Heather Myers

Heather Myers

Class of 2016

  • Bachelor of Arts in English, minor in Women's Studies, Penn State Altoona
  • Master of Fine Arts (Creative Writing [Poetry]), graduate certificate in Gender and Sexuality Studies, West Virginia University

What do you currently do professionally?
Currently, I'm a Ph.D. candidate in creative writing who teaches English classes at the University of North Texas. I am teaching Engl 1310 (College Writing I), Engl 2341 (Forms of Literature), and next spring, I'll teach Beginning Poetry.

How has majoring in English helped you on your career pathway(s)?
It has allowed me to develop a significant number of skills that have improved my critical thinking, writing, and communication. I believe the courses I have taken have made me a versatile writer who can approach a subject with a wide variety of tools and lenses to apply. For example, Penn State Altoona taught me about intersectionality, and it taught me a great deal of theoretical approaches. It helped me learn how to better communicate my ideas, and the major gave me confidence to express those ideas. It taught me ways to bring the world around me into my scope of thinking.

I wouldn't be a student going towards a Ph.D. in Creative Writing if it weren't for the English program at Penn State Altoona, which taught me how to look at my work critically, how to revise, and how to keep pushing forward. My mentors and English teachers also positively modeled teaching, which gave me the encouragement to continue in academia and in teaching, and hopefully also to have a positive impact on others' lives. I'm certain I'm a better teacher because of the time I spent in the courses I took and the experience I gained elsewhere on campus. Because of the values I've learned in the classroom and at places like Penn State Altoona’s Writing Commons, I've had a good number of students go on to submit their work, revise, and publish it, and also to win writing awards at the university.

What knowledge and skills help you succeed in your job on a daily basis (and, possibly, in unanticipated ways)?
The number of in-depth research skills I learned as an English major is always saving my butt. I never feel entirely "stuck," even when it is difficult to write or complete work. Working as an undergraduate researcher, I learned a lot of skills and knowledge; some I apply now and some that I think will prove valuable in the future. For example, I don't know tons of people who've worked with microfiche! Maybe someday I will work with it again.

I also feel I learned a lot, as I mentioned, by being a student in the classroom: I've adapted lessons and teaching strategies during my time as a student to my own teaching.

Also, the idea that writing is about process and improvement helps me succeed every day.

In what (unanticipated) ways has the English major impacted your life beyond your profession?
I'm not sure yet! I love this question, though.

Mostly, when I tell people what I do or what my major was, it lets them talk and express their love of reading and their desire to be a writer. I think it lets them see possibility (that an English major can get a Ph.D.)!

What is your favorite experience from your time in the English program?
Oh, my goodness, this is difficult! I loved my experiences through Sigma Tau Delta and going to the conferences. Albuquerque, New Mexico is always a fond memory as is Minneapolis.

Working in the Writing Commons was a daily joy. That got me through so much. The faculty in the Commons and my peers were able to talk through classes and issues, and to build community.

I also value my time working with things hands-on (designing a table placement for the Seat at the Table exhibit) and volunteering at the Clubhouse through an English honors class (Writing in the Humanities), which was taught by Lee Peterson. I also spent a great deal of time doing research for Dr. Petrulionis, which was a deeply valued and unique experience--between presentations on the research, the modes in which I conducted research, and the days we all went and got food together.

And I will always remember the first time I spoke with Erin Murphy. It was for a profile assignment, and I interviewed her about being in the English program and being a writer. This interview and meeting are what ultimately convinced me to be an English major.

What advice do you have for current English majors or students considering entry into the field in which you’re currently working?
Ask many, many questions and find out how people got on the path that they are on! Don't be afraid to reach out. This is something I always wish I had done a little more of, especially in my MFA program, particularly in regard to understanding how things work (application processes, academic "rules," institutional issues, etc., etc.)

Is there anything else you would like current Penn State Altoona students (of all majors) to know?
I would like them to know that they should believe in themselves, even when it feels difficult. Lots of people on campus believe in you, or they will come to do so.

February 2023