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English Department
First Floor, Wendell Phillips Center
Amy Smith
Department Chair
College of the Pacific

Success Stories

The Department of English is proud of the hundreds of living alumni who have their degree in English from University of the Pacific. Take a look at where some of them have taken their English degrees since they graduated from Pacific.

Matt de la Pena '96


Matt de la Pena

A former Pacific basketball player and reluctant reader, Matt graduated from Pacific in 1996 and went on to obtain his MFA from San Diego State University. His first young adult novel, Ball Don't Lie, was published in 2005, and became the basis for the film of the same name in 2011. Matt is the author of five young adult novels including Ball Don't Lie, Mexican WhiteBoy, I Will Save You, We Were Here, and The Living. He is also the author of two books for children, and he has also published short fiction and essays in various newspapers and literary journals, including: The New York Times, NPR.org, The Writer, Pacific Review, One Teen Story, The Vincent Brothers Review, Chiricú, George Mason Review, and Allegheny Literary Review.

In 2012, Matt returned to Pacific as the keynote speaker for Latino Heritage Month and spoke about how a self-professed "reluctant reader from the wrong side of the tracks" became an accomplished writer. He returned to Pacific in 2014 to further discuss the need for diverse voices in young adult literature. In 2013, Matt published a moving essay on NPR.org that touched on his experiences at Pacific. For more information on Matt and his novels, please visit www.mattdelapena.com.

Ross Freeden


While many students choose to study abroad for a semester or year, English major Ross Freeden chose the wilderness. He spent his fall 2007 semester taking the Rockies course offered by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), a non-profit organization that teaches outdoor leadership and skills. He was able to earn credits toward his degree, but more importantly, Ross claims, "It was by far a life-changing experience for me and something that I will remember forever.” He shares his insights below.

"Nature has become the ultimate novel. It is rich with plots and sub-plots, conflict, symbolism, and character. Like a great novel that never ends, each new journey into the wilderness offers a new chapter, a new chance to learn and grow." 


Tarn Painter-MacArthur '09

Graduate Teaching Fellow

Tarn Painter-MacArthur, a 2009 alumnus of the Eberhardt School of
 Business, spent much of his last two years at Pacific studying English, more specifically, poetry. Tarn first began writing poetry in
 Professor Camille Norton’s Introduction to Poetry Workshop, and in
 his final semester completed an independent research project with her in poetics and writing.

Since graduating, Tarn has
 spent time traveling, living, writing and working throughout Latin
 America (Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina), China and
 Thailand. “This time abroad has proved invaluable to both my growth as 
a person and a poet,” said Tarn.

Tarn’s work has appeared in literary magazines, including: The Columbia Review, Willows Wept Review, Blue Earth
 Review, and has been anthologized in Leonard Cohen: You’re Our Man.
 His poem “To the Winter Woods” has been nominated for The Best of 
the Net Anthology (2010), which will be announced at the end of April 2011.

More recently, Tarn has been accepted to the University of Oregon’s MFA program, where he will be a Graduate Teaching Fellow. Tarn is extremely excited at the prospect of studying at
 such a prestigious program, and looks forward to the challenges he 
will face over the next two years.

Faye Snowden '03

Telecommunications Manager

I’ve been in Information Technology my entire working life and now hold the position of Telecommunications Manager in the university’s Office of Information Technology. Enrolling in the College of Pacific’s English program allowed me to explore possibilities in writing that I had not considered.

My most recent novel, Fatal Justice (Kensington 2005, 2006), was actually inspired by a creative writing class in poetry that I attended at Pacific.

Small class sizes and professors passionate about the art of teaching produce an environment where students are encouraged to express ideas and discover new ones. Incredibly, I had professors who took such an interest in me as a student that they helped me find ways to pursue writing outside the classroom. Having graduated from the program, I feel more prepared than ever for a continued career in writing and the masters program I’m attending now.

Mara Title '04

Air Force Broadcaster

My British Authors professor, Dr. Camille Norton, recognized my love for language and literature, and prompted me to consider changing my major to English. I’m glad she did. I remember how shocked I was when she told the class we could use the word, “I,” in our papers—something unthinkable in high school. It was my first experience of truly claiming my own thoughts and ideas in my writing. I had to stand behind my words that were suddenly thrust out into the open, which came in handy when I joined the forensics (debate) team. I had to listen to criticism from the other students, and rely on my own convictions to make a point.

In high school, I used wordy, unnecessarily long sentences to sound more intelligent. Naturally, I carried this with me into college. Sophomore year, my English professor at Pacific told me that although I had some provocative ideas, they became lost in a sea of confusing babble. He handed me a book that helped me focus my thoughts into cleaner, tighter sentences. I would write a paragraph, and then go back and cut out any excessive wording—like cleaning out the junk in a closet. It was difficult when I realized I couldn’t hide behind stuff and fluff anymore, especially when I had to read my papers aloud to the class. But over time I began to enjoy these sessions where we exchanged ideas, because I always gained a wider perspective on any given topic.

As a broadcaster in the Air Force, the scripts I write have to be clear, concise, and creative—precisely what I learned at Pacific. Some might say that English classes, as well as other classes in the Humanities, aren’t very, “hands-on,” and that with the onset of technology, these degrees are becoming less and less important. I would argue that the ability to convey thoughts and ideas is crucial in any profession, and the confidence I gained at Pacific led to an almost seamless transition into the Air Force.