The Senior Seminar: An Interview With Savannah May

Savannah May

UTC’s English undergraduates have three options to complete the Senior Capstone graduation requirement: the Senior Seminar class, a Senior Thesis, or an internship. Each has its own merits and may be more appropriate depending on which concentration a prospective senior may take. Savannah May, a current senior, is currently taking the Senior Seminar class with Dr. Jenn Stewart. Below is an interview conducted over email in which I asked her some questions about her experience as an English major and what exactly she’s doing in the Senior Seminar class.



What made you decide to major in English?

I have loved reading and writing for as long as I can remember… that sounds cliché, I know.

My love for writing stemmed from my love for reading. In third grade, I read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I remember seeing the word “beseech” in the “Walrus and the Carpenter” poem that appears in Through the Looking Glass, and I made a point to use it in anything I wrote for school for the rest of the year. By fourth grade, I had written a poem about weasels that was published by the Young Southern Writers Journal through UTC, and by fifth grade, I was reading David Copperfield.

I think I have always been an English major, just without the official title; I have always wanted to read, write, and learn. I really discovered my passion for the field in high school, however, as I began to experiment in Honors and AP classes with different genres and writing styles. I did my first rhetorical analysis paper in eleventh grade. I remember my classmates reacting to that assignment as if they had been asked to read Heidegger’s Being and Time. I, however, loved it. Rhetoric was a new side of English to me. It was like the science behind the art of English studies.

When I discovered rhetoric, I learned to read texts differently. I developed heightened analytical skills and learned to be more intentional in my speech and writing. I felt, and still do, that having a firm understanding of rhetoric allows one to excel in any social, academic, political, etc. discourse. During my senior year, I researched UTC’s departments and programs, and when I saw that the English Department had a Rhetoric and Professional Writing track, I was in.

Dr. Jenn Stewart, teaching rhetorical concepts from Dr. Clay Spinuzzi of the University of Texas.

Why did you decide to take the Senior Seminar class as opposed to one of the other options you had for the Capstone?

The Senior Seminar was the only practical option for me, as I feel it is for many students. I have a full-time job, which is non-negotiable, because I pay my own rent, car payment, etc. I would have loved to have done an internship, but even the paid ones would not cover my monthly bills. I felt like I would not have time to do the other option—a departmental thesis—due to my work schedule and my class schedule (which has always been packed tight because I am also majoring in Spanish). So, a Senior Seminar class was simply the best fit for me..

I am aware that the course description on the catalog states that the class “emphasizes application and synthesis of student learning in the major as it focuses on themes/topics in literature, theory, creative writing, and/or rhetoric and composition.” Can you elaborate on this?

In fewer words, we are doing things. What I mean by that is we aren’t just discussing literature, writing, and theory, but rather we are doing things with the knowledge we have acquired during our time as English majors. We are doing hands-on collaborative projects that require research, technological skills, and *gasp* group work. This seminar is preparing English majors to apply the analytical, communication, and writing skills learned in our other English classes to real-life jobs. We are studying the history of the major, analyzing its identity, and learning how to make our skill sets as English majors marketable.


Dr. Stewart encourages students to work in groups in her “Senior Seminar: Deconstructing the English Major” class.

The course is subtitled “Deconstructing the English Major.” What exactly does this mean? What are some of the things your class has discussed together up to this point?

Well, we are literally deconstructing the English major. We are analyzing its beginnings, growth, and future. We are analyzing its identity and our own. We are analyzing what the major has taught us and how that knowledge is applied to every facet of post-graduate life.

We have discussed information coding in class, which we then applied to a collaborative project. We used our coding skills to analyze Buzzfeed articles about English majors. We then compiled our findings, narrowed them down, and formatted them into a rather lengthy memo that discusses the perceptions and stereotypes tied to being an English major.

We then discussed Halvorsen and Sarangi’s study about activity and discourse roles to analyze how people collaborate and behave in a professional group setting. We used this information and other team roles studies to reflect upon our own activity and discourse roles in group settings.

We have read McComiskey’s “English Studies: An introduction to the Discipline(s),” which offers a detailed history concerning the growth and change of the English major, and we are now in the process of doing a collaborative meta-analysis that will examine how English majors or departments compare and contrast across the country.

We will soon be conducting in-depth interviews with a former English major. We will be interviewing them about their careers and how their education in English prepared them for their current job. We are only interviewing English majors who are not teachers, because the goal of the project is to analyze how the English major instills one with communication and writing skills that prepare one for a wide variety of careers.

Later in the semester, we will be doing a “Situatedness Autoethnography” that will analyze our strengths, weaknesses, and aptitude, and will reflect on past work. By the end of the course, we will have also created professional online portfolios to be used when entering the job market.

Welcome to Bulawayo…

As many of you know, Dr. James Arnett won a prestigious (and rare at UTC) Fulbright Core Teaching/Research Fellowship this past Spring. It’s a 10 month grant to teach at National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo and conduct research on Bulawayo’s literary history, past infrastructure, and current programs for encouraging creative writing and literary production. 

Check out Dr. Arnett’s first post, reposted here on our own blog, Connections. His post was originally published on his blog at

Picture of Dr. James Arnett

Dr. James Arnett

I arrived in Bulawayo at the tail end of their winter, such as it is. It’s more impressive a winter than you might think, given any image of Africa you might have as either a tropical or desertified climatological hellscape. The weather at night turns a crisp, cold and on its worst nights, the wind comes whipping up the plains – of Matabeleland, not Oklahoma. The buildings here are built for passive heating and cooling, although their proficiency at either is yet to be determined fully. Summer – a longer season, roughly nine months of the twelve – is on the horizon, and to hear it told – and felt – it began today.

I applied for the Fulbright to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe because it has a long history – it was the gateway of the Ndebele people fleeing Tchaka’s (of Zulu fame) despotic wrath. And it was the vista from the incomparable Matobos Hills that inspired British imperialist Cecil Rhodes to establish a private mining concern here, a concern that morphed into the colony of Southern Rhodesia (named after him, naturally). He asked to be buried here, and surprisingly, given the rancor and violence with which white Rhodesians defended their country against black African independence – it’s still up there, the grave, looking down on the first major city in Zimbabwe.

But Bulawayo also has a long history of artistic and literary sophistication, home to the Cyrene Mission (from which was derived an enduringly popular visual art), a regional hub for the author Doris Lessing during her youth in Rhodesia, home to the country’s National Gallery and Natural History Museum, and home or birthplace of Zimbabwean authors Yvonne Vera, NoViolet Bulawayo, John Eppel, and others.


Bulawayo is also a minority-majority city, home to the Ndebele people, a 20% minority in a country that overall identifies as roughly 80% Shona. The tribes have historically been pitted against each other, in spite of unifying in their long fight for independence against white Rhodesians that ultimately culminated in the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980. A young country, then, and the oldest town therein, Bulawayo has endured some pretty hard times, all told – especially considering it’s on the national government back-burner, which prefers to funnel money into the capital and other politically faithful towns. Throughout the 1980s, the majority government conducted a low-intensity and high-casualty campaign against the Ndebele, sowing ever greater distrust and fear amongst the Ndebele for the majority government. This erupted into politics at the turn of the 21st century, and Bulawayo became the center of an emergent opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change. Since then, Bulawayo has positioned itself as a fiercely independent and resistant space in the country, questioning ZANU-PF’s thirty-seven year tenure as a majority government. Elections happen every five years, and the current president, Robert Mugabe, at the age of 94, is the oldest sitting statesperson in the world, and has publicly claimed that he has no interest in stepping aside, even as he wrestles with age and health issues. Thirty-seven years of power creates a tremendous amount of both momentum and inertia, and the vexing combination of both means that the upcoming elections in 2018 will, of necessity, be important to the shape of Zimbabwean politics to come.

It’s not terribly usual for literature professors to travel in search of literature – after all, books bring the world to us: such is their purpose and value, as records of ephemeral truths and vehicles of far-flung experience. But I’ve got a passion for travel, and a passion for travel in particular to the places where most other travellers don’t go. I taught for an ultimately ill-fated semester in Afghanistan in 2013, drawn there by my pacifism and my desire to see the workings of American Empire up close. It was probably an ill-considered decision, but I learned a lot – about American empire, about myself, about the value of the ideology of education and intellectualization. It has been impossible since to walk back those epiphanies – that education is incredibly impactful, the most potent force for the realization of freedom, equality, and justice.

Picture of National Gallery Of Zimbabwe

National Gallery Of Zimbabwe

The bus ride from Harare, fully six hours long (Africa is much larger than any map we’re familiar with represents it as), took me through a rusty, rocky, jutting landscape. An hour passed between remarkable towns, remarkable, mostly, for their ability to survive in this bone dry, elevated plateau. Kadoma. Kwekwe. Gweru.

Even in the cooler breeze of winter, I sweated in the double-decker bus, and strained my eyes, when it didn’t make me nauseous, for glimpses of anything worth remarking. I won’t lie, I was looking for exotic fauna, too, although they undoubtedly know better than to hang out anywhere near the one major highway cutting across the center of the nation. And contrary to the image one might have of Africa – as of wide open spaces, unbroken horizons, full of sky and burning land – it’s marked out and fenced just like America is, as glimpsed from the highway. More than a hundred years of colonialism, capitalism and private property have irreparably taken root, limiting, as we know, the ranges and spaces in which the charismatic African fauna can roam, confining them to the protected open spaces of national and game parks.

Image of the Bulawayo city center.

Bulawayo city center

We pulled into Bulawayo, a gridded and bustling city, the regional hub for industry and commerce – or at least it was, until economic fortunes changed dramatically for the city, and the larger country, in the 21st century. Four faux-nuclear-cooling-towers (coal plants, it seems) tower over the edge of the city, whose skyline is broken by scattered, anomalous high-rises, all testifying to its importance, once, as a center of industry. Anywhere between 600k and 1 million people live here; the former is the government’s low-balled census number (determined, as it were, to downgrade the city’s importance), the latter the number that opposition politicians cite. Either way, there are certainly far more people on the street in Bulawayo at any time than there are in Chattanooga, proper.

The city’s architecture is a mix of buildings that wouldn’t look out of place on the mission coast of California, or the Victorian quarters of an English city, or the midcentury angular experimentation of once-thriving Rust Belt cities. It’s a random mix, but not without charm, even if it’s suffered pretty intensely from neglect and sometimes-explosive poverty.

But there are some buildings that are like time capsules, including and in particular the National Gallery of Art. A two-story building, painted red with white trim, its ornate balcony railings borrowed from the Victorian style of Cape Town, and which wouldn’t look out of place in New Orleans. It has a charming open-air courtyard, where a chic new coffee shop sprawls into the blue-bright glare of the cloudless sky. To one side is a two-story building, replete with a dozen studios for local artists to work and host buyers, students, and critics. It’s precisely the sort of place I love: full of art, full of history (it was built at the turn of the 20th century), but most of all, full of the memory of literature.

For many years, Yvonne Vera, the lyrical, ambitious, and avant-garde Zimbabwean writer, was the curator here. Her tenure in charge is remembered fondly by all as a high point in the institution’s history, and she was a tireless advocate for artistic production and preservation, a steward to the unique cultural traditions of the town, and a local human repository of memory for the city. When the eminent historian of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, Terence Ranger, decided finally to approach Bulawayo as a subject, he tipped his hat to, and started with, Vera’s fictional account in her novel, Butterfly Burning.

Vera’s novels range over the full modern history of Zimbabwe, variously touching on all of the important eras, from the first Chimurenga (roughly glossed as <righteous conflict> or <revolutionary struggle>; 1894-1897) against white imperialists, through the resource plunder of Zimbabwe while a colony, into the difficulties of the Second Chimurenga (1966-1979) against the Rhodesians, and into the turn of the 21st century. Her novels are wrenching, and disorienting, and stand out in a field of literature that has been, and still largely is, dominated by social realist novels in the Chinua Achebe tradition.

Vera’s novels are wrenching and disorienting, replete with ruefully casual violence, and dwelling uncomfortably on trauma.  In December of 2016, I travelled to the Harry Ransom Center Archive at the University of Texas-Austin, a famous collection of very important literary manuscripts, with heavy concentrations on 20th-centry British and African literature. They have a larger and more complete collection of Doris Lessing’s correspondence and manuscripts than found anywhere else. And buried amongst the papers of the African literature scholar Charles Larson is a small cache of papers of Yvonne Vera’s –letters and emails, copies of essays and articles, handwritten notes, and Terence Ranger’s eulogy for her. Most remarkably, though, when Vera died in 2005, she left behind a nearly-complete manuscript, now archived amongst Larson’s papers at UT, named Obedience. This novel begins with the uncovering – and plunder – of the stone birds at Great Zimbabwe, a kind of ground zero for colonialist appropriation of ersatz-“primitive” cultures that characterized the “cultural labor” of colonialism.

Archives can – in their best moments – yield precisely such gems: unfinished work, notes for projects that were never realized, casual insights into literature’s composition. Although Larson wanted very much to publish the novel – and corresponded with her husband about her planned revisions – and Sarah Kastner worked with the manuscript for her MA thesis, “Writing Against Possession: Archiving Yvonne Vera, and the Obedience Manuscript,” the text is still not available outside of archives. It remains, therefore, a tantalizing promise of what could have been, as well as a novel in situ, waiting for its hopefully-eventual publication.

Although Vera passed in 2005, her mother still lives in Bulawayo, and it seems that she has taken up the banner of her late daughter. She has compiled a biography of Vera – the only one, I believe – and also become a writer in her own right. I hope to meet her, to let her know how important and impactful Vera’s work has been, is, will be – that she has been and will be celebrated as one of the most important and idiosyncratic voices in all of African literature. I don’t doubt her mother knows this, of course, in the way that mothers do.

I’ve always loved literature, and by extension, those writers who have poured their blood and sweat into these texts that give me life, but I’ve always been sceptical of the Romantic notion of the isolated, tortured, god-appointed ‘genius.’ It’s a holdover from less egalitarian times, this idea that some people are uniquely imbued with otherworldly powers of expression that render them godlike among men. My investment in materialist philosophy inclines me to want to believe that people are made, shaped, formed; they push and are pushed; they stretch and snap back; and around all of us swirls a dense cloud of ideologies about the world that allow us to understand ourselves as ourselves, and the world as the world – and that that fact means that we all inhabit different registers of experience in and of the world. Short-hand: poststructuralist materialist Marxist.

Nevertheless, for the same essential reason that people make pilgrimages to the Land of Mickey in order to asymptotically approach the impossible Disney fantasy through hyperconsumerism… I want to be where the writing was. I want to see – want to see them writing, see them writing on – what do you call those? Desks?

I’ve seen Marcel Proust’s recreated bedroom in Paris; the tree under which Lawrence Durrell wrote his Mediterranean travelogues in Northern Cyprus; the towering pine tree that DH Lawrence stared out of the window at in Taos, NM; Hawthorne’s House of Seven Gables; Stein’s and Hemingway’s and Fitzgerald’s and Joyce’s Shakespeare and Company; Larry McMurtry’s Archer City, Texas; Amma Darko’s Agbogbloshie Market in Accra.

When I’m feeling uncharitable to myself, I think: what are you doing? What do you imagine you’ll find? The writing is over; the book is in your hands; the text is what lives, such as anything can be said to ‘live.’ Give up the search, enjoy the book, accept that that time, that place, that moment, that person is gone, and it is precisely the text that remains when nothing else does.

On the other hand, I think – here is a city, Bulawayo, somewhat frozen in time, haunted by its past and uncertain about its future; unupdated since 1980; slowly decaying under the whiplash of the wind, the abrasion of the ruddy dust, the weight of history. Toni Morrison was right, you know, when she described “rememory” in Beloved  – places that have seen life, and history, and violence and death and trauma and pain and love and joy and fear, record these feelings in their bones. And their bones are the width of the streets of Bulawayo, designed to allow a full complement of oxen to effect a U-turn in the middle of the street, and streets which are still used for this effect by hand-me-down double-decker buses shuttling people between the blasted capital and the buffeting winds of Bulawayo. And the bones are those ornate white railings of the National Gallery, chipping paint now that Yvonne is gone. And the bones are the corner public library, whose stock of schlock fiction and time-warped classics impresses. And the bones are in the stout and flaring coalstacks on the edge of the ridge that once intentionally separated the ‘native’ town, Mzilikazi, and the rest of bleached, whitened Bulawayo arraying themselves in the orderly grid, out of plumb with north and south, but arranged on lay-lines of topography and romantic imperial visions. And the bones are in the irrepressible warmth of a people who should, by logic and experience and history, be sceptical of my wondering and wandering eyes, but haven’t. All of these places contain layers of life and lived experience, the residue of our bodies and the signatures of our sacrifices.


Learning the Ropes in Social Media

Noah Pace

My internship this semester as the Staff Writer and Social Media Coordinator for the UTC English Department has given me a new appreciation for the work that goes into every little update on social media, something that most of us (myself included) may not think about as much as we should in our digital age.

My duties mostly centered around maintaining the Facebook and Twitter profiles for the department. This sometimes involved finding articles from other sources about writing advice, study tips, and any other topics that might interest an English major. However, perhaps the most immediately important goal in working on the social media profiles was keeping people informed about upcoming events; if the deadline for writing submissions was coming up, or a professor was planning on participating in a local reading, I needed to make sure that people knew about it.

Harrison Ford spotlight I produced for the Facebook page, emphasizing successful English majors

This isn’t to imply that my only responsibility was to report on the activities of others, of course. Throughout the semester I was given plenty of opportunities to contribute original work of my own. I published two longer articles on the Connections blog during my internship. The first, Internship Ins & Outs: Part II, was a series of interviews with current and former members of the UTC English internship program, highlighting their thoughts on the program and how benefecial it could be for their futures. The second, The Power of an English Degree, recapped a Sigma Tau Delta panel of English alumni discussing the career options available to English graduates who decide not to attend grad school. I was also responsible for producing a short series of alumni profiles to add to the English Department website.

Internship Ins and Outs: Part II, one of the articles I wrote as an intern

As a result of these projects, a lot of my time working as an intern was spent interviewing others. This was a great opportunity for me to meet with other English majors and graduates who had plenty of important advice for me. I greatly appreciated this because as a graduating senior, I definitely had some concerns about what my post-university life might entail. By conducting so many interviews (online and in person), I simultaneously made connections with successful English majors and broadcast their success to others in need of inspiration.

An event notice for the release party of Sybil Baker’s book, “Immigration Essays”

I’d like to emphasize that I’ve loved every single English professor I’ve studied under as a UTC student. They each have wonderfully memorable personalities and I’m very fortunate to have met them. The two that have perhaps most influenced my direction as a student have been Dr. Jones, whose course on rhetoric will be very important for me in my career, and Dr. Hunter, whose Writing Beyond the Academy course initially inspired me to consider how writing in our postmodern age has blended with technology to create new and exciting rhetorical situations. I feel that spending my time as an intern working with Dr. Hunter has been precisely the experience I needed to solidify this skill set.

Outstanding Graduating Senior, Laura Coker

English Department Staff Writer and Social Media Intern, Noah Pace, recently had a chance to sit down with Laura Coker, this year’s Outstanding Graduating Senior in Rhetoric and Professional Writing, to ask her about she experience as an English major. Here’s what she had to say.

Pic of Laura Coker.

Outstanding Graduating Senior in English: Rhetoric & Professional Writing

Noah: First, what made you want to be an English major at UTC?

Laura: I have always loved to read. . . . I was just like, “I’m going to be an English Major.” There were no other options that I had. I decided to be an English major, and it was probably the best decision that I have ever made. I’ve heard my friends talking at a college not too far from here, and they hated the English program. They said that UTC’s program was much better. So I know I made the right decision.

Noah: Tell me about your most interesting or significant experiences as an English major?

Laura: I think my most significant experience happened when I took the History of the English language. And this is going to sound really weird, so bear with me. I love the Lord of the Rings more than anything. So, when I took her [Dr. Katherine Rehyansky], I decided to write a paper on Elvish. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I did it. I had 35 sources, and so wrote this paper, and ever since then I have been presenting on it at [undergraduate research] conventions.

Screenshot of Coker's Tolkien’s Linguistics: The Artificial Languages of Quenya and Sindarin.

Coker’s 2016 CUR presentation abstract, “Tolkien’s Linguistics: The Artificial Languages of Quenya and Sindarin.”

I think that moment was significant for me because I was able to gauge my skills. I was able to use those [writing and analytical] skills and see them succeed because it’s now been published. I’ve seen all of this happen within a span of a year and a half, and I never thought I would make it this far.

Noah: How would you describe your overall experience as an English major?

Laura: I’ve made a ton of friends here at UTC, and especially with the professors because I feel like they treat you on such a personal level. It’s not scary to talk to them, and I know they will always help me. And if I need anything, I always know they will be there. The professors also encourage friendships among the students in the classroom and with them, too, so there are all these personal connections that I know my friends don’t have with their professors who are in other majors. [English is] very intimate and inclusive, and our professors are all very helpful, nice, and welcoming.

Laure holding her paper up while at CUR conference.

Laura attending CUR 2016 to present her paper on Tolkien.

Noah: So what are your plans for after graduation?

Laura: I’ve always wanted to go to Law school from the very beginning. I’m taking a year off after I graduate to work because I need a break, and then I’m heading off to whichever law school accepts me. I would say that English has definitely prepared me for that because I know I have very strong critical thinking and writing skills. I am definitely way more aggressive than I was before when I first came to college. I now know how to argue and how to, I guess, get my way when I need to get my way. So I feel like that has definitely made me a stronger person.

Noah: Any final thoughts, or advice you have for current or future English majors?

Laura: Don’t be afraid and have confidence in your self because I know that’s what I was lacking when I came to college. Also don’t be afraid to go and speak to your professors because I know students who don’t have the same level of connections that I do with my professors, and I have my professors helping me look for jobs. I feel like those connections are the most important, because they will help get you so many more places then just being idle and not being involved.

Pic of Coker's 2017 CUR paper abstract.

Laura’s 2017 CUR presentation abstract, “Video Games & Literacy: The Positive Impact on the Traditional Classroom.”

*Laura was recognized for her achievements at the annual English Banquet on April 4, 2017.

The Power of an English Degree

As an undergraduate student in the English department, I’ve often found myself pondering the big questions concerning my future: What will I do when I graduate? What’s the job market like? Is graduate school a good option for me? I know I’m not alone in this mental exercise. Thankfully, the English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta recently held a panel with four former English students to help current undergraduates explore this topic.

Department Head Dr. Christopher Stuart opened the panel with an important observation: while it is important that the department’s faculty members measure student success as if each undergrad will be continuing their education as graduate students, this won’t be the case for most. Graduating students may have any number of personal or professional reasons for avoiding grad school.

This was the common thread that connected these panelists; each managed to secure an admirable position in their field with an undergraduate-level education and a healthy dose of determination. Thus, they serve as evidence that while graduate school is an excellent option for some, it’s definitely possible to succeed with a BA in English, and each panelist had plenty of relevant advice for undergrads looking to do just that.

Natalie Martin

Natalie Martin, the first highlighted panelist, graduated from UTC as a double major, earning BA English Literature and BA Communications degrees. Although she initially came to UTC hoping to be a high school English teacher, Natalie eventually changed her major from English Education and pursued experience in PR and marketing fields. She currently works as a project manager for the Chattanooga-based web development company Crash Creative.

As she reflected on her career path, Natalie expressed a fascination for the potential of working online.  “I learned that I love the web. Web is so exciting… It’s limitless, really.” Natalie seemed to ponder what her career experience would have been like had she continued down the path of English Education, but ultimately concluded that she had made the right choice for her; the lessons she learned from the English and Communications departments combined to give her the formal schooling and technical know-how necessary to succeed in her field. When asked for advice to current undergrad students, she offered a reassuring message. “Find out what you can do with your degree! If you’re not looking for a future in academia, know that there are so many things you can do with an English degree.” It just so happens that working on web development for professional clients is one great example.

Brooke Brown

Brooke Brown, UTC alum and Assistant Editor for The Pulse, emphasized the importance of finding a good internship as a student. She interned with “Chattanooga’s weekly alternative magazine” during her last semester at UTC, and impressed her supervisors enough to land her a position as Editorial Assistant immediately following her graduation. Six months later, Brooke was promoted to her current role as Assistant Editor.

The paper is distributed for free at newsstands all throughout downtown Chattanooga, and features articles on all sorts of cultural events relevant to the Scenic City. “It’s awesome. I love it. I get to edit the paper, and I also write Featured Business and Featured Dining pieces for it, so that’s pretty cool, too.” Brooke displayed a passion for her work that permitted her to find success, and the connections she made with The Pulse during her internship led her to where she is now, giving undergrads yet another reason to look into the department’s internship program.

Mary Fortune, the last UTC alum, graduated with a BA in English Literature in 1995.
Remembering her time in school, Mary stressed having little interest in any other department. “I majored in English because I hated everything else,” she said. Still, she admitted to having few ideas about her overall career plan during her studies, humorously stressing that the only thing she was sure about was that she did
not want to be a teacher.

Much like Natalie, Mary explained how she discovered the benefits of coupling an English degree with experience in Communications. In her senior year, Mary began an internship with the Chattanooga Times (precursor to the Chattanooga Times Free Press) and kicked off her thirteen-year-long career as a journalist. “It was great because you’re a writer and you get to tell stories, but you don’t even have to make them up.” Needing a new position to support her growing family, Mary took a job as a manager in the Corporate Communications department at the Unum insurance company, and has thrived there for over nine years now. Now the Assistant Vice President of Corporate Communications, Mary serves as a great example for how much English majors may be desired in office environments, too.

Mary Fortune

While not a UTC alum, Dave Deardorff did graduate as an English major from a small university in Indiana with a focus in Creative Writing. He mentioned one great reason to pursue a degree in English: the ability to keep your studies broad. Choosing between a major in English and a major in the sciences, Dave chose English for the flexible skill set it could provide him in the future. This flexibility seemed to stick with Dave, as he eventually decided to establish a freelance writing company.

Confessing that he did spend some time in graduate school, Dave was not satisfied with his new program’s emphasis on literature, preferring instead to focus on his own ability to craft engaging work. “I went for a year and took all the Creative Writing courses I could, but then I realized all that was left were 18th-century literature courses that really weren’t enthusing for me.” Testing the waters as a technical writer, Dave found that his skills served him well, but the work was not particularly interesting. This led to the formation of Deardorff Consulting; Dave repeatedly emphasized the liberation of applying his skillset to constantly changing projects as an independent writer. “I like new challenges. I like variety.”

The Panelists for this event had plenty of great advice that we could all learn from. If you have an idea of what you’d like to do in the future, why not try for an internship in that field? When applying for jobs, consider the value of your communicational skills; as an English major, these skills can take you far in the job market. The English major is a broad field of study, and can lead to all sorts of unique experiences, but like with any field, making connections with others is also a great habit to maintain. You never know who might give you your next decades-long career doing something you love.

Launch Party for UTC English Grad Program’s New Southern-Inspired Magazine: CATALPA

Catalpa, a magazine of Southern perspectives, will release its first issue this April. This new publication thrives on the unique, unorthodox, and creative stories inspired by the South. Catalpa solicits submissions related to, or written in the South. At Catalpa we want to inspire, entertain, and evoke thought.

Catalpa Cover

Inaugural issue of Catalpa

Please support Catalpa’s release by attending our Catalpa Magazine Launch Party on April 28th at 6:00 p.m. in the Southern Writers Room in UTC’s library. We will be reading a few stories from our first issues and will have free food and drinks available. This is a project that all Catalpa staff members have worked extremely hard on, and would love to share with the UTC community.

To give you a little history of Catalpa, the magazine was created and is run by UTC English graduate students, under the watchful eye of our Director of Graduate Studies, Dr. Rebecca Jones. Catalpa has been developed to be the product of an annual publication course, Writing for Publication: A Graduate Magazine. The magazine provides hands-on, true to life, real-world application of skills that are necessary of personal, public, and professional writers. From the message we want to put out, to writing and editing, to and deciding on design elements such as colors, fonts and page-layout, we created Catalpa from scratch. Student write, edit, and design the whole magazine. We hope this becomes a staple of the English Graduate Program. 

Catalpa, ultimately, is the result of English grad students’ group effort. Learning to work in a team, problem-solving, taking initiative, strategic planning, adaptability are just a few of the skills we’ve developed in addition to writing for a particular rhetorical situation. Students have specific duties and tasks and are required to finish them on time. If not, you could throw off the timing of the release, and that really is not an option. It’s refreshing to be in a class that is all about collaboration.

We hope our issue is the first of many and that you will enjoy it.

Your support for Catalpa will be greatly appreciated, and we hope to see you in the Southern Writers Room at 6:00 p.m. on the 28th of April.

—Team Catalpa

Hot Off the Dept. Head’s Desk: Fall 2017 Courses to Watch (and enroll in).

ENGL 3410:  British Modernism 1900-1945)  –  Kizza

British Modernism is an early to mid-twentieth century literary movement rooted in the Modernists’ desire to “bury Victoria”. The new millennium which opened with excitement but also apprehension enabled the Modernists to wage a battle against the Victorians. These brave adventurers captured the period’s overall sense of dislocation, despair, alienation, confusion, uncertainty, fear, etc.; critically analyzed and responded to political events and discoveries; voiced their dissatisfaction with “Western Civilization”; made artistic innovations, and experimented with literary techniques and styles to accurately depict the moral, social, and intellectual atmosphere of the new millennium, thereby successfully burying Victoria. So please join me for the most enchanting funeral you will ever attend – that of Queen Victoria, featuring renowned pallbearers like Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, D.H. Lawrence, Bernard Shaw, and many more. 

ENGL 3750 M 5:30-8  Poetry Workshop: “What kind of times are these? Politics, Belief, and Poetry.”  — Jackson

Through writing poems and prose poems (essentially descriptive, lyrical paragraphs) we will explore how to write about politics without writing mere propaganda, how to write about the beliefs we have that underlie our views without mere proselytizing.  The theme comes from .the poem “What Kind of Times Are These” by Award winning poet Adrienne Rich who writes: “this is not somewhere else but here, / our country moving closer to its own truth and dread.”  In this class we will read some poems about current issues and try writing some that speak to our own beliefs and views about political, religious and social issues. We’ll meet once a week to share our reading and writing and suggest ways to get further into its truths. Truth, after all, is what the poem can bring us, a way to combat what Slovene poet Dane Zajc called the “stalkers” who try to control our language by redefining words and situations. As major American poet Gerald Stern says about belief: “To write and American psalm today means to penetrate the horror, the indifference, and the cruelty …to reach a true place of love and affirmation.”  Since all the material we need is on the internet we will not have any required texts.

ENGL 4270: Major American Figures: E.L. Doctorow – Stuart

E.L. Doctorow was a major presence in American letters from the late 1960s until his death in 2015.  He was best known for his classic historical novels such as Ragtime (African American terrorists blow up fire stations and hole up in J.P. Morgan’s library, among other events), Billy Bathgate (gangsters in the 1930s), and The March (a novel tracing Sherman’s infamous march to the sea towards the end of the Civil War).  Students in this course are in for a treat, as Doctorow’s novels offer a rare combination of accessible prose, exciting plots, and cerebral stimulation, an achievement reflected in the fact that many of his works were bestsellers while at the same time that they were winning the major literary awards and attracting sustained scholarly attention.

ENGL 4970: Fiction, Fashion, and Feminism  – Noe

This course will look at the ways in which fashion informs culture and constructs identity as seen in the fiction of Kate Chopin, Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf, E.L. Doctorow, and other writers.

ENGL/WSTU 4430:  Africana Womanism –  Kizza

Since its inception in the late 1980s, Africana Womanism has been a major focus of literary scholars, and it is now centrally located in the feminist discourse, but what exactly is Africana Womanism? How and why did it move to the center of the feminist discourse? What is its agenda? How is it related to Black Feminism? How is it similar and different from main stream Feminism? What is its future? In this course, we will explore these issues and many more by immersing ourselves in the theoretical scholarship, and actively participating in the discourse on texts by Africana authors like Harriet Jacobs, Zora Neale Hurston, Flora Nwapa, Toni Morrison, Ama Ata Aidoo, Jamaica Kinkaid, and more, presumed to be representative of this ideology.

ENGL 4920 –Novel Writing Workshop – Baker

Although this new course does not show up on your My Mocs Degree yet, it DOES count as an upper-division level creative writing course.

For this class, we will focus on writing what Ann Lamont calls “the sh***y first draft” of a novel. We will use one literary novel to “read as a writer” in class, meaning we will closely examine and discuss the novel’s structure, scene, sentence structure, and character development as a guide to our own work. You will also choose a novel to write a short craft paper analyzing some aspect that interests you. All genres are allowed, but we will be focusing on the literary elements of writing in this class. At the end of the semester you will submit about 55,000 words toward the first draft of your novel.

Moving Beyond the Academy: An English Major Makes the Transition to Professional Writer

Photo of Laura Coker

Laura Coker

*The following is a guest column by Senior English Major Laura Coker.

For my senior capstone project, I earned an internship at the Children’s Advocacy Center of Hamilton County (CACHC).

The CACHC offers services, such as counseling, medical support, and investigative services, to children who are victims of abuse. As their first English major intern, I was assigned the task of creating a manual for their internship and volunteer program. Since the English major doesn’t pertain to child development, I didn’t work directly with the children who were brought to the CACHC. Instead, I created a manual that outlined information and statistics about child abuse as well as about the CACHC’s mission and the services they offer free of charge to children and their families.

Even though I didn’t get a chance to work with the children or families who came to the CACHC, I was able to create a manual that would help interns and volunteers understand child abuse and the different types of people they would be working with.

Image of Who Do We Serve infographic

One of the many manual infographics which describe the demographics served by the CACHC.

Before I started the internship, my supervisor told me that the CACHC often loses volunteers because they don’t understand the role of each position or even what the CACHC does before they accept the position. It was a rewarding experience for me to be able to create something for the CACHC that might benefit their program by informing people about the services offered by the CACHC to victims of abuse while also helping them retain their volunteers. The manual is also going to be used as a teaching tool at seminars and events hosted by the CACHC to help people understand more about child abuse and what we can do as a community to prevent it.

Working at the CACHC gave me the chance to learn what it’s like to write professionally as well as academically. I also now have valuable work experience and a portfolio to show future employers. One career path I’m interested in is law, and I now have a better understanding of how the legal process works for criminal cases. I know that because of my internship experience and my time as an English major at UTC, I have the writing skills I need in order to be successful in whatever career or academic path I choose.

The best decision I made at UTC was choosing English as my major. Despite what some people believe, the English major isn’t easy, and we’re capable of more than just reading books and drinking coffee. I’ve taken many great classes with amazing professors who have challenged me to become a better writer and who have made me realize how much of an asset I actually am to the business world.

Image of Abuse and Neglect Factsheet

“Facts about Abuse and Neglect” gives basic information about identifying the physical signs of child abuse with infographics offering additional statistics.

Some of my favorite classes that I’ve taken at UTC were Dr. McCarthy’s Shakespeare course, Dr. Rehyansky’s History of the English Language, Dr. Jordan’s Romanticism course, and Dr. Hunter’s Publishing in New Media.

Each professor taught me a new lesson.

Performing a scene from one of Shakespeare’s plays in Dr. McCarthy’s class was the most interesting and exciting group project I’ve participated in at UTC. Because of Dr. McCarthy, I now have a deeper appreciation for Shakespeare.

Dr. Jordan is one of the most caring and encouraging professors I’ve ever had. I knew that if I had a problem, whether academic or personal, I could talk to him about it. Dr. Jordan has helped me become a better writer just by sitting down with me during his office hours and being honest with me about how I could improve my essays as well as my overall writing style.

Dr. Rehyansky helped me discover my passion for language. She encouraged me to take on a daunting research project, read many of my final drafts, and even helped me develop this project further a year later when I was no longer enrolled in her class.

Dr. Hunter’s Publishing in New Media was a learning experience in many ways. Not only did I meet an amazing group of people who I’m still friends with to this day, but his class introduced me to new genres of writing and culture that pertain to our ever advancing technological world.

The “What You Need to Know” section of the manual included the standard workplace policies all of which were written by me.

All of these professors gave me a new appreciation for literature and writing, and they have all helped me build my confidence as a writer. In fact, I didn’t realize how much my English classes and past professors prepared me until I earned a writing intensive internship. At the beginning of the internship, I was told that I wouldn’t be working at the CACHC’s office under supervision; instead, I would be working completely on my own and was only required to check in with my supervisor once every few weeks to discuss the work she had given me to complete for the deadline she had set. I was terrified.

But, because I was used to working in a fast paced academic environment where I was forced to meet firmly established deadlines while also completing multiple projects and essays at a time, I adapted quickly to working on my own and to the writing intensive work I was assigned. Prior to my position as an intern at the CACHC, I’d also never written anything in a professional style. It was different at first and less complicated than academic writing which is the type of writing I’m accustomed to. But I was prepared, and after a few critiques from my supervisor, I quickly adapted to professional writing.

I can say without a doubt that my time as an English major at UTC has been a rewarding experience, and I can’t wait to see what opportunities are in store for me.

Internship Ins & Outs: Part II

As we’ve already seen, faculty explained that internships give students an edge in the job market, and teach a wide range of skills that can’t be learned through coursework alone. Internships also look really impressive on a resume, demonstrating to employers that potential hires have the drive to apply themselves in a non-academic environment.

It’s clear that our English faculty sees the value in pursuing an internship, but what do interns themselves have to say about the process? I reached out to current and former UTC English interns to get their thoughts on their time in the program.

David Haynes

The interns I talked to generally expressed some surprise at the range of projects they were involved in during their internships. As David Haynes, recent UTC alum and Programs Intern for the Southern Lit Alliance remembered, “I was responsible for coming up with social media content for a lecture series featuring up-and-coming authors. Then, I started branching out to writing press releases, assisting with event coordination, obtaining information for fundraisers, and much more!”

Haynes emphasized the importance of his professional writing and communications skills, both of which were thoroughly honed during his time as an intern. He had the chance to practice these skills doing something he loved, too, because the Southern Lit Alliance supports the Chattanooga community by sponsoring major literary events in the city. “It was amazing just to work with an organization that I genuinely believe can help change its sphere of influence for the better.” Following his graduation, Haynes decided to continue his work for the organization as a volunteer with SLA.

Trevor Harper, current Media/Writing Intern for Chattanooga Organized for Action (COA), is learning a skillset just as broad, explaining, “My duties include writing publications such as blog posts, grants, and press releases as well as designing their website and newsletters. There’s a lot more diversity of work than I had originally imagined; things I never thought would fall into the scope of an English major.”

COA is a community-based nonprofit centered in Chattanooga that promotes grassroots political movements in and around the Scenic City. Harper’s responsibilities also include contacting local politicians to hear their stances on certain issues. Because of his direct involvement with COA’s work, Harper feels like an integral piece of the puzzle, stating, “I actually feel like a part of the organization and that the work I do makes a difference.” English majors in UTC’s internship program seem to have a certain passion for their work.

“I actually feel like a part of the organization and that the work I do makes a difference.”

Each intern also highlighted the amount of on-the-job experience they gained as part of the program. Conni Boykins spent her time as an intern working with the Patten Group, a Chattanooga-based investment firm. She spent much of her time working with Portfolio Managers (PM) who would indicate the names of publically traded companies which Boykins would produce reports on, sometimes determining whether the Patten Group should or should not invest in them. Valuing her internship as a learning experience, Boykins said her favorite aspect was being able to combine her love of language and rhetoric with the finance industry. “I was initially an accounting major in school, but later switched to English, which had always been a passion of mine. I guess the biggest challenge is that, despite my minor accounting background, the finance industry was one that I was largely detached from when I started work here. I knew the basics, but have never really delved into the industry with the seriousness and depth that this work required.” Boykins made it clear that her time as an intern provided valuable real-world experience she would not have received otherwise. She now works for the Patten Group full-time as the Grant Development and Research Coordinator.

Haynes candidly revealed that working professionally in a non-academic environment can be a little nerve-racking at first. “When asked to write a press release for the first time, it was very easy to panic,” he said. “But, my bosses were supportive, encouraging, and offered some of the greatest advice.”

Ashley Branam

Ashley Branam showed that some experience can be earned even before joining the internship program, however, and then cemented with the proper internship. Remembering her time as a student, she said, “I knew I didn’t want to teach English, so I was mostly excited for the opportunity to investigate other career options. I had taken Dr. Lauren Ingraham’s Grant Writing class the semester before, but I wanted additional experience in the field to see if I enjoyed grant writing enough to pursue it as a career. And as it turns out, I did.” As an intern, Branam worked as a Grant Communications Intern at the fund development firm Skye Strategies, researching census reports and other data, creating profiles for prospective clients, and editing documents. Her grant writing experience from Dr. Ingraham’s course transitioned well into her internship position. This shows how important it is for students to choose courses that interest them and develop that interest with on-the-job experience. 

Reflecting on the internship program itself, Harper expressed thanks to Dr. Lauren Ingraham for helping him find a position he loves at COA. “I actually didn’t really know what internship I wanted to do starting out. I just needed one.” It’s clear that students don’t need to have a specific career in mind to benefit greatly from an internship; it is always possible to match the right intern with the right position. Given the chance to offer advice to potential interns, Harper encouraged looking into the program as soon as possible. “If I could do it again, I wouldn’t have waited till my last semester to start my first internship.”

Boykins shared this enthusiasm. “If you’re thinking about joining the internship program, then do it. The experience will be invaluable. At the very least you’ll get real life job experience to put on your resume, but I truly believe you’ll get so much more out of the program.”

The English Department offers all of its students who have a minimum 3.0 GPA in their major a chance to apply for an internship. You can find more information about internships here.

Noah Pace is an intern serving as the English Department’s Staff Writer and Social Media Coordinator. He is a senior English Major with a Minor in Communications.

10 Reasons to be an English Major (or Minor)

1. The Liberal Arts (yes, including English!) are “tech’s hottest ticket”? It’s true.


2. 93% of business leaders said that “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems” was more important that a job candidate’s major.” It’s true.


3. Intercultural skills, such as accepting different cultural contexts and viewpoints, will be vital in the 21st century. It’s true.


4. 97% of executives rate strong writing skills as absolutely essential or very important. It’s true.


5. English helps you develop the attributes employers seek on a candidate’s resume. Yes, it’s true.


6. UTC English offers Majors and 3 minors that will give you in-demand skills.

  1. Creative Writing (Major and Minor)
  2. Literature (Major and Minor)
  3. Rhetoric and Professional Writing (Major and Minor)


7. Great faculty and interesting classes, where you can study:

  • Traditional and digital writing, editing, and publishing
  • Viral marketing campaigns
  • Expatriate life in Paris after WWI
  • How to create your own poetry chapbook
  • Human language in all its aspects



8. The trend is real, English majors are the “hot new hires” because of skills such as, research, critical thinking, and empathy. It’s true.


9. Learning skills that will never lose value, understanding the changes in media, skills that will help navigate in a world dominated by English, and gaining invaluable communication skills that can help you explain your world. At least according to a pretty prestigious University up north, Yale. Yeah, it’s true.


10. Being an English major helps you to better understand the human condition, and helps you gain a deeper understanding of the world. English majors also help create the foundations for other professions. It’s true.

English majors and minors not only learn how to communicate tactfully and effectively, but also build a resume with desirable attributes companies are looking for. Which brings us to our final, and most important question:


Q: What can you do with an English Major/Minor?

A: Anything.