Resisting Swamp Monsters: My Time as the Social Media Coordinator & Staff Writer

swamp thing memeIf you had asked me at the start of this semester why I was an English Major, I would have said I wasn’t sure. Just a semester ago, I thought I wanted to be an English teacher. My English teachers had helped me discover and love literature, and I wanted to do the same for the next generation. But I learned from my first stent in assistant teaching that teachers have a special kind of bravery that I don’t possess. Dazed, confused, and uncertain, I was fortunately picked up by Dr. Hunter to be Social Media Coordinator for the English Department—something that initially felt foreign to what being an English major meant to me.

I felt something click into place was when I found out I would be doing a story about Dr. Sean Latham, preeminent scholar of James Joyce. Dr. Latham would be coming to UTC to deliver a lecture on his latest research, and I was supposed to do a blog post to drum up attention. I have always loved Joyce, so I was excited. I was, however, much more nervous. Dr. Hunter told me my interview would be emailed to each and every Mocs email account, students, staff, and faculty. Thousands of people would be offered my story to read, unsolicited, on a Monday morning, drinking coffee, straight into their inbox. The power of going public with my writing was intoxicating, as well as utterly terrifying. Shyly, I chose the least intrusive format for a story I could, a direct-to-text interview. I decided to write questions I thought would make Joyce sound interesting, and hope against hope Dr. Latham would spare some time to respond.

If he would let me, I could have just kissed Dr. Latham for what he sent back. Reading his responses was like unwrapping present you know is good the second you get a peek through the wrapper. He had sent me back, in long and lucid sentences, some 1200 passionate, evocative, words, arranged just for me. I was amazed that such talented and intelligent writing had been sent straight to my inbox. Furthermore, I was wild with excitement at the thought  of other people reading it.

I describe this experience because I started out this semester not sure if I would actually be happy with a career in social media. I used social media in my daily life, but distantly, somewhat removed from the culture, believing social media to be run by a swamp monster that would suck me into an ooze of narcissism if I got too close. Given our political climate in the year 2018, we all know how real the swamp monster is. However, I learned this semester that there is also a considerable plot in cyberspace populated with authors, librarians, teachers, and other passionate people dedicated to offering an alternative to that swamp monster.

With my internship I felt like I was doing my part to carve out a chunk of cyberspace that was safe, and good. I hoped that what I wrote would bring people to new and greater understanding. I felt like I was fighting off swamp monsters, abreast and in league with other brilliant people.

Now, I feel ready to graduate. I have written some seven blog posts, posted about a hundred times to social media, conducted a half dozen interviews, learned a little about Photoshop and blogs. I learned about marketing, social media, and analytics. I even got a paying job out of it! I’m now the “Student Media Specialist” for the College of Arts and Sciences—a job with an emerging and evolving definition. Basically, I get to help make the websites of the College a little better.

Social media isn’t all a swamp. Perhaps I’m on the dry land, keeping the swamp monster at bay, buttressing the shoreline. If anyone is reading this, especially freshmen and sophomores, and you are considering majoring in English or any of the humanities, I implore you to do so. With my internship I found a way to connect my academic interests in English and the skills I’ve developed as an English major with possible future jobs. In my case, I see how I can get a good job doing something that improves the intellectual ecology of the planet. This is an exciting time to be alive and literate!


Alum Spotlight: Conni Boykins

Conni Boykins

Don’t listen to the people who make (bad) jokes about you making no money. They’re sad, you’re great, and English degrees are well worth your time. –Conni Boykins, UTC ‘15


In the age of the emoji, the skills businesses value above all else is the increasingly rare ability to read vastly and write fluently, to take complex information and concisely condense, synthesize, and analyze it. English majors are being hired in practically every field, from law firms to tech agencies and financial firms. Conni Boykins, UTC English alum (’15), is a great example of how useful an English degree can be in the professional world. She used her experience as an English major to get a job with The Patten Group, a Chattanooga based investment firm.

Conni was living in Atlanta, pursuing a degree in accounting, realizing to new depths each day how much she hated it. On top of that, the program was costing her a fortune. She needed a switch but didn’t want to move back to her hometown in Knoxville, so the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga was the clear choice. Like many English majors, Conni is a self-selector, professing a lifelong love of reading and writing. She decided to focus in on a Rhetoric and Professional Writing track she wanted to get a job in professional writing and felt like that offered her the most potential.

The program offered her an opportunity to develop her skills not just as a professional, but as a well-rounded and critically-thinking human being. Part of what is so valuable about an English degree is that English courses encourage the student to think complexly and analyze information closely from multiple angles. She said that people who are trained in finance sometimes can only see as far as the numbers go. Her education taught to to look between more holistically at the situation. Conni cited Persuasion and Propaganda as greatly increasing her value as an employee, saying:

“I read a lot of corporate jargon and research that often overweights the positives and underweights the negatives,” Conni said, “That class really strengthened my ability to cut out the noise and get to the heart of the thing.”

She got to take some fun elective classes in her time at UTC, too, exploring her passions in an academic context. One of her favorite classes was Rhetoric, Food, and Culture with Dr. Ingraham.

“Food and cooking are a huge part of my life and I loved incorporating the two into my education.” Conni said.

While at UTC, Conni also had the chance to get involved with the community. She joined the UTC chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the national English Honors Society, and Spectrum, UTC’s LGBTQQIA organization, as well as participating in a number of events hosted at the Women’s Center.

Towards the end of her time at UTC, Conni signed on as an intern with the Patten Group, an investment managing firm in Chattanooga through the English department’s internship office.

She attributes her success as a professional to asking a lot of questions and looking for new opportunities to apply herself with her time at Patten. Conni focused on doing good work and learning a lot, conducting extra research and reading books on her own outside of her on-the-job training. After interning for one semester, they promoted her from Research Intern to Executive Assistant and Research Intern. The Patten Group then offered her a full-time position as Junior Research Writer and Intern Assistant immediately after graduation. Although she had spent two years studying accounting in Atlanta, Conni says she went in pretty blind into Patten, saying accounting and investing are universes apart in the world of finances.

For English Majors considering trying an internship out, Conni recommends asking lots of questions, looking for side-projects and extra tasks to help you stand out, and to really try to develop an efficient workflow in a professional setting.

When I asked Conni if she had any advice for students considering an English degree at UTC, she had this to say:

“DO IT. The skills you learn are broadly applicable and you can truly do anything with the major.”

Dacre Stoker: Dracul, the prequel to Dracula

Dacre Stoker, co-author of Dracul

Dacre Stoker, co-author of Dracul

Dacre Stoker, great-grand nephew of Bram Stoker and co-author with J.D Barker of the first authorized prequel to Dracula, Dracul, will be visiting UTC on Nov. 8th at 7pm in Derthick 201.

Dracul is an historical fictionalized origin story of his great-grand uncle’s life leading up to the writing of his immortal horror fiction novel, Dracula. Dacre Stoker is in many ways the perfect person to write the prequel to his great-grand uncle’s historic novel, as he has been researching and writing about his family’s history for many years. In anticipation of his coming talk, reading, and book signing, we asked Stoker to respond to some questions about his book and what he would be coming to talk about.

What was your experience like co-writing Dracul with J.D Barker ?

First of all we wrote Dracul in the epistolary manner, the same way Bram wrote Dracula. We wanted readers to attain a similar feel when reading both novels. Our collaboration was very symbiotic. I provided a family historical timeline, and tons of factual research from my family. JD and I wove fact and fiction into the story in a seamless manner. JD’s writing style is much more suited for a mystery thriller than mine, so his voice was the predominate one in the finished text.

Students will be interested to know that the protagonist of your novel is based on your own great-grand uncle, Bram Stoker himself. What inspired you to make that decision?

Most of the characters, Bram Stoker, his older sister, Matilda, their older brother Thornley, and other members of the Stoker family as well as Arminius Vambery are all based on real people and are featured in our story. Dracul reads like a made up mystery thriller. It’s not until readers take a look at the Author’s Note at the end, do they realize that most of the story was real or based on real events.

What was the research process for you like, to discover who your ancestor would be as a character?



I have been researching my family for many years, so creating life-like characterizations of each of them for our novel was actually quite easy and exciting, especially as I saw them come back to life in or story.

Vampires are an ancient monster various cultures have represented in diverse ways across the globe and throughout history. Yet, vampires seem to have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years. To what do you attribute the vampire’s both lasting and resurgent popularity?

We all need to be aware that the Vampire has existed in superstitions and folklore in most of the world’s cultures for thousands of years. So they have always been around in one form or another. It takes good authors and screenwriters to adapt a story for these Vampires to continue to be new and exciting and not simply a revised re-run.

What else would you like students to know about your new novel and your coming lecture at our campus?

I am very excited to be coming to UTC. I love to spread the word about my famous relative and some of the secrets and mysteries behind his writing of Dracula as well as highlight my latest efforts with JD Barker about Dracul, the prequel to Dracula. I can guarantee that you will be entertained and learn something at the same time.

Black Panther Week: Showcasing Marvel’s Most Important Hero

Tweet @UTCEnglish what you’ve been doing in preparation for #blackpantherweek

The English department will be hosting a series of three events this October discussing the cultural significance of Marvel Comics’ Black Panther.

On October 23rd, students and faculty are invited to attend a roundtable discussion of diversity and comic books. On October 24th, Dr. James Arnett and his African Sci-Fi class will be presenting the whole history of the Black Panther comic series. Black Panther Week will culminate with a screening of the 2018 Ryan Coogler film on the 30th. For information on the times and location of the events, see the Black Panther posters posted around campus, or on the UTC English calendar and social media accounts.

In anticipation of these events, Dr. James Arnett and Tiffany Mitchell, English professors at UTC, wanted to talk about the sorts of things they will be exploring in the events to follow. Arnett and Mitchell have worked together on diversity projects before. In the spring of 2016, Arnett and Mitchell worked on Lemonade Week, a series of four events based around Beyonce’s visual album, Lemonade. The event was a great success, culminating in a massive symposium-style presentation where nine faculty members and around four dozen students contributed videos, writings, and performances.

Tiffany Mitchell, UTC

“We are adept at giving any number of proper academic lectures on campus,” Arnett said, “We receive notices all the time, but we don’t have many opportunities to bridge the gaps in between those art objects and objects students are seeking out in their free time. Black Panther Week is a way to create a standardized conversation across the board that avoids jargon and rarification, and allows all of us to speak about the same things.”

James Arnett, UTC

Black Panther tells the story of T’Challa, heir to technologically advanced Wakanda, who must stop a challenger to the throne named Killmonger from ascending to power and dispersing Wakanda’s secret technology to the African diaspora. Black Panther stands apart in the Marvel pantheon and as a Hollywood production for its nearly all-black cast and production. Arnett and Mitchell hope Black Panther Week will get students thinking about what it means to circulate cultural objects about blackness. One of the things that interests both of them about Black Panther as an art object is that it poses an alternative history to Africa grounded in strength and self-protection, rather than fear and violence.

 “Black Panther shows us this beautiful Africa if it wasn’t raped and pillaged and carved up,” Mitchell said, “It is this one little slice of land that could have been. Unfortunately, we have a monolithic view of Africa. When you think of Africa, you think of the bush. Black Panther portrays parts of Africa as it really is . . . varied, plus this sci-fi, futuristic vision of what it could look like.”

Black Panther showcases in both the foreground and background individuated blackness. Many of the lip plates, hairstyles, and costumes represented in the different tribes of Wakanda are all inspired by actual African tribes. For instance, Ruth E. Carter, costume designer for the film, modeled Okoye and the Dora Milaje on the Turkana and Maasai tribes. This sect of warrior women in red first appeared in the Black Panther comics in 1998. In the original, they sported stilettos, red mini skirts, and straight black hair. For the 2018 film, Carter adapted the characters to be more battle ready. The stilettos and mini skirts are gone, and instead the Dora Milaje are uniformly bald and wear practical battle armor. “We needed to present another female warrior that was fully clothed with her vitals protected,” Carter said in an interview with Vulture. “She’s really, truly ready for battle” .

“I thought it was beautiful,” Mitchell said, “When T’challa and Okoye were in the casino in Korea. As soon as the fighting starts, Okoye flings her wig off. That was powerful.”

Design choices like the shaved heads of the Dora Milaje are immediately relevant to American culture and politics. Colonizer mentality has always had a stranglehold on black hairstyles. Back in May of this year, the Supreme Court refused to hear the 2013 lawsuit of a black woman whose job offer was rescinded after refusing to cut her dreadlocks off . In Tennessee, a stylist can be fined thousands of dollars for practicing braiding without a license, placing unnecessary regulations on black business owners under the guise of civic well-being.

“Facilities that do braids in Tennessee have to meet the same requirements that a regular salon would have,” Mitchell said. “But these are things that a braiding salon would never need. Its crazy!”

While events that celebrate diversity and bring attention to the overwhelming whiteness of Hollywood enjoy popularity and success within the English department, programming such as this is under constant threat of defunding and disintegrating.

“I think we are responding to some of the legislative pressures against diversity programs at UTK and here at UTC and trying to sort of rush into the gap that is being made by the evacuating of financial and political support.” Arnett said, “Our students are still our students, and we want to respond to attempts to disaggregate them. It is more and more important for us to have these sorts of events that bring people together if the spaces themselves are under existential threat.”



Black Panther Week Poster
Tuesday, October 23, 5:30 pm, Multicultural Center UC
English Faculty Rountable, Diversity and Comic Books
Wednesday, October 24, 5:30, Raccoon Mountain Room, UC
Whole History of Marvel comics’ Black Panther
Tuesday, October 30th, 8pm
Derthick 201, Black Panther Film Screening


Alum Spotlight: Laura Coker

Laura Coker, Paralegal, with signage to prove it!

It is a tired and thoroughly unfunny trope that English Majors must aspire to be either teachers of English or baristas once they graduate college. Even I, a senior this year, have started feeling acute anxiety at the thought of leaving academia–the only world I have ever known– to join the ranks of professionals.

To demystify embarking on a professional career path, I reached out to UTC English Alum Laura Coker, one of our Outstanding Graduating Seniors of 2017, and asked her about her time at UTC and her search for gainful employment after graduation.

When I asked her to walk me through the processes she took to find the job she has now, Laura responded: “It was honestly a nightmare.”

Around six months prior to her graduation, Laura began applying to any and all positions listed online that had any writing component to them. She applied to social media positions, grant writing positions, and law firms. 

Anything. Everything.

Laura estimates she sent out around 40 well developed applications in those 6 months. And it worked! Eventually, Laura saw and applied for a position as a clerk at the regional law firm Leitner, Williams, Dooley, & Napolitan, PLLC. As a clerk, Laura was responsible for assisting the workflow of the various attorneys and paralegals in the firm, making copies scanning documents, organizing pleadings, and filing paperwork.

Just a few months later, after demonstrating herself as a hard worker with excellent skills in reading and writing, Laura was promoted to paralegal. Now she works closely with that same attorney on a daily basis, assisting and weighing in on significant court cases in the Chattanooga area in a way that is fulfilling and meaningful to her.

Laura Coker with Reid Elsea, 2017 English Outstanding Seniors.

“You would be surprised at how many people can’t form a complete sentence or don’t know basic sentence structures,” Laura said. “I’m also able to analyze texts more closely than most people, notice details that may seem insignificant but, do in fact, have a purpose. I’m also able to communicate verbally and through email with people. Maybe that doesn’t seem like it would be difficult, but one little detail can make all of the difference in the outcome of a case.”

There you have it: a veritable paragon of the English Major success story. Forward this blog post to any family member that challenges your life-decisions this Thanksgiving.

What can you do to make the most of your short time here at UTC? Laura, like most English Majors, was of the self-selecting type, expressing a lifelong love of reading and writing. Choosing to be an English Major was never a question in her mind, because it was what she loved and what she was good at. 

One thing Laura stressed about getting the most out of an English degree, is getting involved in extracurricular activities, participating in internships, and getting published. Laura was a member of the UTC chapter of the English Honors group Sigma Tau Delta. Laura worked on the University’s literary and arts magazine, The Sequoya Review.

During her sophomore year, she worked as an intern for senator Bob Corker. Her job working for Corker was answering phone calls, recording these calls, and synthesizing them into a newsreel for Corker to hear the concerns and complaints of his constituency. 

One thing I took away from Laura was the flexibility the English Major offers. Although Laura concentrated in Rhetoric and Professional Writing, many of the classes she cited as most influential in her education were primarily literary in focus. Her four favorite classes she took at UTC were History of the English Language, Shakespeare, Lord of the Rings, and Women’s Rhetoric. 

“History of the English Language strengthened my linguistic abilities, Shakespeare and Lord of the Rings developed my skills in reading comprehension. Women’s Rhetoric was great because we analyzed current events and tied them to the rhetoric from older pieces written by women,” Laura said, “Another one I should mention would be Design for Writers because it taught me how to use Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop, which I wouldn’t have learned otherwise and are important to know in this technologically driven world.”

Edward Hirsch: How to Read a Poem

Edward Hirsch

Poet, author Edward Hirsch

Dr. Edward Hirsch has devoted his life to advocating poetry. He is the author of nine volumes of poetry, most recently Gabriel: A Poem. He is the author of five books of prose, including How to Read a Poem an Fall in love with Poetry—a national bestseller. He is the president of the John Simon Guggenheim memorial Foundation, and the recipient of both MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships.

He will deliver a lecture on the nature of reading poetry, the interchange between the poet, the poem, and the reader.

Dr. Hirsch was kind enough to answer a few questions in regards to his upcoming visit.

What originally drew you to poetry? Was there a specific experience with poetry that crystalized for you the transformative power of poetry?

I was first drawn to poetry out of emotional desperation. As a teenager, I was overwhelmed by feelings I didn’t understand and I gravitated toward poetry as a way to try to describe the intensity of what I was feeling. I wasn’t writing poems, I was writing expressive lines.

It was after I started college that I began to see the connection between reading and writing poetry. I fell in love with the English Metaphysical poets. I loved the way they structured arguments. I started to try to do that myself. That’s how I stumbled into the realization that the poet is a maker and the poem is a made thing.

Your book How to Read Poetry came out in 1999. Between then and now, the world has transformed in unimaginable ways. Do you feel your book is more important now than when it was first published? And how have you observed America’s culture of poetry and literature change in that time?

I can’t speak to the importance of my own book. But I still recognize the need for an intervention. I still believe that poetry speaks to our inner lives in necessary ways. And I believe that we need poems to help us clarify our response to the world.

The news cycle is even more intense now. Everything is even more distracting. Poems help to focus our attention. The good news is that it turns out that a lot of social media is quite good for disseminating poetry. The bad news is that it doesn’t encourage people to take much time and pay attention.

The first poem I encountered of yours was “For the Sleepwalkers.” It was in my senior year of high school and I was struck by how in the opening line you declare your desire to “say something wonderful.” Do you feel that is the proper function of poetry: to say something wonderful? If so, are you comfortable being classified as a romantic?

I loved the challenge of the first line in “For the Sleepwalkers,” I’m glad you responded to it. I would say that saying something wonderful is just one of the tasks of poetry. Perhaps it’s equally important to say something deep. I’m comfortable, in any case, with the designation as a romantic poet. I’d love to be able to continue the American romantic line, which runs from Whitman through Stevens, Crane, and Bishop.

Becoming Human: James Joyce in Four Objects

Dr. Sean Latham,

Dr. Sean Latham, Walter Endowed Chair of English, University of Tulsa.

Dr. Sean Latham will be coming to deliver a special lecture on James Joyce and Modernity, titled “Becoming Human: James Joyce in Four Objects.” Wednesday, Sept. 19th at 5:30pm in the Raccoon Mountain Room.

Dr. Latham is the Walter Endowed Chair of English at the University of Tulsa, Director Oklahoma Center for the Humanities, Editor of James Joyce Quarterly, and Director, University of Tulsa Institution for Bob Dylan Studies. Dr. Latham, scholar of modernism, and major figures James Joyce and Bob Dylan, was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding his lecture.


What do you want to tell us about your lecture?

Well, I was asked to give a talk that would connect Joyce to the perpetual, though now acute, sense that humanities are in real crisis.  Enrollments and majors in fields like English and History are declining as universities increasingly focus on assessment regimes that demand measurable outcomes.  At the same time, parents and students alike have shifted their focus away from the ideals of the liberal arts education and toward higher education as pre-professional training.  So, this talk will ask some hard questions about the humanities while also showing that these concerns are not at all new. I also hope that it will have something useful to say about how Joyce’s work can help us think about some of the complicated questions we now face—questions about information overload, data management, and the internet of things. We’d like to think these problems are new, but they’re not.  And Joyce offers us some creative ways to think through and even beyond them.

What originally drew you to the study of James Joyce?

Well, my first encounter with Joyce’s wasn’t entirely a happy one.  I remember reading Portrait of an Artist in college and clearly the idea was that we were somehow supposed to identify with the inner agonies of the complicated young man the book describes.  His struggles with religion, family, and home were familiar, but his world seemed distant from my own and parts of the book seemed downright remote. As I’ll argue in my talk, however, I think that book has the potential to become newly relevant, especially if we see in it the plight of a young college student struggling on the edge of debt, uncertainty, and the demand that he quickly get a career and start earning money.

My larger engagement with Joyce also came out of a struggle with his writing (and reputation) rather than an initial love of his work.  I’m a first-generation college student who grew up in Colorado and went to college and then graduate school at elite schools in the East.  I loved it, but also found myself often anxious around students who seemed so much more worldly and sophisticated than me. I tackled Ulysses as a way of proving myself, and in graduate school I wrote a dissertation called Am I A Snob? which was, in part, an attempt to think through why someone like me should read and value a difficult book like Ulysses.  I still struggle with that question.  In fact, one of the first talks I ever gave was called “Hating Joyce Properly” and one reason Joyce matters, I think, is because his books can continue to offer compelling answers even to these hard and skeptical kinds of questions.

Any hints on your slightly enigmatic title?

Nope.  I hope folks will consider coming out to see how a cup of coffee, a computer, a joystick, and a bar of soap all tell us something important not just about Joyce but about the dense complexity of our modern lives.

Modernist figures, and perhaps Joyce especially, have an air of mysticism and intrigue that has only grown over this last century. Why do you think that is?

That’s a big question, so my short answer would be that we have never stopped being modern. Our culture trains us to value the new and to forget the old—to imagine that our lives now have little to do with those of say Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and Marcel Proust.  The disruptions they experienced, however, connect intimately to our own sense of a world in perpetual change, and the closer we look at their writing, their art, and their confusion, the more intimate and revealing their work becomes.

Joyce is loved by some and hated by others for his difficulty. What is your advice to students who might not be familiar with his works, who may or may not have read Portrait of an Artist, who want to read his late masterpieces but feel intimidated?

My short answer to this question would be that Joyce’s work are actually quite accessible, but you have to approach them on their own terms.  If you treat them like a series of coded messages that somehow have to be decrypted, then they will always be aliening, difficult and elitist.  The annotations to Ulysses, for example, are longer than the book itself—but no one really holds all that knowledge in their head, nor do you need it to read the book.  Joyce’s earliest readers certainly didn’t have it and found themselves just as baffled by the details of life in 1904 Dublin as contemporary students do.  I think all Joyce’s books have a strongly anti-authoritarian streak. That is, they work in such a way that no one reading or interpretation is correct, authoritative, or commanding.  This is particularly the case in Finnegan’s Wake, where the puns are so various and complex that novice readers regularly see or hear things that have long eluded even the most dogged veterans.

In the article “Hating Joyce Properly” you describe an ever-growing threat of recycling criticisms when writing about ubiquitous literary figure such as Joyce, and a sense of “fury” in trying to tackle all the swollen shelves of criticism to that artist. Do you still enjoy the research you do on Joyce?

Yes, I love doing research on Joyce.  I read bucketloads of articles each week for JJQ and that work comes from all over the world—from people who are discovering new, exciting, or confusing stuff in works that have now been in studied in detail for over a century.  Sometimes, this novelty comes from meticulous historical research. In the forthcoming issue of the journal, for example, we’ve got an article on a curious Irish tradition called Women’s Christmas—an informal holiday with deep Celtic roots that fundamentally changes the way we read Joyce’s most famous story “The Dead.”  Just as often, however, new approaches emerge because readers need to put Joyce to work in new ways. This explains, for example, the emergence of the broad array of work on Joyce’s Irish contexts that have dominated the critical conversation for the last two decades—a moment when Ireland itself finally embraced Joyce and made its way more confidently onto the world stage.  And I hope my talk will reveal other kinds of uses to which Joyce might be put as we struggle, for example, with the challenge of living in a world in which objects have become increasingly lively, active, and powerful.

Is there anything you would like to say that we haven’t covered?

The only thing I want to stress is that the talk I’ll deliver is not for specialists and you don’t need to know a thing about Joyce in order to attend.  I’ll be talking about the internet of things, about living in a world inundated by data, and even how to respond to those who think English majors all become baristas at Starbucks.  This is timely stuff, and Joyce remains very much an artist of our time.

New Head, New Club, New Department

Dr. Andrew McCarthy is English professor and department head at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Dr. Andrew McCarthy, English professor and department head at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Two New English Department Groups

English Department Head Dr. Andrew McCarthy announced the coming formation of a new English Club and Student Steering Committee. English majors, minors, and even students with only a general interest in language and literature, rhetoric and professional writing, and creative writing will be invited to join the English Club. Students who join will have the opportunity to attend theatrical productions around the area, monthly teas, and short readings and discussions on contemporary works receiving acclaim and attention.

Of his hopes for English Club, Dr. McCarthy said, “We want to start emphasizing literary and rhetorical analysis and being active, engaged readers and writers once you leave UTC. We thought about trying to have brief readings, to talk about a poem that has recently appeared in a publication that has generated some interest. Having people sit together, talk about a poem, and discuss the controversy or the acclaim a poem has received will help students see what we do as professional academics and English professors. We engage in contemporary works as much as we engage in the analysis of Shakespeare or Milton. We have faculty who teach contemporary literature, rhetoric, and creative writing who are aware of the ongoing discussions happening in our fields but we don’t have a space to share that with students. We might start doing a better job of showing students what being an academic looks like through lived experience.”

Additionally, Dr. McCarthy plans the formation of a Student Steering Committee. The Committee would consist of approximately 6 students who, as McCarthy put it, “…are interested in thinking about their place and the UTC community, who would meet bi-weekly or monthly to address student concerns and to bring to my attention things that I might not know. I want to hear about what they think is important as English majors at UTC. They might develop suggestions on courses that we don’t typically teach that they would like to see or courses that don’t currently exist at UTC. They might offer suggestions on the English Club regarding things that might be happening on campus that would be good partnership opportunities. They could connect us in interesting ways to the other things happening in the Chattanooga area or the state of Tennessee that we might not know about. It is to be an opportunity for them to think about how they want to shape their experience as students at UTC.”

Sigma Tau Delta meeting

Sigma Tau Delta meeting

Dr. McCarthy hopes that the formation of these two new groups will create a greater sense of democracy and community within the department. As it stands, the only student group particular to the English Department is Sigma Tau Delta, an Honors Society with qualifications for joining such as a minimum GPA and at least a sophomore standing.

A welcome party is scheduled for 9/18 to gather students to discuss the formation of the Steering Committee and English Club. Further details are to be released then.

Dr. McCarthy has been teaching literature with UTC for 8 years and became department head over the summer. His research focuses primarily on Shakespeare and early modern English literature. When Dr. McCarthy is not teaching he spends time with his wife and children, enjoying music, travel, and cuisine.

Outstanding Graduating Senior Hannah Rials

This year the three Outstanding Graduating Seniors were Hannah Rials for Creative Writing, Katherine Sweat for Literature, and Qingyuan Guo for Rhetoric and Professional Writing. We were able to catch up with Hannah Rials regarding her experience in the English major.

What made you want to become an English Major?

I became an english major because I’ve always loved to read and write. I’ve never thought of myself of doing anything else other than writing, and it was just the natural fit for me. I never wavered in my decision, never changed my major. It was just always the right decision and place for me.


How do you feel about opting to do the internship program as opposed to a senior capstone or thesis?

I can’t really speak to the capstone or the thesis, but I loved my internship. I was the managing intern at Star Line Books, so not only did I do some writing for them and all the social media, but I learned some of the ins and outs of owning a business, and specifically a bookstore. I’ve made some great connections and had great literary opportunities thanks to my job here. I also did an internship class in high school, and that is what led to my book being published. I recommend interning for everyone if possibly. It gives you the chance to apply your knowledge and skills while also seeing if what you want to do is actually what you want to do before you’re in the “real” world.

What are the biggest things you’ve learned from your internship?

I’ve definitely improved my people skills and learning to cope with people who are demanding or rude in a civil way. I’ve learned several social media tactics, how to write better press releases, and how to keep a store running efficiently. I certainly know that I never want to own a bookstore myself, but this has been the best experience!

What are some of your proudest accomplishments while at UTC?

I started the Chattanooga Writer’s Society my sophomore year, a creative writing club for all majors, not just english majors. This past year, four of them won the Artists & Authors Scholarship, so that made me really happy.

My book Ascension was published in 2016, which was the biggest moment of my life thus far. It won the Royal Dragonfly Award for New Voice in YA, and then it won the Benjamin Franklin Gold Award in YA from the Independent Book Publisher’s Association.

Interning with Star Line Books is another of my greatest accomplishments. I’ve made a lot of connections there that will hopefully last a long time.

I worked on the Sequoya Review on the fiction editorial team and the Head of the PR Committee; I organized a bunch of events throughout the semester that promoted submissions.

My creative nonfiction piece “How to Be a Wall” was published in The Write Launch in April 2018.

They can purchase the book at Star Line Books downtown, on amazon, and on the website. The second book, Clandestine, releases July 20th in Knoxville and July 21st in Chattanooga at Star Line Books.



Jobs For English Majors: Commerce, Tech, and Marketing

As English majors, you’ve likely had people say things to you like “Oh, you must want to teach.” Or some other antiquated sentiment like there being no money in the humanities. However, these comments should soon become fewer and further between because the stigma surrounding English degrees is disappearing rapidly. Even billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban has called the Liberal Arts “the future of jobs.” Luckily for you, English major, this article will give you some alternatives to the stereotypes of teaching and serving coffee. Yay!

 Commerce Journalism

While Anderson Cooper may have corned the market on smoldering stares and hard hitting news, that doesn’t mean you can’t make a career for yourself in journalism. In the wake of traditional (i.e., real) journalism’s slow but sure death march, a new career has arrived to take its place and focus on revenues: Commerce Journalism. Commerce journalism involves writing things like native advertisements that flow with the material represented in the rest of the publication—as well as carefully curating material designed to sell products to a specific audience. The idea is that your writing helps people understand what they need to buy, and this can absolutely be done creatively. You may have heard this kind of job be referred to as Aditorial writing, or less flattering monikers, but the fact is that there is money to be made in this field, and someone (maybe you) has to do it. Enter you, two parts youth, six parts debt, and a dash of qualification.

The wonderful thing about this job is that it didn’t exist ten years ago, so it would be impossible for an employer to require years of experience. That, combined with the lowest average advertising starting salary at $32,000, and the highest at roughly $76,000, is starting to make this sound like a pretty wonderful job. Growing rapidly among media companies, commerce journalists are in high demand. While some of those companies are places like Buzzfeed, and other clickbait sites, the revenue commerce writers are bringing in for their publication is no secret. This career’s popularity has even spilled over into pop culture, an episode of HBO’s Girls is centered around Lena Dunham doing Aditorial work for GQ. While impossible to say with absolute certainty, it is likely bigger publications such as the Washington Post or the New Yorker are likely to start milking the cash cow that is commerce journalism. For examples of good (and bad) native advertising, click here.

Tech Companies 

Let’s face it. The reason a lot of us became English majors in the first place is because the thought of doing math or science for the rest of our days sounded about as appetizing as going for a jog in wet denim—a prospect which chafed us just as much. We grabbed our pens and copies of Dickens or Milton, and tried to make lives for ourselves in our lovely nests of literature and libations. While we were doing so, our math and science centered compatriots were busy building the next must have gadget or creating an app capable of changing the digital landscape.

On the surface it would seem that the lines were drawn in the sand, that we might be content to stay in our separate worlds, but an unlikely, symbiotic relationship was on the horizon. Forbes reported in 2016 that Humanities majors are 4.3 times more likely to land jobs with rising tech companies than other majors—English majors being the most likely to be employed for these jobs. English majors are in such high demand because of the perspective they give to technology and media organizations.

For instance, looking at an optical illusion one inch from your face would likely end with a headache and not much else. However, by taking a few steps back several new perspectives present themselves. This is what makes Humanities majors, English majors in particular, so valuable. In many cases the training English majors receive enables them to describe things in a highly relatable and understandable way, which is valuable to tech companies. Job titles to look out for when applying for these jobs are “content strategist,” “marketing manager,” “content manager,” and “web producer.” Forbes quotes these jobs as ranging from $69,900-$90,500 annually.


Social Media Coordinator/Staff Writer

A great job to get after college, or in even in college, is Social Media Coordination and Staff Writing for a blog! Social media coordination involves posting announcements, relevant information, relatable content, and other such information to social media accounts. Curating a brand is an important part of this career, so having an eye for design and aesthetics helps when creating content.

Aside from the obvious writing that comes in the form of tweets, Instagram captions, and Facebook announcements, many of these careers will be linked with a blog, email campaigns, or newsletters which will compromise the bulk of your writing. By writing for email campaigns and blogs you are able to make money as a writer, and learn how to use valuable online publishing tools such as WordPress, and design tools like Adobe PhotoShop and InDesign. The best part is that you don’t even have to leave this website to find an employment opportunity for this growing career field. Each semester, Dr. Rik Hunter selects an intern to work as the English department’s Social Media Coordinator and Staff Writer for Connections. More information on this internship is available here.