Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A reflection from a breaking heart.

People I care about are weeping today. They placed every ounce of hope they had on an imperfect political function and turned their fear and anxiety and anger onto those who disagreed with them. I feel that same fear, not for myself but for the men and women who are desperate for a ray of hope to shine on their lives and instead they are seeing blackness. My heart bleeds for every one of those individuals. Whether or not they will be persecuted more often for their sexuality or their race or their beliefs is nowhere near as obvious as their fear of the possibility.

People I care about are celebrating today. Their votes were cast without a flinch or a doubt, even if they post on Facebook about wishing for better options. This isn’t to say they are lying intentionally, but I used to have the exact same ideals and thoughts they are having today, and I remember how indignant and angry I was when President Obama took office because I believed those ideals would be trashed and forgotten. What I mean is that when I was in their shoes, I would have shot down any whisper of a disagreement with my choice at the polls, even if I didn’t actually believe that individual would carry out my ideals. It’s either red or blue, and one must win for anything to be settled…right?

Those who feel they have lost are posting constantly on every social media outlet about their fear, their anger, their determination to protest what has occurred. Those who believe they have won are pointing fingers at the former party, laughing or shaking their heads with a gallon of judgmental blood and an ounce of love. Everywhere I look, I see Bible verses used to condemn the fearful, the prideful, and the triumphant. Here and there I can find someone who genuinely wants to remind the world that we are still one nation, but somehow I don’t think very many of the people they are reminding will believe that we are under God after what happened this week.

An expert is, by some definitions, anyone who knows more about a topic than anyone else in the room. Today I have seen a hundred opinions by the local experts on Thy Kingdom Come, Love Trumps Hate, #ImStillWithHer, and You Damn Liberals Finally Lost, Thanks Obama. Some intend to inform, while others intend to show malice. Most of the opinions have failed to sway me in any direction other than sorrowful contemplation. None of these expert opinions feel overly thought out, no matter the intent.

The root of my name is “just,” or “justice.” Maybe that’s why my heart has been raging within me for the last 24 hours. I am seeing so many fearful people clash with so many rejoicing people. Along the sidelines, there are some who choose to throw a Bible verse out in the arena, hoping it will help the waters settle enough for them to wade in. Yes, I believe Jesus is my King, too. But if all I do is claim that and then sit back, stating “My hope is in the Lord,” I am a hypocrite and a fool, deserving to be punished by the One Who has given me this sense of justice. Proclaiming my allegiance to the King should only be followed by one action: reaction.

Because I believe in the King, I must stand beside those I love who are every other ethnicity, sexuality, religion, and political affiliation. I am a Midwestern white twenty-something woman with a college education and only a small amount of student debt ahead of me. I am so, so blessed to live in a safe neighborhood and hold down a job that allows me to serve other people. But if I use those privileges to hide from the pain I see in my friends’ eyes, I do not deserve to be known by them.

My right-leaning friends and family will read this post and probably fixate on the part where I pledge my love and support to every person who is not white, straight, and evangelical Christian. My left-leaning friends and family (although I’m not sure how much family I have who fits in that category) will read this post and likely wish I would just shut up and join the protest against what happened this week. I’m not claiming to know the reaction of every person who will read this, but based on the social media posts on both sides, I know many will think these thoughts.

Pray for the brokenhearted, the wounded, the fearful. Pray for the rejoicing, the triumphant, the complacent. I believe every person in America fits somewhere within one or more of those categories.

Yes, we are a divided nation today. But that is not new, not in the least. We are all broken people, after all. So most of all, pray for peace that surpasses all understanding, and love that knows no limits. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

In which I admit to a serious case of writer's block...or maybe not?

I have never had such a lack of desire to write in my entire life.

Every day I open my computer, check social media/email, and generally use the Internet for more self-entertaining purposes such as videos, articles, and interactions with friends I can't physically see right now. I follow writers on both Facebook and Twitter, and I give my passive feedback with a like or a retweet. But Word is reserved for reading students' papers when I'm tutoring, and this blog was gathering so much dust that I had to recover my password just to get in.

On a regular basis, I remember that I used to blog once a week, whether my words were important to other people or not. The consistency comforted me with a warm blanket of validation. For four years of college and three years of camp, I wrote fiction and non fiction with joy that I couldn't explain. I justified my writing major because I was studying what I loved most and my fight to save that major was backed with every justice-seeking bone in my body.

I cried so many tears over that love for writing. I built a resume on a foundational desire to make the world a better place, one second draft at a time. But then I graduated and took a job that I thought I could do...and soon found out that I didn't have it in me. I fought so hard to convince myself that I was just impatient, that things would work out once my magazine went to print. When I finally held my chin up long enough to make the wise decision, I found that my previous resolve to write had been drained by my current desire to survive.

This isn't writer's block or procrastination, my friends. No, my cryptic paragraphs are a very late admission to my own fear and pride. A very real barrier in front of me since early June has prevented me from creating the art that I love so much. I knew that if I began blogging again, I would eventually have to acknowledge to all of you that I left my first post-college job in less than three months. Humiliating, if you hold yourself to an unreasonable standard. Life-saving, if you find yourself in a job that induces daily meltdowns on the floor of your summer apartment.

Yep. I quit my job after less than three months and started working as a delivery driver for Panera part time. I found a couple of one-time freelance editing jobs that pushed me into the next month. I gained some footing with as a writing and English tutor. I'm not even close to as financially stable as I would like to be yet, but my friends...I am finally emotionally stable. I don't dread waking up in the morning and I don't long for Friday afternoons anymore.

I still lowkey hate my life right's been a blessing to have extended family and Julia's family close by, but I'm still in a new place without my best friends for the first time in three years. That's normal for college grads, I know. But it doesn't change how much I dislike the reality. There are so many experiences I want to tell all of you about. But I'm not quite ready yet. The way I view the world and Jesus and myself has changed so much over the last two years. That's partially why I have been running from talking about it here, I think.

I need more than just a like or a comment on this blog post. I need YOU, my friends. I need every one of you to remind me why I love to share my life experiences with other human beings in the form of writing. Whether we've known each other my entire life or six months, you still have more of an effect on me than you are aware. The words are inside me and they must come out, but it might take a group effort for me to feel okay with that happening.

Honestly I've only consistently listened to one artist lately. Heath McNease is seriously talented and his music (both rap and acoustic) plays in my car when I'm out on deliveries. Specifically the bridge of this song has both carried me and broken me over and over again. "Your grace is complete, supplieth my needs, unspeakable joy surprised me."
Surprised By Joy - Heath McNease

Love you all. Let's get back to a place where this is an outlet for me, hm?

Monday, June 6, 2016

When a publisher starts the first day...

Close to a month ago, I wrote a post attempting to explain my new job...and to be honest, I felt like I was doing a poor job of describing it. Of course, this happened before I graduated college (WHAAAAT?), moved into an apartment, attended two days of training in Texas (that trip is a long, strange story of God's grace...but we won't get into that here), and watched my baby sister (who is no longer a baby at all) graduate from high school. So as I stand in my apartment kitchen and stretch my cramped legs after sitting cross-legged on the floor for hours, allow me to elaborate. 
My office is so official these days.

--Best Version Media hired me as a publisher for the Southwest Ames area. This involves launching a magazine for the southwest neighborhoods in the city as an independent contractor who technically answers to a division manager and a regional manager, as well as the Home Office staff in Wisconsin. My magazine will be called Neighbors of SW Ames.

--My daily job involves calling businesses in Ames to ask if they would be willing to meet with me in person and talk about possibly signing a contract to sponsor the magazine and, in return, receive a certain amount of advertising space in the magazine. If they say yes, I set up a time to meet and hopefully what follows is a "yes" and a contract.

--Since I don't have a magazine in print yet, I am technically an Associate Publisher. Until I reach my baseline (which is the amount of money required to fund the magazine, pay the designer/content coordinator, and distrubute the magazine each month) and go to print with the first issue, I won't receive a paycheck. This is just scary enough to give every publisher a little incentive to reach their baseline and go to print as quickly as possible.

--Like most salespeople, I'm paid on commission. Pretty straightforward.

--My main goal when connecting with business owners is to get them excited about the possibility of advertising to an extremely local audience with hopes of becoming a more tightly knit community.

Today was my first day on the job, officially. Although I didn't have Julia around to cheer me on (she's in London until the 9th) and I got started a couple hours later than I had hoped, I have to admit that today was a success. I feel really good about the things I accomplished and was able to move on from the things that didn't work out.

If you want to hear more, please shoot me a message. I can't give away too much info on the Internet because of BVM rules, but I'd love to go into detail if anyone is curious. I had fun talking to my extended family and a couple of family friends about it at Natalie's grad party on Saturday, so my explanation skills are all warmed up. ;)

Now if you'll excuse me, my celebratory pizza rolls are just about cool enough to eat.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Burning questions about my life? Look here.

Over the past few weeks, I have been dreading and anticipating the post I am sitting down to write at this moment. I have known it was coming for, well, pretty much the entire school year. But I wasn't ready to write it. So here we's a week and a day before my college graduation, and the time has come to talk about plans.

Gross, right?

First of all, let me say that senior year at Northwestern has been beautiful. I've had four lovely ladies to call roommates for at least a semester, fantastic growing experiences as an artist and as a student, and many wonderful moments of "Wow, how did I ever deserve this?" Transitioning out of dorm life and into a plex with closer relationships to a smaller group of people taught me a great deal about myself as a friend as well as an introvert. Tutoring for Dr. Lundberg both semesters has been a joy and an honor, and it's shown me how much I really do enjoy helping others improve their writing. These experiences, among so many others, have led me up to my last day of classes at Northwestern. To today.

Now for the summer...the reason I have been holding off on talking about my plans. I have obtained a full-time position as a publisher for Best Version Media in Ames, Iowa; it's not an easy job to explain ( so feel free to check out their website and click around to better understand what I will be doing. I am still pretty unsure about what my job will look like as a whole, but my day to day work life will involve making phone calls to businesses in Ames to ask them if they would like to partner with Best Version Media to help boost their advertising. From there, I'll set up meetings with someone in the business so we can talk face to face and hopefully sign a contract. Again, I am still pretty uncertain...a lot of this will be cleared up after I attend training.

That's the second order of business, actually. My mother and my brother are graciously traveling with me to Texas for that training in a couple of weeks. It'll be a whirlwind trip (as fast as driving 9.5 hours can be) and I'll be back before I know it to help prepare for Natalie's high school graduation (AH! :D).

I'll be living with Julia in Ames from early June until she goes back to start her senior year in August, and I am pretty pumped to think about how close we will be to both her immediate family and my Ames extended family. Thanks to my amazing parents, I will still have a place to crash in Gravity if I need a weekend away from my work space (which I know I will!), so to my friends in SW Iowa, please don't hesitate to shoot me a message if you want to chat sometime!

And now to address the burning question in some of your minds--what about camp? The closer I get to graduating, the more my heart longs to be at Haven again. Unfortunately, I can't work a full time job and be in Wyoming at the same time. My dear camp staff friends, you will be sorely missed and I am sure there will be days that I send you a text because I really wish I was doing dishes with you. But I will have good Internet if you want to connect on the weekends, and maybe God will surprise me with a week I wasn't expecting and camp will fit somewhere. If that doesn't happen, please know I am going to be praying all year for a way to come back in 2017.

Please send me a message if you have thoughts or questions about any of this. I would love to talk about my year or my summer in more detail...just not in this space yet. :)

You're all beautiful people. Thank you for reading sporadic updates from a pretty weird college student over the last four years. And thank you for the prayers and the support...some of you have been reading this blog since I was an angsty teenager (I'm so sorry).

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A beautiful reason to rejoice!

As you prepare for Christmas, please allow me to draw your attention to this happy piece of news that the English majors and minors received today. I heard yesterday, but was waiting for the official email to announce it.

From the head of our English department:

"Dear Majors and Minors in English,
I am thankful to be able to report, on behalf of the English Department, that Dr. Martin received the good news yesterday from President Christy that he had been reinstated in his position teaching Creative Writing at NWC.  I have expressed our gratitude to Mr. Christy for considering our appeal and being willing to make this decision on our behalf.
Wishing you all the Joy of  Christmas,
Dr. Lundberg"

God is so good...thank you for praying, appealing, and giving us your support, my friends. Dr. Martin and the Writing and Rhetoric major will see another year at Northwestern.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Bathhouses are important. So is camp. Let's be generous.

Staff members and supporters of Haven on the Rock:

We've got 16 days left to raise $30,000 for the bathhouse. At the time that I am writing this post, we have $835. Many of you have shared this campaign, but few of you have actually given. Please reconsider that action.

It only takes 5 minutes, and a donation can equal the cost of a single time eating out with friends, or one week's worth of Starbucks. By giving up one or two special meals or cutting out caffeine and sugar from your daily routine for a week (which is actually good for you...), you can help Haven expand and mature as a camp. Crazy, right?

Some of you are aware that the cost of camp per child is cut from $375 to $150 (or even lower) because of donations. Donating to the bathhouse fund can happen at any time, so you might be wondering why it's even important to give now. For this Indiegogo campaign, a generous donor is matching every dollar we receive up to $30,000. This offer won't extend to donations outside of this specific project that ends on December 17. And that's why you should give help us build the new bathhouse twice as quickly.

If you have a passion for the growth of Haven on the Rock, please don't hesitate to show your support for this project. You won't be any less of a Christian if you don't give, but the opportunity to help a ministry so near to many of our hearts doesn't come in this simple of a process too often. Show your support for Haven on the Rock. You know you want to do it. :)

Build a New Bathhouse for Haven on the Rock

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Letter to the Board of Directors from students and alum

Posted below is the compiled list of student and alum appeals we have received so far. I did not include the signatures in this blog, but if you are interested in adding to the list of appeals or signatures, please let me know by 7 p.m. on Wednesday, November 4.

Student Appeals
Justine Johnson
To the Board,
My name is Justine Johnson and I am a senior Writing and Rhetoric major with a Journalism minor. When I was a senior in high school, I didn’t want to attend college. My mother dragged me to a college fair and I arrived at the Northwestern table with a terrible attitude. The only initiative I had in mind was to find a school with a writing program. Most of the schools I had seen so far didn’t even have an English major, they just had an education major. Only Northwestern had a Writing and Rhetoric major (I didn’t even know what rhetoric was until I took a class on it here).
As a junior, I took all of the required rhetoric classes—three in the same semester, actually—and finally learned that rhetoric is, simply put, everything we do and say and write and wear. There is no way to avoid rhetoric, and the same could be said for writing. It is everywhere. Yet not everyone knows how to do it well. In fact, I have learned during my time at Northwestern that most people are quite poor writers. However, my writing classes have also taught me that writing is a skill to be improved, not a gift that can be given or taken away.
Yes, some people are better writers than others, and in that way, writing is a gift. But with the ability to type or to form words with our mouths or our pens comes the ability to improve a mechanical skill which eventually becomes a muscle. Without the Writing and Rhetoric major, I never would have learned to believe that every person I tutor in the Peer Learning Center has the potential to become a great writer.
So Writing and Rhetoric was what brought me to Orange City, Iowa. Not the science program, not the excellent community fostered in the dorms, not the general education classes that I was assigned my first semester. Well, I guess one of the gen-eds I took would be an exception. That was my Literary Contexts class with Dr. Martin. I walked into class and a bearded Canadian taught me how to properly cite poetry. Dr. Martin failed me on my first paragraph response, then told me to rewrite it and give the work some real, critical thought. We read authors from a variety of backgrounds and countries around the world, something to which I had never been exposed before college.
When Professor Sowienski left after my sophomore year, Dr. Martin became my adviser. I began taking more classes with him, learning how to write a decent short story and receiving feedback regularly through both in-class workshops and personal emails on my pieces. I read authors from multiple continents, most of whom did not write their original drafts in English, and this widened my perspective on writing and on the world. I learned to value a B+ from Dr. Martin after he explained that he gave A’s to students who showed remarkable progress in their second drafts. When I received my first A in a class with Dr. Martin, I knew I had finally learned how to revise my first drafts thoroughly and carefully.
As an upperclassman in the English department, I feel it is vital to the survival of this college to keep the Writing and Rhetoric major. Without this major, students will not be able to leave college with the best-rounded experience because they will be lacking the skill in writing that would carry them through jobs in all fields. Without Dr. Martin’s presence here, Northwestern would be lacking an intelligent, kind, talented professor who invests time, effort, and love into the lives of his students both inside and outside the classroom. Further, Dr. Martin’s influence on the English department and on the general education program here is irreplaceable.
Please consider the following thoughts of students and alum who feel passionate about keeping and strengthening the presence of the English department.

Nicole Montgomery
To whom it may concern:

My name is Nicole Montgomery, and I am a junior English Teaching Major. I am writing in hopes that you’ll listen to my opinion on the elimination of the Writing and Rhetoric major and Dr. Martin’s position. I would like to respectfully disagree with your decision and challenge you to reconsider your reasoning in eliminating this position. I completely understand our low enrollment issue and realize that as a result, we need to make sacrifices. However, I do not agree with the decision to sacrifice Dr. Martin’s position.

Since coming to college, Dr. Martin has continuously served as a professor who has challenged my thinking. When I was convinced I believed one thing, Dr. Martin asked me about another viewpoint, helping me to understand the bigger picture. This kind of thinking and dialogue has not occurred with any other professor on campus. In eliminating Dr. Martin’s position, we are losing the valuable thinking that Dr. Martin provokes in students.

Dr. Martin’s care clearly shows with his students. I remember having a workshop for a piece of writing that was difficult for me to share. It had told the story of a deep and personal struggle I had dealt with while in high school. My classmates did not receive the writing well and weren’t very gracious in their comments to me. After leaving class deeply hurt that day, I received an email from Dr. Martin making sure that I was okay. He reaffirmed the value in my story and commended me for telling such an important story, even if it was hard to tell. It’s not every day that we encounter this great care that students have for professors. Dr. Martin continues to serve as an example of the type of teacher I wish to be in caring for my students.

Through sacrificing the writing and rhetoric major, we are eliminating the entire reason so many students come to this college. The Modified English major simply cannot encompass the importance writing has on students. If we wish to create successful students to enter the working world, we must have effective communicators. Eliminating writing and rhetoric will weaken our ability to prepare students to communicate well. Furthermore, the emphasis on writing is appealing to a large number of students because not all want to focus on literature analysis. By breaking the English major into education, writing, and literature, students have the unique opportunity to specialize in one area and become especially skilled.

Finally, by eliminating Dr. Martin’s position, we will only be hurting other majors. A large number of students take literary context with Dr. Martin, and in that class, he really shows students how to think and communicate well. He sets up a space for respectful dialogue and shows students how to disagree with one another gracefully. By not having Dr. Martin teach this class, students are going to be losing a great opportunity to think at a deeper level. More specifically, our English teaching major will also be weakened in the elimination of Dr. Martin’s position. Our other English professors are wonderful, but are far more focused on the literature aspect of English. Without having an aspect of English tied to writing, English teaching majors are only going to be equipped to teach literature, which is a miniscule part of English education as a whole. If we wish to produce teachers who help educate the next generation well, we need to have Dr. Martin’s position, so English education students will be well-versed in literature AND writing effectively.

I hope you will reconsider the elimination of the Writing and Rhetoric major as well as Dr. Martin’s position. The value Dr. Martin has to a lot of students reaches far beyond what words can describe. Many of us would much rather be asked to live without the extra amenities we’ve been provided with for a while than to see our favorite professors leave. I hope that you will take these letters as a sign that we students are paying attention to the decisions being made and that we care about what you are doing. Thank you for your time.

Mallory Bjork
To the Board: 

This semester is the first time I have had Dr. Martin as a professor.  Being in his Intro to Narrative and Verse class has challenged me to think about my writing in ways I have not before.  I have been able to dig deep into my writing instead of feeling like I was only scratching the surface of what I can do.  Dr. Martin has also challenged me to write about things I have been scared to write about, to go against the norms and what I am comfortable with.  The faith discussions we have in his class are also thought provoking, especially learning to see faith from different perspectives and in different contexts.  

If Dr. Martin's position is eliminated, our English department will lack the unique writing courses that we English majors thrive on.  We will instead become a major that consists of standard English courses, much like a community college.  As a private liberal arts college, we should be known for our English department (and we are), but I fear what will become of it if his position is eliminated.  An already small major may become smaller yet due to prospective students choosing to go to a college with a complete and diverse English department.  

Allison Mulder
Dear Members of the Board,

I’m currently a senior participating in Chicago Semester and graduating in December, so most campus happenings seem very far away. However, one issue that remains very close to me—and fills me with dread—is the elimination of Dr. Martin’s position and the loss of the Writing and Rhetoric major.

From the beginning of my life at Northwestern, the Writing and Rhetoric major has been the curriculum I appreciate most. As an aspiring author, I loved that I was able to pursue and develop my creative interests alongside more academic and professional writing. The writing skills I learned in classes such as Short Fiction or Intro to Narrative and Verse transferred over to all my other areas of study. For example, I took a class on Fantasy writing early on, and struggled to express my imaginings on paper in a way that others could understand.  After several years studying under Dr. Martin and taking other writing classes, I’m now much better at making complex ideas understandable in writing. I was even able to draft a full novel for my Honors Research Project, and craft a presentation on my process. Throughout that project—and many others—Dr. Martin’s feedback, heartfelt encouragement, and support as a mentor has been crucial.

In the next few days, Crossed Genres—a fantasy and science fiction magazine paying professional rates, and a qualifying market for membership in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America organization—will be publishing one of my short stories. It is my first professional sale, and I wrote that story during my time at Northwestern, while immersed in all things Writing and Rhetoric. With luck, dedication, and the skills I’ve developed at college, this will by no means be my last sale. My hope is that I will someday be an author with many short stories and novels in print, and young writers will ask where I went to college, and I will be able to point them to Northwestern with confidence in how much my alma mater values my art and field of study.

If that’s too ambitious (or optimistic) an argument, here’s a humbler one: while I worked as Spectrum’s copy editor during my sophomore and junior years, we staff members poured ourselves into our task—under Dr. Martin’s supervising role—because we wanted to build a stronger community for the writers on campus. Not simply those who want to become authors, but anyone with an interest in writing, in any capacity. We thought about the students beyond our own graduations. We tried to streamline things for the staff members who would come after us. As a writing and rhetoric major at Northwestern, I desperately wanted to strengthen a community for all the students who would come after us. I wanted more of a writing emphasis at Northwestern. Please, don’t deprive future students completely.

I request that you reconsider the elimination of Dr. Martin’s position and the loss of the Writing and Rhetoric major. I may be finishing my time at Northwestern, but this community must be preserved for those who will need it in the future.

Shannon Teske
Members of the Board,

    Hello, my name is Shannon Teske. I am a freshman this year and am an undecided major. This title stresses me out quite a bit though I was glad to know I didn't have to decide right away. However, this decision to drop the writing and rhetoric major is very distressing. I knew nothing of this major before coming here and I am extremely excited to learn about it, knowing it will match my interests well. I am considering majoring in writing and rhetoric once I have taken a few classes next semester, but if the major is being dropped, I have to decide very quickly with little to no knowledge on the topic. This is my current dilemma, but I fail to see why this would be the major to cut. 
    Writing and Rhetoric (to me) seems to be some of the most transferable skills one could ever learn. In a liberal arts college, I would suspect that to be taken very seriously. Writing is an important and beautiful skill that is applicable to nearly every occupation and major. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion, for crying out loud. Why doesn't everyone know this? We learn to write reviews and essays, to defend our views while attentively listening to those of others and understanding what we see in the world around us. This is what I have found Northwestern stresses most in the classes I have taken, so why would this major that fits so perfectly into Northwestern's fundamental beliefs be cut from the college? 
    Granted, I am not a Writing and Rhetoric major, I have never taken any of its classes, and I do not know Dr. Martin. Despite my setbacks, I still believe that this major is extremely important and we would be at a great loss if it were to be removed. As for Dr. Martin, he seems to be an amazing person and a great teacher from what I hear and I was very excited to be taking some of his classes. The idea of no longer having that opportunity depresses me. 
    I am still having a difficult time trying to figure out why it is this major that is to be cut. Does it not tie in and reflect every trait that the Northwestern community claims to be honorable and wise? I cannot imagine that it does not. I think this major and this professor are intrinsically important to this community and this college, despite the fact that they may not be pulling in as much money as the other major fields. I think we would be at a far greater loss than advantage if this major and professor were to be cut from the school. Once again, I have little experience in this area but somehow it is still obvious to me. Perhaps I am biased and unknowledgeable. Perhaps not. That is for you to decide. These are my thoughts for you to interpret.

Lydia Steenhoek
As for Dr. Martin,
In all my years of writing classes (we’re talking from 1st grade on), I really only remember two instructors:  my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Howell, and Dr. Martin.  True, he is my most recent instructor, but I have never seen a single teacher put so much time and effort and thought into the development of his students’ works, and it is this incredible passion for helping others do their best work that makes him so memorable.  I remember the first time I received a paper back in Narrative and Verse my freshman year.  I was absolutely stunned by all the notes in the margins – it had been several years since anyone wrote anything on my paper but ‘check spelling’ or ‘good job.’  Here was commentary on flow, style, metaphor choice, critical questions and incredibly specific praise of my successes.  I have never been so happy to receive a ‘B’ in my entire life.
That, I think, is what makes Dr. Martin special.  He is friendly, and cares deeply about life outside the classroom, but many professors here do that.  What Dr. Martin does is care so deeply about students that he pours his time not just into social niceties, but in serious academic and spiritual discussion, pushing boundaries, setting high standards, and investing his whole self into helping them be the best they can be.  He cares about art, God, and people, and has been an unbelievable influence for my approach to all three.
If we claim to be a Christian liberal arts institution, we need leaders and teachers like Dr. Martin, who are courageous and curious, persevering and playful, harboring both a holy hilarity and deeply empathetic eyes to encounter the pains of the world. We will never build a holistic Kingdom or really change the world if we stick to the studies and practices that are merely practical or safe.  My experience at Northwestern College would not be the same without this incredible professor, nor would my very being.  His loss is a fatal one to the English department and a critical one to the school, and I would urge you with all I have to preserve his position and the major that has meant such a great deal to students.

Carrie Bouwman
The main reason I came to this school was because of the fact that they had a Writing and Rhetoric major. I didn't really want to major in English teaching, and literature is simply not my thing. I've had a passion for creative writing for about as long as I can remember, and being able to work on my skills as a creative writer in classes solely focused on writing and improving your writing has made my life so much better. I hate to think that future students might not get the same experiences that I have.
As for Dr. Martin, he's my adviser and has been since I started school. He's helped me navigate what classes I need to take. I'm a junior this year and if he were to leave, I would have to get a new adviser for my final year. I don't think that's fair. Not to mention, he's a superb teacher. After taking his short fiction class, I saw a great improvement in my story telling. It may not be perfect, but with his encouragement and suggestions I can only get better. I hope that he can stick around for years to continue to inspire and help students of Northwestern. 

Abbie (Goldschmid) Amiotte (’15)
To Whom it May Concern:
As a recent graduate of the Writing and Rhetoric major, I am devastated to learn of the potential end to this major and the removal of Dr. Martin's position. Not only does this major benefit those students who study it, but it is vital to exposing the rest of campus to the benefits of writing, literature, and rhetoric. After serving as a student ambassador, it became clear to me how little the rest of the world outside of my department understood about rhetoric. Potential students as well as my friends around campus often misunderstood rhetoric as an evil form of mind-control. (One parent on a tour actually asked me how a Christian college could possibly teach rhetoric. Without the education from professors including Dr. Martin, I wouldn't have been able to answer her.) Unfortunately, there is very little discussion in gen-ed classes regarding that rhetoric is everywhere and impacts every facet of our lives. Sure, it's in politics and advertising. But it also in church, relationships, news, family communication, everywhere. It matters that students understand what rhetoric is and how it affects our lives in order that we can determine how arguments shape and alter our worldview. Gen-eds don't do this, and writing and rhetoric majors are necessary to explain rhetoric to their fellow students. And the major is necessary for future students to be exposed to rhetoric as well. Without it, young adults may never understand the necessity to think critically in all situations because they lack the understanding of how rhetoric works and how it permeates life. Northwestern prides itself on communal learning; removing the writing and rhetoric major will deprive the rest of campus of a vital learning opportunity. 

As for Dr. Martin and his impact on his students, I feel a bit lost for words. It seems ridiculous to me to need to defend the necessity of an individual whose teaching, mentoring, and friendship changed my entire NWC experience. I only took one class with Dr. Martin; a fiction writing class that utterly terrified me. I like research papers and non-fiction, and prior to entering his class, I had never finished a short story. Through his encouragement and critique, I was able to conquer my fear of writing fiction and ultimately create pieces I am proud of, two of which appeared in last year's Spectrum. But beyond just an educational experience, Dr. Martin challenged me to read and explore authors whose works demonstrate the importance of delving into darker topics through writing as a form of cathartic release. He would send me stories even after my semester in his class was over that he felt might impact my own writing for the better. He took the time to continue to invest in my writing far beyond what was required of him as a professor. And, as my writing is extremely personal, he demonstrated an investment in me as a person. He believes in my ability to produce good work, even when I don't, and as such, he has made me a more courageous writer. I firmly believe we need Christians to write about hard things (in my case, I often chose to write about infertility and miscarriage-issues widely ignored in many Christian circles); Martin also believes in the importance of this calling. He creates writers willing to do this, and without him, Northwestern would certainly lose a vital element in its pursuit of creating faithful and impactful individuals to work for Christ's redeeming work in the world.
Jordan Dykstra (’15)
My name is Jordan Dykstra, and I graduated from NWC last May. It pained me to hear the news early this fall about the writing program and in particular, Dr. Martin.
Last spring, during my last semester, I had an urge to take an elective course of something that would interest me. I approached Dr. Martin about the 300-level short fiction writing course, and he graciously let me into the class. This course put an exclamation point on my education, and I will always carry fond memories of not only an outstanding group of fellow writers (99% of whom were in the writing major), but a truly consummate professional in Dr. Martin.
While I was never a writing major (and much less talented than my peers who were), Dr. Martin instilled a confidence in my writing style and helped find my voice. He gave very detailed feedback, was extremely caring of his students and knew his medium inside and out. It was a class that I looked forward to coming to ever week.
In my opinion, losing Dr. Martin (and a writing major) would be an extreme disservice to the mission of Northwestern and its brand as a liberal arts institution. It's a disservice to higher learning.
Carissa Tavary
Members of the Board,
I think the writing and rhetoric major needs to be saved because of the diversity it adds to the English department. English is such a broad field of study that to get rid of specific degrees, such as Writing and Rhetoric, would be hurtful to the preparation of students for their careers. You cannot generalize English, just as you cannot generalize business or science. Imagine having General Biology, Microbiology, Genetics, and Environmental studies all under a vague Biology major and saying you have adequately prepared Northwestern college students for a career in Laboratory Science? Or for a career in clean energy research? You simply cannot force each of these topics under one name because they are too large and require too specific a curriculum. Such is the way with Writing and Rhetoric. We would be losing vital information and curriculum by combining these majors. Further, Northwestern College’s Vision for Learning reads: “A Northwestern education prepares students to: Engage ideas… [Students] add their voices to the wider conversation through disciplined and imaginative speech, writing, art, and performance.” How can students engage ideas in this wide conversation through imaginative speech and writing if they are being generalized and pushed under a vague field of study? I understand the English degree that would inhabit parts of the Writing and Rhetoric major would be rigorous and challenging, but to the extent that students feel encouraged to pursue their passion? Their gifts? Just as you cannot say all students learn the same or act the same, not all students share the same passions and gifts. They will not be pushed to further these for the kingdom of God if they are not supplied with the necessary tools to explore that interest. 
Trevor Delamater
As a senior, I have taken classes from many great teachers Northwestern, and few have challenged me to give my best like Dr. Martin has. No other professor at Northwestern can match him for pushing me to improve while also inspiring me with confidence in myself and a passion for learning.
I came to Northwestern with a lot of doubts myself, but Dr. Martin's encouragement, both in and out of the classroom, helped me to see myself as someone who could contribute value to the world. Without him, my Northwestern experience would not have caused me to dream boldly about the future.
Budget problems can be rectified with time and wise planning, but Dr. Martin is truly irreplaceable. Please consider how the loss of one of Northwestern's best professors will decrease the quality of education for future students. If Northwestern College sacrifices its excellence in academics and student development, its cost savings are wasted.
Abbey Slattery
To whom it may concern,

Earlier this semester, I, along with the other students in my major, received the news that Dr. Sam Martin’s position would be terminated after this year, and with him, the writing and rhetoric major. I’m writing to ask you, those who can do something about this situation, to please reconsider your choice. Dr. Martin is not only a favorite professor for many students on this campus, some not even in the major, but is also an indispensable member of the English department. If he leaves, so does an entire major. And if that major—my major— leaves, then what reason do I have to stay here? I have come to think of Northwestern as a home away from home. I have made lasting connections and relationships with the people here. I don’t want to have to leave. And I’m sure Dr. Martin doesn’t either. But if Northwestern becomes a place that no longer cares about the writing & rhetoric major and fires the professor that supplies it, then I don’t have much of a choice.  Dr. Martin deserves to stay. He’s a great professor. And if eliminating him eliminates an entire major, how is it logical to make him leave? There has to be a better way of accomplishing whatever “rightsizing” needs to be done without cutting a crucial member of Northwestern’s community out of the picture. By cutting Martin, you’ll be leaving us English students with a severely weakened curriculum. There might not be as many of us as there may be in other majors. Does that mean that our futures and our career paths should be valued less than those who majored in business? I came to this school so that I could experience a specialized writing program that would help me refine my skills. If you get rid of writing & rhetoric, then it would feel to me as if everything the people who are involved with the major have put into this school has just been ignored. I don’t mean to sound harsh or abrasive. I just care so much about the writing & rhetoric program, and Dr. Martin along with it, and I truly, truly believe that cutting both the man and the major is detrimental to the future of the college. I ask that you please remember not only how this cut will affect Dr. Martin’s life here, but also his family’s, and the lives of the students he advises. When—and depending on this decision, if—I say I graduated from Northwestern, I want to be able to say it proudly. Please don’t make the mistake of taking both a job away from a man who truly cares about this school and a major away from students who are passionate about their field of study. C’mon guys. We’re all just humans. There has to be a better way. 

Julia VanDyk
To the board:
I am a junior theater major (PR minor) from Ames, Iowa. When I told people as a high school senior of my decision to attend Northwestern, one of the questions I would most commonly receive in response was “Why didn’t you choose Iowa State?” This response makes sense, given the fact that my father works there, it’s right in my town, and Iowa State has its own successful theater program.
But I chose small, Christian, liberal arts Northwestern.
I came in as a double major in theater and PR, knowing I’d have the opportunity to complete classes in both of those areas along with a rich array of other liberal arts subjects. While I am also affected by the changes in the PR department, my small voice is just one in a sea of voices who will be even more greatly affected by the loss of a significant portion of our liberal arts school.
I am a student ambassador. I speak with prospective students on a regular basis, and I am familiar with many aspects of admissions. I know that while enrollment is down now, it will not be forever. Students are still looking for a place like Northwestern. They are looking for a Christian Writing and Rhetoric major. They are looking for specific things that they cannot get anywhere else, and will not be able to get at all if Northwestern ceases the existence of this major and one of its most important professors.
According to our most recent ambassador meeting, we’ve already had many more prospective visitors and more applications submitted that we usually do at this point in the year. Surely those numbers count for something.
I know these are difficult decisions to make. My intention is not to disregard the board or other affected departments. I am not a Writing and Rhetoric major; I have not yet taken a class with Dr. Martin. But I am looking forward to my class with him in the spring, and I hope my small voice may join that of the sea: past, present, and future students.

Thank you.

Lisa Bouwman
I was thrilled when Northwestern began offering the Writing and Rhetoric major during my time there. Although I had a love for reading and literature, my true passion was writing. The professors in the department and that time, primarily Joanna Trapp and Carl Vandermuelen (who have since moved on from Northwestern), were my absolute favorite teachers and taught the most meaningful and valuable classes I took while I attended. In particular, the classes on rhetoric impacted and helped me more as a young professional adult than my inexperienced college self could ever have predicted. The studies on rhetoric and writing together taught me not just how other people wrote (like my literature classes tended to do) but how to express my own opinion effectively. Since the primary form of communication in businesses is email, the ability to express what I wanted or needed in written form and in convincing manner that appealed to my given audience, contributed greatly to my success. Fifteen years later, I still use those skills every day.
When my niece, Carrie Bouwman, told me she was going to Northwestern and taking this same major, I could not have been more excited. Now she has informed me that the program is in serious danger of being cut. The study of the classics and the honing of writing are two of the most valuable skills a college student could graduate with and use to express themselves in the world. Don’t make the mistake of believing that students interested in these types of programs will settle for an English major instead. They are not and should not be considered to be an equal subject of study. I would implore any decision makers at Northwestern to reconsider cutting this program.

If you would like to contact me, I would be happy to discuss this in more detail or answer any questions. I can be reached at

Theresa Larrabee
Martin is honestly one of the most engaging professors I've had. He made me excited to do work for his class. When I've taken his classes I've always felt valued as an individual, and he really encourages original, honest work. Sometimes in academic settings, creativity can be lost or pushed aside, but he always wanted us to strive for our own voices. I think he's one of the only professors I've ever sought out outside of class to get his opinion on my work and ask questions. And he's just so good at his job! He really knows what he's talking about and he makes class fun. I never dreaded going to his class, even when it was a night class.