MA in English Alumni Stories

Juan Valdez (2015), Content Writer, Plenty

The semester after I finished my M.A., I began teaching as an English and Synergy program adjunct faculty member at the University of Wyoming. After a few years of teaching English and Composition, I accepted a position at Bright Agrotech, a hydroponic farming equipment company, writing web, educational, and blog content. A few months after my hiring, Bright Agrotech was acquired by Plenty, a Silicon Valley startup, with the aim of building hydroponic farms that can feed the world.

My experience with the English M.A. program prepared me for the fast paced, mercilessly poised work environment that Silicon Valley culture expects from their content creators. My team creates video, blog, graphic design, and podcast content for a variety of external and internal use. With frequent content requests that give less than twenty-four hour turn-around, we’re forced to work quickly and efficiently to move from the whisp of an idea, to a focused outline, to a well-planned draft, and finally through a grueling editing and feedback process.

The M.A.’s focus on repeated outlining and writing of high-level work aimed at literature, rhetoric, and philosophy prepared me to be able to rapidly gloss any type of media and quickly turn it into a simple, teachable, and digestible format. Most importantly, the M.A. taught me that perfect is the enemy of good - there’s always improvements to be made in our lives, but with so many problems in the world to fix, writers and thinkers need to work quickly and confidently to deliver lessons and solutions where most needed.

Portrait of Juan Valdez
Portrait of Kelly Meeboer-Strampe
Kelly Meeboer Strampe (2011), English Instructor, Eastern Wyoming College

I began teaching English at Eastern Wyoming Community College the fall semester after completing my MA.  I applied for the position knowing that it would allow me to continue teaching composition, but that it would also introduce a different audience in community college students.  Being a native of Wyoming, I had hopes for staying in the state, and calling Torrington, the community in which I grew up, home again.  The MA program at UW prepared me for teaching composition through a graduate assistantship teaching English 1010.  Particularly, I benefited from the experience of learning how to teach writing while writing my own thesis.  The careful attention that my professors and advisors showed during this time, and throughout the program, undoubtedly influenced my teaching style.  In addition, although I had not taught literature prior to working at EWC, my graduate coursework in literature has since been instrumental in my approach to literature with students.

Teaching English at EWC has allowed me to continue engaging with the literary analysis I found so appealing about a graduate degree in English.  In helping students to examine literature, I get to engage with texts in new ways or for the first time, and I find student perspectives refreshing.  While fiction is what brought me to the major, I have been gratified to see the ways non-fiction essays in composition broaden students’ world views.
Christopher Dresang (2010), Natrona County Schools

There’s always the panic that sets in when facing graduation, especially when earning a MA in English. I mean, what do you do with an English degree beyond teaching? Furthermore, teaching English – at least in a public K-12 setting – requires additional endorsements, teaching experience, and the realization that no fifteen-year-old, beyond potential English majors, truly enjoys Shakespeare.

For me, the MA opened doors to teaching programs that craved graduate students capable of holding a K-12 endorsement. My program was the Northern Plains Transition to Teaching (through Montana State University), which allowed me to tack on an M.Ed. and skip student teaching, entering the teaching profession without the hassle of not getting paid for a year. Plus, I was able to live in the great state of Wyoming, while completing the classes online.

Moving into the world of administration, where I currently serve as an Assistant Principal at Natrona County High School in Casper, Wyoming, my graduate work has provided me many opportunities to show that I offer more than just being able to teach English. For example, my graduate studies involved technical writing, which I use on a daily basis to communicate as well as create documents that district leadership uses to report to stakeholders like parents and accreditation boards. Also, my graduate work with literary analysis and composition has helped me to direct district English Language Arts curriculum development as well as serve on various Wyoming Department of Education assessment committees.

From all these experiences, I’ve developed a better awareness of the applications for an MA in English. Just this year, when I saw my teachers debating about whether or not to pursue an MA, I described for them my own journey. I pointed out that without my degree, I wouldn’t have had the freedom to move throughout the academic world, supporting students in a variety of settings. Of course, teaching was my first pursuit, but my career has evolved beyond the classroom thanks to the University of Wyoming's MA in English program.
Portrait of Christopher Dresang
Portrait of Elissa Hansen

Elissa Hansen (2007), Manager, Oxford University Press

After graduating from the MA program at Wyoming, I completed my Ph.D. in English at the University of Minnesota in 2012. I taught professional writing and composition as an adjunct at Holy Names University in Oakland, CA, before my family moved to the UK in 2014. After starting on the ground floor of Oxford University Press’s Law production team that year, I was given increasing responsibility there and I’m now the manager overseeing 80 percent of OUP’s US/UK academic book production and all of its US/UK academic book manufacturing operations.

At Wyoming, I focused on medieval literature under the guidance of an inspiring and supportive committee, which prepared me to ace the English subject GRE and gain admission to Minnesota with a first-year fellowship. Despite adding on a Medieval Studies minor and (on the personal side) a baby, I completed the program a year ahead of schedule, in large part because I won a final-year dissertation fellowship that allowed me to focus on writing.

While at Wyoming, I was selected for a graduate assistantship at Eighteenth-Century Life, where the editor of the journal gave me a crash course in the considerations around copy-editing, proofreading, peer review, typesetting, and readership for an academic journal. This experience enabled me to go on to build a clientele as a freelance proofreader and copy editor, and to be signed on as part of the proofreading pool for Oxford University Press. When my family moved to Oxford, this experience was instrumental in OUP’s decision to give me a chance at a production role, despite my purely academic background.

My second graduate assistantship while in the MA program, at the local Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center, not only honed my ability to create technical documentation and edit it for multiple audiences, but also socialized me to work toward a shared goal with a variety of personalities in an office environment. I used both skill sets daily as a manager responsible for building a strong production team and liaising with a wide range of internal and external stakeholders globally.

Delissa Minnick (2001), Field Manager, BLM Cody

At its core, a sophisticated legal practice demands the intellectual rigor fostered by the English MA program. The ability to delve beyond the words on the page to find and construct meaning is as essential to the practicing attorney as it is to the English MA candidate. The skills developed in the MA program --to identify and analyze threads of thought across various works, authors, genres, and periods--are the same skills required to identify clients' legal issues, to analyze the applicable law across various courts and jurisdictions, and to advise clients on possible courses of action. Every day, whether with my clients, opposing counsel, or the court, I rely upon the skills honed in my MA courses.

In 2009, Minnick joined the BLM as a planning and environmental coordinator at the Wyoming State Office. She served as an attorney-advisor with the Office of the Solicitor and as BLM Wyoming's litigation coordinator.

“As a Wyoming girl, I know how lucky I am to get to live and work in the Bighorn Basin,” said Minnick. “Managing our public lands alongside such dedicated public, agricultural, government and industry partners is a dream come true.”

Minnick has undergraduate, graduate and law degrees from the University of Wyoming. After graduating law school, she practiced environmental, natural resource and public lands law with Holland & Hart.

“Having grown up in Wyoming, I have both a passion for our wild places and an understanding of the importance of prudent development of our natural resources,” said Minnick. She and her 9-year-old daughter, Kik, are sport and outdoor recreation enthusiasts and spend the weekends trying to run, hike, bike, swim, ride, ski and explore as many miles as possible.

Portrait of Delissa Minnick
Portrait of Laurie Milford

Laurie Milford (1999), Director of Development, High Country News

I have 17 years of experience in senior nonprofit management and I’m currently the development director at High Country News, where I’m in charge of fundraising $1.8 million each year to support an important magazine and website about the American West. Previously, I was an executive director at the Wyoming Outdoor Council, where I played a role in establishing the first state laws to regulate the flaring of methane in natural gas drilling operations and to require oil and gas companies to determine baseline water quality before using hydraulic fracturing. I was involved in the long-term protection of more than 3 million acres of BLM and Forest Service lands, including the landmark Wyoming Range Legacy Act and was instrumental in raising funds to achieve these successes. I served as a production editor for Westview Press in Boulder, Colorado, and I hold a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in English from the University of Iowa and the University of Wyoming respectively. I graduated from the Institute for Conservation Leadership in 2008; in 2010 the institute recognized me as an exemplary leader in the conservation movement.

Do you see yourself serving a mission at your favorite nonprofit organization? Helping children in your community or across the world; providing food for the hungry or helping to safeguard the environment? The MA program in the English Department helped me to prepare for a career in nonprofit management by sharpening my skills in critical thinking and communication, both oral and written. Most importantly the program bolstered my self-confidence: As a teaching assistant, I learned how to organize and lead others. And as a student, I learned how to research, analyze, write, and persuade. The MA program in English is rigorous. It would benefit those who are preparing to perform marketing and communications, policy-making, fundraising, or management in the nonprofit sector.


Kristen Thoen (1999), Global Marketing Manager, 3M Technologies

Technical Writer. Corporate Trainer. eBusiness Leader. Sales Operations Manager. Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. Sales Trainer. U.S. Product Marketer. Global Marketing Manager. These are job titles one could hold with a MA in English. I know because I have held them all while working at 3M, a Fortune 100 Company. 

For some of the jobs, I was surrounded by people with Masters in Information Science degrees, engineering degrees, and PhDs. Today, in the Healthcare Business for 3M, I work closely with people who hold MD/PhDs, Bachelors in Nursing, JDs, and MBAs. Occasionally, however, I find other liberal arts majors, and we share a hidden love of complex ideas, well-reasoned arguments, and the exquisitely-worded paragraph. 

Each time I have started a new role, I have had at least one colleague wonder how someone with a different degree from his or hers could perform that particular role. They ask, “How can you do this job that ‘relies heavily on statistics and analysis,’ ‘where all of your other colleagues have an MBA,’ or ‘where you are the only one in the room without a PhD in science?’” They quickly learn that the skills acquired while earning my MA at UW are transferable. Examples of these skills are being able to analyze, write, think critically and strategically, research, identifying one’s audience, and persuasion.

For example, the skills I first used to analyze poetry I have since used to analyze manufacturing processes. The skills my thesis advisor taught me have proven equally useful for writing a six-word ad for a medical device, a technical bulletin, or a strategic marketing plan. 

Literature, however, still speaks to me, and I have relied on extracurricular activities to continue to fulfill my love of the written word: I edited a book about day trading that was featured on the New York Times Bestseller List; wrote the lead article for an internationally published book about Early American Theater; presented a paper adapted from my Master’s thesis at a conference in Spain.

To the curious students asking themselves what they could do with a MA in English, I would answer: anything you want.


Portrait of Kristen Thoen
Portrait of Wendy Matlock

Wendy Matlock (1997), Assistant Professor of English, Kansas State University

When people ask me how I came to be an English professor, I always credit my Master’s work at UW. Even though I was a student there for only two years, the intimate program allowed me to get to know professors as role models and not just as authorities. The course work provided opportunities for me to explore old passions and to discover new interests. In addition, the department offered new teachers excellent mentoring. Pedagogical support and intellectual discovery converged most productively when I served as a teaching intern in a Chaucer class at the same time that I took a course on medieval women. I was hooked.

My professional life since then has been devoted to the study and teaching of medieval literature and culture. I completed a Ph.D. at the Ohio State University, and I have held tenure track positions at two different universities: first at California State University, Sacramento, and now at Kansas State University. Making the earliest English literature accessible to modern students continues to inspire me, and I have published articles in Philological Quarterly, Studies in Philology, and the Journal of English and Germanic Philology. I am currently working on a book about how Middle English debate poems like The Owl and the Nightingale, Piers Plowman, and The Debate of the Carpenter’s Tools present households as contested spaces devoted to both family and work.

Dr. Marlene Tromp (1990), President, Boise State University

My experience at the University of Wyoming was characterized by intellectual challenge and real professional support. My coursework as a student opened up new horizons for me, and the faculty engaged with my writing and thinking in ways that showed genuine care and thoughtfulness. I have genuinely wonderful memories of the classes I took at Wyoming.  Moreover, the support that the department offered as I moved on to a Ph.D. program and, later, into my career, was invaluable. They humanized the profession for me with their interest in my intellectual growth and well-being, and I will always be grateful for the support they provided. 

In April 2019, I was named the 7th president of Boise State University.  Prior to that, I was dean of Arizona State’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.  I was a Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Denison University. I served for six years as Chair of Women’s Studies, and I have also served as Chair of the Faculty and Chair of the Faculty Development Committee.  My service at the college and in the profession at large, on the Board of the Nineteenth-Century Studies Association and in my work with junior colleagues in my field, is modeled on the generous support the University of Wyoming faculty always gave. 

In addition to a number of articles, I am author of Altered States: Sex, Nation, Drugs, and Self-Transformation in Victorian Spiritualism (SUNY, 2006) and The Private Rod: Sexual Violence, Marriage, and the Law in Victorian England (UP Virginia, 2000). I have written a new book entitled Force of Habit: Life and Death on the Titanic, which is under review. I have also co-edited and contributed to Fear and Loathing: Victorian Xenophobia (Ohio State UP, Forthcoming), Victorian Freaks: The Social Context of Freakery in the Nineteenth Century (Ohio State UP, 2007) and Mary Elizabeth Braddon: Beyond Sensation (SUNY 2000). I am presently at work on a new book that considers the Victorian connections between murder and money.

Portrait of Marlene Tromp
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