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Creative writing is being nurtured at CSC

April 30, 2016

Dr. Steve Coughlin, assistant professor of English at Chadron State College, shown here during a poetry reading in Ohio, will be a faculty member  of the Story Catcher Summer Writing Workshop and Festival June12-14. (Photo courtesy Brian Kellett) Dr. Steve Coughlin, assistant professor of English at Chadron State College, shown here during a poetry reading in Ohio, will be a faculty member of the Story Catcher Summer Writing Workshop and Festival June12-14. (Photo courtesy Brian Kellett)

CHADRON – There’s a writing renaissance going on at Chadron State College, particularly in its English program.

To wit, “Tenth Street Miscellany,” a student-produced journal, has been reimagined this semester, students are showing more interest in programs that are writing intensive, and the English department is hoping to add creative writing as a minor in CSC’s next academic catalog.

“I’m really seeing a lot of energy and interest on campus about writing,” said Dr. Steve Coughlin, an assistant professor in the English and Humanities department.

Coughlin should know. He interacts with several CSC student writers daily during his creative writing courses and he’s also around them during extracurricular activities, serving as faculty adviser for Sigma Tau Delta, CSC’s honorary English group, and “Tenth Street Miscellany.”

“Tenth Street Miscellany” was published annually by the English department for several years but submissions started to dwindle a few years ago. Following its absence, Coughlin and a group of students chose to resurrect the journal and more than 40 original pieces were submitted. In 2015, “Tenth Street Miscellany” was published online but this semester Coughlin said the editors will also publish a physical copy.

“We are looking at a model where we’ll print biennially and update the website annually,” Coughlin said. “Creative writing is growing and I think that’s showing with how many students and faculty and staff are submitting their writing.”

The success of “Tenth Street Miscellany” has been encouraging, but Coughlin is also hoping the Distinguished Writer Series can build on its recent momentum. In early April, novelist Kent Meyers read to a packed house in the Chicoine Atrium of the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center.

“We really had an incredible success with Kent Meyers’ reading,” he said. “Things like the Distinguished Writer Series create an opportunity for us to grow arts through literature.”

Coughlin and Professor Dr. Matt Evertson, in conjunction with the Mari Sandoz Heritage Society and CSC, will also host the Story Catcher Writing Workshop and Festival, June 9-12. The Story Catcher festival will have a workshop June 9-10 for advanced writers at Fort Robinson before hosting a general workshop on campus June 11-12.

Coughlin and other members of the English faculty are pleased to see more students interested in writing. It reaffirms the value of a liberal arts education and creative expression that the English and Humanities department has strived to establish.

“Students get an outlet when they write. We all communicate in different ways and there is a desire for creative communication. It’s my job as a professor to help students meet those goals. Liberal arts are at the heart of it because we all have a desire to understand who we are in a complicated world and creative writing helps negotiate that head on. English and Humanities are difficult to assess but they give us a quality of life. We wouldn’t be anywhere without the humanities.”

Adding to that quality of life is a set of communication skills CSC faculty help students develop.

“We prepare our students with composition and creative writing skills,” he said. “Composition students are given a skillset to succeed in an academic setting. It prepares students to write for college situations. Creative writing invites students into an active conversation about literature. It’s a living, breathing thing. The humanities are a chain and this is another link in it. The other great thing about creative writing is how empowering it can be because it offers a workshop environment. That offers support and helps students gain confidence because students have their peers thinking about them as an artist and are taken seriously. That’s a very powerful thing and it doesn’t get much better than that. That’s high impact learning.”

—Alex Helmbrecht, Director of College Relations

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