Poet, University Instructor Leah Waller: MUM is a “Haven for Creativity”

“As a writer you have this sensitivity to the world, where you feel everything and see everything, and everything affects you,” says Leah Waller, a poet and creative writing instructor who graduated from MUM in 2007. “Consciousness-Based℠ education and Transcendental Meditation respond to that. They have a way of bringing you back to center. You feel a sense of peace.”

A poet who’s been published in literary journals and whose book, Under the Cedar Tree, had a soaring debut in Amazon’s top ten list for poetry, Leah currently teaches in the English department at Northern Arizona University, a position she was offered over 50 other applicants.

Back in 2003, before enrolling at MUM, Leah checked out other colleges, sometimes finding herself shockingly far afield from what she was seeking. “At one school, I was sitting in a room full of girls with bleached blond hair, black mascara and mini-skirts. I didn’t finish the campus tour.

“MUM, on the other hand, was coming from a higher place. That’s what I wanted.”

A “Building Up,” Not Tearing Down Philosophy

Leah discovered MUM and Consciousness-Based education to be an incubator for her writing talent. Especially influential was the support of MUM literature professor Nynke Passi.

“Ninke had a way of gently but firmly guiding my writing in the right direction,” says Leah. “She’d do it in a way that was inspirational and made me want to write more.” In contrast, many university writing programs are weighed far more heavily toward high-pressure peer and instructor critiques which often invite “tearing down,” rather than sensitively tending to the sometimes tenuous creative spark in young writers. “They try to poke at you so that hopefully in the depths of despair you’ll find some inspiration.”

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Not so at MUM, which provided techniques and a philosophy that opened up Leah’s creative jets and helped her find her voice as a writer. “At MUM I wrote all the time,” she says. “I had amazing support. Thinking back, I took it for granted how creative I was.”

After she graduated, Leah worked in Fairfield (home of MUM) as a technical recruiter and also with indie publisher First World Publishing, where she worked her way up from administrative assistant to managing editor of a news publication.

In 2011, she enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts program at Northern Arizona University with a dual thesis in poetry and nonfiction writing. In addition to her studies and teaching responsibilities, she was assistant managing editor of Thin Air, a student-published literary magazine.

As an instructor at the university level, this creative writer feels she’s found her ideal profession. “Teaching is a wonderful experience,” says Leah. “I knew it was for me.” And her on-the-job performance proves it. Leah was rated by students as one of the top three teachers in the university’s 30-instructor English department.

Leah’s advice for young writers seeking a school where they can develop their gifts and learn the craft? Find a university that will support all aspects of your creative growth — like MUM. “It’s a great place to learn writing,” she says. “MUM is a haven for creativity.”

Written by Warren Goldie