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York College Professional Writing grad turns passion for writing into a career

David Halliwell poses with his significant other in a photo.

David Halliwell ’16 revels in what makes good writing. He has an affinity for the effective use of language and its power to persuade.

“To be able to look at something and say why this is persuasive, who is allowed to talk, where is the power in language and who gets access to it” fuels his passion, he says. If that sounds like heady stuff, consider how he describes himself: “I’m a major nerd.”

But, he’s just the person you’d want to edit your research paper or a speech because he understands the need to analyze an audience when delivering a message. David majored in Professional Writing and minored in Sociology at the College.

“What I learned from the Professional Writing major is that in all kinds of persuasion you have to realize you’re in a place where you’re talking to an audience that has experience in certain things, and you have experience in certain things, trying to break those down in an ethical manner, whether it’s selling something or passing along knowledge,” he says.

A foundation in writing

David was homeschooled in York County before enrolling at Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) in 2011. He was unsure where he was headed, but he had always loved writing.

“I wrote a lot as a kid,” he says. “When I got older, I didn’t want a program that was just creative writing. I wanted job flexibility. I was exposed to the idea of persuasive writing, keeping in mind your purpose and how you can get there.”

At HACC, he tutored fellow students in writing. He heard from friends about York College’s Professional Writing program and learned that the College had a Writing Center. That major and the Writing Center “really pulled me in,” he says of transferring to York College in 2013.

He again had the privilege to tutor his peers and was attached to a first-year English class through the Writing Center, providing writing support and leading classroom activities. Research also figured into his writing studies. In History of Women’s Rhetoric class, he delved into the background of Anna Dill Gamble of York County, a master communicator and a leader in the movement to secure women’s right to vote in the early 20th century.

Looking to the future

As he weighed career possibilities, he thought about editing or creative writing. But, so much of what he was doing involved instructing others. “The longer I was in the program, the more the idea of being a teacher came into play — teaching or going into graduate school,” he says.

Not sure of his career path after graduation, David enrolled in a master’s degree program at Miami University in Ohio. He studied Arts and English with a concentration in composition and rhetoric, which he says addressed the issues of language and power that play out every day. He taught while taking classes and received his degree in the summer of 2018.

His wife, Megan Schoettler ’14, who holds a York College degree in Secondary Education English, is enrolled in Miami’s doctoral program in the same course of study. She had helped to develop the Naylor Workshop for Undergraduate Research in Writing Studies at York College.

Choosing his path

With his advanced degree in hand and now working full-time, you might guess David is a teacher. Not exactly. “I’m taking a break from academe a bit,” he says.

Right now, he’s a public services associate and the teen services librarian at the Oxford, Ohio, public library. “I’ve always loved libraries,” he says. “I volunteered through high school and a lot of time in college.”

And it’s not as if he isn’t teaching. “It has a lot in it of what I really like about teaching. It’s person-based, working with patrons to figure out what they need,” he says.

He’s also writing, trying to churn out a certain number of words every day. His message to aspiring writers is that they already might be on the road to success.

“I’d say you’re already more of a writer than you realize,” he says. “Communication is something people do. I would probably say lean into those resources you have, those amazing professors and programs that can provide mentorship and direction.”

And he says not to worry if your career path, like his, takes a few turns. “Don’t be afraid to be directionless,” he says. “You can land on your feet and alter your course over time.”