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Alumni Spotlight

Profile of One of Our Graduates

KVeachName:  Kristi Veach-Ross
Major, Minor:  English (Creative Writing), Sociology
Year Graduated:  2017
Job Now:  Executive Assistant and Communications Manager of the Shepherd University Foundation

What have you been up to since graduation? During my junior year at Shepherd I met my wife, and we moved to Martinsburg, West Virginia. Immediately after graduation I worked at Target/Starbucks where I found that despite being an incredible introvert, I enjoyed customer service. Looking for a full-time position, I started in the admissions office at Shepherd where my career in higher education began. A couple years later while pursuing my graduate degree, I had the amazing opportunity to teach a class at Shepherd. This has been one of the most challenging and rewarding positions I have held. Throughout the semester I grew as a professional, and I knew for certain that I wanted to support students during their academic journeys. I completed my masters in the College Student Development and Administration program at Shepherd.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? My job has a lot of moving parts, and I’m constantly learning something new. I work with an experienced team who have helped me navigate my role. I work closely with our scholar and donor stories, showcasing the impact that giving has at Shepherd. I have also learned a great deal about social media, event planning, and scholarships. In this role, I get to combine my love of writing with my passion for helping others. In every job I’ve held, the one consistent is that people are often looking for someone to listen to their story, and that’s now what I get to do. Ultimately, the best part of my job is seeing the dedication of the Shepherd community. I’ve been a student at Shepherd for a while, and now, every day, I watch how committed our donors, alumni, staff, faculty, and friends are to the success of students like me.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? In my current job, I love working at our events and watching the efforts we’ve put in all year come together. Before my current role, I spent the summer of 2021 working for the College for Kids summer camp at Hagerstown Community College. I was a judge in a “Is Snape a good guy or bad guy?” debate, a magical door in a Harry Potter scavenger hunt, and less-than-helpful kitchen support for a culinary camp. This job was an absolute delight, and I’m very thankful to have held it.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job?  The faculty in this program are unbelievably supportive. Throughout my undergraduate career, I changed my future plans countless times, and there was always a class or opportunity for me to try to see if this was the path for me. I learned about magazine writing, short stories, and digital literacy while growing as a writer and learner. I received feedback on my writing that I follow to this day. I received encouragement on taking chances and networking that has helped me get to where I am professionally. This program built up both my skills and my confidence, and while I’m not sure where exactly I want to go next with my education, I know I’m not finished learning and writing.  
What advice would you give current students? Don’t be afraid to try something outside of your comfort zone, especially if you’re like me and that zone is very small. Take the weird elective (after consulting with your advisor), go to the late-night event, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. The biggest mistake you can make is not being true to yourself, and this is the perfect time to determine who you want that person to be.

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January 2023

Katie Quinnelly PicName:  Katie Quinnelly
Major, Minor:  English (Creative Writing), Psychology
Year Graduated:  2017
Job Now:  Stay-at-Home Mom/Writer

What have you been up to since graduation?  I’m currently living in the state of Morelos in Mexico with my husband and three children. My oldest, Josephine, was born in 2020 during the pandemic while I was in Flagstaff, Arizona finishing my MFA in poetry at Northern Arizona University. If you’re curious about the pandemic post-partum experience, I wrote some prose poems about it, which were picked up by Lammergeier Magazine. My second, Laura, was born in 2021, and my third, Oscar, was born earlier this year, both here in Mexico. In 2017, just after I graduated from Shepherd, my chapbook, Sparrow Pie, was selected by Eggtooth Editions as the winner of their annual contest and was published the following year. The editors very kindly flew me out to Flagstaff to present my chapbook at the Northern Arizona Book Festival, where I had an interview with Thin Air Magazine, saw a cactus for the first time, and met the faculty of the MFA program at Northern Arizona University. After finishing my MFA, I applied to and was accepted to the Ph.D. program in poetry at the University of Southern Mississippi, but I deferred and eventually abandoned the program in favor of staying in Mexico to raise a family. I hope to later revisit the prospect. I write a lot and publish a little these days. Ghost City Press published my prose piece “Blood Moon” earlier this year. I make good soup. I’m happy.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? Well, as a stay-at-home mom in Mexico, learning the Spanish language and Mexican customs has been really neat. I do a lot of shopping in the market. I love to see the freedom the Mexican people have, even in a grocery run. I prefer flies and meat hooks in the open air over the fluorescent lights and Clorox of the almighty Walmart.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? I sing a lot of Pete Seeger to the kids while they fall asleep, and one of my favorites is “To Everything There Is a Season.” The sentiments in that song apply to my writing practice perfectly. I find that with writing, there is a time to write, and there is a time to collect material. I’ve been a sponge since I left Shepherd. It has been like one long favorite moment. It has all been memorable. One of these days, maybe I will wake up to a David Byrne moment, and I will look around and ask, “Well, how did I get here?” Perhaps then I will find a superlative moment.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? I could gush for pages about the Shepherd faculty. I certainly wouldn’t be half the writer I am today without them. Dr. Hanrahan bestowed on me the awesome power of critical theory, and post-graduation, she spent weeks with me editing an essay I wrote on Emily Dickinson to be suitable for MFA applications, and she has always been willing to write letters of recommendation on my behalf. Dr. Messenger has been more than a professor to me over the years; she is a good friend. Dr. Pate is still my greatest influence for writing. I just got a copy of his latest, Mineral Planet, which miraculously shipped to Mexico, though letters from my mom always get lost. Every professor I had at Shepherd contributed to my current manner of reading, writing, learning, and teaching.
What advice would you give current students? I cannot sit and reminisce on my time at Shepherd without thinking of Shepherdstown’s celebration of Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday party in 2019. Like any good poet, I will steal some words to pass along, rather than writing something new. Here is Walt Whitman’s “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer”:

Whitman Verse from KQ

Finally, my advice: attend your lectures, but be sure to wander off sometimes.

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