Francine Tolf ’80

An Interview with Author Francine Tolf ’80
by Kourtnie Haben, USF English Major

Francine Tolf

As I grow closer to graduating from USF, I find myself wondering what I can expect “in the real world” after getting my degree. What better way to get some ideas than by asking an alumna? I had the pleasure of speaking with then-College of St. Francis alumna Francine Tolf, who shared the same major as me, English. I wanted to see what it was like for Francine after she graduated with her English degree, and what steps she took to find a career that she enjoys, so I asked her!

Francine graduated from St. Francis with a bachelor’s in English in 1980. In fact, Francine studied with one of our beloved professors, John Bowers, who retired last spring. After St. Francis, Francine went on to get graduate degrees in English and creative writing at Kansas State and the University of Minnesota. Francine’s graduate school experience allowed her to pursue what she truly loved: writing. Now, as a published author, Francine has written several poems, short stories, and chapbooks. Her accomplishments include two published books about her hometown of Joliet: a memoir titled “Joliet Girl,” and a collection of essays titled “Joliet in My Blood: Essays on Growing up in Joliet, Illinois.”

But what did all this mean for Francine’s career? I was interested to hear about the many jobs she’s had, which include director of communications, law firm administrator, and employee in the education department at a scholarship corporation.

After asking Francine about the skills she’s used the most after graduation, she told me her reading and writing skills helped her get all the jobs she’s had and currently has; furthermore, her ability to speak well, read well, and write well carry over to every job. Along with good communication and writing skills, Francine told me that her time studying English and writing has given her a lasting love of literature and poetry. Francine believes literature opens us up to places, people, and ideas that we would possibly never know about if it wasn’t for reading!

I asked Francine if she had any advice for current and recently graduated English majors. She happily told me that life is not one track and that it can change at any time. Don’t be in a hurry, she advised, since nothing is written in stone! This was a wonderful reminder to me because I often feel like I need to have it all figured out before I graduate. Francine’s advice eased my worries and reassured me that I don’t have to have everything mapped out right away if I want to be successful post-graduation.