English grad honors her heritage through creative writing


April 22, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

As the youngest in her family, when Chael Moore first entered college she followed in the footsteps of her older siblings, pursuing a path in nursing. She soon came to realize that her true passion was in the humanities, not the natural sciences. This spring, Chael Moore will graduate from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in English with a creative writing concentration. Download Full Image

“I spent a couple years bouncing around trying different majors,” Moore said. “But everything just didn't seem to be that exciting to me. There were moments where I wondered if I was ever going to find something that I enjoy. It wasn't until Mesa Community College, when one of my English professors left a really thoughtful response on one of my writing assignments. I’d never received a response like that before. She was one of the first people to believe that I could make it into a career.”

Moore, a citizen of the Navajo Nation and a Barrett, The Honors College at ASU student, said through writing about her lived experiences as a Diné woman, she strives to honor her family while highlighting a perspective seldom shared in mainstream literature.

Moore’s motivation to become a writer was solidified after she stumbled upon some nostalgic books from her childhood that were written in both English and Navajo.

“I realized that a lot of white authors profit off of these stories and the characters and the culture. That didn't really sit right with me,” she said. “So it was then when I decided I’m going to write these stories myself. Someone who is Navajo should write about Navajo stories.”

During her time at ASU, Moore participated in the first cohort of Native Narratives, a two-year program where Native students from a variety of schools, departments and disciplines within ASU complete specialized courses designed to help them gain tools to effectively share their stories. She also served as the president of the Barrett Indigenous Culture Association and as a student success coach for The College’s Student Success Center.

This spring, Moore will graduate from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in English with a creative writing concentration. Here, she shares more about her experiences at ASU and what’s next for her.

Question: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

Answer: Tucker Leighty Phillips was a TA for my Intro to Fiction and Intermediate Fiction courses. I made sure that I got in his class for Intermediate Fiction. I really appreciated his energy and the way that he would talk to me about some of my concerns about writing, like imposter syndrome. He was always there to talk through it with me and calm my nerves. Some other professors I really enjoyed were Jenny Irish as well as Natalie Diaz and Bryan Brayboy. They have always been there and I really appreciate all the support. 

Q: Did you encounter any challenges? If so, how have you overcome them?

A: One challenge would be coming to terms with the fact that 90% of the time I'm going to be the only Native student in my classes. That was particularly true in my major. A challenge for me in this context was when I would write stories and have them workshopped for class. A lot of my stories are inspired by where I come from and my culture. So I had to figure out how to convey those cultural things for a different audience because some of the things I might write about, they might not get right away. It’s a challenge to not just accept that I might be a lone Native person, but instead overcome this and try my best to be unapologetic about taking up space and remembering that even my presence alone is enough.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: I would really like to emphasize getting to know your professors. If you really like what they're doing, ask to be a part of their research or ask how you can get involved. Just having conversations about what you are interested in with them is really important because once a professor gets to know you a little bit more, at least from my experience, then they know what to direct you to. Figure out ways to cultivate those relationships because they will be super helpful later on. Connections are important ⁠— that's something that my mom always told me at a very young age.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Grad school is in the future, but not right away. I really want to take the time to be intentional with what it is I want to do for my master’s degree. But in the meantime, I definitely want to spend some time working on my writing. Right now, I write for my classes but with everything else going on, I don't think I've spent enough time to really dive into what it is that I want to write. I really want to take time to practice more on developing my voice. I also just want to travel. I've been in college for about six years now so I feel like I deserve a break after this. In the future I want to be working at a job that allows for flexibility and freedom. Hopefully I will be working on a short story, a collection of short stories, a poetry book or just continue writing a novel.

Emily Balli

Multimedia specialist, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences