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.

Internship Ins & Outs: Part I

Working as an intern before graduating college can pay dividends for one’s future. The success of an intern is tied to complex factors, but it’s an opportunity for students to get actual work experience under their belt and get a feel for the professional world beyond college.

Dr. Lauren Ingraham

Dr. Lauren Ingraham

One of the toughest transitions all students face after graduation is finding jobs related to their majors without prior work experience in that field. Employers want to hire those who already have experience, and an internship can help solve this problem . It’s not exactly a catch-22, but a competitive labor market often requires us to have prior working experience.  English majors students can do a lot things while in school that may have a positive influence on employers such as studying abroad, participating in community service, being involved in student organizations, and doing an internship.

I asked Dr. Lauren Ingraham, Professor and Internship Director for the English Department, how students participating in internships are prepared for the future. Gaining new skills, enhancing the resume, and networking were all important details. She added, “Having experience in a workplace setting teaches students professional ‘soft skills’ they may not be exposed to in regular academic classes. For example, interns may get to see up close how meetings run in a workplace—an experience that likely doesn’t look like a typical class or mirror other work experiences that college students sometimes have.” Being able to acclimate quickly to a workplace’s culture can ready graduates to hit the floor running.

“Having experience in a workplace setting teaches students professional ‘soft skills.’

Dr. Rik Hunter

Dr. Rik Hunter

With regards to writing on the job, Dr. Rik Hunter teaches Writing Beyond the Academy, an upper-division professional writing course, and he explained, “What the scholarship in professional writing tells us is that there are disconnects between expectations inside and outside of school for writing. Anson and Forsberg, in their study of college students doing internships, found that students were effectively ‘illiterate’ when it came to the specific professional cultures and the social processes of writing in those contexts. One student who had in-school experience writing press releases ended up struggling at it in his internship because that workplace wrote press releases differently, and his supervisor wasn’t giving feedback like a writing teacher does. Understanding how to analyze the rhetorical situations of both the writing you’re producing and the workplace culture itself are skills that can help students make that transition.”

Scholarship in professional writing tells us that there are disconnects between expectations inside and outside of school for writing.

The second question I focused on was how important coursework can be to a student’s success in their careers. I was wondering if the skills gained in school could apply to an internship. Dr. Ingraham said, “I think both coursework and experiential learning opportunities such as internships are important. If students complete internships that are really close to the kind of work they want to pursue as a career, students are getting a kind of ‘on the job’ training. Many internships also gave students experience working in software (such as InDesign and Illustrator) that advertisements for writing jobs often list as required skills.” It make a lot of sense that coursework should prepare us for our job work, but internships teach us intangibles we aren’t yet familiar with.

Carrie Meadows

Carrie Meadows

English Lecturer Carrie Meadows said, “Coursework prepares interns for adjusting to new rhetorical situations, which is what professional writers do daily. While some of our courses at UTC try to replicate workplace writing situations, the very best practice is an internship. You can think of an internship as an opportunity to build specific job skills, practice them, and make mistakes before you’re in your first professional job and your rent is on the line.”

Meadows added that an internship can help you get a job and prepare you for that job. “Having an internship listed on a resume tells potential employers that the applicant knows how to act like a professional, not a student. Past interns will also have a huge advantage over job seekers with similar skills and interests, because the internship counts as professional experience often required for entry level positions.”

Past interns will also have a huge advantage over job seekers with similar skills and interests

Internships and classroom learning can work together to prepare you for life beyond graduation. It seems fair to say, however, that internships give you an edge. Internships get you ready for the future, plain and simple.

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.

An English Graduate Student Dialogue

Interviewer: Alex Plaumann, First-Year Rhetoric and Writing


pic of Dominik

Dominik Heinrici, First Year Literary Study

pic of layton

Layton Woods, Second Year Literary Study

pic of Adrienne

Adrienne Siegenthaler, First Year Rhetoric and Writing







 Alex: Why English? What led to you to becoming English graduate students?

Dominik: I started studying English in Austria in 1993 and the love of the language has always stuck with me. I had the opportunity to go to England when I was 16, and something about the language reverberated with me. So after my time in England I wanted to see what the United States was like.

Adrienne: I am an English graduate student because I was an English undergrad, and I knew I wanted to work as an English teacher, or editor or writing. I thought the rhetoric and writing degree could be very interesting and a wonderful way to spend two years. Also, a very concrete step to choosing a career and being very qualified for it.

Layton: I kind of have the generic answer of I loved to read books when I was little, so I ended up going into literature because I wanted to think critically about all the culture I involve myself in. It wasn’t just books; it was movies and stuff like that. I was always that kid that wanted to read deeper into everything, so I became an English major so I could academically delve into and discover the real meaning behind things.

Alex: Why UTC?

Adrienne: I did undergrad in the area and wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay here but there were a number of reasons why UTC was attractive. I don’t believe in killing yourself in going into major loads of debt for graduate education so I loved UTC as a place I already had connections. It’s a good program and a place where I could get a tutorial assistantship and not be suffering to make this happen financially. On top of that, I have really started to love this school more and more and have loved the professors I have worked with.

Dominik: I started my MA program at Ohio University in Athens, and my wife got a job here, so I was able to transfer to UTC.

Layton: I choose UTC because it is such an amazing area. You can partake in outdoorsy activities and it’s amazing because it’s this dual city, you have the outdoorsy stuff but you also have the technological, you have the fiber optics. That’s another reason I came out here. You have the crazy-fast Internet business that’s starting to boom around here, and it’s just a really nice area for anyone whether you’re a techie or outdoorsy.

Alex: What is your coursework like for this semester?

Adrienne: I am taking English 5000, which is Methodology and Bibliography in Graduate English studies. That class is actually awesome because it’s teaching me the completely new way I need to approach academics at the graduate level. It’s a completely different way to do research and also how to write and understand the scholarly conversation that’s happening. Another class I am taking is the first half of rhetorical history. It’s really interesting because we are still in the ancient Greek and Roman rhetoric time periods, but I am learning a lot about how long these things have been around and how we can situate ourselves in the historical context. So that’s the harder one because it’s very theoretical, but it’s still a lot of fun. My last class is Writing Essays for Publication, which is cool because it’s very practical, and we are looking at how to create a graduate magazine and will be creating a graduate magazine [in the Spring]. So we are looking at the history of magazines, how to write magazines and how to get things published. So that’s actually incredible for me because I have only written academically, and this kind of stretches me to see writing and editing as more than academic writing.

Layton: So I am a literature specialist here. But I think one of the good things is there is enough freedom in going down your specific track that you can indulge yourself in the different areas. For example, I have taken a lot of rhetoric classes even though I am in literature, and I get a lot of this cool exposure to rhetorical thinking that I can also apply to a lot of the literary theory I have been studying. It ends up giving me a deeper ability to analyze and write papers.

Dominik: This semester I am taking Authors, Intentions, and American Fiction, which is really theory heavy. I’m taking History of Rhetorical Theory I: Ancient Greece to Renaissance, and I’m taking Matthew Guy’s Theory and Criticism. I think they mesh well together. It is a really theory heavy semester, but I think as a professional in the field you should know what theory floats around. I am also in the literary track, and I like the opportunity that I have to expand my expertise a little bit, so I am taking rhetoric classes as well and think I will have a more well rounded perspective on the field of English after this semester.

Alex: What opportunities have come your way through UTC’s Graduate English Program?

Layton: I have had the great opportunity of being a tutorial instructor. It really helps with being a grad student here. It’s a great opportunity because to give you the chance to teach and impart the knowledge you have gained here to other and sort of giving back to the academic academy and giving back to other that need the help.

Dominik: I think one of the greatest opportunities was to be able to work as an assistant here to teach English tutorials here which I believe is a great way gain a cultural understanding in the specific university setting because UTC is quite different from Ohio University, but I love the atmosphere here … being able to get first-hand experience with the student body and getting involved in student life.

Adrienne: Definitely the tutorials have been a huge opportunity. I have had the opportunity to get teaching experience and also explore the different areas I might want to go into. I’m in a magazine writing and editing class so that has helped me explore that area and see myself in those fields. Of course, teaching and also my classes that are heavy in theory and research make me consider what it would be like to get my Ph.D.

Alex: Can you tell me more about the tutorials?

Adrienne: I have loved the tutorials so far. I am mostly leaning toward wanting to teach, and I actually interviewed for a job right out of undergrad about teaching at a private high school, but I didn’t get the job because I had no experience. So this great because it gives me the opportunity to go through two years to get a Masters degree that could make a huge difference in getting a job in education. On top of that, being able to say that I have two years of teaching at the college level could well be the deciding factor on whether or not I get a job. It also has just given me a ton of practical experience and has helped me sharpen up my writing by tutoring students.

Dominik: It got me back into teaching again after having to take a year hiatus. I think the tutorials are a great way to get back into teaching a class because it has the great advantage of not having to grade at the moment. But mainly getting first-hand involvement with a specific student body is priceless.

Alex: Any further plans to continue your education to the Ph.D. level?

Dominik: I am planning to just get my masters. I think with a masters I can work as an adjunct or as a lecturer, and this is a path I want to take because I have always wanted to teach more than being research-focused.

Layton: I am going to go on for a Ph.D., but in today’s world, I feel like you have to go where the wind takes you. So, that’s one of my goals, but I don’t know how immediately I will get to it.

Alex: What about any additional career goals?

Dominik: If there way an opportunity to teach literature courses in medievalism I would love that opportunity. But I am pretty flexible for what the market demands be it teaching freshman composition or German since I am I trained language teacher.

Layton: I do want to teach to some degree. I don’t know exactly how or where, but tutorials have been a part of seeing what it’s like to be an instructor.

Adrienne: At this point, what I think I will do immediately after graduating is to go on to teach at the secondary level for a while. I would love to teach at a private high school because I am someone who loves the content area. I would hope this would give me a basis of being able to teach composition well. So that’s what I would like to do right out of grad school.

Care to share your stories about being an English graduate student? Please share in the Comments.

Student Takes on the English Major

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.

Hannah Rials pic

Hannah Rials

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.

Jarod pic

Jarod Hobbs

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

David Haynes

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.”

The Secrets of Our Success

The English Department would like to congratulate this year’s winners of the Outstanding Student Award, special recognition given to one exceptional student in each of the department’s education tracks. This year’s Outstanding Students are Rachel Smith in the Rhetoric and Professional Writing track, Colin Rochelle in the Literature track, and Hunter Hobbs in the Creative Writing track.

So, what does it take to be an outstanding student? After sitting down with this year’s award recipients, we have the answer.

Rachel Smith (left) with Professor Sybil Baker (right) speaking with a student at the Sequoya Review release.

Rachel Smith with Professor Sybil Baker speaking with a student at the Sequoya Review release.

Rachel Smith stresses the importance of getting involved and taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the department, for which she had the highest praise: “Our English Department is truly incredible. I think we have one of the best English programs at any public university.”

Rachel is serious about this point, having devoted much of her time to the many activities offered by the department. She is a member of the English Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta, has worked on the last three editions of the school’s literary journal, The Sequoyah Review—serving as editor on the most recent edition—and completed three internships with Unum, True North Custom Publishing, The Odyssey Online, an online publication geared toward college students.

Rachel admits that she wasn’t the most involved or spirited student in high school, feeling apathetic about most aspects of the high school experience. That all changed upon arriving beginning her college education.

“People think it’s cool not to care, but I’ve learned that that’s just not true. Actually caring about your education and getting involved makes the whole experience so much more rewarding,” she said.

According to Rachel, it doesn’t matter how far along you are in you education, it’s never too late to start make changes to your attitude and get involved. “You make decisions everyday that have the power to change the course of your life. You just have to make the decision to put yourself out there and try.”

Colin Rochelle drinking coffee in café.

Colin Rochelle

Colin Rochelle’s college experiences show some of the other opportunities available through the university. During his Sophomore year, Colin joined the Brock Scholars program, an Honors College program designed to challenge highly motivated and gifted students.

“If you really love the thing you’re studying and are motivated to learn more deeply about that subject, I would highly recommend considering joining the honors program. You also get to meet so many wonderful, kind people who have the same interests and drives that you do,” he said.

Colin also participated in the Study Abroad program, spending a semester in Marburg, Germany, which he describes as an enlightening and deeply rewarding experience.

“It was the best experience. I met some of the people who are now my closest friends. It’s also just a great way to learn more about the world and gain a new perspective that extends beyond your immediate surroundings,” he said.

As many great opportunities that are offered by the department, it is also important to expand your horizons and go beyond the English Department.

According to Colin, who is also a Philosophy major, you should study broadly. “It’s important to acknowledge that there are some really cool things going on in other departments. Some of the classes you don’t expect to like, you may end up loving and changing your life.”

Colin has experienced this phenomenon first hand. Originally a History major, he decided to change majors after an Intro to Literature class sparked his interest in literary studies. His unexpected interest in an Environmental Rhetoric class has also inspired him to pursue a career in Environmental Law.

For Rachel, one of the most rewarding experiences of her time at the university was joining the sorority Gamma Phi Beta: “Joining Gamma Phi Beta is what really started to get me involved more on campus. I was able to meet so many incredible people and learn about so many new opportunities.”

The experience also forced her to develop some valuable real world skills, “Keeping up with all the obligations that come along with being in  a sorority as well as all my school responsibilities really taught me how to prioritize and multi-task,” she said.

Both Colin and Rachel also emphasize the importance of getting to know your professors. They each have great relationships with professors who have helped them succeed during their time at UTC.

“These people are here to help you succeed. They are the ones who are going to be writing your letters of recommendation and telling you about academic and job opportunities, so it’s really important to build a relationship with these people and actually treat them like human beings,” said Rachel.

Rachel cites Abbie Ventura as a major source of support and encouragement over the last four years. “She became my unofficial advisor my Sophomore year and was there for me whenever I was having an existential crisis and needed someone to talk to,” she said.

Colin says a number of professors have had a great impact on him over the years. “I probably wouldn’t have applied to the Brock Scholars program if not for Dr. Ralph Covino. Dr. O’Dea, the head of the Brock Scholars, has always been so supportive and understanding. Dr. McCarthy is probably my favorite professor ever. He’s always been so cool and easy to talk to. I can go to him for anything, even personal stuff,” he said.

Our Outstanding Students have some final advice to live by:

  • Take your classes seriously.
  • Don’t cheat and don’t skip.
  • Know what your priorities are.
  • Make sure you are actually doing something you enjoy.

Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what you need to do to get the most out of your education and be more successful. After all, the next Outstanding Student could be you.

Shelby Bess serves as the English Department’s Social Media Coordinator and Staff Writer. She is a senior English major and Communication minor graduating in the Spring of 2016.


New Courses for Fall 2016!

To take or not to take? It’s that wonderful time of year again wherein we all must go into battle and fight for those coveted seats in the classes we want—otherwise known as registration. It’s easy to fill up your schedule with all those Gen-Ed courses and major requirements, but what about all those electives and upper division credits you get to choose from? We know it can be difficult to decide what courses to take, especially when presented with a myriad of brand new courses with little to go on but a title. In order to make your life easier and give you registration confidence, we sat down with professors to learn more about some of the new/unique courses being offered this fall. Hopefully, this course preview will open your eyes to some new possibilities and help you make your final decisions.


ENGL 4910 Writing Workshop: Design for Writers with Carrie Meadows

Course Description

This project-based course challenges students to write and design public documents. We will focus on the convergence of image and text in communication today and cover topics such as rhetorical awareness, writing style, page layout, typography, image editing, development of multi-page documents, professional ethics, copyright regulations and fair use standards, plus file preparation for print and web applications. The course will be practical in nature, with students creating documents in applications professional writers use in the workplace, namely Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Muse. I am not a graphic designer, and I don’t expect students to become graphic designers or proficient users of all software over the course of the semester; rather, the goal is to give students practice using professional design software as they learn to negotiate the interplay of image and text in public documents.


Why should students take this class?

“I think it’s important for English students, especially those going into some professional writing field, have an understanding of how text and images work together and that they have some familiarity with the design programs that are used in the world of professional writing. Over the course of the semester we will also have people coming into the class, copywriters and graphic designers, to provide insight into what it’s like to work on a collaborative team. Even if you never have to use these programs to design anything, it’s really important that writers have an understanding of what their colleagues do and have a respect for the work and skills they bring to a collaborative team,” said Meadows.


This Beyond the Classroom course is designed to provide students with hands-on experience. The main project the class will work on over the semester is the creation of a design for writers handbook that the class will write, design, and have printed. “They will be able to walk away with a copy of it and hopefully have it as a reference to use down the road as well as something they can put in a portfolio,” she said. The book will also be used in the internship program and will be handed out to professional writing professors so it can be used by others.


ENGL 4270: Major American Figures: Henry James with Aaron Shaheen

Course Description:

Henry James isn’t called “The Master” for nothing. His career spanned from the 1860s until the first decade of the twentieth century.  He wrote novels, short stories, memoirs, literary criticism, and newspaper articles. He took realism—the prevailing literary aesthetic of the late-nineteenth century—altered it, complicated it, and then laid it ever so elegantly at the doorstep of modernism. Authors as different as the bombastic Ezra Pound and the subdued Willa Cather regarded James as their literary precursor. And no doubt about it, the man had a sense of humor that came through time and again in his writings! ENGL 4270 will offer an in-depth look at James through his three major career phases, paying special attention to the themes and techniques that have placed him in the pantheon of American authors. We will, for instance, address his preoccupation with Americans in Europe, his sympathies for women in gilded societal cages, and his interest in psychological ambiguity and nuance. Students will likely read The Aspern Papers,,The Portrait of a LadyThe Turn of the Screw, What Maisie Knew,  The Beast in the Jungle, as well as the short stories “The Real Thing” and “The Jolly Corner.”

Why is Henry James an important figure of study/What insights do you hope his work will impart to your class?

“James’s novels are so insightful because they teach us about ourselves and what it is to be flawed human beings. James’s best characters are ones who live in the gray zones; they are not polarized into black and white. The choices they have to make sometimes are devil’s bargains, and they just have to live with the consequences. For that reason, he really helps us to understand the sophistication of living in the modern world. There are very few easy ethical or moral choices to make. He helps us to realize that life has to be lived between the forty yard lines,” said Shaheen.

Dr. Shaheen, who has published two academic articles and a book chapter on James, hopes that his students will learn not to be intimidated by James’s large novels and will walk away with an appreciation for the insight, humor, and psychological nuance that characterizes his work. Out of all the works that will be taught, he most looks forward to teaching Portrait of a Lady because it exemplifies the very best qualities of James’s writing.


ENGL 4000: Studies in the Novel: The Transnational African Novel (Experiential Learning) with James Arnett


Course Description:

In this class, we will be reading novels by African and African diasporic writers whose own careers and lives spans oceans and continents. We’ll be reading narratives of exile and emigration, immigration and return, and while doing so, working with The Bridge Chattanooga, a refugee resettlement organization, and taking field trips to experience the immigrant communities we’ll be reading about. Featured writers include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Zadie Smith, and others. Completion of this course and others may culminate in special recognition by UTC’s Think/Achieve program.


What do you hope students will gain from this course?

“Well, one of my students once told me that he thought the definitions of sympathy and empathy were essential to my course, and I’m really flattered by that reading of my teaching. So I think that I really want my students to learn to assuage their own fears about encountering the other, whoever that other is—an atheist, a northerner, what have you—so that when they find themselves in those situations, they will be able to use the fund of their intellectual knowledge to approach it with some measure of clarity and sympathy before making hasty or irresponsible judgments. It’s far too easy to be afraid of someone you’ve never seen before,” said Arnett.

Arnett describes the course as a deeply human one that goes beyond the teaching of a specific practical skill. “These types of study are sites where we are not just teaching critical thinking and professional skills, we are teaching a responsible emotional, psychological engagement with the world,” he said. This is the second time Arnett has taught this unique course and you can read more about what the experience of the previous class in our Experiential Learning article on the department’s website.


ENGL 4870: Fans, Gamers, Tweeters: Digital Rhetorics and Participatory Cultures with Rik Hunter

Course Description:

Fans and Gamers Course FlyerMedia scholar Henry Jenkins writes about how sites such as “YouTube, Flickr, Second Life, and Wikipedia have made visible a set of cultural practices and logics that had been taking root within fandom over the past hundred-plus years, expanding their cultural influence by broadening and diversifying participation.” The history and grassroots nature of fans practices, which Jenkins calls “participatory culture,” will serve as a lens for understanding newer forms of cultural production and participation, often tied to business models and commercial practices in social networks and transmedia franchises. Our readings, discussions, and projects will situate fan, gamer, and Tweeter practices in relation to broader trends of social networks, online communities, and digital-based social activism.


Why do you think this course is important/What do you hope your students will gain?


“One of the things I’m really interested in is getting students to understand that there are all these different forms of writing out there that they might not seriously consider as writing. For one, I think we still, especially in English, primarily value in our teaching the written word over the collaboration of text and visuals and other modes of communication. You have to start thinking of contemporary writing in a more multi-modal way because low-cost computers and software make these texts easier than ever to produce by everyday people without specialized training.  In addition, we see young people participating in fan communities, and their texts and performances can act as a springboard to things we might typically consider more serious, for example, the social activism of the Harry Potter Alliance. So I really want students to see the value in these forms of cultural participation. For example, it’s easy to dismiss something like fan fiction as derivative and poorly written, but you have to see that writing as a social and cultural practice that gives many young people an opportunity to write about things they love and grow as writers in supportive community,” said Hunter.

The big example Hunter notes that demonstrates the value  of fan participation is the that of teenage Heather Lawver Sewell, who, at the age of 13, created and managed the online Harry Potter newspaper for kids, The Daily Prophet, and was a leader in the “PotterWar” boycott. Through this online publication, Lawver Sewell brought together young fans of the series and provided an outlet for them to create and collaborate. These kids were only celebrating their love for a beloved book series; however, Warner Bros. felt differently and sent cease and desist letters claiming copyright and trademark infringement to many Harry Potter fan sites. Lawver Sewell fought back and appeared in several news stories and programs such as MSNBC’s Hardball. It’s a long story told by both Lawver Sewell and media scholar Henry Jenkins, but in the end, a new and youngest-ever Senior VP at Warner Bros. emerged to move the company toward working with fans rather than against them.


ENGL 4970: Special Topics: Feminist Theory with Heather Palmer

Course Description:

This course will give students an overview of the history of feminism as well as the different philosophical approaches to understanding how power structures are constructed and perpetuated by ideological systems throughout culture in order to think critically about gender, patriarchal power structures, and the female identity. Going back to Ancient Greece, we will look at the foundation of western thought and the gender binary oppositions that were initially set up in the works of philosophers like Aristotle and trace the perpetuation of this thought throughout history. Our goal is to not only look at the root of patriarchal power structures and find evidence of that throughout history, but to also examine 19th and 20th century feminist philosophers  who have thought deeply and critically about how these things are articulated at the expense and well-being of women and apply this philosophy to cultural texts (i.e. film, literature, art, music, architecture, etc).

Why do you think this course is important/What do you hope your students will gain?


“First of all, I hope my students will come out of the class with the ability to think critically about how patriarchy functions in our culture—how it is disseminated and perpetuated. Every time I ever teach a course that has an element of feminism, there are inevitably people who come into the class with a negative bias about what the term “feminism” means and what a feminist looks like. So, one of the biggest challenges I have at the onset of the course is convincing my students why we still need feminism, that these gender/social issues really do exist. So for that reason, I think there is a larger purpose to this course; it isn’t just an academic enterprise but an ethical one. We don’t just talk about theory, but we find ways to apply it to the world around us and hopefully discover ways to live more ethically and responsibly,” said Palmer.

Palmer’s past experience with the course has proven that people really do come away from this type of course with newfound insight and questions about the way the world operates. It strips away the world of myth. “By the end students often feel disillusioned—they see the world in a completely new way. I only hope that they can use this newfound perspective to challenge the negative conventions and standards that they see operating in society,” she said.


ENGL 4970: Special Topics: Theory of Horror with Matthew Guy


Course Description:

This course will consist of an application of theory, specifically poststructuralist theory, to the genre of horror from the earliest aspects of the horror genre that are found in gothic novels to contemporary popular horror films. We will address the questions: why do we like to confront things that we might be scared of? Why do we like to encounter things that gross us out? What are those things that we are scared of? How do the things that we are scared of change according to the times? By examining foundational horror films such as Frankenstein, Dracula, Exorcist, Halloween, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, through the lens of poststructuralist theory, we will explore how horror films reflect the unspoken political ideas and fears of their audience.

Why do you think students should take this course?

“First of all, it is a way to engage theory with something a bit more accessible than they might be used to. They can use the skills that they have been honing as an English major and apply them to something that is a part of pop culture. Hopefully, this will allow students to see the depth of ideas that surround us daily. I mean, you can’t turn on the tv at night without running into a horror movie somewhere. By looking at the horror genre, we can see how fears are articulated and discussed in the culture. Plus it’s just going to be fun to watch scary movies,” said Guy.

One of the films that Guy points to in order to demonstrate the insight we can gain from looking at horror movies is Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which expresses the fears associated with McCarthyism and Communism during the Cold War. functions in a similar way, acting as the director’s statement about the civil rights movement and racial inequality during the 1960’s. In this way, these films provide both entertainment and an opportunity to look into the psyche of our culture at any given time, one of the chief interests of the course.


ENGL 4340: Development of the British Novel with Joseph Jordan

Course Description:

The course will cover the development of the English novel from its beginnings in its epistolary form through the works of Jane Austen and other writers of the Victorian period such as Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Anthony Trollope. Covering six novels, the course will show the evolution of the novel as a form as well as explore the reasons we enjoy these types of sprawling stories and why they have endured as literary classics.

What do you hope students will gain from this course?

“First, I want them to get a sense of how the novel as a form has evolved and changed over time, and I want them to have access to certain classics that aren’t often assigned in more general survey courses because of time constraints. Unless you take a specialized course, you might not get to read these novels in a university setting, so I hope this course will fill some of the holes that can come about in one’s English education.

“I also want them to see that they enjoy these things, to gain an appreciation for these types of novels and realize that they have a lot in common with the sorts of entertainment that we enjoy today. These novels were originally released in small sections and would have been consumed over long periods of time; they were episodic in a way that is akin to television shows today wherein each episode is like a chapter in a larger story. So people would consume these stories in much the same way we consume shows like Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones today,” said Jordan.

For Jordan, teaching these novels is particularly rewarding in a university setting because the themes seem to resonate with young adults. “So many of these stories are about coming into one’s own. I always think of the opening line of David Copperfield: ‘Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.’ I think this portrayal of young people who have to discover themselves and become the heroes of their own lives is an idea that’s especially attractive to young people, especially in college,” he said.

Experience English “Beyond the Classroom”

Pure logical thinking cannot yield us any knowledge of the empirical world; all knowledge of reality starts from experience and ends in it.

—Albert Einstein, Ideas And Opinions


Everyone’s heard the old adage “the best way to learn is through experience,” but it may surprise people to know that such an emphasis on experience in education goes all the way back to Ancient Greece; in fact, it was Aristotle who wrote For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them. Men become builders by building” in his famous work Nicomachean Ethics, and he has since been described as “the progenitor of experiential learning. . . .” because of his “arguments about transforming experience into informed judgement.”

We don’t need to rely on ancient testimony to prove the value of experience in education, however. The efficacy of experience-based learning can be seen in more recent studies that show learning opportunities that provide a hands-on component produce higher retention and understanding of material in college courses. The professional world also recognizes the value of experience according to a recent survey of employers who say that they highly value on-the-job experience. UTC’s Beyond the Classroom program is designed to provide students with an opportunity to participate and reflect on experience-based and applied learning by attending special events and by enrolling in a growing number of experiential learning courses.

Bengt Carlson, the Beyond the Classroom coordinator, knows the value of providing these opportunities to UTC students: “Theory plus practice makes for a unique and highly beneficial and successful learning environment. It is a way to get people involved and show students a new way of learning and gaining skills that can be used in the real world.” Through the program students can discover new things they may not have considered before or reaffirm their future plans. “Someone who wants to work in publishing can work with a book publisher or a grant writer can see what it’s like to actually write a grant for a nonprofit before they graduate,” said Carlson. The skills the students gain during these types of experience-based courses are invaluable and make graduates more appealing to future employers.

For Dr. James Arnett these types of courses are so important because learning “beyond the classroom” gives students a new perspective on the world and education in general: “It is really important to get out of the classroom, to recognize that there are educational resources all around us. In spite of the fact that we all go to college to essentially segregate the intellectual development that we do, we like to remind students that once we get out of the classroom, learning doesn’t have to stop.”

With this in mind, Dr. Arnett developed the literature-based course, “The Transnational African Novel,” which examines fiction about the experiences of African immigrants. Dr. Arnett admits that a literature course is not the obvious choice for an experience-based course but that it only takes a little more creativity. For the hands on component of the class, they worked with the Bridge Refugee Services, who take refugees in from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) across the world and resettle them locally.

Bridging Cultures Together book.

Bridging Cultures Together: Chattanooga resource for new immigrant to the area.

To aid the agency’s mission of creating a support network to help these immigrants, the class developed a book, Bridging Cultures Together: Chattanooga, welcoming them to Chattanooga. It has information on learning English, workplace skills such as how to build a resume and rules and regulations for jobs, locations of libraries, bus maps, Tennessee trivia, and general cultural information about the South. These were made as a resource to hand out to new arrivals so that they can find a job, housing, and learn how to move about the city. The class also took a road trip down to Atlanta; they went to the High Museum of Arts to tour their African Arts Collection, ate lunch at an Ethiopian restaurant, and ended the afternoon at the Dupont Farmer’s Market, which is a wonderful crossroads where people can see multi-cultural interactions.

Dr. Heather Palmer offered an experiential learning course this past semester in critical animal studies entitled Creaturely Rhetorics, which investigates human-animal relationships from a philosophical, ethical and zoological perspective. To better understand these relationships the class looked at a variety of cultural texts from literature and art. They read philosophy and books like Aesop’s Fables and visited the Hunter Museum to see the characterization of animals in art; they went to the McKamey Animal Shelter and examined the entire space as a text; and they plan to visit the Chattanooga Zoo, questioning the ethics of zoos. “The main question that drives the whole thing is how animals help us make meaning and how they reflect back to us what it means to be human. And so we are looking at how that gets articulated through cultural forms,” said Palmer.

One of the highlights of the class was when someone from HABIT (Human Animal Bond in Tennessee) brought a dog to visit the class. The students who had been reading heavy philosophical material and considering things on an abstract level were able to apply what they had read by engaging with another living being. As an animal lover, Palmer admits that this has been one of the most challenging courses she has ever taught, forcing her and the class to think about and engage the world in new ways.

McKamey Photos of student and professor with dogs.

Dr. Heather Palmer, students, and dogs in the Creaturely Rhetorics course.

Dr. Lauren Ingraham’s Grant Writing course, though not technically a Beyond the Classroom-designated course, provides students with an opportunity for hands on learning with real grant writing experience. Students in the class get to work both as a team and individually with nonprofit organizations, writing grant proposals that they will actually use to get funding. “This is real real-world experience. The proposals that the students write are going to possibly help a local nonprofit organization get funding; last semester, one of our students working with Bridge Refugee Services, wrote a grant for $20,000,” said Ingraham.

This type of course not only provides students with writing skills and material they can put in a portfolio or on a resume, it gives them an opportunity to discover something new and the confidence that they can succeed in the professional world. Dr. Ingraham recalls one student in particular: “One of the students came in as a poet and discovered that this is what she wanted to do with her life. She discovered that she had this talent and these skills, and she wanted to put them to work for these organizations who are doing meaningful work. She graduated and went straight into a grant writing job.”

Even students who don’t go into grant writing specifically are still moved by the experience and in many cases continue volunteering with the non-profit organizations for which they wrote proposals, demonstrating just how these types of experiences can open one’s world up to new possibilities.

The Beyond the Classroom program not only provides students with opportunities to participate in hands-on experiences that will prepare them for future careers, it can provide students with a new way of experiencing the world, opening their eyes to new possibilities and perspectives.

Looking to take an experiential-learning course? Check out the current course list on the Beyond the Classroom website or contact Bengt Carlson for more information about the program.

Shelby Bess serves as the English Department’s Social Media Coordinator and Staff Writer. She is a senior English major and Communication minor graduating in the Spring of 2016.

Why English: How to Stop Worrying and Love English

So you’re considering becoming an English major. Then you already know that being an English major is a mind-expanding experience giving you insight into the human condition as well as creative abilities and rhetorical savvy. But what you might not know is that English will also prepare you to take on that big, scary world after you graduate.

First of all, we need to talk about the elephant in the room, and by that I mean the stigmas that come along with being an English major. You’ve probably heard that English majors just sit around all day reading books and that the only thing an English degree will get you in the real world is a job saying, “Do you want fries with that?” All this doom and gloom usually comes from people who don’t really know what English Studies is all about. So what’s the reality?

stuFor Dr. Christopher Stuart, department head and professor of Literature, English possesses “a really deep human value that doesn’t have any price tag.” It’s a rare field of study that not only cultivates invaluable practical skills like critical thinking and writing but can also make you a more thoughtful and understanding person. “I deeply believe in the value of being an English major because through reading and talking about poetry and novels, you develop an understanding of the way people and the human mind work. It gives you a whole new way of looking and interacting with the world,” said Stuart.

This isn’t just a baseless conjecture either. A University of Toronto study found that people who read literature frequently displayed higher levels of cognitive empathy. Not only is this good for individuals in terms of personal development, but the interpersonal skills that go along with an empathetic mind are also invaluable in any work environment. Take President Obama for example,

When I think about how I understand my role as citizen, setting aside being president, and the most important set of understandings that I bring to that position of citizen, the most important stuff I’ve learned I think I’ve learned from novels. It has to do with empathy. It has to do with being comfortable with the notion that the world is complicated and full of grays, but there’s still truth there to be found, and that you have to strive for that and work for that. And the notion that it’s possible to connect with some[one] else even though they’re very different from you.

carrieAs the internship coordinator and Lecturer, Carrie Meadows has special insight into what employers value in prospective hires. Employers, no matter what profession, want people who can think through problems, and English majors are particularly good at this. “Students who focus in creative writing have learned the importance of audience and have thought carefully about what language can do on a micro-level,” said Meadows. For this reason, creative writers, poets especially, possess a real precision of language. What all of this really boils down to is communication. English majors possess excellent communication skills, which are valuable in all professions as well as just life in general.

rebeccajonesDr. Rebecca Jones, the previous internship coordinator and Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Professional Writing, similarly states the professional value of English Studies: “I can’t think of a business that doesn’t need a writer or a critical reader or a problem solver. The current trend is for tech companies and medical companies to realize they need humanities people, that you can’t just train your brain to do one specific thing anymore. When you’re an English major, you learn multi-cultural ways of living in the world. You can see the whole of a situation.”

Dr. Jones, who admits to graduating without a firm grasp of how her degree could be used, says the department is doing a much better job of showing students what they can do with the skills they acquire through the English program: “People think they have to have a very specific degree or learn a specific skill to be successful, but for those graduating today it’s more about being able to do everything. The critical thinking and research skills our majors develop are what allows them to be so successful in a multitude of professions.”

For proof just look at a few of our past graduates, who have gone on to become teachers, journalists, published authors, attorneys, entrepreneurs, editors and copywriters, and professionals in marketing and advertising. There’s really no limit on what an English major can do.

Dr. Stuart has some final advice for anyone who still has reservations about becoming an English major: “Take what you really love! You’ll get the most out of studying what you love and ultimately be more successful because you will actually enjoy what you do. If you’re really passionate about reading or writing, you shouldn’t be discouraged from majoring in English just because you don’t think it will be lucrative enough or because you think others will be derisive of what you do.”

The critical thinking ability, communication skills, creativity, empathy, and innovative spirit of English majors are what make them so valuable to the world as both people and young professionals. Dr. Stuart said it best, “Humanities majors prepare students to solve problems the world doesn’t even know it has yet.”

Join us and discover what being an English major can do for your future.


Shelby Bess serves as the English Department’s Social Media Coordinator and Staff Writer. She is a senior English major and Communication minor graduating in the Spring of 2016.