Co-Founders & Foundational Team of Inspirators

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Amy Jo Sayre Baptista, MFA, Co-Founder

Amy is an author and recipient of numerous awards for her poetry and fiction, which have appeared in The Best Small Fictions, Ninth Letter, The Butter, and Alaska Quarterly Review, among others.  


Her collection, Primitivity, is a Black River Competition Winner (Black Lawrence Press, 2019). A SAFTA fellow, a CantoMundo Poetry fellow, and a fiction scholarship recipient to the Disquiet Literary Festival in Lisbon, Portugal, Amy has performed her work at various venues including The Poetry Foundation in Chicago and the St Louis BookFest. 


She is also a performer with Kale Soup for the Soul, a Portuguese-American artist’s collective, a contributing editor at Quiddity, and a co-founder of Plates & Poetry, a community arts program focused on food and writing.  


She holds an MFA in Fiction from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, has taught at Benedictine University as well as in a variety of outreach venues, and she currently teaches Humanities at WGU.

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Joanna Beth Tweedy, PhD, Co-Founder

An ardent foreign-adventurist with chronic and gravitational home-soil leanings, Joanna Beth is the founding editor and host of Quiddity (NPR Illinois).  


She serves as the lead writing faculty at the Center for Values-Driven Leadership and as a contributing facilitator for Plates & Poetry.  She teaches at WGU. Joanna Beth has presented widely throughout the United States and internationally on her research interests, which include flourishing, leadership, publishing, linguistic dialects, and writing. 


Publications include a novel and two book-length works on creative poiesis and leadership from (respectively) Southeast Missouri University Press, Benedictine University, and the University of Delhi; poems and short stories; as well as chapters and articles in journals related to leadership and creative craft.  


With degrees in values-driven leadership (PhD), English (MA), and education (BS), Joanna Beth has served as faculty-in-residence at the University of Illinois, an Associate Professor of Arts & Letters, and a Dean of Academic Affairs at Benedictine University. She lives and loves in a foothilled fraction of the Ozarks steeped in the wonders of nature and the blessings of generations. 

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Foundational Collaborative Inspirators

Confluence's Team of Collaborative Inspirators (featured below) is comprised of individuals whose initiatives and accomplishments distinguish them in the work of manifesting keen understanding and/or broader perspectives across time, culture, distance, encounters, perceptions, or combinations thereof.  


 These inspirators—and inspired, inspiring individuals like them the world over—are foundational to giving rise and voice to a flourishing human experience.

Inspirator (n.)—proof positive that everything is possible... Everything.

Collaborative Inspirators

A.D. Carson, PhD, Performance Artist Fellow & Faculty

Roshaunda Cade, PhD, Education Innovation Fellow & Faculty

A.D. Carson, PhD, Performance Artist Fellow & Faculty

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A.D. is a performance artist and the first Assistant Professor of Hip-Hop and the Global South at the University of Virginia.  He earned a PhD in Rhetoric, Communication, and Information Design at Clemson University. His work focuses on race, literature, history,  and rhetorical performances. A 2016 recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for Excellence in Service, A.D.'s dissertation, “Owning My Masters: The Rhetorics of Rhymes &  Revolutions,” is a digital archive that has received accolades and honors from around the globe.

Mark Kriger, PhD, Wisdom & Love Fellow

Roshaunda Cade, PhD, Education Innovation Fellow & Faculty

A.D. Carson, PhD, Performance Artist Fellow & Faculty

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 Mark is Professor Emeritus of Strategic Leadership at the Norwegian Business School in Oslo.  He has a doctorate from Harvard University in business administration as well as master degrees in computer science and philosophy from the University of California at Berkeley and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, respectively.  He is the author of numerous articles in the areas of  strategic leadership, emotional intelligence, strategy process, and strategic vision.  Mark has conducted executive development seminars on emotional intelligence, strategy process and leadership in India, China, Norway, Sweden, France, Lithuania and various cities  throughout Canada and the United States.  Mark's current projects center on the intersection of the studies of love and wisdom. He is the Founder of Delphi Consulting and a poet.     

Roshaunda Cade, PhD, Education Innovation Fellow & Faculty

Roshaunda Cade, PhD, Education Innovation Fellow & Faculty

Jacquelyn Woodard, MBA, Finance Innovation Fellow & Scholar-in-Residence

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Roshaunda is an executive coach, the founder of Life, Education, Literature, & Arts  (LELA) House, and an education innovator. She believes learning is collaborative: We all have something to teach; we all have something to learn. With a PhD in English from St. Louis University, Roshaunda has led a number of large-scale initiatives in innovative university settings through inspiring and developing the people in those environments. Recognizing that education and art are transformative, she created LELA House as a way to care for educators and creatives who want to discover their next steps. LELA House is a space for coaching and community, learning and becoming, inspiration and transformation.  Roshaunda enjoys pushing her creative boundaries, and she speaks and teaches on a variety of inspirational and writing topics. 

Jacquelyn Woodard, MBA, Finance Innovation Fellow & Scholar-in-Residence

Jacquelyn Woodard, MBA, Finance Innovation Fellow & Scholar-in-Residence

Jacquelyn Woodard, MBA, Finance Innovation Fellow & Scholar-in-Residence

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 With over 25 years in the financial services sector, Jackie's experience spans multiple facets of the commercial banking sector. Prior to joining CIT, Jackie was a Senior Vice President and Operations Executive at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, a Senior Vice President with Citizens Financial Group, and a Management Consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers. She an MBA from Harvard Business School, a BSBA from Florida A&M University, and is a PhD candidate in leadership from Benedictine University, studying values-driven leaders.

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, International Writers Fellow & Faculty

Jacquelyn Woodard, MBA, Finance Innovation Fellow & Scholar-in-Residence

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, International Writers Fellow & Faculty

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 Photographer and writer Orlando Luis was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1971. Trained as a molecular biochemist at Havana University and the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, he is the author of five books of fiction and is also a columnist for Diario de Cuba (Madrid), El Nacional (Caracas) and Sampsonia Way Magazine.  As an editor, he has compiled two anthologies of contemporary Cuban fiction translated into English. He is webmaster for the blogs Lunes de Post-Revolución and Boring Home Utopics, and he has worked for the cultural magazine Extramuros as well as several independent Cuban digital magazines, including Cacharro(s), The Revolution Evening Post, and Voces.

Orlando came into conflict with the Cuban government in 2009 when he attempted to publish a censored work. He was arrested on three occasions and prevented from leaving the island by Castro’s secret police. Finally allowed to leave Cuba following the advent of migratory reforms launched by the government of Raul Castro, he entered the U.S., where he was a guest writer of the City of Asylum Project site in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Later, he organized País de Píxeles, the first independent photodocumentary festival in Cuba—and his photographic work was profiled by David González of The New York Times.  

J. "Gus" Gustafson, PhD, Servant Leadership Fellow

Jacquelyn Woodard, MBA, Finance Innovation Fellow & Scholar-in-Residence

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, International Writers Fellow & Faculty

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The Dean of Awaken University & Chief Learning Officer at Tuthill Corporation, Gus is also a core faculty at Benedictine University.  He is Chair of the International Leadership Association's Business Leadership Division and former Editor-in-Chief of the Organization Development Journal, currently serving on the editorial boards of the Journal of Leadership Studies and the International Journal of Servant-Leadership. He consults and speaks globally on a variety of leadership topics. 

Lee Murphy, PhD, Healthcare Innovation Fellow

Traci Brimhall, PhD, Creative Writing Fellow & Faculty

Lee Murphy, PhD, Healthcare Innovation Fellow

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Lee is the founder and CEO of Inspera Health, a transformative company that focuses on improving the health of those living with multiple chronic conditions.  Having spent over three decades innovating in the health improvement and employee benefits industries, for the past 20 years, Lee has focused on building businesses that improves the health of those living with multiple chronic conditions.  Lee believes in the human capacity for change, in the innate desire for better health, and the power of engaged participation.  A long-time triathlete and marathon runner, he holds a PhD in Values Driven Leadership from Benedictine University. 

Kevin Hall, MA, Interpersonal Exchange Fellow

Traci Brimhall, PhD, Creative Writing Fellow & Faculty

Lee Murphy, PhD, Healthcare Innovation Fellow

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Kevin teaches Professional Leadership and Communication in the College of Health Professions at Western Governors University. He has helped adult learners experience spaces of self-discovery and mindfulness as they reflect on their own journey. The founder of the GoodSpace Collective, Kevin helps individuals develop greater awareness and intentionality around connection. He is pursuing an EdD in Organizational Leadership and is passionate about encouraging and inspiring others to make the necessary and meaningful changes that will allow them to flourish.

Traci Brimhall, PhD, Creative Writing Fellow & Faculty

Traci Brimhall, PhD, Creative Writing Fellow & Faculty

Traci Brimhall, PhD, Creative Writing Fellow & Faculty

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Traci is the author of four collections of poetry: Saudade (Copper Canyon Press); Our Lady of the Ruins (W.W. Norton), winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize; and Rookery (Southern Illinois University Press), winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award.  Her next collection—a hybrid of essays and poems, Come the Slumberless from the Land of Nod—is forthcoming from Copper Canyon in 2020. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The Believer, The New Republic, Orion, and Best American Poetry 2013 & 2014.  She’s received fellowships from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and the National Endowment for the Arts.  She is the Director of Creative Writing at Kansas State University and lives in Manhattan, Kansas.

Robert Campbell, MSLS & MFA, Poetry Fellow & Faculty

Kimberly Sebastian, PhD, Social & Emotional Intelligence Fellow

Traci Brimhall, PhD, Creative Writing Fellow & Faculty

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Robert Campbell is a queer poet living and writing in rural Kentucky. He is the author of In the Herald of Improbable Misfortunes (Etchings Press, 2018), and his poetry and criticism have appeared in Columbia Poetry Review, Arts & Letters, Los Angeles Review, The  Adroit Journal, Ninth Letter, River Styx, Tupelo Quarterly, Asheville  Poetry Review, River Styx, Barrow Street, Slice Magazine, Zone 3,  Nashville Review, and many other journals. A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, he holds  an MFA in creative writing from Murray State University and an MS in library science from the University of Kentucky. He lives with his  husband and animals on a winding country road with  a great wealth of goats, trees, and old barns.

Kimberly Sebastian, PhD, Social & Emotional Intelligence Fellow

Kimberly Sebastian, PhD, Social & Emotional Intelligence Fellow

Kimberly Sebastian, PhD, Social & Emotional Intelligence Fellow

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 Kimberly is a Manager of Graduate Studies Program Faculty at Western Governors University. Kimberly is certified in Emotional Intelligence through Multi-Health Systems and has a Graduate Certification in Executive and Professional Coaching from University of Texas at Dallas. Kimberly has dedicated her career to engaging and helping to elevate others to create best-in-class consistent experiences. Kimberly’s passion and mission in life is to help others reach beyond their comfort zone to achieve their full potential.

Joe Ricciardi, PhD, Command Philosophy & Love Fellow

Kimberly Sebastian, PhD, Social & Emotional Intelligence Fellow

Kimberly Sebastian, PhD, Social & Emotional Intelligence Fellow

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Joe is the Chief Operating Officer at RESCON, a leading mitigation and disaster repair company. He was recently promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in the United States Army Reserve and is a decorated veteran who has served nearly three decades in uniform. Professionally, he has extensive experience in supply chain management, sales and analytics. He is a serial entrepreneur that spent several years owning and managing restaurants in the Chicagoland area. In addition to his PhD in Values Driven Leadership from Benedictine University, Joe holds a BS in economics from the United States Military Academy, West Point; an MBA from Purdue University; and a master degree in Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College.

Shannon Brown, PhD, Sense & Synthesis Host & Fellow

Michael Chikeleze, PhD, Sense & Synthesis Host & Fellow

Michael Chikeleze, PhD, Sense & Synthesis Host & Fellow

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Shannon is an Assistant Professor at University of St. Francis in the College of Business and Health Administration.  She is the former vice president of client services at Exemplify and previously served as practice head of North American Legal Solutions for Tata Consultancy Services.   

Michael Chikeleze, PhD, Sense & Synthesis Host & Fellow

Michael Chikeleze, PhD, Sense & Synthesis Host & Fellow

Michael Chikeleze, PhD, Sense & Synthesis Host & Fellow

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Michael is an Associate Professor in the Department of Leadership Studies & HR Development in the College of Professional  Sciences at Xavier University.  He is a member of the International Leadership Association's Board of Directors and currently teaches doctoral courses in leadership development, organizational behavior, and organizational change.   

Angie Macri, MFA, Poetry Faculty

Michael Chikeleze, PhD, Sense & Synthesis Host & Fellow

Red Samaniego, MFA, Prose Fellow & Faculty

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An Arkansas Arts Council fellow, Angie Macri is the author of Underwater Panther (Southeast  Missouri State University Press, 2015), winner of the Cowles Poetry  Book Prize. Her work has been widely published in journals from Poetry to American Literary Review.  The intersection of her Ozark roots, which run more than two centuries deep, and her second-generation American experience yields such clarity  in her writing, it is “impossible to encounter her work and come away without its imprint, both tender and fierce, having changed forever the way your spirit approaches the incarnate beauty of the human  experience.” She has taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Arkansas, Pulaski Technical College, and National Park College and is currently an adjunct instructor at Hendrix College.

Red Samaniego, MFA, Prose Fellow & Faculty

Jonathan Travelstead, MFA, Poetry Faculty & Veteran Writers Fellow

Red Samaniego, MFA, Prose Fellow & Faculty

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Red is a fiction writer raised near the US-Mexico border. They were a Hattie F Walker Scholar at the Fine Arts Work Center, the 2019 Sandra Cisneros Fellow at Under the Volcano, and a Finalist for the Tucson Festival of Books Literary Awards in 2020. They are currently a Teaching Fellow in Fiction at Washington University in St. Louis and are at work on a novel. 

Jonathan Travelstead, MFA, Poetry Faculty & Veteran Writers Fellow

Jonathan Travelstead, MFA, Poetry Faculty & Veteran Writers Fellow

Jonathan Travelstead, MFA, Poetry Faculty & Veteran Writers Fellow

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Jonathan served in the military as a firefighter and currently works as a full-time firefighter for the city of Murphysboro, Illinois, and as  poetry co-editor for Cobalt Review. Having earned an MFA from  Southern Illinois University, he also turns a lathe, crafting pens under  the name Scorched Ink Penturning. Collections of his work include How  We Bury Our Dead and Conflict Tours (Cobalt Press, 2015 and 2017,  respectively).  Another collection is forthcoming.

Millicent Borges Accardi, MFA, Poetry Fellow & Faculty

Jonathan Travelstead, MFA, Poetry Faculty & Veteran Writers Fellow

Jonathan Travelstead, MFA, Poetry Faculty & Veteran Writers Fellow

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Millicent is a Portuguese-American writer and the author of three books, including the poetry collection, Only More So (Salmon Poetry, 2016). Her  awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts  (NEA), Fulbright, CantoMundo, Creative Capacity, the California Arts  Council, The Corporation of Yaddo, Fundação Luso-Americana, and the Barbara Deming Foundation. She’s led writing workshops at Nimrod Writers Conference, The Muse in  Norfolk, Virginia, MA Poetry Festival, Rhode Island College, and  University of Texas, Austin. Her non-fiction and poetry have been published in numerous journals and she has been featured at several reading series, including at Brown University, the University of Texas, Austin, Rutgers, UMass Dartmouth, and the Carr Reading Series at the University of Illinois.

Lisa Higgs, MFA, Quiddity Editor & Poetry Faculty

John McCarthy, MFA, Quiddity Editor & Poetry Faculty

John McCarthy, MFA, Quiddity Editor & Poetry Faculty

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Lisa’s third chapbook, Earthen Bound, was published in 2019 by Red Bird Chapbooks, the same publisher of Unintentional Guide to the Big City (2015).  Her poetry has been published widely and received honors from the 2017 Basil Bunting International Poetry Prize (Newcastle Center for the Literary Arts in the UK), Vallum Poetry, Crab Orchard, Elixir, Lynx House, and Word Works as well as been nominated for Best of the Net, the Pushcart Prize, and two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards. Lodestar, her first chapbook, was published in 2011. She earned an MFA in creative writing from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota.

John McCarthy, MFA, Quiddity Editor & Poetry Faculty

John McCarthy, MFA, Quiddity Editor & Poetry Faculty

John McCarthy, MFA, Quiddity Editor & Poetry Faculty

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John is the author of Scared Violent like Horses (Milkweed Editions, 2019), which was selected by Victoria Chang as the winner of the Jake Adam York Prize. He is also the author of one previous poetry collection, Ghost County (Midwestern Gothic Press), named a Best Poetry Book of 2016 by The Chicago Review of Books. Additionally, he was the 2016 winner of The Pinch Literary Award in Poetry, and his work has been featured on Poetry Daily. In 2019, The Chicago Guild Literary Complex named John one of “30 Writers to Watch.” John holds a BA in Writing and Publishing from Benedictine University and an MFA in creative writing from Southern Illinois University. He has received writing residencies from creative centers in Croatia, Iceland, and France.

Jim Warner, MFA, Poetry Faculty & Louisville Liaison

John McCarthy, MFA, Quiddity Editor & Poetry Faculty

Heather Goodman Nelson, MFA, Quiddity Editor & Prose Faculty

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Jim is the creator and host of Citizen Lit and Content Developer at the University of Louisville Business School.  Prior to joining the University of Louisville, Jim served as  Managing Editor and co-producer of Quiddity Literary Journal and Public Radio Program.  He is the  author of two poetry collections, Too Bad It’s Poetry and Social Studies (Paper Kite Press), and his poetry has appeared in numerous journals.  Jim received his MFA at Wilkes University and writes the column "Best Worst Year" for Sun Dog Lit.

Heather Goodman Nelson, MFA, Quiddity Editor & Prose Faculty

Heather Goodman Nelson, MFA, Quiddity Editor & Prose Faculty

Heather Goodman Nelson, MFA, Quiddity Editor & Prose Faculty

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Heather's fiction has been published in Witness, Shenandoah, Hunger Mountain, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Crab Orchard Review, and the Chicago Tribune, where her story won the Nelson Algren Award.  Heather has served in numerous roles: a former high school teacher, college professor, published journalist, essayist, and fiction writer.  She consults on a number of writing and assessment projects and and teaches classes for adults and teens through the Loft Literary Cent

David L. Logan, MA, Quiddity Editor & Prose Faculty

Heather Goodman Nelson, MFA, Quiddity Editor & Prose Faculty

Khyran Boyd, Plates & Poetry Co-Founder & Executive Chef

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David Logan is a member of the Professional Communications faculty at  Western Governors University and serves in the role of Course Lead in Evaluation & Assessment.  David’s work has appeared in a number of publications, including a book of essays published by Simon & Schuster.  Among his plays is Paint It Red, co-written with Judi O’Brien Anderson. He lives with his lovely wife in Ozark country, looks often at the stars, and discovers new wonders and wisdom through their two young boys. 

Khyran Boyd, Plates & Poetry Co-Founder & Executive Chef

Heather Goodman Nelson, MFA, Quiddity Editor & Prose Faculty

Khyran Boyd, Plates & Poetry Co-Founder & Executive Chef

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Originally from Queens, New York, Khyran is a veteran of the United States Navy.  He studied nursing and creative writing before surviving life as a line cook in Michelin-Star restaurants in Chicago and becoming Chef de Cuisine at the celebrated American Harvest Eatery.  Khyran co-founded Plates & Poetry with Amy Sayre Baptista.

Meagan Cass, PhD, Prose Faculty & Publishing Fellow

Angela Mitchell, MFA, St. Louis Writers Workshop Director Emeritus & Faculty

Denise Pattiz Bogard, MFA, St. Louis Writers Workshop Founder & Faculty

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Meagan Cass is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois and author of Range of Motion (Magic Helicopter Press). She curates the Shelterbelt Reading Series and edits Shelterbelt books with Adam Clay.  She also serves as fiction editor for the Best of the Net Anthology and as assistant fiction editor for Sundress Publications.  She holds an MFA in fiction writing from Sarah Lawrence College and a PhD in English from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. She loves teaching because she gets to learn new things about writing, publishing, and literature from her students.

Denise Pattiz Bogard, MFA, St. Louis Writers Workshop Founder & Faculty

Angela Mitchell, MFA, St. Louis Writers Workshop Director Emeritus & Faculty

Denise Pattiz Bogard, MFA, St. Louis Writers Workshop Founder & Faculty

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Denise earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of Missouri St. Louis and a BS in journalism and history from Indiana University. Her first novel, The Middle Step, was released in 2015. Her most recent novel, After Elise, was named a finalist in the 2017 Faulkner-Wisdom Creative Writing Contest. Denise is the founder and former director of the St. Louis Writers Workshop. Most recently, she coordinated the writing program at Lift for Life Academy.

Angela Mitchell, MFA, St. Louis Writers Workshop Director Emeritus & Faculty

Angela Mitchell, MFA, St. Louis Writers Workshop Director Emeritus & Faculty

Angela Mitchell, MFA, St. Louis Writers Workshop Director Emeritus & Faculty

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Angela is director emeritus of the St. Louis Writers Workshop. Her stories have appeared in numerous journals and received honors from the Colorado Review and The Pushcart Prize XXXV. Her work has been included in The Best Small Fiction 2018 and she was honored as a MasterMind recipient by the Riverfront Times for her work in the literary arts. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Missouri St. Louis as well as an MEd in higher education from the University of Arkansas. Her short story collection, Unnatural Habitats & Other Stories (2018) was published by WTAW Press.

Analeah Rosen, MFA, St. Louis Writers Workshop Faculty

Kimberly Lozano, MFA, St. Louis Writers Workshop Faculty

Angela Mitchell, MFA, St. Louis Writers Workshop Director Emeritus & Faculty

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Analeah Rosen earned a Masters of Fine Arts in Fiction at Washington University in St Louis. She is currently working on a collection of writing that explores irradiated soils, transnational environmental justice movements, swarm intelligence, and living collaboratively in the trouble. 

Kimberly Lozano, MFA, St. Louis Writers Workshop Faculty

Kimberly Lozano, MFA, St. Louis Writers Workshop Faculty

Kimberly Lozano, MFA, St. Louis Writers Workshop Faculty

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Kim teaches creative writing workshops and has served as senior contributing editor at River Styx. She has been nominated for a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and is a winner of the Kentucky Women Writers Conference Betty Gabehart Prize for fiction. Her poetry, essays, and short fiction have been published widely.

Tina Shen, MFA, St. Louis Writers Workshop Faculty

Kimberly Lozano, MFA, St. Louis Writers Workshop Faculty

Kimberly Lozano, MFA, St. Louis Writers Workshop Faculty

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After completing a Bachelor of Arts in gender studies from the University of Chicago, Tina earned a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Missouri St. Louis. Formerly the managing editor of River Styx, she currently teaches writing at Washington University in St. Louis.