Humans of the Hilltop: Sara Netzley

Greeting visitors with a Lisa Frank calendar, a seagull plush and a plastic Wonder Woman figurine, Sara Netzley’s office brings a pop of color to the white halls of the Caterpillar Global Communications Center.

But Netzley said she never imagined herself taking a full-time teaching job. She instead intended to work in the newsroom until she was hired at Bradley in 2004.

“I had always dreamed of being a reporter,” Netzley, assistant professor of journalism, said. “[But] I saw an ad for someone to teach print journalism at Bradley. I thought, ‘Oh, perfect.’ How could I not apply? … It’s the first and only academic interview I went on. I hope it’s my last one; I love being here.”

Netzley said she became acclimated to teaching soon after starting at Bradley – but not without initial concerns.

“The week before [I started], I kept having nightmares that the students were doing uncontrolled gymnastics tumbling runs, Olympics-style, up and down the classroom,” she said. “I tried to get them to come to order, and they just kept back-flipping. They were really talented … just not in writing.”

In 2015, Netzley began writing for a volunteer blog run by the Entertainment Weekly (EW) magazine, giving her a chance to stretch her writing muscles once more.

“The one downside of teaching is that I’m teaching students to write, but I’m not doing much writing myself,” Netzley said. “I thought it would be a nice way to jump start my own writing again in an exciting way. After a year of that, they asked me if I wanted to move over to the main website to start working as a recapper for shows that were currently airing.”

Netzley currently writes weekly recaps for “NCIS,” “Arrow” and “Grimm.” In the summer, she writes for “Preacher” and “The Chronicles of Shannara.”

“There are faster writers than me, but I like to think there aren’t many cleaner writers than me,” Netzley said. “It takes time to edit and takes time to produce things.”

Netzley said she has been met with some unexpected hardships while getting back to writing, including interacting with internet community members.

“That has been really interesting to me at Entertainment Weekly, learning that if there is a character you really like, somebody is going to loudly tell you that character sucks, probably in the comments,” Netzley said. “They may insult your writing or your parentage while doing it. It’s a lot of, ‘That’s not in the comic book, that’s so stupid.’ Can we agree that we have different opinions and move forward?”

Writing for EW has given Netzley the chance to interview high-profile figures.

“There was a time two years ago that I interviewed LL Cool J,” Netzley said. “He’s on ‘NCIS: L.A.’ … They had an availability for LL Cool J, so I got to talk to LL. That’s what I call him. My friend LL.”

Netzley said while she enjoys her job at EW, teaching is her true passion.

“In the end, I love teaching. It’s so rewarding [and] so fun,” Netzley said. “The students are the best part. I never know what each class is going to bring, I never know what questions are going to come up [or] where our discussions of the day are going to lead us … Every day is a chance to be astounded by some question or insight a student offers.”