Joseph S. Miller

Joseph Miller

Class of 2019

  • Bachelor of Arts in English, with a Minor in Professional Writing, Penn State Altoona

What do you currently do professionally?
Donor Relations Specialist in the Development Office for Penn State's College of Health and Human Development at the University Park campus

How has majoring in English helped you on your career pathway(s)?
Effective communication is helpful no matter the career path you find yourself navigating. The faculty at Penn State Altoona taught my classmates and me to speak clearly in our own voice, and to write with purpose. In the military, effective communication helped my subordinates to clearly understand my orders; in retail, it helped in difficult situations with customers; and in my current role I am expected to communicate with alumni, donors, and colleagues on a constant basis.

What knowledge and skills help you succeed in your job on a daily basis (and, possibly, in unanticipated ways)?
The time I spent as a writing consultant in the Writing Commons has proven to be invaluable. Experiencing both sides of the client/consultant paradigm helped me to develop a writing process based on lessons learned from both customers and fellow tutors. The experience I received from my time as a consultant helped my writing develop far more than any individual class could have.

In what (unanticipated) ways has the English major impacted your life beyond your profession?
After a few months of working retail, the managers became aware that I have an English degree, and that led to my "promotion" to the building's unofficial document reviewer.

What is your favorite experience from your time in the English program?
In my humble opinion, every English major at Penn State Altoona should take Steve Sherrill's fiction writing class a number of times until they feel the collective ownership over the group that workshop brings; take Hard Freight at least once to experience collaborative editing; and cut their teeth with a senior seminar project that challenges every research lesson they've ever been taught. But my favorite experience from my time in the English Program would have to be the entirety of my Intro to Critical Reading (ENGL 200) class. The class challenged me in almost every academic way possible and really opened my eyes to a world I had no idea existed.

What advice do you have for current English majors or students considering entry into the field in which you’re currently working?
Work in the Writing Commons, submit to Hard Freight, attend every reading/participate in every Q&A with a published author, and do not fear rejection. This is the time to make mistakes and learn from them. If you don't take advantage of these opportunities now, they will not be there when you enter the job field.

Is there anything else you would like current Penn State Altoona students (of all majors) to know?
Unless you have a specific degree path you are following that requires transferring, finish your undergraduate degree at Penn State Altoona. Besides the costs—of which there are many—you are breathing rare air in Altoona. The intimate classroom settings you find are unique to Altoona. Working at University Park and walking past 300+ student classrooms has often made me thankful that I decided to stay at Altoona.

February 2023