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Tolly Mosely ’04: Pursuing One’s Passion

Ask self-described mom, writer, aerialist and lover of all things cats, Tolly Moseley ’04, how she ended up at Southwestern and the answer comes in a cup of coffee. “Korouva Milkbar. It was the first time I’d encountered anything remotely counterculture. The mismatched furniture, the chalkboard menu, the weird stuff painted on the walls—-it was completely enchanting.”

Once on campus, Moseley says what mattered to her most was “definitely my relationships with my professors and the cozy, curious community.” Now the co-host of the Austin American-Statesman podcast “Statesman Shots,” Moseley says the Southwestern faculty helped her develop an inspired mastery of language. “They treated me as a fellow intellectual and their passion inspired me. That was profoundly formative.” However, Moseley did not always know she wanted to be a writer. “I actually entered Southwestern as a religion major [but] ended up switching to English. [My religion] classes had a huge impact on my worldview and I credit them with turning me into a more pluralistic thinker.”

As a student, Moseley honed her writing and editing skills by working for The Megaphone, Southwestern’s student-run newspaper and by supporting student authors in the Debbie Ellis Writing Center. Soon, she was interviewing literary giants like Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates and Russell Banks. “I landed this magical gig where I got to interview authors that came to campus each year for The Writer’s Voice. I am still so grateful to the library for giving me that opportunity,” she says. The key to Moseley’s Southwestern Experience—or, as she calls it, her “main jam”—was being able to graduate from Southwestern thanks to the financial support she received from both her parents and her Southwestern scholarships. “[My parents’] contributions and the financial aid I received lifted the [stress of paying for college]. That’s why I support Southwestern today with my gifts to the Southwestern Fund.”

After graduating from Southwestern with recommendations from Associate Professor of English Elisabeth Piedmont-Marton and Professor of English Eileen Cleere, Moseley earned her master’s degree in English literature from the University of California, Davis, and went to work for a literary PR firm in Austin. In fall 2012, she became a full time freelance writer, and says, “It was the best decision I ever made.” Moseley’s writing can be found in Salon, The Atlantic, and a host of regional magazines. She is also an aerial dancer, a form of modern dance that incorporates a ribbon attached to the ceiling allowing for performers to explore space in three-dimensions.

“Their belief in me, not just as a good student but as someone with interesting ideas, really changed the way I viewed myself.”

Looking back, Moseley says that it was the support of the Southwestern faculty that made the difference for her. “Their belief in me, not just as a good student but as someone with interesting ideas, really changed the way I viewed myself. It is absolutely the reason I had the confidence to pursue a career in writing, a trade devoted to ideas.” Now, when she meets students, Moseley implores them to “listen deeply to your passions and don’t be afraid to major in something just because it isn’t practical. Do what makes you come alive.”