Class of 2007
- Bachelor of Arts in English, Penn State Altoona, 2007
- Doctorate (Ph.D.) in English, University at Albany (SUNY), 2014
- Certificate in UX/UI Design, Eleven Fifty Academy, 2020
What do you currently do professionally?
I am currently a product communication manager at Paperpile, an EdTech start-up, and an adjunct instructor of English at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.
How has majoring in English helped you on your career pathway(s)?
I have held a number of different positions since graduating from Penn State: writing center tutor, English professor, marketing writer/editor, library reference assistant, and communications manager. My ability to write well--learned through my English major--has been the defining trait of my success across these roles.
What knowledge and skills help you succeed in your job on a daily basis (and, possibly, in unanticipated ways)?
I use my writing and communications skills every day. They are absolutely essential to my work.
In what (unanticipated) ways has the English major impacted your life beyond your profession?
I can't stress this enough: an English major provides you with the critical thinking and communication skills that are seriously valued in many fields. I have heard from several of my employers that my writing and research skills, creative problem-solving ability, and capacity for observing patterns and connecting those to "the bigger picture" (learned though lots of close reading in literature classes) made me a stand-out employee. Each of these things was learned, tested, and mastered through my training as an English major.
What is your favorite experience from your time in the English program?
It's hard to pinpoint a single favorite experience. However, what I can say is that my development as a writer, thinker, and human being was nurtured by the best people: committed and engaged professors who were true mentors, fellow English majors and Honors students, and all of the folks that make the Penn State Altoona campus one of the best incubators for actual growth (and I have worked at, and with, many colleges and universities since I graduated from Penn State Altoona).
What advice do you have for current English majors or students considering entry into the field in which you’re currently working?
It's tempting--and our culture makes it more so--to simply focus on acquiring the seemingly practical skills that you may need to work in communications: copyediting, digital publishing, etc. It feels good to look at a job ad and know you can check off all the boxes of those "required," and even "preferred," qualifications. However, I can't stress enough that the close reading and research competencies that you learn in literature classes will truly set you apart from other candidates.
Reading literature prepares you to notice patterns in texts and ideas, to understand people's motives and emotions, to comprehend the relationship between small, everyday acts and the "bigger picture," to appreciate the history of ideas and how that history influences the present, and to read, write, and think with critical acumen. These are the skills that employers truly value (even if you don't necessarily see them replicated in job ads).
Is there anything else you would like current Penn State Altoona students (of all majors) to know?
I could say a lot here about how Penn State Altoona is a truly special place--how there are so many opportunities to learn from generous teacher-scholars, both inside the classroom, and beyond. However, I think the best way I can answer this question is through a little story (very appropriate, I think, for a former English major).
Whenever my husband and I visit family in central PA for the winter holidays (he also went to Penn State Altoona, although he's originally from Michigan), we always take an afternoon and visit the Penn State Altoona campus. Insulated against the cold by multiple layers of clothing, we amble past Hawthorn--where many of our favorite classes were held--walk up the brick path past the library, then circle back around the Smith building. We always peep into the Slep Center to see if anything has changed, then stroll around the pond. After our loop, we take the "back way" behind Hawthorn until we end up at the parking lot where we started.
We rarely encounter anyone during these wintry adventures (except for the ever-present ducks!), but that's to be expected because of the holidays. Nonetheless, we bear the brisk weather and the campus's winter-break emptiness because it was the site of so much joy.