UI grad to teach at Writers’ Workshop

Glen Waters II, an upcoming UI Writers’ Workshop graduate and former Division I football player, is looking forward to his teaching career.


Contributed photo by Glen Waters II

Virginia Russell, News Reporter

Glen Waters II has always found the path through academia exciting. From playing Division I football to pursuing poetry at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Waters has honed a diversity of crafts.

Now, as he prepares to graduate and receive his master’s in poetry from the workshop, Waters reflects on his previous endeavors and plans for the future.

Growing up in Cedar Hill, Texas, Waters excelled in football, which he credits as the catalyst for his academic career. A scholarship sent him to Washington, D.C., where he played for Georgetown University and studied biology for his undergraduate degree.

However, Waters found he did not enjoy biology because his real passion is writing.

“Poetry was always something I had in my back pocket,” Waters said. “I just never knew that it was going to come into my front pocket.”

Waters switched to writing after a year and went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in English and African American studies. Then the pandemic hit.

He knew he wanted to continue his education, so he began looking into doctorate programs and Master of Fine Arts creative writing programs.

After applying to multiple Masters of Fine Arts programs, the UI accepted his application.

Waters said the decision to accept the offer was a no-brainer.

“It was kind of all planned out for me, and I was able to just take advantage of it,” Waters said. “I got to Iowa in August of 2021, and I honestly never looked back.”

As a member of the poetry program in the Writers’ Workshop, Waters participated in writing sessions, took classes, taught others, and honed his craft. He said he enjoyed being in a space where he could focus on his writing.

“Writing is at the forefront of it all, and you’re never distracted by all the other things that typically could go on in a program,” Waters said.

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Waters also found ways to implement his passion for poetry in other fields, like music.

As a lover of both mediums, he wanted to form a stronger relationship between the two. William Menefield, UI jazz studies assistant professor, helped Waters do that. He reached out to Menefield looking for students to participate in the project, which was an exploration of hip-hop and poetry.

“It was a smaller scale than what I desired, but we were still able to do the project for the semester, so that was kind of cool,” Waters said.

In April 2022, he got an email from Damani Phillips, UI associate professor of jazz studies, about a new group called the Black Pop Music Ensemble. The group, directed by Menefield, is an ensemble of singers and musicians who meet for practice twice a week.

Waters saw the opportunity to expand on his earlier collaborative efforts, this time in a more effective way. He auditioned in fall 2022 and was accepted as the emcee.

In the fall 2022 academic year, the group planned a concert for the end of the semester. As the emcee, Waters created the setlist. He said his poetry background helped him create a smoother connection between each song.

“I’m on my computer looking at the lyrics and trying to make those connections to see how the show can flow in the way we want it to. What poetic introductions or endings can I add to make the show flow?” Waters said.

After their first performance in December 2022, the ensemble performed twice in the 2023 spring semester at the Wieting Theater in Toledo, Iowa, and most recently at the UI Voxman Music Building.

Many of the members, like Waters, will graduate this year. However, he is grateful for the relationships he has made and the group’s growing success.

“It’s a little sad, but it’s not like we can’t say we didn’t put together a great show,” Waters said. “There’s something new that the university hasn’t done before.”

Waters will get another opportunity to combine music and poetry, but this time he will be the one teaching. He will join the Writers’ Workshop as an adjunct professor in the fall and lead creative writing for the musician course.

He looks forward to providing his knowledge and experience to students with similar passions, and he sees teaching at the university as a way to give back.

“If I can help any poets that are coming into the Writers’ Workshop … if I can mentor some students in the university, not even affiliated with creative writing, I would love to do that before I head out,” Waters said.

Though his educational journey is not over, Waters said he hopes he will have some time to relax and shift his focus. He also credited his mentors, teachers, and the opportunities that allowed him to thrive over the years and contributed to his accomplishments.

“Community here can be hard sometimes, but once you find it, it’s beautiful,” Waters said. “You can find it in so many different ways.”