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Alumni Testimonials

My educational experiences at DWU, specifically in the English department, thoroughly prepared me for a career in teaching the subject. I feel confident in my content area; this has made my first year of teaching extremely successful, as I feel I have an adequate knowledge of the subject matter. The exceptional faculty in the English department made my experience at DWU positive and unforgettable!

I worked with Dr. Vince Redder both in and out of the classroom setting through curriculum work and with Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society. Dr. Redder actively engaged students in both areas. His outstanding attitude and professionalism with students impressed me. On several occasions, Dr. Redder modified his own schedule to accommodate the needs of others. His helpfulness and good character gave him great rapport with his students and with the staff.

Dr. Joe Ditta made classes interesting and well worth the time spent. His incredible knowledge and personal experience with language, both spoken and written, gave class a great edge. Dr. Ditta's friendly and caring nature earned him utmost respect among students and staff at DWU. I never hesitated to ask questions or to offer suggestions in class because Dr. Ditta made students feel comfortable. Full of knowledge and ideas, Dr. Ditta never failed to act as inspiration and encouragement.

Kara Neugebauer
DWU Class of 2004
Major: Secondary English education
Occupation: Seventh-grade language arts teacher
and ninth-grade speech and literature
Wagner High School
Wagner, S.D.


When you choose Dakota Wesleyan University, you choose excellence. As an alumni of DWU with a double major in English and English/Journalism, I have never regretted choosing the DWU English program, nor do believe I could have received a better education anywhere.

I had the opportunity to attend The Institute of Political Journalism at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. the summer of my junior year. I expected to receive first-class instruction simply because Georgetown is so well-known. But what I found when I compared the campus, my classes and my instructors to those at Wesleyan, Wesleyan had Georgetown beat.

At DWU, my instructors knew me not only as a student, but as a person. I had the chance to be involved—really involved—in every aspect of reading, research and writing. And most importantly, by example, my professors taught me about the importance of excellence—not only in the classroom, but in every aspect of life.

I once asked Dr. Joseph Ditta, head of the English department, why he was at DWU. A noted author and poet with a brilliant mind, he is certainly an example of academic excellence. He could be anywhere, doing anything and could certainly be making a lot more money elsewhere. His answer to me was simple: “I stay here because of students like you.” He went on to explain that his mission was to bring excellence to this little piece of the Dakota prairie. Other students from bigger places with more resources would naturally be afforded opportunities simply because of being in the right place at the right time. But here, where resources are limited, students have to work hard to have those same opportunities. He believed every student from every small town deserved that chance—that chance to experience excellence and to become excellent. I have never forgotten that message.

In my own life, I have had some wonderful experiences. By age 24, I was the co-owner of three South Dakota weekly newspapers and was a member of board of directors for Rocket Printing, Inc., the largest central printing plant in southeastern South Dakota. In essence, I was able to put my career on a fast track because of the excellent instruction I received at DWU. But most importantly, I have realized excellence in my personal life. Every day, I strive for excellence as a Christian, wife, mother and community member.

Because I realized the rewards of DWU excellence, I recently joined the DWU Institutional Advancement team. Now it is my turn to share the gift of excellence with those who are considering DWU.

Renee (Harms) Van Der Werff
Majors: English and English with an emphasis in journalism
Grad year: 1990


Hi Dr. Ditta,
I noticed your name on the DWU homepage and wanted to say congratulations on your recent publications. In particular, it must be a real kick to be part of the inaugural issue of New Writing.

I also want to give a belated "thanks" for requiring creative writing majors to take your advanced expository class. While at Wesleyan I could never understand why I had to take it, and it was the one class in my major that I dreaded. Sure, you explained the benefits to us, but you know undergrads - the path of least resistance is usually the most appealing.

While my paper for you certainly was not an "A" (maybe skipping the index cards wasn't the best idea) the lessons you taught really did take root. Last month I finished my first semester as a matriculated graduate student. I was amazed at how much time the professors had to spend teaching some of my fellow graduate students the difference between a report and a research paper. I couldn't understand why these graduate English students faltered when it came to writing a thesis. While several of my friends were sweating the paper, I brushed off the dust on Lester's Writing Research Papers, my notes from advanced expos, the Harbrace College Handbook and sat down to plan out a strategy.

I took three courses last semester and scored an “A” in each; without a doubt my success is a direct result of Wesleyan's rigorous academic expectations and your writing tutelage. Advanced expos put me ahead of my classmates and helped me to impress my professors early on. For those students who moan and groan next time you teach a section, feel free to use this real life example - one never knows what path his future is going to take. After all, I was SURE that I was going to be an ACTOR! Now, here I am, returning to my creative writing roots and simultaneously working on a master’s degree in English. My success in graduate school is a direct result of you forcing your majors to evolve their academic writing and for that I humbly thank you.

Howard Gunston
DWU Class of 1997
Majors: English with creative writing emphasis
Communication/Theater with theater emphasis
Occupation: Assistant director of facilities at Stony Brook University
Graduate student

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