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Three ELWS Alumni study Writing in Graduate School

Red Cross Club for American Nurses in London, the Writing Room. Photo, American National Red Cross Photograph Collection, 1918. //
August 26, 2019

Three recent ELWS alumni have completed their graduate study in Writing.  Joe Labernik, Brilynn Janckila, and Jacob Schornak have stories to tell.

Joseph Labernik will begin an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Southern Mississippi this fall. After graduating with a BA as an English major and Writing Studies minor, Joe spent several years working as a professional writer. He first served as a sports reporter in Virginia, Minnesota and most recently spent over two years as a news reporter in Utica, New York.

If he had advice for students, it would be to pursue an ELWS major with intention.

“I worried I wouldn’t be able to apply the skills I was learning in my major in the work force. From my experience, there are numerous instances in any work place that demand the rounded, elastic thinking an ELWS major teaches. If you are interested in the material and classes in your major, pursuing them with fervor will serve you better than excessively worrying about their application.”


Brilynn Janckila has completed her MA in Rhetoric and Writing through the English Department at St. Cloud State University. Brilynn, who graduated from UMD with a BA in Writing Studies and a minor in history, has worked on a theoretical examination of teenage girl online culture in her program, while teaching first-year writing. According to Brilynn, she chose this because the interests of young girls in America are regularly invalidated and insulted, so she wanted to examine what a group of teenage girls were doing online in a space dedicated to their interests. She is currently applying her professional writing degrees as a legal technician in St. Cloud and will be presenting her thesis, titled “Boys Will Be Boys, Girls Will Be Not Like Other Girls: A Symbolic Convergence Theory Examination of ‘Other Girls,’” at the Midwest Pop Culture Association conference in October. If she had advice for students, it would be to pursue a major you want.

“As someone who majored in ELWS, and then pursued my MA in writing, I was often told to enjoy my career at McDonald’s once I was done with school. I know a lot of people tend to turn away from humanities-based majors because they don’t think they’ll have a career, but honestly, you have way more career options than you are led to believe. ELWS, and other majors in the humanities, teach competencies in research, analysis, written and oral communication, argument, critical thinking, and more, that can be applied in a wide variety of fields. Don’t let the wrongful devaluation of the humanities make you second guess your major.”


Jacob Schornak graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from Augsburg University. Jacob completed a thesis in two parts. First, a novel: “The world hasn’t done enough to stop global warming and because of it, sea levels rise, droughts cover most of the world, and people migrate in order to survive. As all of this is occurring, a virus wipes across the world that kills 3/4 of the world’s population! The story follows several characters who are trying to understand what happened and move forward while dealing with both personal and global loss.” Second, J completed “an academic portion which focuses on the alteration of words in post-apocalyptic and dystopian novels and how it affects our understanding of the world presented in the novels.” Jacob is excited to begin new work.

For more information about the ELWS programs, visit