Notable Alumni

Alyssa Palombo '11 

What were your majors? English and Creative Writing

Where do you currently work? I’m a Campus Support Specialist at Campus Labs in Buffalo and a novelist.

What do you love most about your job? 
For my day job, I love my coworkers – I’m part of a really great team, and we work well together and also have some fun along the way. As for being a novelist, well, writing is my favorite thing to do, and being able to publish is a dream come true. I love creating new stories and living in new and different worlds. I love that my words have reached readers and that they’ve connected with something I’ve written. That means the world to me.

Let’s talk about reading. What’s one book that really made a difference for you? 
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philipps Gregory. I’d always loved historical fiction, but when I first read that book in high school I had a bit of an epiphany and realized that that was the genre I most wanted to write.

What is your favorite memory from your time at Canisius? 
I have to pick just one??!!? I loved getting to meet Ann Patchett and hear her speak, as she’s a favorite writer and one I really admire. I also took a lot of music lessons while I was at Canisius, so the days I spent bopping from lesson to lesson and in and out of practice rooms were pretty great.

I also have very fond memories of meeting some really great friends there, many of whom I’m still very close with today. My life would not be the same without them!

Can you share some advice for current students? 
Don’t hesitate to chase what you’re passionate about. Don’t put it off for that mythical “someday” when everyone thinks they’ll have “more time”. If there’s a dream you want to achieve – whether it’s being an author or a musician or a doctor or a yoga teacher or a video game designer or ANYTHING – start working towards it now. Don’t wait. There are always lots of reasons to not pursue something, but if you really want it, then the reasons to pursue it matter more.


Caitie McAneney '12

What were your majors?

Creative Writing and English, with minors in Theater Arts and Psychology.

Where do you currently work? 

I am an associate editorial director for West 44 Books and Rosen Classroom, imprints of Rosen Publishing. I am also the author of a young adult novel, graphic novels, and hundreds of children’s nonfiction books.

What do you love most about your job? 

I love to write every day. I love seeing a book through from the germ of an idea to a mistake-ridden manuscript to a shiny new printed book. I love working with authors and helping them to create something they’re really proud of. For many of my fiction authors, it is a dream come true to be published. To be a part of that is priceless.

Let’s talk about reading. What’s one book that really made a difference for you? 

This is such a hard question because I’m so impacted by books at all times. I think a formative book for me as a young adult author and editor was Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti. However, East of Eden is my favorite classic; it taught me about good and evil and hardship and perseverance. 

What is your favorite memory from your time at Canisius? 

There are too many to count! I think my favorite memory was the moment right before we unveiled the 60th Quadrangle. I was editor-in-chief my senior year, and all of the other editors and staff made a toast before the Unveiling. It just felt like a wonderful moment of kinship and creative celebration.

Can you share some advice for current students?

Keep writing! Put in the hard work. Reach up to people who are good at what they do. Reach out to people who want a writing partner or advice from you. Surround yourself with a community of writers. And be kind—it goes a long way in the publishing world and in life.


Justin Smith '17

Majors: English and Creative Writing with a minor in Political Science.

Where do you currently work? 
I currently work at The Pennsylvania State University, where I’m pursuing a PhD in English Literature.

What do you love most about your job/graduate program? 

When I was an undergrad at Canisius, focused more on strengthening on our own thoughts and arguments than outside research.  I think this actually gives me an advantage in regards to producing original thinking in my work, but one thing I hadn’t really had the chance to experience was going to the library, combing through the stacks, seeing all the different scholarship that’s been written on nearly any facet of a field you could imagine, and then ultimately engaging with that scholarship in a way that intervenes with the discourse.  It’s a really cool experience and opportunity.  I’m also greatly looking forward to teaching and being able to share some of my knowledge of language and rhetoric with a new wave of university students.

Let’s talk about reading. What’s one book that really made a difference for you?

Perhaps the best way to answer this question is to discuss the book that got me into graduate school and set me down my current path.  Clotel, written by William Wells Brown in 1853, was a book I read in Dr. Desiderio’s class during my junior year.  The novel, as well as Dr. Desiderio, got me to think about ways in which we can learn new things from older novels and how I as a scholar can enter into conversations about how readers can, and possibly should, interpret texts.  Currently, my focus is early 20th century African American literature and how we can use those texts to think about various aspects of political solidarity, and I really think the seeds for a lot of my work were planted in my engagement with Clotel.

What is your favorite memory from your time at Canisius? 

This is another question to which I could give many answers.  I would say my favorite memory is “Q-bombing” the campus during my sophomore year.  I don’t know if they still allow Q-bombing, but at least during my sophomore year it was when we used a machine to cut out letter Q’s from construction paper, wrote down the time and place of the Quadrangle unveiling, and then put them up around the campus.  This memory is my favorite for three reasons: One, I did it with my closest friend in the department, and often who you do things with is more important than what you do; two, we were doing it to promote the Quadrangle, and I think most of my best college memories come from the extracurriculars, since that’s often really where you get to apply the things you work on in the classroom; and three, it was just plain fun to see where to best strategically place the Q’s so they would be most visible.

Can you share some advice for current students?

Find a good work-life balance.  You definitely don’t want to burn yourself out on work, but you should also resist the temptation to simply stop working.  I was definitely the type of person more likely to burn myself out, but I’ve seen a lot of people whose response to stress is simply to shut down their engagement with their classroom expectations.  Work-life balance starts with making sure you’re doing something that you genuinely enjoy, and I would advise anyone who doesn’t genuinely enjoy their major to strongly consider switching to something else.  

Try to find at least one person that you confide in completely and who can challenge you to be your best version of yourself.  You have to find people and experiences that will fulfill you as a person and not substitute those with experiences that will only leave you temporarily satisfied.  It doesn’t always seem like it, but I promise that for most people there is a way to balance out taking care of yourself and taking care of your responsibilities, especially if what you’re doing in college already overlaps with what you enjoy in life.


Natalie Medina '16

What were your majors?
Creative Writing and English.

Where do you currently work? 
Writers House, a Literary Agency in New York City. 

What do you love most about your job? 
I love how working in Subsidiary Rights allows me to interact with other departments within Writers House, U.S. publishing houses, and international agencies. Getting a sense of which genres work in which countries, and what that means for the titles that Writers House represents is both part of the work and a reward for being invested in it.

Let’s talk about reading. What’s one book that really made a difference for you? 
For this, I’ll specifically say Multiple Choice. Translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell, Alejandro Zambra’s novel is formatted as a Chilean standardized test. The questions and their answers form various stories about family, adolescence, school, and morality. This has made a difference because it has shown me that a bold format can be just as engaging as a traditional one, and that I personally like it when my idea of how a story works is tested.  Also, because it has cemented my notion that one of the best parts of Subsidiary Rights is being connected to publishing around the world. Reading a translation like this reminds me that there is just as much perspective to gain when we read narratives from different countries. 

What is your favorite memory from your time at Canisius? 
This would have to be the Capstone reading during the last month of my senior year. Standing at the podium with a story of mine was as nerve wracking as ever, but this reading felt like a celebration of the entire college experience. As I read, I was telling my fellow classmates and the audience that this is where the many drafts, discussions, and revisions led to. 

Can you share some advice for current students?
Gather up as much perspective as you can. Whether it be from reading or conversing with others, or both (preferably both), work to learn about the lifestyles and cultures that have nothing to do with you. If you’re someone that is already aware that there are thousands of experiences that you aren’t privy to, then that is great and something that you will need as you broaden your social and professional circles. If you don’t have that in mind, then this is the time to start, and to grow with the understanding that you are not an entire world but part of an immense one. 

Also, don’t throw away your unfinished stories. You never know when a line, paragraph, or character might come back into your mind and fit somewhere else perfectly.