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What Do They Say About Their English Degree?

The English Professor and Associate Dean:

I'm a UW English graduate and I write, teach, and administer a large program as a professor of English and associate dean at Indiana University in Bloomington.  So, I actually have three jobs—all different, all challenging, all enormously satisfying.  My career as a scholar has led me to England often and to Ireland and Northern Ireland almost a dozen times to work in archives and lecture.  Like the pleasure of reading great texts and then trying to write cogently about them, teaching has its own unique pleasures, perhaps the most gratifying of which are to rise to the intellectual challenge of teaching advanced students and, later, to watch them succeed.  But my other job as an administrator is equally rewarding, and when I was in school I knew very little about this professional opportunity or “career path.”  Most of the assistant deans with whom I work have advanced degrees in the humanities.  These talented professionals manage everything from the curriculum to academic advising, from programmatic initiatives to the funding of scholarships, fellowships, and conferences.  Colleges and universities recruit people who communicate clearly, think critically, and are committed to students.  And, if you love the intellectual and cultural environment of the university, as I do, academic administration might be something to consider.

       Stephen Watt (MA 1975)
       Indiana University, Bloomington

The Assistant Professor:

I'm a UW English graduate and I was inspired by the passion of Susan Aronstein and Carolyn Anderson to do medieval studies. As a medievalist, I have held and read manuscripts created by people who lived in the thirteenth through fifteenth centuries, studied the poems and pictures they thought were important enough to preserve in such costly and durable vessels, and presented my findings at academic conferences in places as geographically distant as Kalamazoo, Michigan and Hyderabad, India. As an English professor at Kansas State University, I am privileged to explore the earliest extant legends of Robin Hood and King Arthur, the origins of our English language and literary traditions, and the culture of the Middle Ages with colleagues and students.

       Wendy Matlock (MA 1997)
       Kansas State University, Manhattan

The Film Maker:

I'm a UW English major and I teach college students documentary film production and studies, make films, organize screenings and other public events, and coordinate promotions for New Day Films, a co-op of social issue documentary filmmakers.  My English education at the University of Wyoming taught me to read and think critically, to write clearly, to appreciate the power and beauty of language and the nuances of voice and perspective, to navigate the world with intellectual curiosity, creative energy, and compassion, and to strive to make a meaningful contribution to the beloved community of humankind.  (It has also made me an eagle-eyed copyeditor, and master of the witty and eloquent memo.)  Write on, UW English!

       Beverly Seckinger (BA 1981) 
       University of Arizona.

The Editor:

I'm a UW English graduate, and I have done a lot of things with my degree. (UW English rocks!) Development, which means I use my writing, editing, and marketing skills to help a nonprofit raise money. Technical editing for an environmental firm, where I edited single-page proposals to thousand-page reports. Creative writing, including short stories and novels.  Freelance writing and editing, where I swooped in to save the day—or served as a mercenary, depending on how you look it at.  Think about it: you are helping people change their worlds.

       Tamara Linse (BA 2000, MA 2002)

The Development Officer:

I'm a UW English major, and I have the privilege of working with many of the world’s leading art collectors and some of the brightest curators in the field to secure gifts that build the museum’s collection. We are united by the art, but it is language that allows us to communicate and negotiate. Every day I use the skills I developed as an English major to craft passionate arguments about the value of a gift and the benefits of putting artwork into a public context.

       Cody Hartley (BA 1997)
       Director of Gifts of Art, Boston Museum of Fine Arts

The Chief of Organizational Excellence:

I'm an English major, and earning that degree has served me well in every job I've held.  After graduating, I began working as a meeting coordinator for a small nonprofit, and today I am part of my hospital's "C-Suite" executive team. My degree has prepared me to work in any job or industry. English majors graduate with the ability to communicate in writing and verbally. Employers want employees with those skills.  Employers look for employees with strong critical thinking skills, another strength of English majors.  I feel strongly that anyone who graduates from the University of Wyoming with a degree in English has the tools to be successful.

       Jen Riley
       Craig Hospital

The Mystery Writer:

I'm a UW English major and I write mysteries. When I graduated from UW in 1965, I had no idea that I’d ever be doing such a thing . . . heavens to Chaucer! . . . or explaining in Spanish forty years later that my husband and I wanted to rent a sleazy motel room near Acapulco for a whole night, not just four hours, as the skeptical manager assumed. (We were lost, it was late, and it was much too dangerous to be out on the streets.) My point is that in college, I had no idea what the rest of my life would bring. I thought I’d be teaching high school English, so I prepared academically for that career. A good start, certainly, and I taught English for some time, but who knew about computers back then, let alone the explosion of data soon to be available on the Internet?  What I needed from my UW education was a broad base of knowledge that would allow me to leap from one career to another, to synthesize information, and, sometimes, to speak Spanish. My college education was not so much about coursework as it was about preparation for life in a rapidly changing world.  Ask employers. They can teach the specifics of a job, but they can’t teach people how to think. A humanities background provided me with invaluable skills and attitudes, most of them useful in situations I never expected to encounter. For example, I didn’t realize in college that killing people in print would eventually provide me with a career I love far more than teaching. Who knows? Maybe Chaucer would approve, after all.  

       Elizabeth Main (BA 1965)
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