Appalachian State University Beat Reporter Ethan Joyce

Ethan Joyce is the Appalachian State University beat reporter for the Winston Salem Journal. Ethan is my guest for this week’s Torg Stories podcast Monday, September 2 Labor Day edition.

An Appalachian State graduate, Ethan continued his education and earned a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University in New York. Some of my favorite writing by Ethan was a three part series he did on the fate of assistant football coaches when the head coach gets a new job. I started my conversation with Ethan by asking him about a typical work week during football season.

To hear my conversation with Ethan, click the media player under the picture below or check out “Torg Stories” on iTunes via the podcast app on your iPhone or by clicking here .

Ethan Joyce and Bill Torgerson. Appalachian State University. Winston Salem Journal. football

Ethan and I on the campus of App State University in Boone, North Carolina


Hope you enjoy this week’s Torg Stories Podcast!



#My Yang Story: On Coming to the Candidacy of Andrew Yang

It wasn’t until the first democratic debate that I realized Andrew Yang was a candidate. For the first time in my life, I sat down with my wife and daughters ages 11 and 13 to watch the presidential debates. I don’t know if I’ve ever tuned in so early during a presidential race, and it was certainly the first time we’d watched a debate as a family. I was surprised and excited to see how interested my kids were in what was being said. 

Yang spoke the least of all the candidates at 2 mins and 50 seconds, but it seemed like no matter what he was asked, he quickly pivoted back to an idea about giving every person in the United States $1,000. Somewhere–maybe I heard it on television or read it on Twitter–Yang was described as the candidate who was trying to buy every Americans’ vote. It took me until almost the second debate to realize that it wasn’t just that $1,000 was going to go to every working age American if Yang got elected. The promise was to give every working age American one thousand dollars a month. What?!!! 

Andrew Yang #YangGang

Andrew Yang photo by Andrew Frawley

When it came time for the second debate, my kids and I were ready for more Andrew Yang. They knew him as the guy who didn’t wear a tie and the candidate who’d said ass when talking about the Russians “laughing their asses off” when it came to their interference in the U.S. presidential election. I have to say that I was close to laughing at Yang for the way I thought he would just keep hammering the audience with his $1,000 a person gimmick. I was, at least, really getting a kick out of his candidacy. 

In the second debate, Yang got a lot more air time, a whopping 8 mins and 53 seconds that still put him last for total talk time among the field. I stopped getting a kick out of him and started taking him seriously upon the delivery of his opening statement. Here’s a bit of what he had to say during the second debate: 

  • As someone who has run a business, our current healthcare system makes it harder to hire; it makes it harder to make them full time employees; it makes it harder to switch jobs, and it’s certainly a lot harder to start a business. If we can get healthcare off the backs of businesses and families, watch American entrepreneurship recover and bloom. 
  • If you go to a factory here in Michigan, you will not find wall to wall immigrants. You will find wall-to-wall robots and machines. Immigrants are being scapegoated for issues they have nothing to do with in our economy.
  • We should go back to the writings of Martin Luther King who in his 1967 book Chaos or Community? said we need a guaranteed minimum income in the United States of America. 
  • There is record high GDP and stock market prices. You know what else is at record highs? Suicides, drug overdoses, depression, and anxiety.
  • I’d like to talk about my wife who is at home with our two boys right now, one of whom is autistic. What does her work count at in today’s economy? Zero, and we know that is the opposite of the truth. We know her work is among the most challenging and vital.
  • We’re up here with makeup on our faces and our rehearsed attack lines playing roles in this reality TV show. It’s one reason we elected a reality TV star as our president.
Andrew Yang 2020 Math Hat

Yang says the opposite of Trump is an Asian Man Who Likes Math

Following the end of that second debate, I purchased Yang’s book, Smart People Should Build Things: How to Restore Our Culture of Achievement, Build a Path for Entrepreneurs, and Create New Jobs in America. In reading that book, I recognize in my own students what Yang describes as the limited choices students recognize upon their college graduation. Many of the students I work with are talented, hardworking, and ambitious, but they just don’t see many opportunities outside of work in finance, law, or healthcare. I’m impressed by Yang’s ideas for the economy, and I look forward to sharing some of what stands out to me in future posts. 

Thanks so much for taking the time to read my thoughts here. I look forward to joining you in conversation about the upcoming 2020 election.

Podcast: Appalachian State University Women’s Basketball Coach Angel Elderkin

App State University Women’s Basketball Coach Angel Elderkin on the Torg Stories Podcast.

Angel Elderkin Appalachian State University Women's Basketball Coach

Appalachian State University Women’s Basketball Coach Angel Elderkin


Click the audio player below to listen to the podcast or download it via the podcast app on your iPhone.


Coach Elderkin’s Appalachian State women’s team is coming off a 22 win season during which they won the the WBI post season tournament. My conversation with Angel was in part guided by a project I do with my students in the writing across the curriculum courses I teach at App State. The students study discourse communities of their choice, and I ask them to interview prominent members of the discourse community. In this case, the discourse community is that of basketball coaches. One of the features of a discourse community is that there is a set of common goals. I started off by asking Angel about the short and long term goals of the women’s basketball program.

Angel Elderkin and Bill Torgerson Appalachian State University

Coach Angel and I standing proud in front of the big “A” at the Holmes Center

The Evil Reading Check Quiz

Through the experience of some of the education courses I took in graduate school and then during my time teaching at St. John’s University, I accepted the idea that giving a reading quiz was the wrong pedagogical move. For the first time in thirteen years of teaching composition, I have a textbook for the course. I face a question a lot of we teachers face: How will I entice the students to read?
One way I try and get students to read is that I read out loud a part of the text that will be assigned for the next class with hopes this will spark some interest. If I can find the writer online saying something interesting, I show a bit of that to the class. One of the concepts in our textbook is that “texts are people talking.” In prep for reading Anne Lamott’s “Shitty First Drafts,” we watched her TED Talk. I also offer some focusing questions to give the students an idea about why I have assigned the reading. For example, we read Richard Straub’s piece about working in peer groups, and I pointed out Straub asks nine questions related to responding to others’ writing. I ask the students to try and remember two of those questions and apply what he says to what they might do when in a peer review group. Those focusing questions become the material for the reading quiz.
The quizzes are two or three questions. I am not trying to trick anyone with the questions. I have pretty much given the questions before the quiz. I hope the students will try and wrestle with the ideas in the piece. Because I believe writing is thinking and to be more literate is to be more powerful in the world, I don’t think I am wasting the students’ time with the assignments.
In grading the reading quizzes, I see some students still aren’t reading. Sometimes they apologize on the quiz for not reading, and I try to write something positive back to them. I wonder if those students not reading will start. I also learn that many of my students are reading and trying to apply the ideas in the text to their thoughts on writing.
There has been a really fun surprise in my giving of these quizzes. Because my questions require a couple sentences worth of a response, I am starting to feel like I am passing notes with my students about the subject of writing. What I’m doing reminds me a little of high school life in the 80s when classmates used to pass notes. When I respond to the students’ answers and write notes back to them, I see I am in about 90 different mini conversations with writing as the main topic. I thought responding to the quizzes was going to be something boring I did for the purpose of trying to get the students to read so that our time together in class was more interesting. It’s been a nice surprise that the pieces of paper the students and I are passing back and forth are feeling more like conversations about writing.

Thesis Statements in Stories

I had the choice of a couple of different textbooks to use for one of the college writing courses I am teaching. Today, I’m reading in it about narratives and how stories should have a thesis statement. While I do think sometimes I can point to a sentence in some of the stories I love that captures what the writer might have hoped to convey to readers, I can’t support the idea that a story needs a thesis and that’s something that can always be found in a story and marked.
I remember teaching freshman high school students in Charlotte when I thought I was ignorant because I couldn’t find all of the points in the story for a plot diagram. I had to start writing for myself before I realized that all the points on the diagram weren’t in all of the stories that were in our textbook. I hadn’t yet realized that the people who put together the textbooks and wrote the state tests didn’t really understand stories because they weren’t people who tried to write stories anymore.
I also doubt that all writers have a point or purpose to the stories they start. I have talked with a lot of writers who don’t start a story without knowing the theme of it and their reason for writing, but I have also talked to a lot of writers–and usually I’m in this camp–who discover why they are writing during the process of composition. The theme or purpose for the writing is fleshed out while writing.