The University of Massachusetts Amherst
Juniper Staff and Teachers

Juniper Staff


The enthusiasm, knowledge, and sensitivity of our staff is part of what makes Juniper great. Our writing community includes our Creative Writing Instructors and Program Assistants; they make it fun and inclusive, bringing their own curiosity and exploratory nature as writers into the mix. Staff participate in carefully designed semester-long trainings which emphasize creative writing pedagogy, developing an interactive classroom, mentoring in a residence-life environment, and strategies for supporting students away from home. Creative Writing Instructors design curricula especially for the Institute setting. Each writing lab group is assigned a Program Assistant (PA)—an advanced UMass undergraduate studying the literary arts.

Juniper staff receiving roses in the Old Chapel

Juniper Staff

Our staff work year-round to shepherd the Juniper experience into being. We're always here for your questions.

Jennifer Jacobson author photoJennifer Jacobson, Director 

Jennifer Jacobson is Director of the Juniper Summer Writing Institute and the Juniper Institute for Young Writers. She is also Associate Director of the MFA for Poets and Writers at UMass Amherst. She founded the nonprofit organization When Children Save the Day to unite language arts and social action. Her work has been honored with a Creative Teaching Fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the National Storytelling Network’s Brimstone Award for transformative community projects, along with support from the Solidago Foundation and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. Her short story “Heat” received an honorable mention from Glimmer Train, and “Trouble and Bones” was a Tennessee Williams Festival’s Fiction contest finalist. Jennifer teaches creative writing at Smith College’s Young Women’s Writing Workshop, and with Voices from Inside, created the Family Storybook Project curriculum for incarcerated women and their children.

Betsy Wheeler author photo

Betsy Wheeler, Managing Director

Betsy Wheeler is the author of the poetry collection Loud Dreaming in a Quiet Room and the poetry chapbooks Start Here and Mental Detours. She earned her MFA in poetry at The Ohio State University in 2005, and held the Stadler Fellowship at Bucknell University from 2005-2007. Her poems have appeared in publications including Tupelo Quarterly, The Journal, Bat City Review, Better, MiPoesias, Forklift Ohio, and Octopus. She lives with her wife and daughter in Northampton, MA. Read some poems in Tupelo Quarterly and a review of her book Loud Dreaming in a Quiet Room from Boston Review.

Crystal Norwood Resident Director photo

Crystal Norwood, Residence Director

Crystal Norwood is a full-time Residence Director at The University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is origionally from New York. Crystal recieved her masters in Student Affairs and Higher Education from Loyola University of Chicago. Additionally, she is an allumnus of Pace University-Westchester, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Psycology and Human Relations. She enjoys things such as exploring new places and cultures, traveling, shopping, and various other random activities/hobbies. 



Yetunde Ajao, Residence Director 

Yetunde photo

Yetunde Ajao is a Ph.D. candidate in International Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her scholarship broadly centers on finding solutions to youth employment in developing countries. She is also an Assistant Residence Director at UMass. She enjoys cooking, nurturing plants, and working with people. She is all about kindness.

Marcella author photograph

Marcella Haddad, Director’s Assistant

Marcella is a writer and first-year MFA student in fiction. She teaches in the Writing Program, and in the past has taught Creative Writing at Grubstreet, and ESL in Boston and Italy. Mosquitos have described her as, "10/10, would bite again." She is from California and moved to Massachusetts because the sun is her sworn enemy.

Yvette Ndlovu, Administrative Assistant

Yvette is a Zimbabwean sarungano/griot (storyteller). She is pursuing her MFA at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where she teaches in the Writing Program. She earned her BA at Cornell University and was a finalist for the 2020 Tin House Young Adult Writer of Color Scholarship. She received the George Harmon Coxe Award for Poetry selected by Sally Wen Mao, and was a runner up for the West Chester University's Myong Cha Son Poetry Award. Her interests include Africanfuturism/Afrofuturism, historical fantasy, oral poetry/storytelling, and African literature.


Noy Holland, Co-founder

Noy Holland’s I Was Trying to Describe What It Feels Like: New and Selected Stories was published by Counterpoint in January 2017. Her debut novel, Bird (Counterpoint), appeared in 2015, to great critical acclaim. Holland’s collections of short fiction and novellas include Swim for the Little One First (FC2), What Begins with Bird (FC2), and The Spectacle of the Body (Knopf). She has published work in The Kenyon Review, Antioch, Conjunctions, The Quarterly, Glimmer Train, Electric Literature, Publisher’s Weekly, The Believer, NOON, and New York Tyrant, among others. She was a recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council award for artistic merit and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. She has taught for many years in the MFA Program for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts. Visit her author website, read an interview at The American Reader, and listen to her read from her novel Bird at Bard College.

Dara Wier author photo

Dara Wier, Co-founder

Dara Wier's newest book of poems in the still of the night was released in fall 2017 from Wave Books, which has been her publisher since the book length poem Reverse Rapture. In 2014, The Believer named You Good Thing a reader's choice book of the year. Her poems have been awarded the American Poetry Review’s Jerome Shestack Prize, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artists Award, and the San Francisco Poetry Center's Book of the Year Award; are included in the Pushcart Prize and Best American Poetry anthologies; limited editions include (X IN FIX) and the big broadside The Usual Ratio of Banality To Wonder from RainTaxi’s brainstorm series, A Civilian's Diary of the War Years from The Song Cave, and with James Tate, The Lost Epic of Arthur Davidson Ficke, the Author’s Annotations, Commentary, and Notes of Reference for a Millennium’s Teardrop from Waiting for Godot Books. Recent poems can be found in Boston Review, Conduit, Volt, Plume, Poor Claudia, Bat City Review, Divine Magnet, Epiphany, LITERATURA, Hyperallergic, and elsewhere. She's been a poet-in-residence at the University of Montana, University of Texas, Emory University and the University of Utah; she was the 2005 Louis Rubin chair at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia and is a member of the poetry faculty of the MFA Program for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is a publisher and editor of the small independent press factory hollow press, and the literary magazine jubilat. Along with Noy Holland she co-founded the Juniper Initiative for literary arts and action and the Juniper Summer Writing Institute. Dara Wier was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. She writes the ongoing series about reading and writing INSIDE UNDIVIDED.