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Student experience prepared Colorado freelancer

by Sarah Costlow ’09

English graduate Melanie Brown Avner ’95 once sat in a classroom at Lafayette unsure of how her future would unfold. Little did she know that what would occur her junior year would profoundly shape her life.

Like many Lafayette students, Avner took advantage of the opportunities a smaller college offers, particularly the personal interaction with professors. She was a writing assistant for Alan Childs, professor of psychology, and worked in the Technology Clinic with Dan Bauer, professor of anthropology and sociology. She also made close connections with her sisters at the Delta Delta Delta sorority.

But her junior year, ready for something new, Avner looked into a journalism and public relations experience through a Lafayette program enabling students to spend a semester at American University. She lived in a dorm, took classes, and began an internship with a television station. However, she quickly realized she was more interested in writing lengthier pieces for public relations than short, 30-second TV sound bites.

After graduating, she returned to American University to get her masters degree in public communications. She worked in a number of roles afterward until giving birth to her first child in 2002.

All of these experiences prepared her for her current career as a freelance writer and editor. She has the skills, an accomplished portfolio, and the lengthy r�sum� necessary for a writer. Because most of her work deals with factual information, she is conscious of quoting other people accurately and making sure her writing meets client company needs.

Avner’s most recent freelance project involved working with people who endowed gifts to Denver’s Jewish community. Those who gave told stories of the motivations behind their philanthropy. Avner then edited the stories, and all of the testimonials were placed in a book that will encourage future generations to support the Jewish community in Denver.

Today the most challenging aspect of Avner’s life is time management. She spends most of her free time with her two children and her husband. Fifteen hours a week, she works on projects for companies and agencies that contract her services. When finished with one project, she moves on to the next.

“In my day-to-day work, I regularly draw upon both my undergraduate and graduate educations,” she says. She loves the flexibility of her career, being her own boss and fulfilling her passion for writing.

Although Avner came into college with a love for writing, on reflection she is amazed at how much her writing improved from her first year through graduation. Her adviser, David Johnson, professor of English and associate provost, inspired her the most. She loved his class on Hemingway (her favorite author) but also felt he gave sound advice and taught well. In addition to the help she received from Johnson, Avner believes her time at Lafayette gave her greater insights into life.

Avner still has a strong connection with Lafayette. “It was a great experience for me,” she says. She returned to campus in 2004 to see her younger sister graduate, donates every year to the school, and hopes to be an alumni admissions representative, interviewing prospective students in Colorado.

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