Professor runs more than just the classroom

MFA associate producer Rachel Toor teaches, writes and competes in marathons

By Rosie Perry, Staff Writer

Associate professor Rachel Toor leads a busy life working six days a week, writing, teaching and writing some more while still finding time for her main hobby of running.

Toor completed her bachelor’s degree at Yale University and said she wondered how she even got into the school. It was not until years later while she was working in the admissions office at Duke University she realized that everyone feels that way at one point or another.

Her love of running and writing ultimately led to a publisher reading the book she wrote on running and asking her to write a novel about a teenage girl who takes up running as a hobby. “I can’t write fiction,” was Toor’s first response. However, the publisher managed to convince her and the book was published in June 2014. The physical copy of the book will be available this spring along with a book she has been working on for the past 10 years.

Toor also wrote a series of writing guides for the University of Chicago. “It’s about writing personal essays for things like college applications. I put in there everything I know about writing in the first-person personal, so it’s a short book, but, I hope, a fun read,” Toor said.

Toor has worked for several newspapers and magazines throughout her professional career, including the Oxford University Press and the Duke University Press.

“The great thing about writing for magazines is that you get sent places,” Toor said. Just a few years ago she went on a trip to Israel to cover the Jerusalem Marathon.

Toor was the only journalist of the 40 covering the event who ran the full marathon. During her run she made friends with some Israelis who later showed her around. Toor said they made it possible for her to see and hear about things she would not have been able to otherwise.

Toor has also covered the Singapore Marathon, the Phuket Marathon in Thailand and a five-day, 100-mile race in the Himalayas, on the border of India and Nepal.

Throughout her time covering marathons and running them on her own time, Toor has completed more than 60 or 70 marathons and ultramarathons, which are races longer than 26.2 miles.

After she decided she was finished with publishing for the time being, she quit her job and spent a year running, riding horses and doing freelance work.

By the end of that year Toor was broke, so she got a job working in admissions at Duke. “That proved to be super fun. I had no idea that I loved working with high school and college students,” Toor said.

Even though she thoroughly enjoyed her job, Toor was saddened every time a rejection letter had to be sent. It was at this time she began writing essays for The Chronicle of Higher Education, a weekly trade journal for academics.

Three years later she wrote a book about the college admissions process. “Admissions Confidential: An Insider’s Account of the Elite College Selection Process” was published on Sept. 9, 2001. Toor even appeared on the Today show when the book came out.

“What I realized working in admissions was that I wanted to teach. So I went to graduate school at the University of Montana,” Toor said. Upon completion, Toor was hired at EWU and is currently teaching in the graduate master of fine arts program. “This quarter I have a tiny class of some of the best students I’ve ever taught at EWU. We’re having a blast.”