Hayley Pounds

Hayley Pounds


Ever since my first experience of traveling abroad, I have always wanted a career that puts me in contact with people from a variety of backgrounds. This mindset led me to Peace Corps and ultimately to the position that I’m in now.



MSU Degree:

M.A. in English, 2018

Any other degrees:

B.A. in English, 2016, Mississippi University for Women

Favorite memories of being an undergraduate English major:

Besides reading, obviously, I enjoyed drawing inspiration from those books and orally presenting new ideas to an audience. I remember being a junior English major at the W, reading everything from Shakespeare to Toni Morrison. One year I chose to present on Uncle Tom’s Cabin, as part of my capstone paper. I remember the nervous thrill of standing in front of an audience of my peers, as well as visiting scholars and professors and encouraging them to see the text in a new way, from my perspective. There is a sense of conviction that comes when you’ve read something, and an idea suddenly blooms and takes shape, and you feel the need to share it with others.

Current Position:

International Student Advisor


MSU International Institute


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 graduated, I knew I wanted to travel abroad and teach English.  After teaching English composition for a year after graduation, I joined the Peace Corps as a TEFL volunteer and was stationed in Zambia. I enjoyed the work and the cross-cultural exchange that experience had given me, and, after returning to the US, I wanted to continue with that kind of work. I feel like my present career has done that, though not in the way that I had expected. Along with face-to-face interactions with the international community, I’m on the administrative side of things. This has allowed me to see first-hand the kinds of financial, emotional, and physical obstacles that our international students face before and after coming to the US for an education and work experience. Before this job, I thought I would simply be an ESL teacher.  Now I am realizing that I also enjoy being a liaison between our university and international students, and in the future, I would like to expand on the skills that I’m gaining as an international student advisor in favor of a higher educational leadership role (i.e. director, assistant director) involving international relations.

What is your current occupation, and what does your work mostly consist of?

I’m currently a student advisor with the MSU International Institute. I work face-to-face with both incoming and continuing international students and advise them on things such as employment, academics, and other campus-related services. Moreover, I act as a liaison between the university and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to ensure that our students remain within immigration compliance and are provided all the necessary accommodations to better their entire university experience. I also help to facilitate various orientation sessions for both students currently enrolled and those who are looking to be admitted.

Which skills that you learned as an English major do you use most in your job?

The ability to communicate complex ideas to a variety of audiences has aided me greatly in developing relationships with the international community, especially when offering immigration and employment counseling. Furthermore, the use of critical thinking has also aided me in the ability to problem-solve during unique situations such as finding housing for a student admitted late and making sure that they're enrolled in the appropriate courses. Finally, my time as a TA during my Master’s program has prepared me to work with a team of like-minded individuals and capitalize on one another’s strengths to reach a common goal of community.

What additional skills did you need to learn in order to do your job, and how did you learn them?

Developing stronger attention to detail and frequent collaboration were some of the main skills that I needed to do my job effectively. In order to fully grasp both I found myself leaning heavily on the knowledge of my coworkers who had been at the job longer than I had. I would shadow them, whenever they were interacting with students, and I took notes whenever they introduced some complex aspect of the job. I also had to learn to get comfortable with asking for help, especially when I lacked knowledge of an important aspect of the position.

Are there common misconceptions about your career field, which current English majors might share, that you have learned the truth about?

I think some assume that our offices are the typical desk job and that we only deal with regulations and documents, but we deal with real people, with real hopes, aspirations, and fears. While the bulk of our work is administrative, our office is dedicated to enriching the educational and professional experience of our international students. Alongside our administrative duties, we connect with our students through outreach and partnerships with other departments and members of the Starkville community. Our ultimate goal is to be a friendly face and aid and a helping hand for whatever our students need.

In what ways does your career enrich your life and help you to achieve your personal as well as your professional goals? 

Ever since my first experience of traveling abroad, I have always wanted a career that puts me in contact with people from a variety of backgrounds. This mindset led me to Peace Corps and ultimately to the position that I’m in now. Being an international student advisor has shown me what it’s like to work on a team, advocate for myself, and learn about the nature of people whose culture is different from my own. It has also shown me the business side associated with the international community and the kinds of obstacles that they face to pursue a higher education in a foreign country. Learning about these things has given me a wider perspective on international relations and has put me in a position to hopefully move on to a higher position in the same field.

What advice do you have for undergraduate English majors right now who might want to follow the career path you did?

I think the most important thing an English major can do is to be open-minded and willing to let your major carry you in more than one direction. That is how I ended up where I am. Having a diverse background, whether that includes teaching abroad, tutoring, volunteering, or special research, is very important and helps to set you apart from other majors in the field. Moreover, it’s important to see your English major as valuable, despite whatever might speak to the contrary. The field of English is vast and the skills that the major affords you, such as the ability to communicate ideas (written or oral), use of critical thinking skills, and research skills, can take you anywhere you want to go. It’s like a multipurpose tool that you can shape in any way that works for you.


[Updated September 2023]