Graduate Alumni Interview: Patrick Templeton
MFA Creative Writing
Patrick Templeton is a graduate student at the University of Southern California. He earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of South Florida and a BA in Economics from Occidental College. He has variously worked or volunteered as a non-profit policy analyst, prison creative writing instructor, hockey commentator, union co-president, and kids camp counselor. His work and writing center around kids, traveling, and history.
What is your position now?
I’m a graduate student at the University of Southern California studying Public Administration, with an emphasis on non-profits and educational policy. I also work as a Policy Associate at Rainbow Services in San Pedro, CA. Rainbow works at the intersection of domestic violence and homelessness. My passion project there has been research around in-house educational services at emergency DV shelters.
Why did you come to the USF graduate program?
The program was fully-funded, offered the opportunity to teach, and there were fantastic faculty that I would have the potential to work closely with. I had a small and close cohort of classmates whom I learned so much from as a person and a writer. The professors were caring, enthusiastic, and very accessible. The English Department and USF as a whole also offered a number of opportunities for departmental and community service, which I enjoyed taking advantage of. I was also able to connect with a number of conference opportunities, with both creative writing and pedagogical focuses.
What was a unique opportunity you had at USF?
I taught or helped teach classes in creative writing and film. Having an opportunity to teach is rare enough in a master’s program, but having the opportunity to teach a number of different and engaging subjects was quite special.
For teaching creative writing, we were given a lot of latitude about the readings and assignments that we gave to students. The class sizes were small and each of us was able to put our own spin on the course. We also got to teach it multiple times, in both fall and spring, which was a great learning opportunity for updating a course and becoming a better instructor as you teach something multiple times. And, of course, when you teach something you also learn it in a whole new way, so teaching that course also markedly improved my understanding of the craft of writing fiction.
How did USF prepare you for your current position?
The skills that come from workshopping, especially with folks like Dr. Sellers and Dr. Fleming, are useful not only in writing at a job, but also in formulating and implementing ideas. It’s valuable to be able to deliver compliments and critiques with equal strength and humility, and that was something the USF program prepared me for.
It’s also funny because as an English graduate student, you’re around a lot of people with really great writing skills, which can almost make you doubt your abilities in certain moments. But then when you get on the job market, people at your job will tell you that you have really sharp writing skills, and that will remind you that the work you did at USF was really honing your craft at the highest level.
What advice would you give to new graduate students in the program?
Learn to follow-up/reach out, say yes, and say no. Learn to follow-up when opportunities or connections are presented, especially with things like thank you messages after guest speakers/events. Learn to reach out to people doing things that you find interesting or engaging, and see if there are ways for you to get involved with or even just shadow them. Say yes to opportunities when they come up and present an opportunity to learn or grow, especially if it seems like something that is going to push you out of your comfort zone. Learn to say no, even to people you like or care about, so that you don’t stretch yourself too thin or overpromise and underdeliver. Everyone is busy. Those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.