Meet the Staff
Jennifer Holt, Director
Jennifer directs the Writing Studio and teaches writing-intensive courses in the Philosophy Department. She likes to think about the intersections between philosophical and literary writing and about different interpretations of ‘Socratic’ method. She does not begin to learn deeply about something until she tries to write about it.
Gary Jaeger, Assistant Director
Gary earned a B.A. in philosophy and in writing from Johns Hopkins University and went on to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Chicago. He is currently a lecturer in the Philosophy Department as well as the Assistant Director of the Writing Studio. He finds that his work in philosophy and writing complement each other as both allow him to explore the power of argument.
Katherine Fusco , Assistant Director
Katherine Fusco serves as Assistant Director of the Writing Studio as well as lecturer in the English Department. She likes to talk through her writing with friends, preferably while taking a walk with coffee in hand. Recently, Katherine has learned the joys of the review genre by contributing book reviews to ELLE Magazine’s “ELLE’s Lettres” column.
Amanda Middagh , Office Adminstrator
Amanda Middagh is a native of Iowa and moved to Nashville three years ago. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Communications from the University of Northern Iowa. In her spare time she likes to work with the Nashville Chapter of Amnesty International and she loves to read mysteries.
Megan has a BA in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and an M.T.S. and Th.M. from Duke University. She is currently in her third year of her Ph.D. program in Hebrew Bible at Vanderbilt University. If she had any spare time, she would spend it reading 18-19th century British and American literature. Instead she spends her days (and nights) translating ancient texts in obscure languages that may somehow relate to the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel as well as the biblical text itself.
Kelly Williams is a Ph.D. student in the Graduate Department of Religion, focusing on American religious history. She earned her M.A. in Religion at the University of Georgia (go Dawgs!) and her B.A. in English at Davidson College. When she's not reading or writing about nineteenth-century religious groups, she's reading a novel or (more likely) watching reality TV. If she ever decides she's responsible enough for a puppy, she'll name it "Franny" after the character in J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey.
Jenn received a BA in Religion from Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX and a Master of Divinity from Lancaster Theological Seminary in Lancaster, PA. She is currently a second year Ph.D. student in the area of Hebrew Bible at Vanderbilt University and is also a fellow in the Graduate Department of Religion's Theology and Practice program. While her studies require much attention, Jenn makes time to hang out with her husband Sean, watch movies, and take advantage of the great music and food that Nashville has to offer.
Lesley Brindle is a senior in the College of Arts and Science majoring in Economics with a minor in International Development. In her free time, Lesley enjoys being outside, reading books, watching movies and exploring all the great things Nashville has to offer (especially the restaurants and live music scene).
Matt Baker has a B.A. from a small liberal arts college in Holland, Michigan. He likes YA novels, despite no longer being a YA. He's worked as a chemistry tutor, library assistant, painter, dishwasher, Spanish tutor, truck driver (briefly), travel writer, and bouncer. Also, at various times he's been accused of looking like either A. Johnny Depp, B. John Mayer, C. Zach Efron, or D. "that giant skeleton from that movie about Christmas." Matt Baker does not resemble any of these celebrities (or skeletons) in even the slightest possible way. Also, a group of strangers once approached him at a concert to tell him they thought he looked like a sugar glider, which, as he understands it, is some sort of small, defenseless rodent.
Destiny Birdsong is a fourth-year PhD student in the Department of English who is currently working on her dissertation, tentatively titled “No Steps on a Crystal Stair: Mothers, Daughters, and the Traumatic Transmission of Knowledge in Afro-Diasporic Literature.” In her free time, she enjoys reading and writing poetry, texting, watching crime television, and shopping.
Claire is a first-year MFA candidate in fiction. In her native Birmingham, Alabama, she has worked as a writing tutor, an editorial assistant, a library clerk, a waitress, and a purveyor of frozen yogurt. Her eyesight keeps deteriorating because she reads too much, which she deems a necessary sacrifice. She thinks starting the first draft is the hardest part of writing and therefore spends lots of time surfing the internet and calling it "research." Once she finally gets going, she can write for amazing lengths of time with no sleep or sustenance. Her friends and family say she corrects their grammar, pronunciation, and spelling too often, but oddly enough she's not very good at Scrabble.
Ariel is a sophomore in Peabody College, majoring in Human and Organizational Development. She is published in the Vanderbilt Undergraduate Research Journal and is a past participant in the Vanderbilt Undergraduate Writing Symposium. She believes that the hardest part of the writing process is coming up with a topic, and the best way to work through this is by discussing your ideas with others. When Ariel isn't writing she can be found either on the tennis courts or frequenting Yogurt Oasis.
Patricia is in the final year of her PhD studies in the Community Research & Action Program. Her work centers on issues of class and race as they relate to environmental decision-making and community-design, particularly food justice issues. Her most memorable creative writing work was called ‘Debbie & Damian Frog’, circa 1985, which received wide acclaim from her plush toy collection, but did not lead to further creative works. A social scientist by training (BSc (hons), MS), Patricia is most comfortable writing about research. Patricia laments that writing is the main medium of the academy, preferring oral debate and discussion, and the creation of beautiful graphics that express complex thoughts, to writing papers. As a result her default approach to writing has often been to read excessively, outline repeatedly and avoid putting the words down until the deadline is looming. She has found the re-outlining part of this process very useful, while reluctantly coming to accept that writing more than one draft leads to a better paper and less stress.
Ellie is a junior in the College of Arts & Science majoring in French and History, and is also interested in Art History. Ellie is a member of Kappa Delta sorority, and enjoys traveling with her family, driving on country roads and playing Sudoku. Although she has now called Memphis, TN home for nearly three years, she has also lived in Indiana, Japan, Florida, Belgium and Canada."
Kendra DeColo is a first-year MFA student in Poetry at Vanderbilt University. Originally from Boston, Kendra has lived in New York, Buenos Aires and most recently, Provincetown, Massachusetts where she has been gathering inspiration for her writing from the abundance of art, chaos and natural beauty. Kendra has a B.A. in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.Ed from Lesley University. She enjoys any poem or work of art that is engaged with grasping and articulating the truth. Other interests include running, travel, meditation and teaching.
Katherine Des Prez
Katie is a junior in the College of Arts and Science majoring in Spanish and American Studies. She might also end up with a French minor. She is passionate about podcasts, free movies, and ice cream. She likes to write her papers in the soothing atmosphere of Whole Foods, where frequent snack breaks and people-watching are necessary. Even though Katie's a sufficiently enthusiastic person, she think exclamation points are overrated.
Lisa Dordal received her M.Div. from Vanderbilt Divinity School in 2005 and is currently a first-year student in Vanderbilt’s M.F.A. program for poetry. Her writing has appeared in Bridges: A Jewish Feminist Journal, Poems & Plays, The Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion and the New World Library anthology Dog Blessings: Poems, Prose, and Prayers Celebrating Our Relationship with Dogs. Lisa is intensely practical (if she were stranded on a deserted island and could only have one book, it would be Ship Building for Dummies) and she never, ever procrastinates. Her favorite poets are Jane Kenyon, Claudia Emerson, Wislawa Szymborska and Chase Twichell. She lives in Nashville with her partner, Laurie, and their three (three!) greyhounds, one of whom was the inspiration for her poem “Bad Dog on Couch.”
Leslie Esbrook is a senior majoring in French, European Studies, and Economics with certificates in European History and Honors in the College of Arts and Sciences. After having spent the last year in France, Leslie truly appreciates the beauty and serenity of picking up a good read and, with baguette, cheese, wine, and wit, lounging on the banks of the Seine….or the terrace of Buttrick, as the case may be. She is positively delighted to pas de deux with words and see where the conversation takes her, finding the best inspiration for her journal of life as a twenty-one-year-old in the most unforeseen places and unusual situations.
As a senior, Katie Golden is working to complete her majors in Political Science and History of Art while composing an Honors Thesis. She finds writing most rewarding when considered an opportunity to present one’s knowledge and insight through a forgiving and malleable medium. Her tendencies towards overly formal tone, unexpectedly grandiose theses, and three-fold example series ensure that her writing is dense, exacting, and in need of revision to reach full potential. In her work at the Writing Studio she hopes to enrich her own writing process while helping others find their potential for powerful prose.
James Grady is currently a graduate student in Philosophy, specializing in medieval Jewish thought, and social and political philosophy. His dissertation is focused on the way medieval Jewish philosophers re-conceptualize the exile, both to counter anti-Jewish polemics and to revisit Jewish philosophy of history. He majored in philosophy and religion at Emory University (C'98), and received a Master of Theological Studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School (2002). http://people.vanderbilt.edu/~james.a.grady
Zachary Greenberg is a first-year MFA candidate in Creative Writing at Vanderbilt. He earned two bachelor degrees from the University of Michigan: B.A. in English Literature & Language as well as a B.A. in Approaches to Transcendent Thought -- a self-designed interdisciplinary major focusing on comparative religions and psychology. A California native, Zachary's passions include the healing arts, poetry, road trips, Big Sur, Patagonia, and playing soccer.
Sarah is a first year student at Vanderbilt Law School. She graduated from Vanderbilt last year, where she studied art history, English, and political science. She has a sporadic writing style and has never used any of the outlines she has made (but she always makes one!). Recently, she has been introduced to technical legal writing, so she finds working at the Writing Studio a refreshing experience. She also loves to dance, play music, and learn violin in her (very limited) spare time!
Josh Houston is a graduate student in philosophy, and is currently writing his dissertation on radical democracy and cosmopolitanism. He works best at home, at his small, cramped desk in his small, cramped office, listening to the hum of the nearby refrigerator (yes, it is actually in his office—we’re talking cramped) and taking frequent breaks to listen to heavy metal or watch Mystery Science Theater 3000. Josh likes to write by making massive Word documents where he types in every note he’s ever scribbled down on a particular topic, then meticulously organizes them, ruthlessly cutting away the unnecessary bits, until some kind of coherent form begins to take shape. He loves teaching, and finds talking to students one-on-one about their own work especially rewarding.
Susanna Kwan is a first-year MFA student and is happy to have found a new literary home at Vanderbilt University. A native of San Francisco, she loves drawing, vocal harmonies, road trips, rainy days, libraries, and most forms of storytelling.
After a couple years of indecision, Dustin has finally found his home at Vanderbilt's Peabody College and is majoring in Human & Organizational Development with a minor in Sociology. He views his journey of selecting majors similar to the writing process: while chaotic and confusing at times, they both ultimately yield satisfying and rewording results. With the belief that good writing only becomes great writing through revision and editing, Dustin has been known to tear through more than a few drafts. In his free time, Dustin counts DCI (Drum Corps International), reading, theatre, dining, complimenting friends on wickedly effective word choices, and nurturing his love affair with punctuation marks among his interests.
Alex Moody is a second-year M.F.A. student. He earned a B.A. in English from The College of William & Mary, spent far too long in corporate America, and is happy to be back in a position to help and learn from other writers.
Jessica Moore has a BS in biochemistry from the University of Kansas and an MS in biomedical research from Vanderbilt. She currently works in the Center for Science Communication at Vanderbilt Medical Center. She enjoys neuroscience blogs, Mad Men, and colorful shoes.
Michael is a senior in the College of Arts and Science, majoring in Economics and Philosophy, with a minor in Chinese. He's a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity as well as the male a capella choir at Vandy. He loves writing/shooting the bull about philosophy, politics, or really anything because he thinks that in discussion we can come to learn more about ourselves, which is the only real knowledge.
Jenny is a third-year student majoring in neuroscience and philosophy in the College of Arts and Science. While not scaring mice in the Medical Center or digesting words until the early hours of the morning, she can be found developing schemes to help rid the world of its cockroach problem or pondering the pros and cons of a future career in time travel.
Jeff is a fourth-year PhD student in the Anthropology department, interested in the links between cognition, culture, and behavior. His research thus far has focused on the biological and spatial cognition of the Tzotzil Maya in Chiapas, Mexico. He writes in the wake of great flashes of insight, which he finds invariably to fade upon a second reading.
Matt is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in Philosophy and Economics/History with a minor in Corporate Strategy. His mantra for mastering the writing process can be summarized by one alliterative gem: Proper prior planning prevents poor performance. However, he has disobeyed this rule enough to learn that most C papers can be made into a B+ or an A- by following a few simple steps in 15 minutes. He is secretly using time at the Writing Center to raise awareness of the power of the semi-colon among Vanderbilt professors.
Kelly Swope is a junior in the College of Arts and Science studying Spanish, Chinese, and literature. He is interested in cultural collisions in American literature, blues piano, and black coffee, though he is not sure as of yet where these interests meet. This school year he will be trying to deepen his language studies while also undertaking some of his own fiction writing. When he is not in Nashville, he lives in Granville, OH, making puns.
Dhruneanne is pursuing a Master of Education in International Education Policy and Management at Peabody College. She graduated Cum Laude from Vanderbilt University, where she earned a B.A. in Economics and Spanish. As a native of Brooklyn, New York, she developed a love for learning about new cultures, which in turn explains her love for traveling. To date, she has traveled to, studied and/or worked in the following countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ethiopia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay. Having been a student and/or teacher in several countries, she has learned that when it comes to writing a paper having a rough outline of ideas is the first and most crucial step.