M.A. in English, 2003
Any other degrees:
B.A. in English Education, 2000, Mississippi University for Women
Favorite memories of being an undergraduate English major:
My junior year at MUW, I cross-registered at MSU to take Literature in Film, a sophomore level class with Dr. Clyde V. Williams. After the first week, half the class dropped. Then, I was shocked to get a C on the first paper. By the next week, more than half the class was gone for good. Turns out, Dr. Williams was a notoriously “hard” professor, but I was determined to teach film studies in an English department one day, so I kept at it. I credit Dr. Williams’s high standards for strengthening my writing and for encouraging me to join the MSU English Graduate Program.
I am a Project Manager in the corporate communications and marketing department of a privately owned company in Mississippi.
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?
Since 9th grade, I planned to be an English teacher. Joining the MSU graduate program in English allowed me to use my undergraduate teacher’s education experience at the college level. After finishing the MA program, I continued as an instructor at MSU and MUW before realizing that I love teaching but am more inclined to edit than grade compositions. (No one benefits from heavy edits to an undergraduate essay.) I had to make a career change and moved to Jackson where, thanks to a friend I met in grad school, my marketing career got started.
What is your current occupation, and what does your work mostly consist of?
My marketing career began in a retail store management position that involved public relations and event planning. I spent about ten years gaining experience in digital marketing, writing for the web (SEO), website production, and content management. My current job is managing digital projects. I have helped coordinate website redesigns and new builds, stand up and launch digital platforms, and plan various digital marketing campaigns.
Which skills that you learned as an English major do you use most in your job?
I work in marcom but am IT-tangent, so a lot of my work involves “translating” information between our marketing team, our clients, and various IT specialists. Being able to parse and synthesize disparate information and finding ways to explain complex information in a simple, straightforward way to non-specialists is vital in my position. As an undergraduate, I built a personal website for an assignment in an education class called “Computers in the Classroom,” and in grad school, I was webmaster for The Jabberwock Review. These opportunities gave me hands-on coding (html) and digital content management experience.
What additional skills did you need to learn in order to do your job, and how did you learn them?
Building large websites can involve some pretty intense spreadsheet work, not a skillset I ever needed as an English student. I regularly tap into my research skills to learn new and better ways to work with spreadsheet data. I do the same whenever I run into unfamiliar jargon, word use, or concepts. Although we may use the same word to discuss a project, Marketing and IT sometimes work from entirely different definitions of a word.
Are there common misconceptions about your career field, which current English majors might share, that you have learned the truth about?
Thinking skills, not just communication skills, are highly valuable. English majors spend years eyebrows deep in information, learning new ways of thinking about and making connections between “things.” If you can write research papers and analyze poetry, you can understand the steps involved in creating a website. You can draw analogies that make sense to coworkers and clients who have no idea what the web dev team is talking about. You have to take a foreign language to graduate, but you don’t have to be fluent. Familiarity helps, but you don’t have to be fluent in CSS or html to contribute to building a new website or to provide value to all sides of a language divide.
In what ways does your career enrich your life and help you to achieve your personal as well as your professional goals?
I get to work with creative thinkers from a variety of fields. My career in has exposed me to the languages of marketing, graphic design, web design, digital marketing, business law, medicine, chemistry and chemical engineering, mechanical and civil engineering, data analysis—entire fields of new knowledge with every job change, every project. No day in the office is ever the same. I may not lose myself wandering the stacks of a library anymore, but I get to learn new information and develop new skills all the time.
What advice do you have for undergraduate English majors right now who might want to follow the career path you did?
Appreciate your prerequisite and core classes. Everything you study is instructive, and learned experience is never wasted. Take the “hard” classes from “hard” instructors at every opportunity, especially in your major. Pursue electives and extracurriculars that call to you in a way that your major field of study might not; it doesn’t matter if they’re just for fun or a practical add-on toward your career goals. Don’t treat core classes like obstacles to your “real” studies. You may not want to be a scientist or software developer, but being able to understand the way other fields process information and use language will make you an infinitely capable and much more interesting person.
Updated July 2022