[The Fall 2014 semester is coming to a close, and as usual I wanted to end the semester with some reflections on my courses and other conversations, leading up to a weekend post on some anticipations of spring (and not just the season; although, yes). I’d love to hear some of your Fall 2014 reflections in comments!]
On the best answer I can think of to the question “What can you do with an English degree?”
I love teaching our senior English Studies Capstone course. I love the chance to read their senior portfolios, in which the students pull together writing pieces, projects, and other work across many different genres, types, stages, and skills; it gives me a chance to get to know these graduating majors in a way I would never otherwise be able to. I love having a space where we can just talk about some of the topics and questions at the heart of our discipline: what writing is and why we do it; how literature works and what it does to and for us; the challenges, frustrations, and possibilities of education; and many more. Perhaps most of all, I love teaching a course that embodies my student-driven teaching philosophy so fully that I can’t even plan out many aspects of the class until I’ve met this particular cohort and started to figure out what they most need.
But this semester, as we worked on another element to my version of Capstone—conversations about and preparations for their next professional steps, including both career options and graduate school possibilities—I realized that teaching Capstone offers another unique pleasure: the chance to gain specific, detailed, evolving evidence for just how many different futures one can pursue with an English degree. In thinking about students from my prior Capstone sections (to share their successes with my current students), I began to realize the breadth of their current situations: from PhD candidates (in both the U.S. and the U.K.!) to educators at every level; from those teaching in South Korea and Japan to those running their own editing and freelance writing businesses; from published novelists and poets to professional actors and screenwriters; from librarians to specialists at museums and historic sites; among many other jobs and paths. And in talking with the current students, I see just as many possible paths and next steps for them.
I’m not trying to deny the genuine and very troubling realities of the current job market, in any and ever discipline and profession, and all the accompanying issues (student loan debt, for example) that come with it. Nor am I suggesting that there aren’t certain challenges that an English degree presents that would be less present with one of FSU’s more overtly pre-professional majors (Nursing, for example). But on the other hand, I do have four Capstone sections’ worth of rebuttals to any doom-and-gloom perspectives on the futures available to English majors, and I look forward to adding the students from this fifth section to that growing body of evidence. And yeah, I can’t lie—when I see how well-prepared these majors are for their next steps (professional, educational, all of ‘em), I also kind of want to parphrase Jack Nicholson’s almost-concluding line from As Good As It Gets: “it makes me feel good, about me.”
Next recap tomorrow,
PS. What stands out from your semester or fall?
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