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Majors of the Month: Lisa Tolles and Lisa Vang

Creative writing minors edited and published a literary magazine of high school students' work
December 21, 2016

English majors Lisa Tolles and Lisa Vang

English majors Lisa Tolles and Lisa Vang
English majors Lisa Tolles and Lisa Vang

Year and hometown:

Lisa Tolles: Senior from Madison, Wisconsin

Lisa Vang: Senior from Minneapolis

"Last year, I was involved in Eric Daigre’s
Community Learning Internships course.
I tutored and co-taught at PYC Arts &
Technology High School. For our end-
of-the-year project, Lisa T. and I decided
to make a digital literary magazine that
consisted of various creative work from
the students."
                                         - Lisa Vang

Why did you choose to major in English?

Tolles: I chose to major in English because I've always loved to read and write. I realized every class that sounded interesting to me was in the English department.

Vang: Initially, I was a biology major at UMD, but after thinking it over, I thought I was best suited for graphic design. Subsequently, I transferred here to the Twin Cities campus. I thought graphic design was really fun and interesting, but I felt there was something missing in my life. I didn’t feel satisfied. After a long round of contemplating my future, I finally settled down in English. I was always more of a writer than I was a science enthusiast or graphic designer.

Are you pursuing any minors, internships, or fields of interest outside your English major? How do you feel they interact with or enhance your study of English and/or your career plans?

Tolles: I am pursuing a minor in Creative Writing, which obviously goes really well with my English major. It's enhanced my writing a lot, academically and creatively.

Vang: I have a minor in Creative Writing. Last year, I was involved in Eric Daigre’s ENGL 3505 Community Learning Internships course, a year-long class that combined community-based learning with in-class, academic analysis. For the class I tutored and co-taught at PYC Arts & Technology High School. It really opened my mind to the world of education and teaching, but I find that I would like pursue a career that entails a lot of writing and editing. My minor in creative writing helped me toward my initial aspiration for the publishing/editorial field.

You both took Daigre's Community Learning Internships class and collaborated together on a final project, a student literary magazine, at PYC high school. Could you describe how that came about?

Vang: I was first interested in PYC Arts & Technology High School because it was a school that focused on art. Being a huge art enthusiast, I couldn’t help but want to tutor there. My first semester at PYC was pretty difficult, because it was rare for me to be able to tutor the students, and I was moved around from class to class. It was hard to build a connection with the students when I was pretty much nomadic. The second semester was much, much better. I had students who would come to me for help. I was able to tutor many students and stand beside the teacher to assist lessons. 

Tolles: I tutored at PYC, sometimes one-on-one with students and sometimes with groups in class. The publication came about when Lisa and I wanted to team up for our final project in Eric's class. We both wanted to do something creative, and it was well known that everyone's favorite class at PYC was creative writing.

Vang: For our end-of-the-year project, Lisa T. and I decided to make a digital literary magazine that consisted of various creative work from the students. I worked closely with the English teacher at PYC to make this happen, as she was the one who provided me with students’ works. Lisa T. transcribed and edited many of the pieces. I edited some as well, but my primary role was to design and produce the magazine. After I went through several blueprints, Panther Magazine (Panthers are PYC’s mascot) was finally created. I presented Panther Magazine to the English teacher, and she loved it. Sometime later, I was contacted by PYC’s communication manager, and she told me she wanted to publish the magazine. She asked if I was willing to take part in this and work along aside a graphic designer. I agreed, and that was how Panther Magazine was printed and published. The magazine was given to every graduating student as a parting gift.

Tolles: It was fun for me to act as an editor and get to work so closely with the poems and stories of a lot of kids I got to know!

What has been your favorite part of your experience in the department?

Tolles: My favorite part of my experience has definitely been being on the Ivory Tower staff. It's become a huge part of my life.

Vang: I enjoy everything about the department, from something as little as the weekly, informative emails to the phenomenal professors, the amazing courses offered, and the fact that I have honed many of my skills because of the department.

What English course would you recommend for majors? For non-majors who want to take an English class?

Tolles: The English course I would recommend for majors is definitely Ivory Tower, for non-majors I think an intro creative writing course is fun and interesting.

Vang: I recommend all the creative writing courses for every major in the University. Not only it is fun to step out of academic writing (i.e., research, reports, etc.), but it also opens your mind to a whole new world of writing. I would also recommend that every major take a Shakespeare course. His works and Shakespeare himself as a person influence so many things that it would be hard not to indulge!

What is something about the English department that most people wouldn’t know?

Tolles: The department offers writing workshops as senior seminar options too!

Vang: I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been asked if I would become a teacher or if the English department only offers education courses. The English department offers a variety of courses about literature, education, internships, writing, history, and many, many more topics.