Senior Profile: Thomas Collins (’17)

Profile by Kayla Seymour (’18)

Thomas Collins is a non-traditional student. He is a scholar and father with a full-time job, three children, and he is in pursuit of an English literature degree at Marywood University. Thomas has been studying at Marywood since 2011, making him the most productive human being I’ve ever come across.

  1.  Why did you choose to study English?

Thomas: I’ve always been interested in things that happened before us. Until things started to be recorded, we didn’t have a lot of knowledge of happenings going on. English is a great companion to history because you have people from different times writing about what’s surrounding them.

     2.  Any advice to new English majors?

Thomas: Diversify your classes as much as you can. For example, British Literature I is very different from British Literature II because in Brit. Lit. II you have women starting to appear because it was a time women were starting to be taken more seriously as intellectuals. And you start to see women’s writing is just as good as the men’s, better even, because they have a different perspective and come at things with a different way of thinking.

Also, learn grammar because it helps you become a better reader and writer. For example, use nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, etc., and learn how to identify these things in writing. You can really gain an intimate perspective on grammar if you study it in college because you realize it’s all around you. You’ll start to understand writing without writing in the standard way you’ve known your whole life.

       3. What is the focus of your Capstone paper?

Thomas: I am writing about a book called Watership Down by Richard Adams. It was written several decades ago and got turned down for publishing over fifty times until Adams finally found a small firm to publish his book.

The book is based off an area Adams grew up in when he was younger, a small, wooded, country area. In Watership Down, this place is known as The Warren, a place in which rabbits live underground in a series of tunnels. The Warren has a government in which there is a leader who is part of the upper echelon of society and is one of the strongest, wisest members of society. And there is also a military presence in The Warren that is made up of the larger rabbits of the community. Over the course of the novel there are three different rabbit communities. And the communities all have different governments.  There is The Warren spoken of earlier. There is also a democratic community, but the common rabbits do not have a voice. Another of the communities resembles  a dictatorship where there is one leader, General Woolwort.

In Watership Down, I will be looking at the government structures and the group of rabbits that break away from the government groups and how their separate community works together and why it works together. I’ll also look at what communities fall apart and why they fall apart.

         4. Do you have a favorite memory from being an English major?

Thomas: Just having the opportunity to be at Marywood, something I never thought I would do until I made the decision to go back. I have three small children and a full-time job, so at times it is really challenging to pull this together. But to be at Marywood, have the experience, and do well, so far has been a blessing.

        5. So, what’s next Thomas?

Thomas: My ultimate goal is to be an English and history teacher. So I’ll be going for my Masters right after my Bachelors is complete.


Senior Profile: Amanda Duncklee (’18)

AmandaDProfile by Devon Davis (’19)

“I learned all, and though I sometimes try to find the way, I tell myself I am better off roaming than luxuriating.” —Amanda Duncklee, “The Fall”

Amanda is currently a junior here in Marywood’s English Department. With only one more year to go, she has opted to take her Senior Seminar class early so it won’t be a worry in her senior year. During Senior Seminar a student must pick a thesis for a capstone project that will be worked on for the entirety of the semester. Amanda has chosen for her capstone three works of literature with a common theme: Bram Stroker’s Dracula, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, and Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Strange Case Of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Her focus will be the common thread of these three novels, as she puts it, “how perspective is used within all three of those novels…there is no omniscient narrator its all first person I think it’s very interesting.” She intends to examine what this common perspective adds to the stories and why they were written this way. With an obvious love for the subject material, she concludes that she is very excited about this thesis and what it holds.

Why English?

Without hesitation she answered, “I always always always was a big reader.” To her, and to most English majors, English had always been a big part of their life in some way. For Amanda the choice was always clear: “I enjoy being able to express my own ideas… I just love words, it’s my passion.” Though English isn’t always an easy path, or as Amanda puts it, “you really need to love it to commit to doing it,” she recognized talent within herself and set her mind to developing it. She takes a very practical approach to the fact that she needs this development to obtain marketable skills for her future.

One of these important skills, and one of the most important traits for an English major to have, is flexibility. A lesson in flexibility came to her recently with a class reading and discussion of Jane Eyre. She admits, “I’m personally not the biggest fan of Victorianism…I had all of these ideas about the [novels] being stuffy and weird.” Soon though, she came to see Jane Eyre in a different light because it did not fit the notions she had about the period in which it was written.

Extra Special Extracurriculars

Unsurprisingly Amanda spends some of her spare time as a tutor in the Writing Center, meeting with students for a few hours every week to workshop and help edit their papers. She is also a SOAR Job Coach which is, as she puts it, “a volunteer activity I love.”  SOAR or, Students On-campus Achieving Results, is a program that works with autistic high school students who are developing job skills. Amanda’s schedule is also filled with an editorial job for The Bayleaf, organizing a Story Slam, volunteer work as a buddy for Kidstuff, and honors- level homework. Even through her extensive roster of extracurricular activities, she maintains that she enjoys all of it, citing that she generally does things because “they’re fun and I’m interested in them.”

Looking Back/Looking Forward

From her first days exposed to this department she knew she was where she belonged. Reminiscing on a memory of her orientation she recalled being inspired and welcomed by Dr. Bittel and Dr. McMillan: “Seeing these two really strong women in academia, you could tell how smart and how open they were; they were incredibly kind.” It was this close-knit big- hearted family environment within the department that she loved from day one.

Moving towards her future Amanda is unsure of her next big step. Within the first five years of her graduation she’d like to have a full-time job and be out on her own but beyond that she’s unsure of the exact profession she’d like to go into, “maybe publishing, editing, something like that.” Her goal is to become stable; she would like to be financially secure so she may start a family and build her life.

Alum Update: Noelle Kozak (’13)

Congratulations to Noelle Kozak, whose senior seminar paper titled “New Media Adaptations of  Classic Literature: From Pride and Prejudice to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” was recently published in Inquiries Journal: Social Sciences, Arts, and Humanities.


Abstract: Pride and Prejudice, the work of nineteenth century novelist Jane Austen, has been celebrated for over two-hundred years since its first publication. It has been adapted, reinvented and re-imagined over and over again to the delight of both loyal readers and interested newcomers. One such adaptation is the new media sensation, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Developed as a web show, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries successfully honors important themes found in Pride and Prejudice, namely its strong female characters, to tell a story that remains true to Austen’s roots while engaging a new generation of viewers. Although it is a decidedly unconventional retelling of the classic novel, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries has succesfully adapted the original work in a new and novel medium — the web “vlog.”

You can access the whole article here. And, if you are really ambitious, you can view the journal’s submission guidelines here; contributions by BA- and MA-level writers are welcome.

Noelle was previously profiled on our blog last spring; you can read more about her here.


Senior Profile: Alicia Belch (’17)

AliciaBProfile by Colleen Campbell (’18)

Why English?

Alicia is inspired by the freedom that comes with both creative and academic writing. She says, “There was something so different about it compared to my other subjects.” Being inspired by the power of words, she decided to major in English so that she would be able to use her words to make a difference in the world. Excited about her future, Alicia says her future is what motivates her most. She says, “I want to be able to have a steady job but also have the ability to be creative within that job.” Alicia asserts that there have been many difficult days, but knowing that English is her passion keeps her motivated.

Favorite Author

With a love for many authors, she is unable to choose only one. Her favorites are Roald Dahl and Rupi Kaur. She says, “I really love Roald Dahl for his imagination. I’ve reread his children’s books as an adult, and they make even more sense to me now.” As for Rupi Kaur, Alicia says that she is currently reading his book of poems called “Milk and Honey.” She says that she is exploring the idea of doing her capstone paper on his work.

Advice to Other English Majors

“Definitely time management.” Alicia insists that time management is crucial to being successful. Admittedly, she says, “I’m a senior and I still have problems with this.” Some of her pointers for being successful include planning how much time goes into writing certain pieces and seeking the help of a teacher if you need to.

New Attitude

Through majoring in English, Alicia has come to see the world in a different light. She states, “English has given me the ability to think outside the box, even with topics that you would think are so studied, there is nothing left to the conversation.” She is proud to say that Marywood’s English department’s “focus on rhetoric has helped her to communicate better with others.”

Techniques and Skills Gained

Empowered by the skills she has gained through studying English, Alicia uses those skills to write better papers: “I’ve definitely learned how to write more cohesively and rhythmically, even for academic papers.” She insists that her most useful skilled gained is “abstract thinking,”which can be applied to most subjects. Alicia believes that the skills she has gained through majoring in English will help her to be successful in the real world. She says, “Communication is more important today than it ever was before, especially with the amount of diversity we have here in the U.S. English and writing really help with that.” Again Alicia says that the power of words and writing makes it easier to understand the world we live in.

Moving Forward: What’s Next?

Alicia says giddily, “I’m not sure yet!” She maintains that being unsure is the beauty of being an English major. English is such an interdisciplinary study that English majors can get a job anywhere. For now, she is looking forward to relaxation and spending time with her family. Looking forward to worldly experiences, her plan is to travel after graduation and write poems about the places she has visited.

Senior Profile: David Kruman (’17)

Profile by Jillian Gratz (’19)


David Kruman became an English major for many reasons, but his main reason was his love for reading. He also had a “desire to learn how to write better.” He also believes that reading and writing are two essential skills that will be valuable in any career. David’s courses were also very influential to him in his major. He called Rural Literature his “most important” class because he felt that the literature resonated with him and that the writings of Earnest Gaines Jr. and Zora Neale Hurston made him feel in touch with literature.

Some of David’s Best Marywood Memories:

David explained that reading and writing were two areas in which he felt he severely lacked. He talked to me about the professors that made a huge difference in his academic career. He explained that “Dr. Brassard and Dr. Bittel taught me how to write, and Dr. Conlogue and Dr. Sadlack taught me how to read critically.” David’s experience with the professors at Marywood made an incredible difference in his academic career, and he also explained that he has “had a really wonderful experience at Marywood in the English department.”

Advice for Future English Majors:

I asked David for the advice he would give new English majors, and he replied that he would advise all new majors to keep up with the reading that is assigned in their classes. He also said that “it is not fun trying to read two-hundred pages of a book you don’t enjoy the night before it is due.” He also shared a similar answer when I asked him what his challenges in the major were. He explained that time-management is a challenge for him, and that being an English major makes this even more difficult. He gave a lot of advice on this matter, saying “Taking multiple English classes, meaning reading multiple books at the same time, can be very overwhelming when you feel pressured. Studying literature is a time-consuming practice. I never end with the results I hoped to have when I cram the work into a small period of time.”

What Next?:

David is currently thinking about attending graduate school, and says that in the mean time he plans “to read and write.”


Senior Profile: Sally Jellock (’17)

Profile by Katie Wheeler (’17)


Sally Jellock was not always an English major. She once believed that if she wanted to major in English it meant she would have to be a teacher. However, that is not the case. Sally realized, with the help of a few of the English department’s finest, that she can do an endless number of things with an English degree. With this in mind, she jumped aboard the English train.

Why English?

Sally was extremely straightforward when answering this question. She chose English because she is good at it—which is a fair reason to want to do anything. English was always a topic that she enjoyed throughout school and felt strongly about pursuing this passion. She also has enjoyed reading for the majority of her life. While reading is a love of Sally’s, she also enjoys writing. This major is the avenue through which she could pursue both.

Professors That Influence You

It is difficult to choose just one professor to be impressed with in the English department. However, everyone has their favorites. Sally, when asked to choose just one, could not just choose one professor. She mentioned how much she loved taking classes with Dr. Conlogue because, before his classes, she had such a closed-minded way of thinking about literature. He taught her that there can be a whole pile of meanings for different things. She especially loves Laurie McMillan. Without Laurie, she would not have become an English major. Overall, she is grateful for everything each of the professors taught her.

 What Comes Next?

This is a terrifying question for a second semester senior. It is most difficult because it is hard to predict what the future may or may not hold. Sally has a plan. After she graduates, she plans to find a job. Hopefully, she will find a job that will pay for graduate school. However, if her workplace does not pay she will not let that stop her. She plans on attending graduate school regardless.

Senior Profile: Emily Roche (’17)

By Sydney Toy (’20)


Emily Roche is a senior at Marywood, currently taking the senior seminar class required for all English majors. The biggest focus in this class is on a research project known as the capstone. For her capstone, Emily plans to focus on the darker aspect of children’s literature, honing in on Grimm’s Fairy Tales, specifically “Rapunzel” and “Cinderella.” She plans to compare the first edition of these fairy tales to the later editions that were not as dark as the first and look at why these changes took place in relation to history. After graduating, Emily plans on entering the publishing business, although she has not fully committed to one career.

Why Choose English?

Believe it or not, Emily did not intend to be an English major. Over coffee in the Learning Commons, she admits that she planned on being a Graphic Design major for the majority of her life. Emily then reveals that she, “didn’t really like English or reading too much until I was a senior in high school.” Starting off at Marywood, she was an art major, but quickly realized that art was not the correct path for her, so she switched to English, which meant she was doing one of her favorite activities, reading.

While Emily does love to read, and describes herself as a “serial reader,” she believes that the most difficult part of becoming an English major was the writing aspect of the major. She recalls her high school days, reminiscing about a bad English program. She says, “we had a really bad English program in my high school, and we really didn’t do a lot of writing. I didn’t write my first real English paper until college.” Aside from her disadvantage in writing because of her high school, she also states that she has a hard time transferring the thoughts she has about a book or a piece of literature into words.

Taking a Walk Down Memory Lane

When reflecting on her college experience and the past professors she had, Emily said the professor who inspired her the most was Dr. Bittel because she “helped influence what I’m interested in.” Emily states, “before college, I wasn’t interested in much about children’s literature,  and then I took her children’s literature class and got really interested in it [children’s literature] and how its changed over the years.” Emily also named Dr. Sadlack among her favorites because of the passion she shows in what she is teaching. She feels that both of these teachers led her to the ideas she had for her capstone focus.

As a senior in her last semester, Emily has taken many credits over the past four years. When asked what her favorite memory was from all of her classes, I was once more whisked back to Dr. Bittel’s children’s literature class. She reiterated that taking this class helped her “find a focus and find my interest and what I wanted to know most about.”  She also describes this class as, “a realization because I really like this and I could really do something with this.”


At the end of the interview, Emily had some advice she wished to offer to new English majors, from a senior to a freshman. She states, “everything you read, try to get something out of it. Look at why you’re assigned to read and find out why you’re studying this in the first place and what you can take from it.”

Senior Profile: Aaron Riley (’17)


By Ryan Calamia (’19)

It was a busy and chaotic Wednesday afternoon in the Learning Commons, with students running around grabbing food and beverages before their next class. Aaron and I had agreed to meet up in the Learning Commons to prepare this article on his life here at Marywood. Aaron Riley is a senior English major at Marywood University. He chose English because he “likes to read from time to time and likes writing.”

Growing up, Aaron has always been a fan of the fantasy genre, especially books on Arthurian legends. After reading these types of books, he wrote his first book, and this excursion into writing spearheaded his interest in writing by turning it into a hobby. Aaron decided to come to Maywood because he had an interest in writing as well as reading and stated that “Marywood would help me expand on my writing.” One of the hardest things he has to deal with as an English major is “finding evidence to incorporate into my essays that support [his] topic.” Part of the process for college seniors to graduate is to create a senior capstone. Aaron’s capstone topic is familiar as well as brave He is taking King Lear, Richard III, and Macbeth (three of Shakespeare’s plays) and is going to focus on the fate of the characters, how the characters try and change their fate, and what happens to them because they are trying to change their fate. Aaron was guided to also look at the social class of the characters as well as the gender of the characters and connect the three seemingly different characters to each other.

With regard to what he wants to do after college, Aaron said, “I am planning on looking for employment in the Scranton area as a writer for a newspaper to become financially stable before attending graduate school to get a masters in English.” His dream is to write for a newspaper or become a published author. His parting advice to people new to the English major is to “be prepared for a lot of analysis and critical reading. Practice analyzing books so you are able to use what you analyzed in your papers.” Aaron enjoyed all of his classes and teachers; however, he does not have a favorite in his four years here at Marywood.

Senior Profile: Rose Mrdjenovic (’17)

By Nicole Sobolewski (’20)


Why English?

Rose chose to study English because she knew that she “wanted to be a writer ever since she was nine years old.” Also, she enjoyed learning about the English language and grammar from a young age. In the long run, this liking gave her an advantage in studying English. On top of that, “English is easy to double major” with. It provides room for other majors or minors, which is why Rose chose to double major in Religious Studies.

Advice to New Majors

Rose advised new majors to “make sure to take classes you like,” not just the required courses. However, don’t just take fun classes; make sure to complete the required courses. In most cases, people end up with more English classes taken than needed; therefore, they are able to take other classes. Also, Rose said, “do the readings, do the homework” and always proofread papers.

A Text that Inspired Rose

A text that influenced Rose significantly is Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. This novel’s genre is fantasy, and involves witches, magic, and plot twists. After having read it, at age nine, Rose knew that she wanted to “make something as wonderful as this” when she was older. To this day, Rose looks at the book being a key influence on her college decisions.

Challenging Issues within the English Major

Some of the hardest struggles Rose has experienced are the extensive amount of reading, pacing herself, and research papers. Rose has always had trouble with “the amount of reading there is” and with getting through with these readings. She is fast reader, but there is an extensive amount of work. In addition, pacing herself has been a challenge for Rose. She advises that others learn to pace themselves because it will definitely help with the courseload. Lastly, research papers are demanding work because of the process that’s required: prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading.

General Focus of Capstone Paper

Within a Capstone paper, seniors (and some juniors) are required to pick a thesis that argues a point of view about a certain topic/book. The class(es) provide an entire process that helps students complete their fifteen-page thesis paper. Seniors are able to write about anything, as long as it’s literature related. Rose is still deciding what to have her paper be on. She was thinking of writing about Diana Wynne Jones’s Fire in Hemlock, and/or she wants to look at female heroines presented in Jones’s novels, since her novels create such strong characters.

Outside of the Classroom

As of right now, Rose is waiting to start an internship at Holy Cross High School here in Scranton. She is also involved in Big House, which is a Marywood Christian living community in Madonna that promotes Christian beliefs on campus. Rose is one of the main leaders there, and she helps provide comfort to individuals living there, as well as guidance.

Most Influential Classes and Professors

Three professors that had a large impact on Rose at Marywood are: Sister Christine, Dr. Bittel, and Dr. Conlogue. Sister Christine teaches a class called Faith Experience in Literature. Rose said that this class was “everything she wanted in an English class,” and it opened her eyes into the field of religion. Dr. Bittel teaches Children’s Literature, and this course was one of Rose’s favorites. She loved being able to critically analyze children’s books. Lastly, Dr. Conologue is Rose’s advisor and throughout her time in Marywood, he has guided her to pick the classes that would best suit her.

After College

Rose is considering applying to a graduate school in New York called SUNY New Paltz. This school is fifteen minutes from her house, which will allow her to be close to her family. At the university, she wishes to hold an English Assistantship so that she has two classes paid for and can have teaching experience by helping teach Freshman Composition each semester.



Alum Profile: Gabriela Pedroza (’09)

Profile by Alicia Belch


Gabriela Pedroza, Paralegal
Sweet and Paciorek, LLC (Immigration Law)

Why Marywood?

Gabriela chose Marywood because of the close-knit atmosphere. The small class sizes made it possible for her to really interact with her classmates and create strong relationships with the professors. Gaby states, “The professors weren’t just my teachers, but became more like family to me. They cared about students not just in the classroom, but outside, too.”

 Skills Acquired at Marywood

Gaby’s experience at Marywood has helped her gain important social and public speaking skills. She states, “The public speaking skills I have developed at Marywood help me not only during information sessions that I give at my job, but also for the numerous immigration activism roles I take on.” Gaby works directly with clients everyday preparing applications for family-based benefits and defense, affidavits, and arguments. Within the English Department at Marywood, Gaby was able to explore many different subjects that, although challenging, shaped her into a well-rounded person. “The Marywood English Department helped me develop personally by giving me an environment where I felt comfortable. I got the opportunity to explore many topics within the department that I never would have done on my own.”

 Greatest Accomplishments

 Since graduating Marywood, Gaby has accomplished her goals in both her professional and personal life. She states, “In my career my greatest accomplishment has been to help my clients get one step closer to obtaining their ‘American Dream,’ which many times is to stay in the United States with their families. On a personal level, besides being the single mother of a beautiful six and a half year old girl, my greatest accomplishment has been to become involved in the Immigrant Rights movement and teaching my daughter why it is so important for us to stand up for those who are too afraid to speak up. I have participated in several protests in order to advocate for immigrants and have given my testimony at several conferences.”

Interests, Hobbies, & Work Life

Gabriela’s biggest interest is in the Immigrant Rights movement. She participates as much as she can while caring for her daughter. She explains what she does in her spare time: “I like to read and dance but spend most of the time as a taxi driver for my daughter, who is a Girl Scout,  dances,  acts, and takes swimming lessons.” Gaby explains that she’s always wanted to be a part of the professional community she’s involved with currently. Before working as a paralegal, Gaby was a Director of Social Services for a Catholic Church where she was able to help those in need.

Gaby’s Advice

 Gaby’s advice for future English majors is to venture out and take advantage of everything Marywood has to offer. She states, “My advice to future English majors would be to really get to know the professors. They will become more than just your professors—they will become your friends, even family. Take advantage of all the resources that are available to you, and take a great variety of classes. You will be surprised and end up liking things that you may never have thought possible!”