Thanksgiving 1999. I can remember the look on my grandfather’s face. “English?” he asked. “Are you sure? The thing about teaching English is that you get everybody.” Grandpa was a math teacher, and his position at his rural high school allowed him the opportunity to teach advanced courses to juniors and seniors. His colleagues down the hall who taught English were required to teach every student in every level.
His comments were coming from a place of real concern, and I am sure he would have rather I majored in math or science if my goal was to become a teacher. But my passions in academics and in life were elsewhere. I had an affinity for writing and a keen interest in American poetry; English was the major for me.
I think most English majors go through a similar experience when they share their academic intentions with a family member. We feel compelled to prove value in an advanced academic study of literature and composition.
The memory of my own English major defense came to me as I read a story printed in the Etownian on Sept. 15 titled “Why I Am Not Ashamed of my Literature Concentration” by English major Kayleigh Kuykendall.
I commend Kayleigh for examining the uncertainty so many in the Elizabethtown College community may feel while they are attending classes. For most, the future beyond a bachelor’s degree is uncharted, and this can certainly lead to anxiety about what one may do after he or she graduates.
While there may be an “amplified” uncertainty for those who choose to study English in college, Kayleigh is right when she says, “English opens up a world of possibilities for its students…the degree allows students to truly explore multiple career fields and even other majors.”
The English Department at Etown tracks its graduates as best we can to see where their careers take them after they leave the College. One might assume the results to be pretty straightforward. The stereotype is that our graduates go on to be professors or classroom teachers.
However, Etown English graduates work in a variety of fields like marketing, public relations, medicine, sales, retail, human resources and publishing. Our graduates are managers, entrepreneurs, pharmaceutical sales representatives, school administrators and, yes, middle school and high school teachers.
Many also go on to graduate school. For example, recent graduates in the Literature concentration of our English major have gone on to law school at Duke University, Widener University, Hofstra University, Temple University, University of Pittsburg and Drexel University.
The schools of choice for those seeking a graduate degree in literature have included Villanova University and Delaware State University. Recent graduates have also pursued graduate degrees in Library Science and Sports Management (a special thanks to Dr. Kimberly Adams, associate professor of English, for assembling these stats).
There is, in fact, no shortage of career possibilities for those who major in English because, let’s face it, anywhere the English language is the primary mode of communication, the English major in the room is the expert.
An overwhelming number of employers today are looking for new hires who can communicate effectively with precision. So, it is no surprise to us in the English Department that our graduates often go on to lead fulfilled lives and successful careers after graduation.
If you are an English major, or you’re considering English as a major, be encouraged. The future may very well be uncertain, but you are developing and sharpening skills that will continue to be in high demand in a variety of fields and careers for the foreseeable future.