Family and friends might think that being an English major leaves you with one option, teaching. But the reality is that your options are endless. Students can pick up on numerous skills that are viable for real world work environments. Employees are looking for communicators who can work productively with a team and coordinate effectively. They look for critical, innovative thinkers who can identify and solve problems. They want employees who can apply knowledge and awareness to their job duties. Writing, thinking, and problem-solving are all examples of skills an English major brings to the table. An English degree is geared toward creating empathetic and ethical critical thinkers as well as giving students the marketable skills to pursue their dreams. They are writers, artists, and entertainers. They are managers, executives, and entrepreneurs. There is a lot of room for an English major to discover who they are and what they want to do because of everything they are capable of.
Dr. Rehyansky, the professor who teaches History of the English Language (HEL) and who has been with the English department since fall 1989, was kind enough to connect me with several of her students. As someone who has taken HEL, even though her course was one of the more difficult that I’ve had during my time at UTC, it was also one of the most inspiring and enjoyable classes I’ve had. Ever. And as a required course in the English major, HEL is a good place to meet majors in any one of the three concentrations—Creative Writing, Literature, and Rhetoric and Professional Writing. They each answered questions about the English Department and why they decided to major in English. I also interviewed one student not in HEL, Hannah Rials, who recently published her first novel, Ascension.
For Hannah, majoring in English was never a question. Two of the main reasons all of the interviewees became English majors was due to their passion for reading and writing, so Hannah was far from the exception. Hannah’s favorite part about being an English major was working with all of the English professors. She said, “I’m so honored to be in the classes that I’m in because I literally learn something new every day. I’m sure a lot of our university’s professors are wonderful, but I think the English department has the best.”
Liz Duncanson, like Hannah, is an avid reader and mentioned her love for writing too. She said, “I like getting to understand the mechanics of writing and dissecting how and why it makes us feel the way we feel.”
Kylie Kuizema also loves reading and writing. She said, “Despite everyone telling me I’d never make money by majoring in English, I knew that I would never be unhappy, and that’s more important to me.” For her, writing offers a chance to say what she wants, and majoring in English has introduced her to peers who share the same interests as her. Kiley reminds us that the English Department is a community in itself.
Another History of the English Language student, Jarod Hobbs is taking his first English major courses and had great things to say about English. Jarod said, “My favorite thing about being an English Major is probably the sense of community. STEM majors often see English or other humanities majors as being pretentious, or they might question what we plan to do with our degrees once we get them. I have never felt more at home than when I decided to change my major from Computer Science to English (not to drag CompSci majors through the mud, of course.) Everyone whom I’ve met since beginning English at UTC has been encouraging, helpful, and friendly, and that’s exactly what I needed—to feel like I belong, and not to be judged for doing what I want instead of what seems most easily profitable at the time.”
Olivia Haynes said she majored in English because she knew it would be what she could do best. The choice to become an English major, she says, has been rewarding. “I love what I’m doing, and I love learning about writing, language, and analysis.” She’s taking Writing with Style and History of the English Language this fall and thinks these classes are really helping her in her education. She went on to say about the department, “I love how most (if not all) of our professors are so willing to get involved with their students. The professors I’ve had devoted so much of their time to helping me improve my writing and overall understanding or to talking about life and how to succeed. There’s so much room within the major to grow personally, academically, and professionally.”
David Haynes wasn’t a student at UTC for his first two years of college, but after he transferred, David says he finally understood why he chose English in the first place. Dr. Ventura’s Introduction to Literary Analysis class showed him how much he loved literature and working with people who read and experienced literature alongside him. Reading and interpreting those stories helped him become a more empathetic person.
I can’t think of a better way to end a story about what being an English major is like than to share David’s favorite thing about being an English major. “Dr. Jordan, Dr. Stuart, and Dr. McCarthy have all taught me so much, both during class and office hours. I am really so grateful to have such amazing people take the time to help me pursue not just an education but also an examined life.”