J.E. Ambacher used his pen, paper, and keyboard to help him prevail through the spring semester of 2020.

07/19/2023 Alumni Spotlight

Learning from the challenges presented by the pandemic, J.E. Ambacher grew personally and academically, preparing him to pursue his professional ambitions.

Ambacher always aspired to be a writer. Through guidance from the caring faculty at McMurry, especially in the English Department, a dream of his came true: successfully finishing a complete work of short stories as a part of his Honors Opus. 

“I would not be where I am without McMurry,” said Ambacher. “When I first arrived at McMurry, I saw a sea of promise and potential that I was soon able to navigate.”

An English and writing major, Ambacher was the first student at McMurry to graduate with a minor in Film Studies. When not in the classroom, Ambacher served as president of Makona, a tutor in the AEC (Academic Enrichment Center), a reporter and editor for the War Hawk Harold, and co-editor for McMurry’s literary magazine, The Galleon.  

During his senior year, while advancing his intellect and experience through literary pursuits, he juggled three jobs. The onset of the pandemic prevented him from pursuing graduate school straight out of McMurry. Instead, he returned to his native borderland, El Paso/Juarez, and, through a serendipitous phone call to a former middle school teacher of his, landed a job as a high school English Language Arts teacher and administrator.  

Ambacher channeled all he learned and loved at McMurry into instituting a creative writing club and creating the school’s first official online literary journal made by students for students.  

While he enjoyed being a teacher, Ambacher realized that he wanted to take his professional development to the next level. 

Buoyed by encouragement from Dr. Bonds and others in the McMurry English department, Ambacher applied to attend graduate school.  

“Thanks to the guidance and support I received from each English Department faculty member—Dr. McLamore, Mr. Thompson, and the brilliant Dr. Bonds—I applied to five graduate schools and was accepted to all of them!” Ambacher said. 

Ambacher has decided to attend Iowa State after visiting with McMurry alumna, Sonia Del Hierro, who earned a master’s degree at Iowa State. 

I was lucky enough to share delightful candor with Sonia during a visit she made to McMurry on behalf of the Knox-Bennet Guest Writer Series,” Ambacher said. “Thanks to her insights and the supportive faculty in the English Department and the faculty at McMurry in general, I know I’ve chosen the right graduate program.” 

It was a bonus that Iowa State validated his work experience and awarded him a fellowship/teaching assistantship. Such awards are hard to come by.

Once he completes his master’s degree, Ambacher is considering teaching at the collegiate level and preparing to pursue a PhD.