New director to lead Writers House

The Daily Pennsylvanian
May 16, 2003

When Jennifer Snead first entered the Kelly Writers House in fall 2000, she fell in love with it. "If it had been there when I was an undergraduate, I would have lived there," said Snead, a 1994 College graduate and Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities.

But if the opportunity was not there then, she certainly has it now -- Snead was recently named director of the Writers House. She will replace Kerry Sherin Wright, whose term expires in July.

Serving as director won't be Snead's first experience with the Writers House, though.

While finishing her dissertation in 18th century British literature from Duke University and living in Philadelphia three years ago, Snead immediately became a member of the Writers House's literary society as a part-time professor and Writers House coordinator.

And when she heard about the director spot opening up, she jumped at the chance to continue her work with the Writers House.

"I didn't think they'd hire me," Snead said. "But I figured I'd give it a shot."

Kelly Writers House Faculty Director Alan Filreis conducted a three-month long national search to find the right person for the job.

"The Writers House has a national reputation, and the response was huge," Filreis said, noting that he received approximately 45 viable applications and interviewed eight candidates before choosing Snead.

As part of the month-long application process that followed the search -- which Snead described as "not easy" -- she was reviewed by a committee of faculty, staff and student members and interviewed twice before she was offered the job.

"Jennifer has a keen literary sensibility and lots of experience working in a literary community," Filreis said.

He added that Snead stood out to the committee because she has an "extraordinary charismatic personality, energy of 15 normal people and already has a true love of the Writers House."

According to Filreis, the committee, which included several professors who taught her as an undergraduate, saw Snead's experience at Penn and the Writers House as a valuable asset.

"She knows Penn, and the director of the Writers House should know Penn, if possible," Filreis said. "It's a complicated place."

Snead, who is ecstatic about her new role, has no immediate plans to make any changes to the Writers House.

"For right now, I want to learn my way around and the way it runs," Snead said. "My main goal is to keep the house as exciting and welcoming as it is now," she said.

"The Writers House is a pretty well-developed entity," Filreis said. "We can't do anything more. The Writers House will continue to be a haven for literary people at Penn."

Snead agreed. "I want everyone who thinks that they are interested in writing to feel welcome here."