Alumni Testimonials

Here's how the MFA has helped our alumni reach their personal and professional goals!

“My MFA helped prepare me for this job because of the teaching experience I received through the program and because of the skills I developed through workshops, where giving and receiving feedback has transferred into the ability to look at a project with a detail-oriented, critical eye for ways to improve it. My MFA also taught me how to communicate in a variety of complex situations, both verbally and in writing.”

Jaime Wood-Riley ’10 | Program Officer, VentureWell

“I eventually went to law school after the MFA, and I currently work as an attorney for the state of Nevada. While law school taught me a lot of the substance I deal with, I find that I rely a lot on my MFA in my everyday job, even aside from my artistic endeavors. I would not have those skills that set me somewhat apart from my peers, professionally, had I not earned my MFA.”

Rost Olsen ’11 | Assistant Staff Counsel, Public Utilities Commission of Nevada

“I think my MFA prepared me in many ways for the position I now hold. For starters, I work as the co-editor of our biannual magazine, ImagineONE, and I also write content not only for the magazine, but for all of our social channels, websites, and social justice statements, and have also written anything from speeches for CEOs to annual appeals to success stories.”

Elizabeth Powers ’09 | Communications Manager, Congregation of St. Joseph

“I run the General Surgery Residency Program, 4 surgical fellowship programs, and oversee all department education projects. My time in the EWU MFA program helped develop my creative thinking, verbal and written communication skills, adaptability, project management skills, professionalism in a collaborative environment, interpersonal and teamwork skills, and ability to trust my own voice. All of these skills contributed to my success in my previous roles after graduating and helped me ultimately land the leadership position that I have today.”

Kristina McDonald ’12 | Education Manager, Houston Methodist Hospital Department of Surgery

“BRYC is a small but mighty nonprofit college readiness, access, and persistence program serving lower-income, primarily Black youth. While my MFA certainly set me up for success managing BRYC’s communications, grant/proposal writing, etc., it also prepared me to do something much harder to quantify, but nonetheless vital. By virtue of their race, socioeconomic status, and geographical region, BRYC’s students lack cultural and social capital. I’m able to advocate for our students in part because I previously had the privilege of attending a high-quality master’s program. The long-term personal, economic, and social impacts of an MFA doesn’t stop with the degree-holder – they ripple out in impossible-to-predict directions.”

Elin Hawkinson ’16 | Associate Director of Communications and Development, Baton Rouge Youth Coalition Inc.

“My experience at Eastern helped me clarify my career goals. Not only did I gain invaluable teaching experience as a TA, but I also got to try out editing through an internship with Willow Springs and got nonprofit/community teaching experience through Writers in the Community. I left the program with a clear sense of my interests and abilities in all three areas. Ultimately, I determined that teaching was the right career for me, but I felt (and still feel) confident in my skill set in other writing- and teaching-adjacent fields, as well. I also felt confident in my ability to market those skills by clearly and elegantly communicating them to potential employers.”

Ashley Wurzbacher ’10 | Associate Professor of English, University of Montevallo

“Skills I honed while earning my MFA from EWU directly influence how I work today. This includes: 1. Strong communication skills (to function as an effective liaison between business and technical teams). 2. The ability to distill information into bite-sized pieces. 3. Teaching—explaining complex and complicated concepts simply; training enterprises in a technical platform. 4. Writing documentation, one-pagers, proposals, and white papers with clarity and concision. 5. Public speaking / delivering presentations. 6. Asking clarifying questions (research, requirements gathering). 7. Collaboration.”

Ellie Kozlowski ’08 | Technical Product Manager, Senior in Marketing Technology, Starbucks Coffee Company

“The MFA program helped prepare me for this job by strengthening my writing and writing feedback skills, which I employ regularly to assist students with research writing, analytical writing, GRE essays, and graduate applications (typically 70-100% of our scholars are accepted into one or more schools). The academic community built through the EWU MFA has also stood as an example of how I can promote a strong cohort community for our scholars. Additionally, I have used skills learned via my Willow Springs Books internship to help with website design, program promotion, recruitment, and the writing of program materials.” 

Cori Jaeger ’21 | McNair Program Academic Advisor, EWU

“I graduated from the MFA program (fiction) in 2009. My experience in the program was 100% positive and helped me grow as a writer. More specifically, the program helped me develop the requisite work ethic and artistic skill that I now rely upon daily as an attorney. I am forever grateful for the thoughtful mentorship provided by Sam (my thesis advisor), Greg, Natalie, and Jonathan. I still appreciate the careful line-level feedback Sam provided for my thesis. Two short stories from my thesis were subsequently published in Pank magazine and Canteen magazine.”

Neal Peters ’09 | Lawyer

“I hold a handful of positions now after receiving the MFA from EWU. I want to say how grateful I am for the depth of immersion the program provided into authentic, uncommon, and vital aspects of humanity, ethics, and how art invigorates, strengthens, and helps heal the heart of the world.  In the MFA, I received the irrefutable gift of greater personal, communal, and artistic understanding.”

Shann Ray ’05 | Professor Leadership Studies, Gonzaga University

“The skills and experiences I gained during my time in the EWU MFA program have proved invaluable to my advancement in this organization, where I began as an associate just three years ago, about six months after graduating with my MFA. The reading and writing skills I learned, as well as the collaborative experiences I had during my MFA years have contributed to my professional success and the positive impact I believe our organization has in the world.”

Daniel Spiro ’19 | Director of Communications, Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah

“Throughout my classes and thesis preparations, I was taught how to ask good questions, dig deeply for answers, push through the hard stuff, and render something meaningful in response. I learned how to say what I mean and to move with confidence. I became a better writer because of my MFA, but perhaps more importantly I became a better thinker.”

Caitlin Feldman ’20 | Content Lead, Two Barrels

More Testimonials

Where are they now?

Our alumni work in various positions and roles across the country!

Check out what they’re doing as:

Writing Faculty and Academic Administrators Editors and Publishers Journalists Poets Laureate

Arts and Nonprofit Administrators Marketing, Advertising, and Communications Industry Professionals


As Writing Faculty and Academic Administrators

EWU’s MFA prepares students for jobs in academia by providing opportunities to teach in the university classroom through GSAs and pedagogy classes, in traditional and non-traditional creative writing classrooms through Writers in the Community and Triceratops, as well as through peer-mentoring experiences through workshop classes and literary editing and design professional practica.

I direct the university’s tutoring program and also teach first-year experience, humanities, and writing courses. The MFA at EWU was so important to me, something I absolutely needed in my life, and one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. The student teaching and coursework I completed during my time at EWU opened my eyes to the possibility for a career in higher education and provided me with relevant and transferable experience.
Ryan Scariano ’15 | Assistant Director of Academic Support, Eastern Oregon University

Tod Marshal |Gonzaga University

Shann Ray Ferch |Gonzaga University

Jessica Halliday |Gonzaga University

Jeff Dodd |Gonzaga University

Ginger Grey |Gonzaga University

Heath Herrick |Gonzaga University

Thom Caraway |Whitworth University

Maya Jewell Zeller |Central Washington University

Kate Neurnberger |University of Minnesota

Jamie Wood |Portland State University

Laura Read |SFCC

Asa Marie Bradley |SFCC

Tim Greenup |SFCC

Polly Buckingham |EWU

Scott Eubanks |EWU

Liz Rognes |EWU

Jonathan Frey |North Idaho College

Karen Babine |University of Tennessee

Jennifer Pullen |Ohio Northern University

Danielle Buynak |University of Virginia

Daniel Vice |University of Indianapolis

Rachel Kartz |Ivy Tech Community College

Brent Lewis |Umpqua Community College

Kyle Capogna |Boston University

Chris Cullen |Santa Rosa Junior College

Kennan Knudson |North Seattle College

Rachel Hartley-Smith |College of DuPage

Megan Padillo | College of Southern Nevada

Laura Citino |Western Michigan University

Orville Williams |Oklahoma State University

Casey Guerin |Sacred Heart University

Kathryn Houghton |Michigan State University

Amaris Ketcham |University of New Mexico

Ashley Wurzbacher |University of Montevallo

Jeremiah Webster |Northwest University

Marie Hoffman |Northwest University

Jon Billman |Northern Michigan University

Nathan Anderson |Marietta College

Ingrid Johnson |Sierra College

Ruth Williams |William Jewell College

Jeff Horner |University of Virginia

Mark Gula |Northern Arizona University

Chelsea Johnson |Mt. San Jacinto College

Mandy Iverson |St. Catherine University

Luke Hammons |Front Range Community College

Tom Holmes |Nashville State Clarksville

Bethany Shultz Hurst |Idaho State University

Carrie Oeding |Bridgewater State University

Laura Stott |Weber State University

Tom Hunley |Western Kentucky University

Cori Jaeger |EWU

Nicholas Scott Hodges |Ivy Tech Community College

Elin Hawkinson |Baton Rouge Youth Coalition Inc.

Anne Kilfoyle |Pen

Shira Richman |Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen – Nürnberg Germany

Sierra Alexander |Westfield State University

As Editors and Publishers

Through workshop classes, students learn how to be readers and editors of their own and their peers’ work. Professional practica through Willow Springs Magazine and Willow Springs Books allows students to engage in the publishing world in a hands-on manner and obtain the skills required to work as editors, copy editors, magazine and small press staff, literary designers, etc. after graduation.

My MFA prepared me for this work in the following ways: My practicum with Willow Springs gave me experience selecting material for publication; critiquing fellow students’ writing in workshops and writing and revising my own work gave me experience producing, evaluating, and editing writing for publication; producing my own writing and providing written feedback for fellow students on deadline while also teaching English Composition and reading for Willow Springs gave me experience organizing and managing overlapping projects and timelines to complete projects on deadlines.
– Carol Cowan ’20 | Magazine Editor

Derrik Knowles |Out There Monthly

Monet Thomas |The Rumpus

Jess Bryant |The Philadelphia Gay News

Mike Baccam |University of Washington Press

Cody Smith |The Swamp

Brett Ortler |AdventureKeen Press, Knockout

Michael Bell |W.W. Norton

Casey Patrick |Milkweed Editions

Megan Padilla |Red Rock Review

Tom Hunley |Steel Toe Books

Adam Walsh |Proa Publications

Alia Bales |Cognella and The Swamp

Steve Knezovich |Creative Nonfiction

Thom Caraway |Rock & Sling, Sage Hill Press

Kevin Breen |New England Review

Adam O’Connor Rodriguez |Hawthorne Books

Jeremy Halinen | Knockout

Amaris Ketcham |Scribendi

Kim Kent |Lucia Marquand Books

Megan Rowe |Spokane Coeur D’ Alene Living

Jason Sommer |Featherproof Books

Lauren Hohle |Gettysburg Review

Olivia Croom Hammerman |Henry Holt, Alfred A Knopf

Jennifer Krasner |New England Review

Mary Christensen |The Swamp

Polly Buckingham |Stringtown Press

Tom Holmes |Redactions

Geneva Randall |HKW

Jessica Moll |University of California Press

Christine Holbert |Lost Horse Press

As Journalists

EWU’s MFA classes allow students to explore avenues of writing beyond their genre of specification including research-based writing and nonfiction which gives them a heightened skill-set for being effective journalists. Students also enhance their critical reading and adhering to fast-paced deadlines which further prepares them for jobs in the newsroom.

The MFA at EWU honed my storytelling, writing, and editing skills and prepared me for my new career as a public radio and podcast producer. I’m now part of the team that produces one of NPR’s most popular podcasts and radio shows, and my work is heard by millions of people each week. The MFA course work and my time working for Willow Springs magazine have proved invaluable, and my career change would not have been possible without the MFA at EWU.
– Chris Maccini ’18 | Producer, National Public Radio (NPR)

Shawn Vestal |The Spokesman Review

Lisa Laughlin |Out There Monthly

Wilson Criscione |The Pacific Northwest Inlander

Adrian Rogers |The Spokesman Review

Holly Weiler |Out There Monthly

Jack Hennessy |Outdoor Life, Field & Stream, Petersen’s Hunting

Summer Hess |Out There Monthly

Amy Silbernagel McCaffree |Out There Monthly

Chris Maccini |National Public Radio

As Arts and Nonprofit Administrators

Not only do students learn to better embrace their creativity through EWU’s MFA, but they learn how to actively engage and work in teams with other creatives through GSAs, professional practica experiences and publications which are heavily student-run, as well as other literary events such as VoiceOver, Poetry After Dark, and Get Lit! which also provide significant administrative and event-management experience.

I help design and create community outreach programs that help teach people how they can help in the fight to prevent peer sexual harm. I also fundraise. Here’s a few ways my MFA helps my current job: Writers in the Community was my intro to community programming; Creative nonfiction writing helps in all nonprofit communications, storytelling especially helpful in grant writing, and writing solicitations and appeals for support; Teaching lit + learning pedagogy while at Eastern informs the way I write programs, facilitate groups, and help participants learn new concepts; Willow Springs editorial experience translates to producing effective stakeholder reporting, annual reports.

– Danielle Buynak Horner ’16 | Director of Community Outreach, Erin Levitas Foundation

Melissa Huggins |Spokane Arts

Karen Maner |Culture Works

Ross Carper |Feast

Dorian Karahalios |Spokane Print and Publishing Center

Kate Peterson |GetLit!

Danielle Ward |San Diego Repertory Theater

Thom Carraway |Millwood Print Works

Rajah Bose |Factory Town

Emily Gwynn |LitFuse

Emily Van Kley |Olympia Food Co-op

Daniel Spiro |Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah

Melissa Rhoades |Spokane County Library

In Marketing, Advertising, and Communications

In addition to writing in their genre, students receive many opportunities to venture outside their genre into the world of copywriting, social media writing and marketing, and advertisement design through the various internships available. Students also learn how to respectfully give and receive feedback, making them effective communicators and leaders in administrative positions as well as ideal candidates for marketing and advertising roles.

I am the communications manager for Women Who Code. I use story telling I learned in my MFA every day now to support an organization of 345,000 technologists in 147 countries as well help women and minorities with their careers in tech. In fact, this position was created FOR me by the nonprofit based on my ability to tell nonfiction narratives and manage communications. That’s the power of learning to write and becoming a professional writer, which I learned to do at EWU.

– Manda Frederick ’09 | Communications Manager, Women Who Code(NPR)

Shannon Amidon Castille |Berkshire South Regional Community Center

Tori Thurmond |KirkpatrickPrice

Kristina McDonald |Houston Methodist Hospital and Health Care

Howard Noggle |Microsoft


Brain O’ Grady |Clarify

Tiffany Crowley |Precision Aircraft Solutions

Elizabeth Powers |Congregation of St. Joseph

Caitlin Feldman |Two Barrels

Matthew Spaur |Marketing the Social Good

Michael Pankratz |Washington Trust Bank

Nicholas Arnold |AHA Agency

Sarah Flynn |Nike

Luke Leinberger |VOCO Creative

Stephanie McCauley |QD Solutions

As Industry Professionals

EWU’s MFA lends its students an edge in a multitude of careers outside writing, publishing, and academia. Students learn how to accept and deliver constructive criticism, how to approach difficult situations, how to facilitate and mentor groups and events, as well as how to engage with others and the world with a humane, unbiased, and critical lens which leads to a holistic range of soft skills that are indispensable in the professional world.

My education in the MFA program at EWU prepared me for this position by giving me excellent communication and design skills. I worked on Willow Springs and learned so much about layout, editing, publishing, marketing, and more. I use these design and editing skills every time I create and publish a new e-learning course. Helping with the literary festival gave me many planning, communication, and organizing skills, all of which I put to use in very practical ways building timelines and communication plans for work projects.

– Melissa (Lindstrum) Specht ’09 | Consultant Lead, Cuna Mutual Group

Gabrielle Lee |NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labratory

Mandy Iverson |Medtronic Foundation

Melissa (Lindstrum) Specht |Cuna Mutual Group

James Hagengruber |U.S. State Department

Thomas King |Audience Strategy, 10up

Amy Chase |Hobby Lobby Corporate

Jaime Wood-Riley |VentureWell

Jamie Curl |Slalom Consulting, LLC

Ellie Kozlowski |Starbucks Coffee Company

Rost Olsen |Public Utilities Commission of Nevada

Neal Peters |Lawyer

As Poets Laureate

Some of our alumni have been officially appointed by governments or institutions for the purpose of composing poems for special events and occasions. They have found national recognition with their poetry and have served as poets laureate after graduating from EWU!

Tod Marshall |Washington State

Laura Read |Spokane

Thom Caraway |Spokane

Awards and Publishing Contracts

After completing the MFA and putting to test the writing skills that they’ve garnered and honed through the program, our alumni are always engaged in publication no matter their professional field. Here’s what we know about some of our alum’s writing awards, fellowships, and publishing contracts!

Shann Ray |National Endowment for The Arts Fellowship; Bakeless Award; 2017 Washington State Book Award Finalist; American Book Award Winner

Laura Read |AWP Donald Hall Prize for Poetry; Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award; Crab Creek Prize For Poetry; Juniper Prize For Poetry

Shawn Vestal |PEN Award for first book; 2017 Washington Book Award

Leyna Krow |sold film rights for her short story Sink Hole to Universal Pictures (Jordan Peele and Issa Rae); sold film rights to her story End Times; earned a two-book contract with Viking

Ashley Wurzbacher |National Book Award 5 Under 35; Iowa Short Fiction Award

Kathryn Smith |Jake Adam York Prize (Milkweed Press)

Cass Bruner |Wisconsin Fellowship

Kathryn Nuernberger |James Laughlin Prize from the Academy of American Poets, BOA Editions; Antivenom Prize, Elixir Press

Emily Van Kley |Best New Poets; Best American Poetry; Persea First Book Prize

Amy Munson |National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship; Berkshire Prize

Stephanie Oakes |2018 Washington State Book Award, (her first book is now a TV series)

Bruce Holbert |2015 Washington State Book Award

Andrew Acuna |AWP Intro Award

Karen Maner |AWP Intro Award

Asa Marie Bradley |Holt Medallion Prize

Polly Buckingham |Katherine Anne Porter Award

Tod Marshall |2015 Washington State Book Award

Jeff Fearnside |Grand Prize Winner, Santa Fe Writers Project’s Awards Program

Wendy J. Fox |Press 53 Award for Short Fiction

Caroline Woodwell |AWP Intro Award

Karen Babine |Minnesota Book Award, 2023 UTAA Outstanding Teacher Award

Jennifer Boyden |Brittingham Prize

Casey Guerin |Robert Watson Literary Prize, The Greensboro Review

Kimberly Lambright |42 Miles Press Poetry Award

Bethany Shultz Hurst |Best American Poetry, Michael Waters Book Prize

Carrie Oeding |Akron Poetry Book Prize

Liina Koivula |AWP Intro Award

Jordan Brown |Robert Watson Literary Prize, The Greensboro Review