Alumni News

April 15, 2015 at 9:11 am

Alumni Discuss Alternative Career Paths for English Majors

By George E. Mauzy Jr.
From Compass

The Ohio University Department of English hosted its second annual Futures in English Symposium on Friday in Alden Library to demonstrate to its students that anything is possible with an English degree.

Organizers said the event lets students know that there are many non-traditional job opportunities in the workplace for English graduates.

English alumni (L-R: Christine Madjar, Jarod Anderson, Zach Marion) discuss their career paths. Photographer: Linda Rice

English alumni (L-R: Christine Madjar, Jarod Anderson, Zach Marion) discuss their career paths. Photographer: Linda Rice

To prove their point, three alumni were invited to campus to discuss how they found their unconventional career path after earning an English degree. Each of them explained what their job duties are and how their English degree helps them perform their daily duties. The panelists included:

  • Jarod Anderson, operations manager, Columbus State Community College, Columbus, OH
  • Christine Madjar, attorney, Tennessee Office of the Post-Conviction Defender, Nashville, TN
  • Zach Marion, financial aid officer, Washington State Community College, Marietta, OH

Anderson earned his master’s degree in English from OHIO in 2010 after working in commercial real estate development. He said he didn’t want to teach for a living, so he took a job at the Franklin Park Conservatory as a database specialist.

“I wanted to find a job that was warm, fuzzy and mission driven but that also had a business sensibility,” Anderson said. “The obvious choice was a non-profit, so I got a job managing the donor database at the Franklin Park Conservatory. I eventually ran their prospect research and that’s when then I found out that most people are terrified of writing, so I stepped forward and used my skills to work my way up the ladder.”

Anderson said he was later recruited by the Columbus State Foundation to write grants thanks in part to his quality writing skills.

Marion said he was planning to join the Peace Corps after earning a creative writing degree from OHIO in 2013, but family health problems changed those plans. He instead joined the AmeriCorps so that he could work in the U.S., and that led him to find work at Washington State. He said he now helps high school and college students earn college degrees by helping them apply for scholarships and financial aid, study for college entrance exams and plan their career path.

“It’s not where I saw myself working after graduation, but it is very fulfilling and I wouldn’t change a thing,” Marion said.

Marion added that because of his English background, he has become the go-to-guy for colleagues who need writing or editing assistance. He said this is something that he is proud of and knows that it has increased his value in the office.

Madjar said she always loved English and reading, so she planned on pursuing an English degree and becoming a teacher. In 2007, she earned two double-major bachelor’s degrees in English, German, integrated language arts and German education from Ohio University.

After graduation, she accepted a Fulbright scholarship to teach English in Germany for one year. She then decided to earn a law degree from Case Western University in Cleveland and take a job as a public defender in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, working with indigent clients. After 2 1/2 years on the job, she recently accepted a job working with death row inmates in Tennessee.

“Coming from Ohio University as an English major, everyone wanted to know my plans right away and at that point I didn’t know that I wanted to go to law school,” Madjar said. “English gave me a firm foundation in writing and reading and that is what you do as a lawyer and in law school. Everything is reading, processing, analyzing and writing it down, as clear and concise as you can. These skills gave me an edge in law school.”

Devon Swanson, a first-year creative writing major from Okeana, Ohio, said she learned a lot at the symposium.

“It’s nice to hear some examples of people using their English degree in different ways,” Swanson said. “A lot of English majors are well-rounded individuals with a lot of interests and they want to write about different things. There are so many avenues to take and it’s great to have real life examples.”

Maile Orr, a first-year stage management/production design technology major in Theater, said despite not being an English major, she was able to take something away from the symposium.

“It was great to hear how these people took what they learned and applied it in other careers,” Orr said. “Now I know that I can take what I’m learning in theater and apply those skills to other things. It was helpful to see them bridging the gaps between their profession and their major.”

The symposium was organized by the Department of English’s Undergraduate Placement Committee comprised of Assistant Professor Elizabeth Koonce, Professor Linda Rice, Associate Professor Tom Scanlan and Assistant Professor Matthew Stallard.

Rice said it was great to see the students come out to find the range of things they can do with an English degree.

“There tends to be a challenge when you are in the liberal arts and humanities of knowing how to create your future, not from the standpoint of intellectual knowledge and skill, but in terms of marketing it so that other people see the value of it,” Rice said. “In seeing the path that these alumni have taken, we hope the connections start to emerge for our students. English majors have an enormous tool box of skills, but they need to slow down and find out how they are transferrable into the workplace.”

Koonce, the undergraduate advising coordinator for the English department, said that she often hears the students’ concerns.

“Students say they are interested in English but wonder if they should major or minor in it because they are not sure what kind of careers are available to them,” Koonce said. “I give them a handout that highlights some of those careers. I also have a lot of faith in these types of activities, because these are face-to-face interactions with people who have real jobs and can speak to the value of an English degree.”

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