A common myth about getting an English degree is that English majors become teachers, writers, or work in publishing. These are their only options, right?
Wrong. So wrong.
A small sampling of the diverse careers of our alumni quickly debunks that myth. CSU English majors are:
- Content Manager at JumpCloud, a tech startup
- Communications Specialist for the USDA AgLearn program
- Owner and Director of Root Center for Yoga & Sacred Studies
- Colorado State Public Defender
- Owner/Partner/Employing Broker, Elevations Real Estate, LLC
- Operations Manager, The Planetary Society
- Chief of Media, The World Bank
- Content Creation Manager, Association of National Advertisers
- Membership Engagement Coordinator, Medical Group Management Association
- Benefits Assistant, CU School of Medicine
- Management Support Assistant in the Office of Curatorial Affairs, Smithsonian’s National Museum for African American History and Culture
- Founder & CEO of Genuinely, “a consultancy and training firm that evolves and aligns strategy for sales, marketing, and customer experience teams in mid-market organizations and rapidly growing companies”
- Speechwriter/Public Affairs Officer at NASA
- Emergency Medical Technician
English majors are a diverse group doing interesting work in the world, but something else you might not know – they don’t wait until they graduate to start being amazing. For example,
After having Avery Jones in his British Romanticism class, Dan Beachy-Quick described Jones as a “truly thoughtful, caring, responsible student and person.” Jones stands out for her service to the English department and the broader community.
Jones, the daughter of an English teacher, chose her major in part because of a particular reading experience. When she was younger, she read The Kite Runner and it inspired in her a deep empathy for others. Reading it changed her life and she decided she wanted to teach literature, to change people in a similar way. “Books inspire empathy and connection. Books don’t exist within a bubble; literature happens within context of history and the reader.” Even though her plan is to teach, it was only going to mean a few extra classes to get a double major in literature, so she decided to do both. She’d eventually like to work on her master’s degree in literature, while teaching somewhere in the Fort Collins area.
Jones is currently working as a teaching assistant in Todd Mitchell’s E405 Adolescents’ Literature section, and he says, “To be honest, she’s the most naturally gifted, aware, energetic, and inspiring teacher I’ve ever seen.” She’s active in NCTE@CSU, the current vice president. She volunteers with SLICE Adaptive Swim, (for three years, with the same partner for the past two years). She did TGIF for a year as well. Jones is also in the honors program.
Last summer Jones traveled to Spain for a month. This summer she is going to Iceland to go hiking. “I’ve always loved learning, and I think that happens in a lot of ways – from people and different experiences, not just school.”
In 2015, Kaitlyn Phillips joined Far Away Friends, an organization in northern Uganda, as a development intern, and has been working with them ever since. “Our mission is to extend quality education into Northern Uganda, and it has been amazing to take my passion for education across the globe.” Phillips believes that education is every child’s best opportunity to better both their communities and themselves, and she hopes “to one day be the kind of teacher that creates the same sense of community in her classroom that I’ve found here in the University’s English department.”
In addition to her work with Far Away Friends, Phillips spent time working as a teaching assistant in a preschool classroom at Putnam Elementary school. She was also an intern with the English department communications team in Spring 2016. She At the same time she got promoted to Director for Development with Far Away Friends, involved in one of their newest initiatives, OperationTEACH. She spent some of her summer in 2016 working with teachers and students in Namasale, Uganda. “I believe that we all believe in something greater — bigger — than ourselves, and I believe we’re willing to put in serious work to be closer to that greater something.” Even though she hasn’t graduated yet, Phillips fully embodies her commitment to education, and to something greater, and bigger, than herself.
Jennifer Stetson-Strange took the long way to CSU. Her journey here took her first to Latvia, England, and Japan, where she taught English as a second language. At first, the teaching was a way to support her traveling, but then she fell in love with it (her undergraduate degree is in linguistics, and she minored in Teaching English as a second language (TESL)), and knew teaching English is what she wanted to do. “I love making relationships with students, and helping them be successful in their goals.”
Over the past nine months, Stetson-Strange conducted a thorough needs analysis, compiling and analyzing specific language needs of second language learners in order to develop a curriculum for workers in the hospitality industry, and specifically, for housekeepers at a local hotel.
Stetson-Strange observed more than 20 participants who worked in the housekeeping department. She found it a rewarding experience to be a part of this project, including building key relationships with participants at the hotel. She is so well liked by those she worked with, the entire staff attended her project defense. She was awarded “Distinction in TESL/TEFL Final Project” for her effort. This summer, she hopes to continue teaching the housekeeping staff twice a week. Her future goal is to implement this program at different hotels and restaurants in Northern Colorado.
Stetson-Strange has also presented “Needs Analysis in English for Specific Purposes: Outcomes and Implications” with two of her colleagues at COTESL, observed language use in business classes as part of a project with Tony Becker in which INTO was trying to create a master’s program for business, and did a poster presentation, “Learner Anxiety in the Classroom.” Stetson-Strange interned with INTO, teaching English to staff (Facilities, food court, and cleaning crew) at CSU, and volunteered at FRCC in an intermediate ESL course in Spring 2016.
Ashle’ Tate knew from an early age she wanted to be a teacher — “literature is a powerful tool for teaching: for social justice, and for teaching empathy.” And yet, she’s not waiting until she graduates to make an impact.
Ashle’ Tate is the recipient of the Jackson Distinguished First Generation Award, a 2016 Karyn L. Evans Scholarship, and a CLA Community Engagement Award. To fully describe the service-oriented programs, clubs, and activities Ashle’s been involved with during her time here at CSU fills multiple pages. She helps others while also helping CSU have a positive presence in the wider community, doing so through Key Communities, Reach Out, The Alliance Partnership, Alternative Spring Break, Academic Advancement Center, CSU Campus Connections Mentoring, President’s Leadership Program, Learn & Serve in Ghana, Diversity Symposium, CESDA Symposioum & Student Panels, and being a Social Justice Ambassador with Women Studies and the Ethnic Studies department, as well as a Rambassador for the College of Liberal Arts. Tate is passionate about both helping people and learning. When asked how she’s able to accomplish so much, Tate said, “I just love learning. Doing what you love gives you energy.”
Instructor Nancy Henke says of Tate, “She is a thoughtful, critical, interested, engaged, and active student. She’s also humble, digests feedback, and is always striving to improve – in her studies and in her life. She serves the college through her example to those around her.”
As she gets further along in her education and life, Tate is realizing how much more she can do with an English degree. She wants to go to graduate school to study restorative justice or go to law school. “Being able to write and communicate well will help me with whatever I choose to pursue.” While she’s still in learning mode, she wants to explore what else is possible with her English degree before she goes back to teaching. She’s inspired and keeps going because, as a first generation student, she feels her family, community, and students like her look up to her, and she wants to show them what’s possible. Plus, she loves what she’s doing.
When Madison Van Doren talks about her field of study, her enthusiasm and love for it is hard to miss, and it’s been with her for most of her life. She was exposed at an early age to English and American culture, with of half her family in London and half in the Denver area. After spending time in the UK at a young age, she became bi-dialectal and found it interesting to shift between English and American accents. As she continues travelling back and forth, both accents are still an important part of her cultural identity. Van Doren also studied Korean in high school, driving to CU Boulder every week to study with the only teacher of that language in Colorado starting when she was 16. In addition to English and Korean, Van Doren also speaks French.
Her passion for languages was always what drove her studies. In high school, Van Doren took a class where she read Bill Bryson’s The Mother Tongue, and “that book changed my life.” She read it and realized that linguistics was a “thing,” that she could study it, and that she could do that for her career.
Van Doren is a research intern for Professor Cory Holland on a sociolinguistic project documenting Colorado dialect. She also volunteers as an English tutor four times a week for English as a second language students at CSU. And, she’s an employee at the CSU Energy Institute research facility where she helps with writing, project management, and other administrative tasks for projects in renewable energy and their lead researchers. She was the recipient of the 2016 James J. Garvey Undergraduate English Language Scholarship.
Van Doren plans to apply to MA/PhD programs in linguistics, where she hopes to conduct research and prepare for an academic career. “I want to do new things and inspire people. I love that I have the opportunity to change the way people see things, to share my passion with other people. My friends joke that they hope one day they’ll be as excited about anything as I am about linguistics.”
This is just a small sample of the amazing things our alumni and current students are doing, and only a brief glimpse at what is possible with an English degree. It really is the case that the only limit with this major is your imagination. If you can dream it, you can do it with an English degree, and like these students, you don’t even have to wait until you graduate.
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