Student Stories

Emily Morris, 21′

Going back to school was a difficult decision for me; I work full-time and have two beautiful kids. I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to juggle graduate school on top of that all. However, I knew I needed to do this for my family to better their lives and to follow my dreams. After speaking with Dr. Zamora, I knew this program was the right fit for me and meeting my fellow cohorts during orientation I was even more excited to continue my educational journey. After my two years of an intense writing program, I developed into a more confident writer and gained a wonderful family of colleagues and mentors. Despite a global pandemic, this writing program was the best decision I’ve ever made and it’s lead me to my dream job of a middle school English teacher.

Medea Chillemi, 21′

The M.A. in English Writing Studies was crucial to learning about the pedagogy of writing. I learned so much about digital literacies and cutting edge topics.  Importantly, the diverse community of students and professors was extremely nurturing. It was a wonderful and delightfully challenging experience!

Stephanie B. Jones ’19

Stephanie (Bowles) Jones is a product of Newark Public Schools. She attended Kean University for both undergraduate and graduate studies. She holds a BA in English with a concentration in Education as well as a MA in English Writing Studies. Stephanie kicked off her graduate studies by participating in Kean University’s Writing Project. A program in which she contributes to reigniting her passion for writing. Since completing the program, Stephanie Jones, pen name– Steph B. Jones, is now represented by Natalie Lakosil from The Bradford Literary Agency in San Diego, CA and she is currently in the process of shopping her first manuscript to publishing companies. All of these accomplishments Stephanie attributes to her time spent working with the faculty and community of KUWP.

In addition to be an aspiring published author, Stephanie has been an educator for ten years in Newark Public Schools as a middle school ELA teacher and most recently as a high school English teacher at University High School also located in Newark, NJ

Richonda Fegins ’18

During my time in the English and Writing Studies program I faced new challenges and had several triumphs, but above all, I was transformed. I made connections with professors, creatives, and other scholars around the world while also creating lively networked digital worlds with friends to collaborate. I was able to expand my knowledge extensively and find areas of interest that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. My thesis, Breaking the Manacles: Finding, Claiming, and Shaping Self was an auto ethnography where I studied myself and my creative process. I incorporated perspectives on the ways my work and process was impacted by things like gender, race, and digital/new media. The purpose of my thesis was to not only reclaim a bit of myself that I felt I had lost touch with, but to provide an open educational resource for those working through the same issues that I was. Ultimately, I wanted others to know that their voice and their story is not optional… it is needed.

It was important to me, when entering the program, to be able to stay true to myself and to curate and produce work that I was proud of, and my mentor and advisor, Dr. Mia Zamora, gave me the leeway and the platform to do just that. Dr. Zamora was and always will be an inspiration to me; she exudes grace and professionalism, and has provided unconditional support for me since I first met her. To any prospective student considering this program, I want you to know that you will have someone in your corner who truly cares about your continued success and growth as a person and a scholar.

Richonda Fegins

Jessica Taylor 17′

I liked that this program allowed students to choose their own paths to a certain degree. There are many electives offered, and several of the electives I took included creative writing assignments and allowed me to explore different aspects of writing. I was also able to take an independent study in order to work on a novel that I was writing at that time. Another factor that influenced my choice is that I attended Kean as an undergraduate student, so I was already familiar with the campus and enjoyed my time there. 

The small class sizes made the program feel like a community of writers and creative thinkers. Not only were the class sizes small, but the number of students in the program made it so that I saw familiar faces in all of the classes that I took each semester. We all seemed to move together through the program at a similar pace. This made it easy to make friends, share resources, and feel comfortable working with my peers. Because this is a writing program, many of the assignments that I completed were creative and personal. It was very beneficial to feel like the people who were working with me to peer review my writing knew me. 

The guidance and mentorship that I received during this program was unmatched. I especially loved my time working with Dr. Zamora. She is a wonderful professor and mentor (and overall just a wonderful person!). Dr. Zamora was my professor for many courses that I took in this program in addition to being my thesis advisor. I am still in awe of how she manages to tackle so many roles and still have so much time to dedicate to supporting each of her students.

After graduation, I began working as an adjunct professor. I currently teach first year writing at Kean University, Montclair State University, and Middlesex College. I have also taught high school/ college bridge programs for Middlesex College. I am also now back at Kean as a graduate student for a second M.A. in college counseling and student services. I have also looked into some PhD programs in education and sociology.

Dane Tabano 11′

I chose Kean for my graduate studies at a time when the M.A. in English Writing Studies was newly introduced.  I was attracted to pursue a graduate study with a focus in English writing studies for several reasons.  At the time I enrolled, and I believe even up to the present day, Kean’s M.A. in Writing Studies is one of only a few of its kind in the tri-state area, and perhaps even in the greater northeast U.S. region.  I am happy to have been part of the program’s inception, and incredibly proud to have been the first recipient of Kean’s M.A. in English Writing Studies. I was also confident in the program’s integrity and sustainability after learning that it was backed by the Kean University Writing Project (KUWP)—of which I became a fellow—and that Kean had instituted a writing center staffed by graduate students and professors in the master’s program who were passionate about supporting the writing skills and overall literacy of Kean students.  To me, this support showed a commitment to literacy across the academic program, which I have always found to be the hallmark of an honorable institution.  One other significant contributor to my interest in the M.A. in English Writing Studies is that I was working as a public high school teacher of English at the time of my enrollment, and I was desperately seeking more efficient ways to assess student writing, which ended up being my thesis for the program.     

Since completing the M.A. in Writing Studies at Kean in 2011, I ended a thirteen-year career as a high school English teacher in 2015.  During the latter half of my tenure as an English teacher, I completed an M.A. in School Counseling, and an Ed.S. in Professional Mental Health Counseling at Seton Hall University.  In 2016, I began what is now my current career as a high school counselor in the beautiful beachfront school district of Ocean City, on the northern tip of New Jersey’s cape.  I am also a licensed professional mental health counselor in New Jersey.  My non-academic career pursuits include working as the superintendent of the Beach Fees division in the municipality of The City of Ocean City and operating the southern New Jersey location of an amateur wrestling school I co-founded in 2001, called The Apex Wrestling School.

If I were to offer any advice to a prospective student embarking on a pathway in the Writing Studies program, it would be to make sure not to let the stress of “perfection”—the plight of far too many English writing students as it is—get in the way of the enriching experience.  Sure, there is a good deal of work that needs to be done to complete the program, but the people you are fortunate enough to have around you and the support you will receive along the way truly is invaluable.  That took me quite a while to realize, but it is something I will never forget, and for which I will never be able to fully express my gratitude.