Alumni Profile: Meet Jenny Shank '98, Teacher, Author, Journalist, and Editor

Author: Ava Downey

Jenny Shank Viaweb

Jenny Shank, originally from Denver, CO, graduated from Notre Dame in 1998 with a degree in English and psychology. After graduating, she moved back to her home state of Colorado and settled in Boulder where she now works as a teacher, author, freelance journalist, and editor.

Shank always loved school, especially writing. “I have always loved writing. Even before I could write, my mom would take dictation of the stories I wanted written,” says Shank.

Combined with the plethora of academic-related extracurriculars Notre Dame offers, the University's academic rigor was a perfect fit for her.

While on campus, Shank participated in any writing-related extracurricular activity she could. She had a column in The Observer, the student-run newspaper, contributed to various literary magazines, and even joined the comedy sketch group, moreso for the writing portion than the actual performance part.

Much of what Shank did at Notre Dame, she still does today as a freelance writer. Shank reflects that, “Everything I have studied [at Notre Dame] has gone into what I do, even [my major in] psychology helped me in many ways, like imagining characters or using the research skills it taught me.”

As she once sent out her work to The Observer and various magazines at Notre Dame, she now sends her writing to The Atlantic or The Washington Post

In addition to pursuing her passion of writing through extracurriculars while at Notre Dame, Shank used her classes as a space to hone her writing skills. She participated in the Washington D.C. journalism program in her junior year and enjoyed many of her English classes, especially one on the author Mark Twain and her creative writing workshops. By her senior year, Shank was taking six English classes and writing a 10-page paper a night, but finding it easy.

Outside of writing, Shank appreciated Notre Dame’s mission to be a force for good. It was an impactful sentiment during her time at Notre Dame and further guides her today.

During her senior year, Shank took a Children in Poverty psychology class in which the primary focus was creating a project to help children in poverty in the South Bend community. She and her partner created a printed magazine with the children at the South Bend Center for the Homeless.

Ultimately, Notre Dame cultivated her own desire to be a force for good. She discovered that the primary question she asks herself throughout her writing, teaching, and life today is,  “How can I help others?”

In Shank's experience, “Notre Dame doesn’t teach you how to make the most money, but emphasizes other ways to be successful.”

You can discover more about Jenny Shank and her work, including her new book Mixed Company, at her website


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