so much from you. Thank you for letting him be a part of your lives.

Kent's obituary can be read at: http://walkermemorials.com/obituary/kent-aug

Warm congrats, English graduates! You’re leaving us without the usual fanfare, but that won’t matter much in the future. Still, I’m sorry that you don’t get to celebrate (publicly, raucously) with loved ones. I’ll miss the chance to meet your families and brag on you a little bit. For faculty, saying goodbye to students is always bittersweet. Often, graduates stop by my office at this time of year to say thanks, or just to say goodbye. It means a lot to me. If you might have done that, consider yourself hand-shaken or hugged.

Professor Paul Westover


I couldn’t be more grateful for my time spent in the English Education program at BYU. The relationships that I was able to make with my peers and my professors are ones I will treasure for the rest of my life. I hope and plan to stay in contact with these people as they are the ones who really helped me get to this point through their constant friendship and support. I’m grateful for all the friends and family who have lent me support during this time and helped me get to my day of graduation. As I look to the future, I am excited to say that I have the opportunity to return to my hometown and teach Language Arts at the secondary level at my very own alma mater.


I came to BYU with a love for writing, but my time in the English major has taken this love and turned it into a potential career path. During my time in the major, I have had the opportunity to write collaboratively, learn more about the English language, and increase my critical thinking skills through literary analysis. Additionally, some of the best experiences that I have had in the English major came from the opportunities that I was able to pursue while at BYU. I presented my own literary criticism at BYU’s English Symposium, wrote for print and web sources during my internship, and worked as a student writer at the BYU Marriott School of Business. I will always be grateful to BYU’s English major for the skills I have gained as a student and the opportunities this major has provided.


I never imagined that during the year I would finally graduate that COVID-19 would completely change the world. Part of me is scared, and part of me is grateful to have the experience that BYU has given me.

I am graduating with a BA in English and am excited to start working in the professional writing industry. I currently work as a content writer and hope to expand my writing in the food and health fields.

I am so grateful for my husband and my three boys. They helped me through the toughest and most ugly parts of school. I also want to thank my extended family and my friends for their continued support. And an extra thank you to Professor Harris, Professor Hickman, and Professor Snyder for helping me excel.


Entering BYU, I never would have imagined I would be graduating as an English Teaching major. I happened upon the major by happenstance near the end of my freshman year as a disenchanted science major sifting through a course catalogue. Since that fateful day, I have never once looked back.

I found that my passions for reading, writing, thinking, communicating, and teaching were able to translate into a fulfilling career. I found my people in my wonderful friends and professors. Most importantly, I found myself.

My husband and I will be moving to St. George for his medical school (Rocky Vista) where I will be online teaching (Japanese students English-- I served my mission in Tokyo), substitute teaching, and possibly part-time teaching. Come visit! I love you all.

Keep writing! Writers write and former writers who don't write will find their ability drying up on the vine like last year's unpicked tomatoes. Find audiences--a writing group, family and friends, others--and find venues--blogs, opinion pieces, book reviews, thoughtful social media posts--to continue your writing practice.

Professor John Bennion


I am grateful for all of the professors and people I've met during my time as a BYU English major; they have encouraged me to become a better writer and helped me accomplish things I would've never done on my own. I will be studying professional writing at Northern Arizona University in the fall, to become a technical writer. Even though I will be leaving BYU, what I've learned has impacted who I have become.


My hopes for the future include my love of sketching and being a copy editor.

Being at BYU, I loved the opportunity to continually be challenged to do my best and be my best. I loved being surrounded by inspiring people every day--it instilled in me a love for learning, even in moments of inadequacy. As an English major, I learned to see not only myself, but the world around me differently. I am a creation, a refined masterpiece that has yet to be written. And amidst the chaos, I like to think that God has His loving hand in it all. While celebrating my time at BYU with close family, I can find joy in the fact that this is not the end, but the beginning of something far beyond my wildest dreams. And BYU has been that stepping stone for me--understanding who I am, and what I am capable of.


Thank you to all of the amazing professors and friends who made my education possible and enjoyable. You made me who I am and prepared me for who I will become.

When I attended a luncheon for people who’d been accepted to my PhD program at UC-San Diego, a canvas tote filled with swag hung from the back of every chair. When I graduated, as a recession was ravaging the UC system along with the global economy, one of my professors joked (sort of) that they wanted the tote bag back. I think of this as you graduate in very different conditions than the ones you were promised. But I expect you’ll look back, as I have, and see that God used straitened circumstances to make it a little easier for you to find the paths He’s prepared for you. And I think you’ll be surprised to find how frequently these paths lead you back to people you knew here, or toward people who desperately need the skills and qualities you developed at BYU. As you lift off and occasionally return, we’ll be watching the horizon for you.

Professor Mary Eyring


For graduation this year I was able to celebrate with my in-laws at a small gathering. My plans for the future are to try and start a freelance editing business and to read and write as much as I can. I’m grateful for all of the memories that I have from my last six years here and I’m excited for the future.


I’m graduating with a BA in English and with editing and creative writing minors. During my time in the English program, I’ve been able to delve so much deeper into the world of literature, reading authors that I hadn’t heard of before and finding new meaning in familiar texts. My editing abilities have also been greatly enhanced, making me much more confident as a writer and an editor. While taking creative writing classes, I had the chance to experiment with style and genre. This led to me discovering my love for writing short stories and even starting a novel. Thanks to the English program, I’ve received so many valuable opportunities. I mentored with Carol Lynch Williams, presented my Hamlet paper at the BYU English Symposium, and interned at the College of Nursing as a writer for the media team. I’m forever grateful that I studied at BYU.


My time in the English major has been invaluable! I’ve always loved reading and writing, but my time as an undergraduate student nurtured that love as it grew into a full-fledged passion. I’m so grateful to every professor who helped guide me in research projects and always had an open door and listening ear. I’m eager to bring the things I’ve learned with me as I pursue a career in law. Go cougs!

As the resident mathlete in our English department, I have no literary quotes or fancy words. However, I do know a thing or two about life changes. If you started BYU before 2016, I welcomed you to campus at orientation. At that life transition, you probably felt a little less special in a sea where everyone was the smart and talented kid. As you started classes, you might have wondered if you could hack it, and we promised that BYU wouldn’t have admitted you if we had any doubt. Over your BYU experience you’ve figured out your new special. Now it’s time to build another layer to further define your identity as you enter an even bigger sea. I’ve had a couple of unexpected turns since my days of herding Y groups, feeding thousands, and praying for that Y photo to turn out one more time. Despite the challenges, I’ve held tightly to that fourth BYU aim: Lifelong Learning and Service, and I hope you will too. It is what will continue to build your identity and set you apart. Learn to play the organ, run a marathon, tutor math (or English), travel to Prince Edward Island (where it’s hard to believe that Anne is still fiction). The world is your (new) campus.

Heather Hammond, English Department Business Manager


Julie Newman is from Spanish Fork, Utah, and she has been writing stories ever since elementary school. She has written four young adult fantasy novels that she plans to publish someday. After graduating, she will edit general publications as an intern for The Church of Jesus Christ. She aspires to pursue her passion of editing Church-related publications.

In her major Julie has enjoyed reading the life-changing words of poets like Herbert, Shakespeare, and Tennyson, who have inspired her to pursue her dream of making a difference through writing. She also takes fierce pride in reciting Louisa May Alcott’s biography to unsuspecting listeners.

Through presenting at the English Symposium and taking literature classes, Julie has developed confidence in her speaking and writing abilities. She is excited to continue reading beautiful literature, apply her newfound communication skills, and improve her writing and editing as she takes on the world.

Abby Scoresby

I have cried a lot in JFSB: after getting grades on all my 295 papers, from laughing so hard in lectures, commiserating with my English teaching crew (wow! teaching is hard!), from the literature that moved me, and testimonies that changed me. And that's why you study English. It has the power to change you and change the world, and I am convinced that the people I have studied with the past four years are those people. Go Cougs!


I have loved my time studying English here at BYU. Studying literature allows readers to step into a new perspective for a little while, these chances to learn about life from other perspectives have been important to me and have helped shaped how I view the world. I'm grateful for all the learning opportunities I've had while studying here, the semester I was able to spend in London, walking and learning where so many of the great authors walked, gave me memories I will treasure forever. After graduation I plan to get my Master's in Library Science and work in a university library.

Graduates, congratulations on your accomplishment! I hope that in your mastery of languages, literatures, and philosophies with us you also learned why dignity and civility both matter. It would be a tragedy if in teaching you how to think, to analyze, to write, and to persuade all we have done is to weaponize you to attack, to defame, to demean, or otherwise to eviscerate intellectually those with whom you don’t see eye-to-eye or to take down those whose skills with language, reason, and thought are not as fully developed as yours. But let us choose civility so as to afford all people their dignity. That way, when sometimes we falter we can hope for the grace of similar forgiveness, love, and charity to come our way from civil people around us who have enough character not to take advantage of whatever our weaknesses happen to be. Good luck! Be your best! You will succeed!

Professor Trent Hickman


I am grateful for amazing faculty in the English department and for the opportunity I had to enhance my writing skills. Even though they were challenging at the time, I am grateful for the classes and professors that pushed me the most, because they taught me how to write persuasively and how to join the conversation about interesting and complex topics. In addition to knowledge gained from the classroom, I am so thankful for friendships gained, new interests discovered, and for fun extracurricular clubs. If I could offer advice to upcoming freshman: Work hard academically but also have fun doing what you love and meeting new people!


I have absolutely loved my time at BYU. As Ursula K. Le Guin said, "It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters, in the end." I am eternally grateful for the supportive family who helped me get here, the incredible friends who encouraged me here, and the enthusiastic professors and mentors who inspired me here. Thank you for making this journey a wonderful one.


Though this ending has been pretty anticlimactic, my BYU experience was anything but! I've learned and grown so much during my time at BYU (and especially in the English Teaching program), and I'm so thankful for all my peers and professors who've helped and mentored me along the way. Thank you for believing in me and helping me believe in myself! I'll miss the feeling of being constantly surrounded with opportunities to learn - but I plan to spend the rest of my life continuing to seek knowledge and understanding. I'm excited for my next big adventure: becoming a mom!

On an occasion such as this, I could go to any number of poets, philosophers, dignitaries, or even celebrities for words of wisdom and insight. Good grief, even Ellen DeGeneres has been invited to give a commencement address. But I’ll go to Bono, lead singer of the rock band U2, who is responsible for producing one of the most transcendent, and spiritual, experiences of my life. I refer to the first time I listened to the Joshua Tree album. I had the same experience the first time I heard Shakespeare recited by a well-trained Shakespearean actor. As English majors, you’ve probably had the same experience while reading Wordsworth or Tennyson. “Where the Streets Have No Name” moved me, which helps explain why I quote from a commencement address Bono gave at the University of Pennsylvania in 2011 (slightly edited): “What's your big idea? What are you willing to spend your moral capital, your intellectual capital, your cash, your sweat equity in pursuing outside of the walls of BYU? The world is more malleable than you think and it's waiting for you to hammer it into shape.” Seems appropriate if we take seriously the words that adorn the entrance to our university: Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve.

Professor Brett McInelly


I've loved doing my undergraduate in English here at BYU. The faculty are intelligent, helpful, and hilarious. Some of my favorite classes here have included: Medieval Literature, Shakespeare, and British Novels. My new favorite book is Sunset Song, and I've discovered a deep enjoyment of Walt Whitman's poetry. My favorite Shakespeare adaptation is still Much Ado About Nothing--the Kenneth Branaugh one. Although She's the Man is pretty great too.

Right now, I'm excited to be graduating. I plan to attend UVU's MBA program starting this fall with an emphasis in marketing. From there, I'd like to be able to work and hopefully have a family one day. One thing's for sure: I plan on reading and writing as much as I can. I'm thankful for my supportive parents and my wonderful husband, David, who have encouraged me to work my hardest!


Natalie’s time at BYU has been a joy. While here, she met her best friend and other half, joined Women’s Chorus, read hundreds of papers, wrote thousands of words, and realized that her heart will always be with the books. It’s been a wild ride, but Natalie couldn’t be happier to have met so many wonderful students and professors. A special shout-out goes to Dr. Crowe, Dr. Talbot, Dr. Rawlins, Dr. Meridith Reed, Professor Ann Dee Ellis, and Dr. Paul Ricks for being unforgettable teachers and making school fun again. Natalie would also like to thank her lucky stars for her family and friends and especially for her husband, Andrew. Natalie is thrilled to begin her master’s degree in library science at Texas Woman’s University this fall.


I would not trade my BYU English Education for anything—I have been expanded more than I expected, and been given tools of eternal utility, by earnest, capable, and faithful professors. They created an environment where transcendence is commonplace and Faith is simultaneously challenged and forged. If there is another such place, I don’t know it! My plans to pursue a Master’s Degree in Marriage, Family, and Human Development from BYU in the Fall will be greatly enhanced by what I’ve learned as an English Major. Thank you to all who’ve helped me with their encouragement, faith, example, and instruction!

What I’ve learned can be summed up in this way:

Do the Work. Try hard at things that seem unlikely. Don't doubt--just have faith!

June 2020 Graduates

Humanities Convocation 2019: Dean Scott Miller addresses students

º English Majors º Megan Anderson, Madison Brasher, Kendal Clawson, Taylor Flickinger, Stewart Foster, Benjamin Gappmayer, Joy Heftel, Kristina Isaak, Joshua Jorgensen, Anelisa Leishman, Alex Lewis, Henry Morris, Natalie Phister, Lexa Porter, Taelin Wilford, Emily Wright º English Teaching º Amanda Burrows, Rachel Cutler, Simone Johnson Blanchard, Katie Romrell, Maegan Taylor, Tanner Urmston


Often, during an intense literature class, I woke up around 4:30 AM so I could complete the reading for that day. I felt like I was reading every minute that semester! I could never stop, or I'd miss out on some wonderful passage.

Despite feeling so compelled to keep reading keep reading keep reading, however, I also felt so inspired to pause.

How special is literature--that despite all the work a busy college student is doing, literature inspires her to consider the ducks sitting in wet grass on a rainy day, or admire "a host, a crowd, of golden daffodils" that seem to suddenly spring up after the rain. How special it is to read about people, places, and problems and to feel a deep sense of both understanding and being understood. Literature is the greatest force that can make a person want to keep going as much as it makes them want to pause and appreciate. I feel privileged to have been able to experience so much of this feeling during my time studying literature at BYU, and I'm excited for its continued influence in my life.

(quote from William Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud")


I came to BYU 3 weeks after I got home from my mission and now 120.5 credits, 1 marriage, 1 perfect baby, 4 changes of address, 7 semesters, 4 terms, 2 career changes, and a 3.8 GPA later I am finally done! I am so glad to be done, but also glad for all of the creative writing skills that I have learned in my time here. I couldn’t have completed my undergrad without the encouragement and even tutoring of my sweet husband Jeremy, and I want to say “THANK YOU” to him for all he does. I also want to thank my parents, especially Dad, who encouraged us to go to college. #FirstGenerationCollegeGrad #BabyInTow #QuarantineGrad #Y


In my first English class at BYU, I was taught to prepare my defenses against well-meaning family members who would ask how on earth a BA in English can put food on the table. I must have learned to tune them out, because never once have I regretted declaring the English major. Not only have the skills I've gained in my classes led to fulfilling experiences around campus—including interning for the English Symposium, technical writing for the Office of IT, tutoring as a Writing Fellow, and writing articles for the College of Fine Arts and Communications—but I've loved being able to delve into literary theory, write sonnets about cheese, and walk out of Shakespeare class on the cusp of an existential crisis (but, you know, in a good way). In this unusual time, I feel lucky to have spent these last few years engaged in and inspired by the humanities.

One of my favorite quotes comes from the very end of George Eliot’s 1872 novel Middlemarch, and I always think of it as a reward for plowing through those 900 pages to get there. It describes the fate of the novel’s heroine, Dorothea: “Her full nature . . . spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” You may never be famous. You may never get the chance to do something great and wonderful that will change the world. But you will be a friend, a neighbor, and a family member, which means you’ll have the ability to carry out a hundred thousand “unhistoric acts” before you die. You’ll get the chance to make sure “things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been.” This seems so trivial, but in reality, it’s everything. “Live faithfully a hidden life.” What a legacy that would be!

Professor Jamie Horrocks


When I started school, I didn’t initially think I was going to be an English major. In fact, English ended up being my fourth choice! But once I dove into the program, I started to really love it. I’ve made some good friends, found great mentors, and found direction for my skills and passions. My goal is to use the things I’ve learned from my degree to pursue a career in editing and writing. I’m celebrating my graduation this year with the completion of the novel that I’ve workshopped through so many creative writing classes at BYU over the years!

Where I’m going next: Only more time and experiences will tell for sure, but right now I’m looking for more ways to integrate myself into the publishing industry. One thing I can say for certain, though, is you can bet I’ll finally be going to bed!


The path to my English Teaching Degree has introduced me to some of the most important people in my life and I will be forever grateful for that. Thank you to my incredible English & Teaching professors for caring about me as a person, opening my eyes to a world outside my own, and teaching me to be critically compassionate. I hope one day to make my students feel the way that I felt sitting in your classrooms.

August 2020 Graduates

º English Majors º Alyssa Abendroth, Taylore Bonds, Maria Buhler, Alie Carter, Emily Fairchild, Tesi Feinga, Maryn Gardner, Heidi Moe Graviet, Miriam Johnson, Alex Kennington, Owen Kennington, Maddie Lazaro, Olivia Moskot, Emily Nichols, Abby Ogles, Cassidy Peterson, Marin Pinkham, Dallin Rahlf, Dariya Smith, Madelyn Taylor, Madison Van Vleet, Sydney Whitaker º English Emphasis º Kristin Bilal, Laurie Black, Rebekah Hartshorn


I am an entirely new person because of my time at BYU. I am more compassionate, more considerate, and more confident. BYU’s humanities department took an inexperienced, uninformed girl from Iowa and gave her the tools she needed to ask the questions she always wanted to ask but never knew how. I never dreamed that my English degree would actually take me to England. I never expected professors to trust me with opportunities to teach, publish, lead, and even travel with them to academic conferences. It breaks my heart that this part of my educational journey is over, but I take forever friends and mentors with me as I now go on to study philosophy in graduate school. Special thanks to Professor Watts, Professor Paxman, and Professor Kerr for dedicating so much of themselves to my development. I’ll never forget the love, faith, and time you invested in me.


Being an English major at BYU is one of the best decisions I made in my college career. My education has taught me so much more than just analyzing literature and formulating thesis statements. For me, the true value of studying literature has been the development of empathy I feel for those whom I encounter in the poems and narratives I read. I am grateful to my professors for pushing me to ask questions and seek to better understand the lives and experiences of these people. These are lessons that I will carry with me in every aspect of my life beyond BYU.

I have had the privilege of learning from some of the most brilliant, insightful, and spiritually attuned people. Thank you to my classmates and professors for your examples. I have certainly learned wisdom from the best books and the best minds here at BYU.

Carry On

Final thoughts from Professor Lance Larsen, English Department Chair

Many of you know David Foster Wallace as the author of the sprawling, experimental, boat anchor of a novel, 'Infinite Jest.' Wallace is also the author of the most famous commencement speech of the 21stC., which he gave at Kenyon College in 2005. Here’s a sample: “The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.” Pretty good advice. If you like this passage, listen to the entire speech (just over 20 minutes in length) on youtube: "This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life." There’s also a pretty decent youtube synopsis at seven and a half minutes.

Good luck, Graduates!

Carry on, carry on.


Created with images by Aubrey Rose Odom - "Y mountain with lilacs in foreground, and Life Sciences building (LSB). At BYU." • Aubrey Rose Odom - "Abraham Smoot building at BYU"