Westmont Alumni in English

Anna Jordan

Anna Jordan









Anna Jordan is a writer of both fiction and nonfiction. After graduating from Westmont College with a BA in English Literature in 2007, Anna married her DC Crush, Kiah, and went on to work for a small speaker's bureau in Santa Barbara as the Speaking Agent for the real Patch Adams. Anna clowned around with Patch for several years before pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Since then, Anna has led a number of writing workshops and instructed learners of all levels and abilities both online and in the classroom. She is currently fast at work (or, more accurately, quite slow at work) on a linked collection of short stories. While that book remains incomplete, many of the individual stories have made their way into the world. Her work has been published at Verily Magazine, Scary Mommy, Chicago Literati, Flash Fiction Magazine, and The Broadcast. She is both writer and Creativity Director for Coffee and Crumbs, a collaborative blog about motherhood. Additionally, Anna is a collaborating writer on the forthcoming book The Magic of Motherhood (HarperCollins 2017).

Anna and her husband live in Goleta with their three small children; they are still actively involved in the local Westmont community.

Tamara Lang

Tamara LangTamara Lang is an author of creative nonfiction. After graduating Summa Cum Laude from Westmont College as a 2013 recipient of the Oxford English Dictionary award, Tamara moved to Jeju Island, South Korea, where she taught English while maintaining a travel blog at tamaralang.com and writing on a freelance basis for The Jeju Weekly. After leaving Korea, Tamara blogged her way through Western Europe, living for a short period at the Shakespeare and Company Bookshop in Paris as a resident writer.

Tamara is a lifelong lover of marine science and environmental education. Recently, this passion led her to found the LA River Trek, a watershed education campaign which entails biking and hiking along the Los Angeles River and tributaries while writing along the way in order to engage the public concept of an urban watershed. Tamara has been published in Ruminate Magazine and The Jeju Weekly, and her memoir The Year of the Squid Boats is currently awaiting publication.

A momentary resident of Long Beach, California, Tamara Lang works part-time on a whale watch boat between running the LA River Trek. She plans to move to South or Central America to pursue a position in marine education while working on her next memoir.

Cleo Koh Polman

CleoPolmanCleo (Koh) Polman is a lawyer specializing in capital markets work at the law firm of Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett LLP in London. Originally from Singapore, Cleo moved to the United States to attend Westmont College, where she graduated magna cum laude in 2009. She then moved to upstate New York, where she obtained her J.D. at Cornell Law School. There, she discovered her passion for ballroom and latin dancing and spent her free time training and traveling for competitions. After graduating, she began her career as an attorney at Latham & Watkins LLP in New York. She and her husband, Christian, moved to London in 2014, where she continues to dance and where together they enjoy theatre, museum-hopping and traveling.

Ben Taylor


Ben Taylor is a content strategist at Dropbox. The San Francisco-based tech company lets you store, share and secure all your files, from photos to documents to videos. Ben and his team serve as the voice of Dropbox, defining the brand’s written style and explaining its features in simple, human language.

Since he graduated from Westmont in 2009, Ben has made a career out of bringing an editorial mindset to the world of technology. Before joining Dropbox, he worked at a Santa Barbara startup called Graphiq (formerly, FindTheBest). The company provides insights and visualizations across dozens of topics, from sports to health to politics. While working there, Ben pitched senior management on an in-house editorial team, which he eventually grew to 12 people. He and his team of writers went on to publish hundreds of data-driven, journalistic stories across major online publications, including TIME, AOL, MSN, Yahoo, Fox News, The Huffington Post and Sports Illustrated.

Ben is fascinated by how editorial content and technology can come together to create powerful stories. He looks forward to collaborating with writers and software developers in the decades to come.

Ben’s fondest memories from Westmont include London Theatre Mayterm and England Semester, where he studied with Professors Paul Delaney and Elizabeth Hess. His exposure to British and Irish theatre inspired a film and television blog — TheCroakingFrog.com — where he writes to this day.

Ryan McDermott, Ph.D. (University of Pittsburgh)

Ryan McDermott

Ryan McDermott is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh. He graduated from Westmont in 2000 with the long-term goals of writing novels and teaching religion and literature. He was rejected by MFA programs three years in a row. In the meantime, with the web design skills he learned launching the Phoenix website, he landed a job as Webmaster for a furniture store. He then followed his wife to West Virginia to teach junior high in a classical school, and then to China to teach English literature and journalism at a private university. Letting go of the MFA dream, Ryan pursued a Masters in Theological Studies at Duke University Divinity School (2003-2005), where he was drawn to medieval philosophy and theology. He proceeded to the Ph.D. program in English at the University of Virginia (where he was accepted off the waitlist). At the University of Pittsburgh, where he has taught since 2010, he teaches primarily medieval and early modern literature and culture. In his research, he works at the intersection of religious history, modern theology, and literary studies. He has published articles in Modern Theology as well as leading journals of medieval literary studies. His first book is Tropologies: Ethics and Invention in England, c. 1350-1600 (University of Notre Dame Press, 2016). He is working on a second book about medieval and Reformation-era vernacular theology that challenges several prominent stories told by modern theologians and secularization theorists about how we became modern. He is also writing a theology of incorruptibility. Ryan and his wife, Darrah, have six kids. He still hopes to write a novel someday.

Susan Emily VanZanten, Ph.D. (Seattle Pacific University)

Susan Van Zanten

Susan Emily VanZanten (formerly Gallagher) is a Professor of English at Seattle Pacific University, where she teaches American literature, African literature, writing, and narrative theory.  After graduating from Westmont College in 1978, she attended Emory University—following in the footsteps of Westmont mentor Paul Delaney—where she earned her Ph.D. in American literature in 1982.

Following graduate school, Susan discovered a new teaching and research interest in African literature, writing one of the first American academic studies of the South African novelist J.M. Coetzee, A Story of South African: J.M. Coetzee’s Fiction in Context (Harvard UP, 1989). She also began her career-long work in thinking and writing about the relationship of Christian faith, literary studies, and the scholarly life.  After teaching at Covenant College and Calvin College, she joined the SPU faculty in 1993. The founding director of the SPU Center for Scholarship and Faculty Development, which she led for eight years, she returned to full-time teaching in 2010.  Joining the Mission: A Guide for (Mainly) New College Faculty (Eerdmans 2011) draws on her years of faculty development work to provide a practical guide for new Christian college faculty.

Some of Susan’s other publications include Literature Through the Eyes of Faith (Harper, 1991); Postcolonial Literature and the Biblical Call to Justice (U of Missouri P, 1994); Mending a Tattered Faith: Devotions with Emily Dickinson (Cascade, 2010), twenty-three peer-reviewed academic essays, numerous articles and book reviews for a general audience, and, most recently, an academic memoir, Reading a Different Story:  A Christian Scholar’s Journey from America to Africa (Baker 2013), which includes an account of the influence of Westmont on her academic life.

Susan has one son, two cats, and a lovely little Seattle garden that produces raspberries, flowers, herbs, and vegetables. She enjoys hiking, theatre, travelling, and the opera.