B.A. in English, 2019
M.A. in English, 2021
Associate of Arts, 2017, Northeast Alabama Community College
Favorite memories of being an undergraduate English major:
As an undergraduate, some of my favorite memories revolve around working at The Reflector and the people that I got to know through it. As a graduate student, I enjoyed all of the seminars, especially Dr. Claggett’s Victorian Monsters course, Dr. Atkinson’s class on southern literature and floods, and Dr. Spain and Dr. Brown’s co-taught seminar on South African and southern literature. Most of all, I look back fondly at my graduate assistantship at Mississippi Quarterly working with Laura West.
Associate Production Editor – Special Publications
American Journal of Public Health
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?
Before I graduated from MSU’s English MA program, I knew I wanted to work in scholarly publishing in some capacity, whether at a journal or university press. At first, I envisioned working in an editorial department as an editorial assistant or something of that nature. My career path has somewhat followed my early goals; I do work in the scholarly publishing field, but I discovered another type of department that better suits my skills and interests: production. My career also took a slight turn in that I thought I would be working in the humanities, and instead I work in social sciences publishing. It is important to note that I did not have any type of health background before this, but I have come to learn that public health is a very interesting and relevant field which does intersect with the humanities from time to time.
What is your current occupation, and what does your work mostly consist of?
I am currently an Associate Production Editor at the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), which is located in Washington, DC. The journal publishes academic articles written by professionals and academics in the public health field. I began working at AJPH in 2021 as Journal Production Coordinator, and after some months got promoted to editor. Now I primarily work on what we call “special” issues, which are fully Open Access issues (aka free to read) that cover specific topics, such as structural racism, COVID-19 testing in underserved populations, and lead exposure, to name a few. My role specifically oversees the production process, which begins after articles are accepted for publication. I edit articles for grammar, style, and consistency, and I manage a team of freelance copyeditors and proofreaders who do the same. Creating and enforcing deadlines and production timelines are also under my purview. On top of the editor duties, my colleague Avery Ferguson and I manage AJPH’s social media accounts and are working on projects to expand the journal’s digital presence.
Which skills that you learned as an English major do you use most in your job?
Some skills I learned at MSU that help me be better at my job include: writing, revising, close reading, organization, communication, adhering to deadlines, and working on teams. Importantly, as an English major one learns how to thoughtfully communicate through writing, which can be applicable in instances such as writing a bad-news email to an author or translating a complex scientific idea into a 280-character social media post.
What additional skills did you need to learn in order to do your job, and how did you learn them?
One thing I had learned that helped me immensely was proofreading. My graduate assistantship at Mississippi Quarterly was where I was formally introduced to proofs. A proof is essentially a PDF of an article that has been designed to match the journal’s formatting. At Mississippi Quarterly I learned the traditional proofreader marks and Managing Editor Laura West helped me learn what to look for in a proof. Secondly, my social media experience came from an internship at the National Endowment for the Humanities—that experience definitely helps me today. A few things I have learned on the job include the American Medical Association (AMA) Style Guide, a house style guide, and the Editorial Manager submission system.
Are there common misconceptions about your career field, which current English majors might share, that you have learned the truth about?
This may not necessarily be a misconception, but I feel like when people think of publishing and editing, they immediately think of trade publishing. Conversely, there are a lot of entry-level publishing jobs that might be with a society or journal which can be a great starting point for getting into the field. Also, the jobs might not always be under the title that people think. “Editorial assistant” is a popular job title, but searching for “editorial coordinator” or “journal coordinator” or “project editor” could result in similar positions.
In what ways does your career enrich your life and help you to achieve your personal as well as your professional goals?
My job definitely enriches my life, but I also try to have a good work/life balance so that I can have hobbies and time for myself outside of work to do things that I enjoy. Within the job, I very much enjoy assisting authors, and public health is such a far-reaching field of study that I feel there is a sense of purpose in my work. Whether it’s the COVID-19 pandemic or maternal health or lead in water, the studies that the journal publishes are relevant and impactful to groups of people around the world, especially marginalized or underserved populations.
What advice do you have for undergraduate English majors right now who might want to follow the career path you did?
I recommend trying to get some professional experience before you graduate, whether it’s working at the school newspaper or getting an internship. You could unexpectedly gain some experience that will help you land a job after school. For example, I didn’t realize my social media internship would make me stand out in applying to editing jobs.
My main piece of advice when looking for editing jobs is to visit the Society for Scholarly Publishing website. It has so many helpful resources for people looking to get into publishing, and the job board is where I found my first production job. LinkedIn is also a great place to find open positions. I am also happy to be a resource for anyone who may have questions about this career path!
Updated September 2023