Long before I entered the English M.A. program at K-State, I carried around many thoughts about meaning and purpose. Having grown up in a small town with a large farming family and a deeply rooted church, I couldn’t imagine going through life thinking that most things didn’t matter. I was also a grammar nerd. So…maybe I wasn’t the most happy-go-lucky kid out there, but I was always up for a deep conversation!
After college, making the move to K-State for grad school in 2004 was for sure the best decision of my life. (I don’t feel bad saying that, because I wouldn’t have met my husband if I hadn’t moved to Kansas!) The day I visited campus for the first time, I met Greg Eiselein, Karin Westman, and Dave Smit – a triad of excellent people. The day I started the teaching assistant practicum, I became fast friends with Anna Goins and began learning from Phillip Marzluf. (Yes, I’m name-dropping on purpose. I absolutely loved being around the warmth and friendship of these and many more in the program.)
With some experience writing for two small-town newspapers during my undergrad years, I knew that the Rhetoric and Composition track was right for me. Each time I met with my major professor Irene Ward about my upcoming Master’s Project, I ended up talking about civil discourse and community engagement. I had read Bowling Alone and was bothered by the ongoing loss of clubs and organizations that bind communities together. Dr. Ward kept telling me I wasn’t there yet – that I needed to keep narrowing my focus! I eventually wrote a modest project about a political initiative in Colorado that failed in part because of insightful letters to the editor and op-eds in the Denver Post (back in the day when newspapers carried more influence). It was a case study in community engagement through written persuasion in a public forum.
Fast-forwarding a bit…I graduated from K-State and married my husband in 2006, and we started our family in 2008. I ran a direct-sales jewelry business for several years before I took the leap into starting my custom clothing business, The Sharpsuiter. While my communication and teaching background allowed me to market my businesses confidently, it’s fair to say my writing skills were on the back burner. I grew in entrepreneurship, sales, and customer service — no small project for a seasoned introvert.
Then in 2021, one of my suit clients ran for mayor. I wrote a letter to the editor in support of his candidacy. Then I agreed to become his volunteer comms person and helped craft the messaging around his campaign while coordinating and editing letters from others. After the election, a friend of mine who is a local political consultant asked if I’d like to keep doing that type of work. Since then, I’ve been navigating two gigs, running my suit business while writing and editing pieces that shape some of the nonpartisan initiatives in local politics. I was also recently recruited onto the campaign team of my state senator, who is running for re-election this year. So my journey as a quiet grammar nerd has been a full-circle experience.
My time at K-State was instrumental in helping me recognize my passion for healthy civic discourse. In any small way, I hope to contribute some reasonableness to our increasingly polarized political climate. It’s been an ongoing adventure, and I will forever be thankful for my years in the K-State English Department.
— Alana McGough (MA ’06)