Meet Our Staff
Welcome, students! We are here to help you improve your scholarly writing and to help you continuously develop these skills throughout your time here at Walden. Each member of our team contributes in a unique way to the many services that we offer. Read our bios below to learn more about our backgrounds, interests, and best advice on writing!
Anne (Torkelson) Shiell, Writing Instructor
Before joining Walden's Writing Center staff, I taught composition courses at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), and before that I worked in public relations, internal communications, and journalism. As part of my prior work, I participated in a Now, Discover Your Strengths assessment. One of my top strengths is called the strength of "Input," which applies to curious people who continually collect things and information. What this strength means is that I enjoy research and the process of gathering knowledge. It also means that I'm a borderline hoarder (though I'm trying to combat this instinct via organizational tips on Pinterest). I am also a "Learner," someone who needs challenges and learning opportunities to be happy. Working in higher education is, as you can tell, a great fit for me.
When time allows, I love going through a piece of writing line by line, making sure each sentence is as clear and concise as possible. I'm also a bit of a punctuation geek. Nothing bugs me more than improper punctuation in published novels, like when characters exclaim—rather than ask—a question (e.g., Doesn't that bug you too!). I love, however, when creative writers effectively bend the rules, a la Cormac McCarthy's lack of dialogue quotation marks in The Road.
I have a bachelor's degree in English and religion from St. Olaf College and a master's degree in English from UMD. I grew up in Minnesota but I explore new places whenever I can. In my free time you'll often find me reading or planning my next travel adventure.
Beth Oyler, Writing Instructor & Coordinator of Webinar Writing Instruction
I am proud to be a midwestern girl, born and bred. I completed my undergraduate degree in English with a minor in Women's Studies at Viterbo University in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Although I currently reside in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I've continued my love of the Green Bay Packers (trust me, they're awesome!). Along with working at Walden's Writing Center, I am also pursuing my master's degree in English at the University of St. Thomas here in the Twin Cities.
My reading preferences are varied. I often find myself picking up a memoir or biography. At the momement, I am finishing Catherine the Great, a biography of one of Russia's empresses. I also just finished Tina Fey's Bossypants, as well as expanding my horizons with The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson; just a heads up--it will make you a bit paranoid. I'm a curious person by nature, though, and nonfiction books like these allow me to learn more about the world around me.
One of my favorit aspects of working with Walden students feeds into my curiosity; we at the Writing Center are able to read such a variety of student papers! I am constantly fascinated by the research Walden's students are completing and where their interests are; I am always learning from the papers that I review. Walden students are also so willing to learn. I love to work with a student on the same draft multiple times, seeing the student's improvement in each draft. The best advice a professor gave me during my undergraduate education was to focus on making my thesis statement as clear as possible. Once I have a solid thesis, I always feel like the rest of my paper is much easier to manage.
Beth created and refined content for numerous sections of the website, including the Plagiarism and Academic Integrity and Turnitin pages, Revising and Avoiding Bias pages, In-Text Citation pages, and Microsoft Writing resources. She has also helped to create and present multiple webinars, including "Using and Crediting Sources in APA." Beth continues to assist in the development of the website as part of the web committee.
Brittany Kallman Arneson, Writing Instructor
I grew up in Northfield, Minnesota, a small college town about an hour south of Minneapolis. My hippie parents deprived me of television, making me a curiosity among my elementary school classmates. As I grew up, however, I came to value the extra time I had to be creative and explore the world. Now, as an adult, I love to read fiction, read and occasionally write poetry, tool around town either in my running shoes or on my bike, and hunt through antique stores in foreign cities. I'm an Anglophile and a Francophile, and would split my time between London and Paris if I didn't love Minnesota so much. I also sing in the National Lutheran Choir, along with my husband, Bjorn. Yes, we sound like something out of a Garrison Keillor monologue, and we like it that way.
I graduated from Luther College with a B.A. in English, and recently earned an M.A. in English from the University of St. Thomas. I'm a total nerd who loves academic writing, so I find it fascinating to work with other scholars as they navigate the writing process. I believe language is incredibly powerful: it has the ability to connect people to each other, to their environment, and to their place in the world. This means writing papers is more than just a necessary means to an end. Paying attention to the nitty-gritty details of grammar, punctuation, and APA style in a paper increases its ability to effectively enact social change, which is the part of Walden's mission I most admire.
The biggest issue I've worked through in my own writing is procrastination. There was a time when I would leave writing a paper until the last possible minute, barely squeezing in ahead of the deadline. The result was adequate writing, but not my best work, and I started to wonder what I could produce if I actually put in some solid hours. It wasn't until it came time to write my senior thesis for my B.A. that I was forced to work ahead, take time between writing sessions to let my ideas process, and move back and forth between writing and research. I was amazed at the result! My ideas deepened and evolved and were carefully thought-through. Now, I know I have to start a paper well ahead of time in order to produce those "aha" moments. They're addicting, and the best medicine for procrastination.
Carey Little Brown, Dissertation Editor
Carey Little Brown came to the Writing Center in 2012 with an academic background in linguistics and more than a decade of experience as the lead editor of an academic editorial firm, where she edited hundreds of graduate-level manuscripts. Prior to becoming a professional editor, Carey spent several years as a research and teaching assistant in linguistics and English, as well as a composition and creative writing tutor. As an editor, she focuses on helping students master APA style, avoid common grammatical errors, and use concise language to develop compelling written work. Carey’s personal interests include writing creative nonfiction, cooking, and keeping up with her two young children.
Deanna Laing, Dissertation Editor
Dissertation editor Deanna Laing developed her professional expertise during a 20-year career within the scientific and medical publishing community in Philadelphia. Her background includes all editorial aspects of journal publication as well as developing certification examinations for physicians and freelance writing for diverse clients. She holds a bachelor's degree in French from the University of Kansas. Deanna is a certified Editor in the Life Sciences (ELS).
Hillary Wentworth, Writing Instructor & Coordinator of Undergraduate Writing Initiatives
Born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, I migrated to Minneapolis with the Village People's "Go West" screaming from the tape deck. In between those two points, I studied creative writing at the University of New Hampshire, the Salt Institute, and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, earning my MFA in 2008. My reading interests are varied—from graphic novels and mysteries to literary fiction, memoir, and history. In my own writing, I tend to spend a lot of time swirling the ideas around in my head before I compose the first draft. In fact, I have been known to play many a game of Spider Solitaire while gathering my thoughts. The key is not to let this "think time" turn into 4 or 5 hours. Eventually you've got to just do it! Walden students inspire me to think about my actions and the effect I'm having on the world. I enjoy building relationships with the students I tutor as they pursue their passions.
Hillary has contributed to numerous pages of the website, including Citing Legal Material and How to Cite Web Material, as well as developed the video "Revising for Academic Success." Additionally, she has created and produced many webinars, including "Beginnings and Endings," which focuses on helping students develop introductions and conclusions. Hillary is also responsible for managing the Writing Center blog, editing and posting content.
Jamie Patterson, Dissertation Editor & Coordinator of Writing Center Residency Support and Design
Jamie Patterson holds a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Kansas and a master's degree in language and literature from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. As an editor, Jamie enjoys teaching the finer points of APA and helping writers to become effective self-editors.
Jamie served as the Writing Center webmaster from 2009 to mid-2010 and was instrumental in migrating the Writing Center's web content from inside.waldenu.edu to its new home at writingcenter.waldenu.edu. She led the design and content development of the Writing Center's current website and can be acknowledge for many of the resources now available to Walden students through this dynamic website. Jamie continues to play a role in the site's development as a member of the website committee.
Jen Johnson, Dissertation Editor
Editor Jen Johnson has been with the Walden Writing Center since February 2007. She holds a bachelor's degree in English and Anthropology from Kansas State University, a master's degree in English from Iowa State University, and a master of fine arts degree in Literary Nonfiction from the University of Minnesota. As a writer and former writing instructor, she has a particular interest in helping students craft well-written doctoral research, from the sentence level up.
Jonah Charney-Sirott, Writing Instructor
After three years in Midwest, I’m back in my home state of California, now with an MFA in Creative Writing courtesy of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. At Walden, my goals are to help students write to the best of their abilities and to provide the type of assistance that not only can fix a sentence, but make it shine. When I’m not tutoring in the Writing Center, I’m brainstorming ways to build secret hiding places into my furniture. Not that I have anything to hide.
Julia Cox, Writing Instructor
Although I am a native of Birmingham, Alabama, I have spent my last five years in Atlanta, Georgia. Here, I earned my BA and MA in English from Emory University, where I focused my work on 20th-century American literature. My master's thesis addressed modernism in the folklore of Zora Neale Hurston. At Walden, my favorite part of being a writing tutor is developing relatable and at times ridiculous metaphors about writing—i.e. oversalting with commas or building the perfect hamburger paragraph. I'm excited to bring these ideas to Walden students, while helping them discover their own writing process and how to make writing meaningful, rather than just another chore. In my spare time, I indulge my caffeine addition, consume questionable internet media, and research potential dog breeds.
Kayla Skarbakka, Writing Instructor & Coordinator of International Writing Instruction and Support
I’ve lived the majority of my life in the Minneapolis area, where I attended Augsburg College and earned a dual degree in English: creative writing (emphasis in poetry) and literature, language, and theory. In 2010, I moved to Cusco, Peru on a one-way ticket (try explaining that one to your parents!). There, I earned my certificate in teaching English as a foreign language before moving to Viña del Mar, Chile, where I taught English to some of the cutest preschoolers the world has ever seen. I’ve been a tutor in the Walden Writing Center since the spring of 2011.
While I’ll always be a Minnesota girl at heart, I’m currently located in Dallas, Texas. In my spare time, I keep busy teaching myself to write prose, exploring Texas, appreciating air conditioning, and attempting to train my bearded collie (with mixed results).
In my own writing (both creative and academic), I've always struggled with being simple, direct, and concise. I'm just always off on tangents—especially when I'm trying to be clever! That's why the best writing advice I've ever received is to "cut my gems." No matter how pretty, unique, elegant, or smart a word or phrase sounds, if it doesn't earn its place in a paper (or story or poem), it has to go. It can be terribly difficult! But following this advice can really help strengthen a piece of writing.
Walden students inspire me with their drive to pursue their educational and career goals. I'm very happy to be able to help them get where they want to go!
Kelly Chermack, Dissertation Editor
Kelly Chermack joined the Writing Center in 2012, with a PhD in Sociology from the University of Minnesota. She specializes in organization theory, workplace policy, and research methodology. As an editor, Kelly focuses on research methods and the presentation of data and results.
Kevin Schwandt, Dissertation Editor & Coordinator of Capstone Writing Initiatives
Editor Kevin Schwandt joined the Walden writing center in 2009. Kevin completed his PhD in Musicology at the University of Minnesota in 2010, after receiving a Master's in Music Composition from U-Mass, Amherst, and B.A. in English and Music from Hamline.
Lydia Lunning, Dissertation Editor
Lydia Lunning joined the Writing Center in 2012, with a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Minnesota, a bachelor’s from Oberlin College, and years of experience teaching writing at the college level. In addition, she has worked as a freelance editor and as part of the editorial staff at Cricket Magazine Group. Her interests include literature for children and young adults, writing pedagogy, contemporary cinema, and cooking. Prior to becoming part of the editor team at Walden University, Lydia’s exploits included starring in a colleague’s self-produced original musical and attempting to start a breakfast taco truck in Seattle, WA.
Matt Smith, Writing Instructor & Coordinator of Graduate Writing Initiatives
I live in Minneapolis, and I received a BA in English from Saint John's University in Collegeville, MN (yes, the town is really, officially, legally named Collegeville), and I'm currently finishing up an MFA in Writing from Hamline University in Saint Paul. I read and write fiction, mostly, though I also dabble in nonfiction and screenplays.
As a writer, the best piece of advice I've ever received—the one that I can't help but turn over and over in my mind like a smooth old quarter—is simply to write. Write as much as you practically can, even when you don’t want to, even when you know beyond a doubt that you're not writing anything that's any good. (You’re usually wrong, and, even when you're not, you can always revise.) As with any skill, from speedskating to knitting, you improve with practice. It's at once paradoxical and commonsensical, but it's true: you get better at writing by writing.
Of course, this advice is also infuriatingly difficult to follow. Often I spend as much time procrastinating as I do writing—suddenly, before I have a chance to sit down in front of a Word document, I discover that the ice-cube trays in the freezer need refilling or that my DVD collection demands alphabetical organization. Eventually, though, I'll drag myself to the keyboard and get something done. This aversion is, I think, the highest obstacle in writing, one that everyone, anywhere, writing anything, has to vault. When reviewing student work, I tend to ask many guiding, prodding (and hopefully not entirely annoying) questions specifically to address this issue, because questions from your readers encourage you to think about what else you can do with your writing and—I fervently hope—persuade you to sit down, despite your doubts, and put some words on a page.
Nathan Sacks, Writing Instructor
I was born and raised in Ames, IA, a town mostly famous for Iowa State University, as well as the Republican straw poll that happens every 4-8 years. I have a bachelor's degree in English with departmental honors from Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, IA, and an MA in English Language in Literature from NYU. My graduate thesis was about Norman Mailer's novel Harlot's Ghost and the history of the CIA. I graduated from NYU in May 2012, and moved to Minneapolis not long after.
In addition to being an academic writing tutor, I also consider myself a children's book author (published—more on that later), a music blogger, a political activist, and a guitar player of at least intermediate-plus skills. I have been a voracious reader since I was very young, and diversity in subject matter has always been essential to my reading habits. If I am not reading four or five different books at the same time, then chances are my brain has been switched (likely with someone with a superior attention span). I like to divide my time equally between fiction, nonfiction, journalism and reportage, plays and screenplays, experimental and avant-garde writing, and comic books. Right now for instance, I am reading The Drop Edge of Yonder by Rudy Wurlitzer, a psychedelic western novel. In addition, I am a voracious consumer of movies and popular music. My enthusiasm for rap music in particular helped me secure a book-writing gig covering the history of the genre, in a slim tome titled American Hip-Hop: Rappers, DJs, and Hard Beats. At the time of this writing, this book sits at #1,188,434 on the Amazon best sellers rank, and is, in my extraordinarily biased opinion, an excellent gift for any young budding music obsessive in your life. I also plan to publish a new children’s book (this time fiction) in late 2013.
Like many of my fellow tutors, I am a congenital humanities type of person, which is why one of the things I like most about the Writing Center is the breadth of subject matter I get to read about daily: business and economics, science, nursing, and hospital administration, among other topics. Learning about such diverse topics allows me to get outside of my aesthetic literary bubble to see how great writing can manifest on any theme, no matter how boring or technical the subject may seem on paper. I sincerely believe in the social utility of writing and its power to unite people of different classes, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Consequently, nothing makes me happier than knowing that my feedback has helped a student improve his or her writing for the better.
Nikolas Nadeau, Writing Instructor
Like my colleague Matt Smith, I attended Saint John's University (SJU) in Collegeville, MN with a degree in English. Among my favorite memories, I recall one winter night when my friends and I walked across the frozen Lake Sagatagan to reach Stella Maris, a small chapel built by Saint John's Abbey monk in 1872.
Upon graduating college I received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) grant to South Korea, which is also my country of birth. My favorite memories from that year include camping next to the ocean, making chocolate chip cookies with my 11-year-old host brother, and eating octopus soup on a Friday night (my host father had been craving it for weeks). Afterward I moved to Seoul and was reunited with my Korean birth mother, with whom I still keep in regular contact.
After spending a year back in Minnesota, I moved to Boston and now spend my free time reading, speed skating, and writing about Asian American topics. I love all things grammar-related and enjoy reading the fiction by John Green, Junot Diaz, and An Na. Working with Walden students is a pleasure, and I look forward to learning more each time I read a submitted paper.
Paul Lai, Dissertation Editor
Paul Lai joined Walden's editing team in 2011 after teaching college English for 10 years. He has also worked in academic publishing and as an editor for scholarly journal issues and literary magazines. Paul received his B.A. from Yale University and an M.A. in English from UNC Chapel Hill. He is currently pursuing a master's in library and information science at St. Catherine University with an interest in exploring how dogs can be incorporated into library services. His dog is Giles.
Rachel Grammer, Writing Instructor
Having grown up in Illinois, I moved to the Twin Cities for college, where I pursued my B.A. in English-Writing. After graduating, I did what every college graduate should do: I moved to Turkey and participated in a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship. My biggest accomplishment: Teaching my Turkish students how to read and write in IPA (the International Phonetic Alphabet).
While I dabble in creative writing and enjoy playing some jazz on my saxophone, I love to spend my free time with people and sometimes (confession) watching people. Stories intrigue me, whether written or lived out. I love discovering the social interests of Walden students and hearing the stories that shine through their writing.
Though I have seen uncountable red marks and comments on my papers, the best advice I have ever received was to turn off the "internal editor" in order to begin a paper. This is difficult, since even at the grocery store the "10 items or less" signs always bother me (they should say "10 items or fewer"), but I have learned that the best way to start writing is to simply write. Though I naturally want to correct every grammatical mistake I see, I have learned that sometimes taking a step back is the best course of action. Then later I can dive into the grammar and maybe write a letter of complaint to those grocery stores...
Rachel has contributed to many Prewriting resources, including Brainstorming and Writer's Block. She has also added to the annotated bibliography and citation variation pages.
Sarah Matthey, Dissertation Editor
Sarah Matthey received her bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota in English and her master's degree from the University of St. Thomas, also in English. As an editor, she focuses on grammar, scholarly voice, APA formatting, and thesis statements.
Sarah Prince, Writing Instructor & Coordinator of Embedded Writing Support and Design
Although I was born in Ohio, the place I have always called home is Covington, Georgia. As any Covington resident will gladly tell you, this sleepy southern town happens to be the location where the first four seasons of The Dukes of Hazaard were filmed. Consequently, many of my childhood days were spent in clichéd southern fashion: drinking limeades from the local drug store and watching the General Lee circle the old town square.
In 2000, I moved to Clinton, South Carolina, earning my B.A. in English from Presbyterian College in 2004. Now back in my home state, I currently live and work in Atlanta, Georgia. Nearing completion of my tenure as a graduate student at Emory University, I am writing the last chapters of my doctoral dissertation in Women's Studies. My dissertation, which charts patterns of female friendship in contemporary women’s novels, stems from my absolute love of female fiction. From Austen to Atwood, I enjoy exploring the different conceptions of self and human relationships that each new author creates. In addition, getting lost in the narratives of various characters' lives provides me with an excellent excuse to avoid my own writing!
In addition to making my guilty reading pleasure a legitimate academic project, these fictional relationships have also provided me with a way to conceptualize my own connection to my writing. In my mind, all writers' relationships to their work are very similar to the kinds of human relationships I analyze in my dissertation. Like the various connections between people, writers experience a range of different relationships with their individual writings. Some of these relationships are passionate, some are frustrating, some are edifying, and some are fraught with anxiety. True of all of these writing relationships, however, is their power to develop and transform the writer. Indeed, each word, each sentence, and each paragraph written has the potential to deepen one’s understanding of the self and the surrounding world.
In my position as a Walden writing tutor, I am continually reminded of this lesson, as I read students' aspirations to better themselves and to affect positive social change in their communities. My favorite thing about working with Walden students is helping them to develop the confidence, clarity, and unique critical voice it takes to become effective and articulate scholarly writers.
Tim McIndoo, Dissertation Editor
Editor Tim McIndoo came to Walden University in 2007 with over 30 years of editorial experience (medicine, science and technology, fiction), including work as translator and photographer (photojournalism and fine-art). In 2001 he earned a Master of Liberal Studies (University of Minnesota) with a concentration in medical ethics, followed by a short stint in a doctoral program in the history of medicine. Before entering graduate school, Tim worked an acquisitions editor for over 6 years at Hazelden Publishing (Center City, MN), where he discovered and developed manuscripts on mental health topics. In 1995 he wrote Today I will do one thing: daily readings for awareness and hope, which has sold over 44,000 copies and has been translated into German, Spanish, and Mainland Chinese. Tim lives in Minneapolis with three cats and two rock/conifer gardens.
Tobias Ball, Dissertation Editor & Coordinator of Developmental Editing
Editor Tobias Ball earned a B.A. degree in Classical and Near Eastern Studies from the Univeristy of Minnesota, an M.St. from Oxford University in England in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, with a focus on Religions in Antinquity, and an M.L.I.S. from Dominican University. His interests include the history of printing, early books and manuscripts, and access to information as is it relates to academic research. If you look hard enough you will find his published poetry.