B.A. English / Philosophy, 2017
What you most enjoyed about being an English major:
Smaller, discussion-based classes that allowed me the opportunity to interact closely with classmates and instructors was a major positive for me. I also appreciated how my studies taught me skills for breaking apart complex works and examining how/why they functioned in the way that they did; upon graduation, I felt confident in my abilities to establish a clear claim about complex ideas and defend it with specific and relevant evidence, a skill that has been useful in many areas of life.
College and Academic Counselor
When you graduated with a degree in English from MSU, what were your plans for your future? Has your career path mostly realized those early plans, or have you discovered new plans and goals along the way?
When I first left MSU, I was not 100% sure of what I wanted to do. I had interests in teaching, theology, student activities, and academic work; after considering several options, I enrolled in an M.A. program in English at Baylor University. This course of study allowed me to continue doing what I loved (reading/writing) while also exploring new areas of interest (while at Baylor, I served as an Assistant Director of the University Writing Center, as well as an Instructor of Composition I and II courses). During my time at Baylor, I learned that while I enjoyed studying English myself, my true passion was found in working with students, especially in helping them learn to develop their own ideas and convey/defend those ideas clearly. As a result, I decided to redirect from the higher education route on which I found myself and accept a job with a high school in Mississippi (even though I had sworn I was done living in Mississippi!). While the setting was different, I appreciated the opportunities afforded me by working in a high school–developing relationships with students and families over the course of multiple years; working with students in clubs and extracurricular activities; and helping students grow and develop in ways that would prepare them for college and life beyond high school.
What is your current occupation, and what does your work mostly consist of?
As I am writing, I am in my third year as a high school English teacher–currently I teach honors courses in American literature and British literature, as well as Advanced Placement English Literature (do not worry–I have not always taught so many different subjects!). Also, in the past two years, I have become an adjunct English instructor at Mississippi College–I teach a night class in American literature, as well as online sections of Composition I and II. While some people think this is “too much,” I have found it to be a perfect fit for my interests–I am able to spend the majority of my time in the high school setting while still remaining engaged in the world of higher education. This allows me to not only meet and work with some incredible college students, but it also helps me remain more in tune with the best ways to prepare my high school students for post-high school life.
Starting this summer, my position will be shifting a bit, as I am becoming our high school’s Academic and College Counselor. In this role, I will focus on helping students with all components of high school that relate to college applications–scholarship applications, transcripts, resumes, interviews, career choices, etc. I am very excited to take on this role and get to work in a more one-on-one setting with students as they prepare to enter the next phase of their lives.
Which skills that you learned as an English major do you use most in your job?
As an English teacher, the skills that I use correlate quite nicely with what I learned in my major (as one would expect!). However, even in my new position as an academic and college counselor, I already see ways I’m benefitting from my studies as an English major. As I help students through the college admissions process, much of the process involves guiding students in expressing themselves and their thoughts in writing, which I’m certainly able to do. Additionally, so much of what I learned as an English major involved communication and conveying and articulating complex ideas clearly. These skills certainly prove useful in teaching, but even in my counseling role I see them proving beneficial as I meet with students and parents, as well.
What additional skills did you need to learn in order to do your job, and how did you learn them?
In the classroom, I did have to learn a bit about various assessment strategies and classroom management practices; having spent six years in higher education before returning to a high school setting, I had a little bit to learn there. For my counseling position, I will be taking some classes on social/emotional learning, and I will also be learning more about the college admissions process from our current counselor. While I have had to learn a variety of new skills, most learning has come in the form of “hands-on, on the ground” training.
Are there common misconceptions about your career field, which current English majors might share, that you have learned the truth about?
Part of my fear in going into education was that I thought I was falling into the unfair stereotype that people levy toward English majors–that there is nothing for English majors to do besides teach; however, not only is that stereotype unfair, as I interviewed for and was offered positions in work outside of the academic setting, but I’ve also come to find that being in the education field is immensely rewarding. I was told I would be bored and unfulfilled as I dealt with awful kids and parents all day. While I’ve certainly had difficult moments, I truly love my work, and I’m thankful I chose this path, even though others were available.
In what ways does your career enrich your life and help you to achieve your personal as well as your professional goals?
Working with other people and helping them build confidence is something that I find immensely rewarding. My job allows me to do that on a daily basis as I watch individuals grow into young adults and get to help them not only work toward their dreams but also learn that they have important ideas and perspectives that are worth sharing–and in some cases, I get to convince them that literature and writing offer them the words and possibility of sharing those thoughts and perspectives.
What advice do you have for undergraduate English majors right now who might want to follow the career path you did?
Do what I did and talk to people who are currently in the field that interests you (including me)! Additionally, I encourage you to think of career/life guidance as a compass, and not a map. When I graduated from Mississippi State with my English degree in 2017, I knew my next step, but I had no idea where I would be five years down the road, and that was just fine. We think we need a “map,” telling us our ultimate destination and all the paths we must take to get there; instead, we really need a “compass,” pointing us in the right direction for the moment. If we follow that “compass” and take the next step that we know is right for now, and do that continually, we end up exactly where we need to be!