Meet the New Grad Students

img_7144.jpgRachel Wrobel (left), Taylee Helms (middle), and Stacy Vars (right).

Name: Rachel Wrobel
Hometown: Overland Park
Alma mater: Kansas State University
Area of study: Composition and Rhetoric
If you could transform briefly into a literary character (other than a member of the Harry Potter universe), who would you want to become?
I would turn into Lady Macbeth so I could prevent the tragedy by using my logic and reasoning to recognize that maybe my husband doesn’t need to murder a whole gaggle of people to be king but could just wait it out. That, and I would sign her up for some therapy.
What song would you want to magically play every time you walk into a room?
“Space Jam” because I wanna jam and who doesn’t get hyped every time that song plays?
What book would give us the most insight into your personality?
You Are Special by Max Lucado. It is a children’s book, but it really speaks to my personality because of the message of loving everyone for who they are regardless of what others say or think about them.
What are you passionate about besides literature?
I believe music exists to express what words cannot, and I have always found it fascinating how a song can inspire some emotions within us that we maybe didn’t even know existed.

Name: Taylee Helms
Hometown: Wamego
Alma mater: Kansas State University
Area of study: Medieval and Renaissance Literature
Please tell us something interesting/unique about you:
I’m originally from California but was transplanted to Kansas in 2009 when I was in middle school.
If you could transform briefly into a literary character (other than a member of the Harry Potter universe), who would you want to become?
Cordelia from King Lear because she stuck true to herself even though it resulted in her being disowned and losing everything that her family had to offer.
What song would you want to magically play every time you walk into a room?
“Back in Black” by AC/DC because it makes me feel cool.
What are you passionate about besides literature?
Biodiversity and conservation because I love our planet and life on it. Animals (sharks in particular) have always fascinated me. Conservation has always been  important to me because of climate change, and I feel it is our responsibility as the “most intelligent species” to do what we can to conserve and protect the environment as much as we possibly can.

Name: Stacy Vars
Hometown: Angels Camp, California, but I call Manhattan home.
Alma mater: Kansas State University
Area of study: Creative Writing
What song would you want to magically play every time you walk into a room?
The “Doctor Who” theme song. It makes me smile when I hear it.
What book would give us the most insight into your personality?
Pollyanna. I try to find something positive in every situation.


IMG_7122Sydney Matheis (left) and Adrianna Gordey (right).

Name: Adrianna Gordey
Hometown: Overland Park, Kansas
Alma mater: Kansas State University
Area of study: Creative writing
Please tell us something interesting/unique about you:
I strongly dislike pigeons.
If you could transform briefly into a literary character (other than a member of the Harry Potter universe), who would you want to become?
I would love to transform into Nina Zenik, a character in Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse. She is a strong-willed, independent, and sassy spy who is able to sense the dead and manipulate human bones as she wishes.
What book would give us the most insight into your personality?
I would give people Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun. It’s a YA novel about two twins trying to cope with their mother’s death so they can find their way back to each other and start living again. One of my favorite quotes from the book goes, “We were all heading for each other on a collision course, no matter what. Maybe some people are just meant to be in the same story.” This book reminds me that even in the darkest periods of life there are ways we can learn from the past and use those lessons to live more intentionally. 
What are you passionate about besides literature?
I am passionate about traveling, advocating for first-generation student awareness, animals (mostly dogs), working with college students, and spending time/energy on my loved ones.


IMG_7166Mawi Sonna (left) and Katherine Dubke (right).

Name: Mawi (pronounced Moy) Sonna
Hometown: Kansas City
Alma mater: Kansas State University
Area of study: Creative Writing
Please tell us something interesting/unique about you:
I always save my fortune cookie fortunes and pick up pennies.
If you could transform briefly into a literary character (other than a member of the Harry Potter universe), who would you want to become?
I would be a Huntress of Artemis from the Percy Jackson series. I’d get to travel the world with an amazing group of women, have demi-god qualities, be at the peak of my physical and emotional health, and most importantly I would be able to figure out who I am without the consequence of time.
What song would you want to magically play every time you walk into a room?
“Rebels” by Ivy Adara. It’s nostalgic and savors youth. It makes me feel like everything is going to be okay, and to not take myself so seriously all the time. Plus, it’s still relatable in other ways. My favorite lyrics are “We got no plans/ Recklessly follow the sunset dreamin’ ” (which could be a good or bad thing).
What book would give us the most insight into your personality?
The Empty Pot by Demi: It was one of the first books I loved as a child for many reasons. I love the art and flowers on every page. Ping’s persistence, kindness, and honesty towards his friends and family, the Emperor, and his work are some of the qualities I hope to reflect. I don’t really care about becoming emperor or being the best, but I am a firm believer in working hard and that things will work out for our good, but only if we allow ourselves to believe that.
What are you passionate about besides literature?
I love working with kids because even though their lives look much simpler to us adults, they teach me daily about being human. And I’m really just a big kid. I love mac and cheese and chicken nuggets as much as the next four-year-old. They’re smarter than they look and funnier than they realize. I’m also really passionate about finding the best deals, especially in clearance sections—they’re win-wins for me. Also, I journal every morning. Finding unique or textured books or things of that nature is super fun, even if I don’t *technically* need more.

Name: Katherine Dubke
Hometown: Red Bluff, California
Alma mater: Concordia University Irvine
Area of study: Poetry and children’s literature
Please tell us something interesting/unique about you:
Though I get cold easily and have yet to experience a TRUE winter, I love winter sports and spent many a Friday ice skating and downhill skiing near Mt. Shasta in California.
If you could transform briefly into a literary character (other than a member of the Harry Potter universe), who would you want to become?
Peter Pan! I never really wanted to grow up and I have always wished I could fly.
What song would you want to magically play every time you walk into a room?
Howard Shore’s “Concerning Hobbits” from Lord of the Rings. What can I say? I am a Hobbit at heart and live for second breakfast and adventures.
What book would give us the most insight into your personality?
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society — it is a book written in an epistolary style with the main character, Juliet Ashton (already an established author), discovering and connecting with a book society on the island of Guernsey. I like to think that Juliet’s personality, her conversational writing style, and her approach to life are similar to my own. She finds the magical in the mundane, which is what I aim to do.
What are you passionate about besides literature?
Music is such a gift! I was almost a music major during my undergrad years because of how much I love singing and listening to music. Through song – specifically through choir – I first learned to love poetry, connected with some of my best friends, and it is how I praise my Maker.


IMG_7271Name: Dylan Holt
Hometown: Liberal, Kansas
Alma mater: Kansas State University
Area of study: Creative Writing
Please tell us something interesting/unique about you:
I moonlight as a musician. Being named after Bob Dylan was perhaps what sent me down a predestined path of composing and writing my own music in a similar folk-adjacent vein.
If you could transform briefly into a literary character (other than a member of the Harry Potter universe), who would you want to become?
Kvothe Kingkiller from the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. Kvothe is a prodigious musician and practitioner of sympathetic magic as well as a general smartass who can whip up a solution to any problem. He can also talk to the wind: who wouldn’t want to be able to do that?
What book would give us the most insight into your personality?
Hero with a Thousand Faces is the foremost piece of literature that has shaped my world view. My personality is eclectic and constantly shifting to meet the demand of the environment it finds itself in, much like the myths of the world. But the bedrock of who I am lies in the story I choose to tell myself.
What are you passionate about besides literature?
Songs, stories, and spirituality are my truest passions. Each of them informs the others.  Through these things I connect with what it means to be human and present in my own life.


IMG_7178Caitlin Hymans (from left),  Maggie Cody (middle), and Rachel Schaller (right).

Name: Caitlin Hymans
Hometown: Boca Raton, Florida
Alma mater: University of Florida
Area of study: Children’s literature
Please tell us something interesting/unique about you:
I play the flute, piccolo, piano, harp, and violin.
If you could transform briefly into a literary character (other than a member of the Harry Potter universe), who would you want to become?
I would transform into Catherine, who would become the infamous Queen of Hearts, from the novel Heartless by Marissa Meyer (an adaption and sort of prequel to Alice in Wonderland). This novel is interesting because it follows the corruption of an adolescent’s innocence and the adolescent’s resistance to that corruption. Even though she knows what lies ahead in her future, a life of responsibility and chaos instead of innocence and whimsy, Catherine’s resilience to the very end is inspiring.
What song would you want to magically play every time you walk into a room?
“Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” by Tchaikovsky because it’s deceivingly simple; it’s majestic and innocent, yet also retains a mischievous quality. I believe the characteristics of the piece—the complexity behind the simplicity-—describe my personality and outlook on life perfectly.
What book would give us the most insight into your personality?
Definitely Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland. I love the whimsy and the absurdity of Wonderland and how the nonsense of Wonderland still seems to make sense. In essence, I very much relate to Alice’s enthusiastic pursuit of logic in a topsy-turvy world.
What are you passionate about besides literature?
I am passionate about all things music related. Music speaks to the soul and allows us to form connections with people that we otherwise wouldn’t; to me, music is a universally saving grace.

Name: Margaret “Maggie” Cody
Hometown: Cookville, Tennessee
Alma mater: Tennessee Technological University
Areas of study: Rhetoric & Composition, Technical Writing
Please tell us something interesting/unique about you:
I love adventure. There is a story behind my bucket list.
What song would you want to magically play every time you walk into a room?
“Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. It is a timeless anthem of the common person.
What book would give us the most insight into your personality?
The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau. I aim to live a life like this.
What are you passionate about besides literature?
I’m passionate about living a life intentionally doing things that make me uncomfortable and challenging myself to become physically and emotionally resilient. Right now I am tackling training for a half-marathon despite being the world’s worst runner.

Name: Rachel Schaller

Hometown: Detroit
Alma mater: Hope College
Area of study: Children’s Literature, especially realism in YA
If you could transform briefly into a literary character (other than a member of the Harry Potter universe), who would you want to become?
I would like to be Winn-Dixie from Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie for a while because it would be simple and relaxing.  It would be a nice time. I would also be safe from death in a world where that is not a given for dogs in children’s literature.
What song would you want to magically play every time you walk into a room?
It would be nice to hear Studio Ghibli soundtracks all the time.
What book would give us the most insight into your personality?
Get your torches and pitchforks ready. I actually like The Catcher in the Rye. Holden is kind of going through a lot just then. Give him a little slack.
What are you passionate about besides literature?
I wanted to be a entomologist as a child, but science isn’t my strong suit. I wouldn’t call myself PASSIONATE about insects, but I think they are neat—especially grasshoppers, katydids, and cicadas. I found a cicada on the way back home today and held it. It made me happy.


IMG_7146Monica Kopenhaver.

IMG_7140Amy Levin (left) and Alyssa Freeman-Moser (right).

Name: Amy Levin
Hometown: Manhattan, KS
Alma mater: University of Kansas
Area of study: Composition and Rhetoric
Please tell us something interesting/unique about you:
 I speak French, and I’m working on learning German.
If you could transform briefly into a literary character (other than a member of the Harry Potter universe), who would you want to become?
I would transform into Piscine “Pi” Molitor Patel from Life of Pi by Yann Martel. If I were Pi, I would either be on a fantastic adventure or have a very creative mind.
What song would you want to magically play every time you walk into a room?
“Raspberry Beret” by Prince. I have definitely “walked in through the out door.”
What book would give us the most insight into your personality?
This was such a hard question to answer, so I took a Buzzfeed quiz on which book matches my personality. The result was Fifty Shades of Grey. I mean, I read and Anastasia Steele also reads, but the similarities end there. It’s safe to say that my personality is the opposite of this book: well written, decidedly tame, and humorous.
What are you passionate about besides literature?
I am passionate about French cuisine because I adore garlic herb butter, the magic of croissants, and baked Mont d’Or cheese. Knitting is another way I enjoy spending my time because it’s so satisfying to create new items from just a few balls of yarn. My wine blog became a passion of mine last year as it combines my love of writing stories with travel, food, and drink.

Name: Alyssa Freeman-Moser

Hometown: Washington, DC
Alma mater: BA: LaGrange College, MA: Johns Hopkins
Area of study: Creative Writing
Please tell us something interesting/unique about you: 
I’ve got a hammock in my apartment. You can sit in it if you promise to pet my dog. He’s into that.
If you could transform briefly into a literary character (other than a member of the Harry Potter universe), who would you want to become?
Circe from Circe (just had this convo with some GTAs the other day!) by Madeline Miller. I be doing spells, y’all. She hooks up with other gods and Odysseus. She can breath under water. What’s not to love (other than banishment, isolation, depression and anger)?
What song would you want to magically play every time you walk into a room?
“Strange Magic” by ELO. I like that it’s not putting its finger on what’s cool about somebody, but I feel like I know exactly what they mean. Magnetism. I like my art abstract, maybe. I’ll be more analytical in the classroom.
What book would give us the most insight into your personality?
 Julius by Daphne Du Maurier is my favorite book of all time. Julius is a sociopathic sonofabitch, but Du Maurier does such a fabulous job of charting his feelings and development. It’s not that I want to chuck my cat over a bridge so no one else can love her if I can’t, it’s that Julius represents some of my baser instincts that I work to overcome. My ambition could mean that I do anything, including ignore my family, to make more money. I could manipulate people to get my way, but I try not to. Perhaps this book came at an existential time in my life in order to illustrate cause and effect. I dunno.
What are you passionate about besides literature?
I’m really into food. I’m not necessarily a good cook, but I like to think about cooking. For example, I have subscribed to NYT Cooking for over a year and have only used a couple of the recipes, but I read the new recipes and blog every day. I like the idea that variety is out there, especially when my full time gig was getting to me before I moved to Kansas.


IMG_7151Name: Natasha Muhametzyanova (above)
Hometown: Turkmenabat, Turkmenistan
Alma mater: West Liberty University
Area of study: Creative Writing
Please tell us something interesting/unique about you:
I never take my Christmas decorations down before Jan. 15.
If you could transform briefly into a literary character (other than a member of the Harry Potter universe), who would you want to become?
I would transform into Robert Langdon from The Da Vinci Code to feel the thrill of uncovering centuries-old mysteries. I love history and puzzles, so Dan Brown’s world would be a perfect adventure (minus all the murders of course).
What song would you want to magically play every time you walk into a room?
Michael Bublé’s “Sway” for no particular reason other than that I really love this song and often listen to it on repeat. Often this song does play when I walk into a room—it’s just nobody but me gets to hear it.
What book would give us the most insight into your personality?
It would be The Little Prince. My mom has always been quoting that book, so it became a part of my DNA. It’s set in a desert, which reminds me of home, and much like the characters in the book, I am always searching for something, but I haven’t quite figured out what that something is.
What are you passionate about besides literature?
I love chess! I played competitively in high school and hope to do that again at some point. For me, playing chess is both calming and thrilling, and it makes my brain work like nothing else.


IMG_7116

Nick Sammartino.


IMG_7150Laura Ward (left) and Cecily Cecil (right).

Name: Cecily Cecil
Hometown: Fergus Falls, Minnesota
Alma mater: Minnesota State University—Moorhead
Please tell us something interesting/unique about you:
I studied abroad in Japan at Kanda University of International Studies and was there in 2011 during the big earthquake and tsunami.
If you could transform briefly into a literary character (other than a member of the Harry Potter universe), who would you want to become?
Ada Monroe from Cold Mountain because I admire her independence, strength, and ability to adapt and persevere during the most difficult of situations.
What song would you want to magically play every time you walk into a room?
“As Time Goes By” because “Casablanca” is my favorite movie and was also the theme of my wedding last year.
What book would give us the most insight into your personality?
To Kill a Mockingbird. I grew up in a small town with my father and my brother. My brother and I were always best friends, and we would run around the neighborhood and play with the neighbor kids. I feel a connection to this book in terms of family relationship and small town life.
What are you passionate about besides literature?
Music because it has always been a major part of my home life. I have an Associate in Fine Arts degree in music, and I love listening to almost every kind of music.

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