Profile of One of Our Graduates
Name: Cara Schildtknecht
Major, Minor: B.A. in English and B.S. in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Aquatic Science
Year graduated: 2011
Job Now: Waccamaw Riverkeeper with Winyah Rivers Foundation in Conway, South Carolina
What you have been up to since graduation? After graduation, I served in the US Peace Corps from 2011 through 2013 in Ghana, West Africa. I served as a Natural Resource Advisor to the Agumatsa-Afadjato Conservation and Ecotourism Center. While there I helped train our local tour guides and manage the center. I also taught science at the local high school and served as the advisor for several school groups.
Upon returning to the States, I enrolled in a graduate program at Coastal Carolina University for Coastal Marine and Wetland Studies. I studied microbial water quality in the Grand Strand, South Carolina and graduated with my Master’s degree in May of this year.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job or what you are doing now? The best part of my job is engaging with citizen scientists who monitor the waters of the greater Winyah Bay watershed. Because we are a small nonprofit, we rely on community members to be our eyes and ears on the water. I have always believed that environmental preservation starts at the community level, and we are proving that in my adopted watershed. The most interesting thing about using citizen scientists and relying on the local community is the oral history. Everyone has a story about the river and hearing those stories is the best part of my job.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? On my first official paddle as the Waccamaw Riverkeeper, I was paddling along talking to this little kid. He was a motor mouth, but in the best way. He was telling me all about the river and the animals he had seen while paddling. I asked him if he knew why the water in the Waccamaw was called blackwater. That set him off. He launched into a lecture on how blackwater was the result of leaves and pine needles falling into the water and decomposing. He told me it was like tea. And then, as we paddled on, he said, “If you come over to my house, I could make you some tea.” I was struck by the sincerity of his lecture and his invitation to tea. I hope that his love for the river continues as he grows, because he will be the future of our mission to protect fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters.
How did our program help you prepare for your current position? In my current position, I am responsible for writing articles for newsletters, grant proposals, and comment letters among other types of documents. The English program at Shepherd University helped me hone my skills in order to become a better writer. As a scientist, I have the responsibility to convey technical concepts to the general public. Writing is a highly valued skill in the science world, and I believe I would not have gotten to where I am now without my degree in English from Shepherd.
What advice would you give current students? Get out of the library and go jump in the river. The area around Shepherd University is excellent for outdoor recreation. Explore! Go tubing or paddling on the river, go hiking on the Appalachian Trail, visit Harper’s Ferry and Antietam. I spent a lot of time in the library working on papers, but I always took time to get outside. I think a good balance of work and play is important, and it will make your time at Shepherd all the more enjoyable. Take advantage of it while you can.
Name: Betsy Kozak
Major, Minor: English (Literature), French
Year Graduated: 2014
Job Now: Educational Materials Specialist at American Public University System
What you have been up to since graduation? I saved up and took a couple of road trips after graduation. I got to practice my French in Quebec City and Montreal. I also made a trip up to Massachusetts to visit all of the Transcendentalist sights we talked about in the American Literature classes. (The Orchard House was my favorite.) After getting some of the travel bug out of my system, I started applying for full-time jobs, and I eventually landed at APUS. Most recently I have been working on graduate school applications to pursue a Master of Library and Information Science.
Most interesting part of your job? In my position I have been able to learn a bit about the inner workings of a university library. Being able to see all the work that goes into making information available and easily accessible to students has been very interesting.
Favorite/most memorable on-the-job moment? In my position I get to speak directly with lots of students, and we have all sorts of people calling in for assistance. The most memorable interactions are those super friendly callers who end up wanting to chat about things well beyond textbooks and library resources.
How did the program help you prepare for your current position? The written and oral communication skills I gained in the Department of English and Modern Languages have been invaluable in the workplace. It really is true what we learned in the capstone course—the skills gained with an English degree can be applied across the board and benefit just about any career path.
What advice would you give current students? Do all of your assigned readings! You probably won’t ever have another time in your life where your main responsibility is to read interesting things and then talk about them with a group of thoughtful people. I would recommend enjoying this luxury for as long as you can.
Name: Jeffrey Josue Acosta
Major, Minor: Spanish, Music
Year Graduated: 2014
Job Now: Graduate Student pursuing a Master’s degree from the University of Central Oklahoma in Latin American History and researching El Salvador around the time of the civil war
What you’ve been up to since graduation? I was a middle school Spanish 1 and 2 teacher in Annapolis, Maryland from 2014 – 2016. Once I graduate I plan to apply to a few doctorate programs in either Spanish Literature, Ethnomusicology, or History. I do plan to return to teaching public school in the inner city.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? My favorite thing about teaching is the joy and excitement I can instill in a group of students. The native students learn how to write Spanish properly and refine their speaking, and the non-native students gain confidence in speaking aloud. They also learn history, culture, politics, literature, and nonverbal communication skills all while learning Spanish.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? My favorite memory teaching was last Christmas I was teaching my 8th grade Spanish 2 students about holiday celebrations in Mexico. I found a traditional song they sing and played it for the students, and I joked that I would have them sing it. The students protested the idea, so I decided to make it a competition: whoever sang the loudest would win a prize. The students were more than happy to sing this traditional Mexican Christmas song then.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? Dr. Ellzey and Dr. Suárez were amazing in assisting me with a graduation plan. I was able to study abroad in the winter, completed an independent study in linguistics, and was even able to student teach for a semester with Shepherdstown Middle School. I learned so much from this program 3 years ago, and I am still using what I learned in my Master’s research now.
How has speaking another language helped you in your career and life overall? Being bilingual has opened so many doors in my career. Having a strong résumé and interview skills is terrific, but the hidden ability to communicate with 19+ other countries, broaden customer service skills, and provide a different viewpoint is wonderfully beneficial. I bring a different point of view to teaching with the ability to relate an idea in two languages.
What advice would you give current students? Don’t take the program lightly. When I graduated, I was the only Spanish major to graduate but got 4 offers to become a full-time Spanish teacher in Maryland within a month. This program is amazing. The professors will guide you to the path you want to study. I used my music minor with my major to complete a senior capstone on Manuel de Falla; I analyzed his Siete Canciones Populares Españoles in a musical and cultural way. I am using that research from my undergrad to come up with a unique thesis topic about the evolution of art and literature during the time of revolutions. The program may be smaller than other schools, but it will get you where you need to go, and beyond.
Name: Turner Watts
Major, Minor: English, Education
Year Graduated: 2013
Job Now: 6th – 8th Grade English Teacher Old Town Academy in San Diego, California
What you have been up to since graduation? Following graduation in May of 2013, I did a lot all at once. My wife and I got married in June of that same year and decided to pack up and head west. We moved to San Diego with only what could fit in our cars and a few months’ savings. I was not able to land a job in San Diego for the 2013 – 14 school year, so I took a position as the 8th grade Language Arts teacher at a charter school in Los Angeles. The commute from San Diego to Los Angeles coupled with a difficult student body and it being my first year teaching just about defeated me. Luckily I landed a job in San Diego the following fall as the 6th – 8th grade language arts teacher at a small charter school called Old Town Academy. I’m currently living happily ever after.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? The most interesting/best part of my job is working with middle-school-aged students. I think this age group is often misunderstood and underappreciated. I learn something new every day. It’s an amazing age . . . just don’t expect them to remember where they put their homework.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? We have a poetry contest each spring, and I always love seeing my students up on stage reciting amazing poetry with such passion!
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? I think it’s the appreciation for learning that I developed at Shepherd and the ability to approach literature with an open mind. The hands on time that I had in the local schools was critical. There is not substitute for experience.
What advice would you give current students? Teaching English is hard, but if you are able to adjust and constantly reflect (focusing on what went right), it’s more rewarding than you can imagine.
Name: Jeff Jarina
Major, Minor: English, Journalism
Year Graduated: 2011
Job Now: Legal Marketing Editor
What you have been up to since graduation? I worked for Disney for a little while, found the right career, moved into the city (Baltimore), got hitched to someone amazing, and I’m gearing up to get myself a dog and a grad degree.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? My job is to make sure our writers don’t write anything that could get us into trouble with the law (particularly financial law). It sounds straightforward, but there’s enough nuance in language and the law that every sentence I tackle at my job ends up being a puzzle. I have to rearrange words and swap out nouns and adjectives to avoid any potential lawsuits. It sounds a bit dry, but the constant sentence analyses and the debates with copywriters make the day go by quickly.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? I watched a few of our people get chased out of a Japanese shrine during a live broadcast—despite being told several times that it was a bad idea.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? We parsed language every day in the English program—whether it was jokes and puns during English Honors Society meetings or week-long, in-depth analyses of William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow”—there wasn’t a day where I didn’t play with words or think about how they can be interpreted. As it turns out, the world’s looking for people who can find the right word or tell you everything you need to know about a sentence.
What advice would you give current students? 1) Read more. I know you technically have to read every day, but there’ll be days down the road where you won’t have the time any more. 2) Surround yourself with smart and preferably kind folks. And I mean genuinely kind and unselfish people. If you’re lucky, they’ll be smarter and kinder than you and will help you get through a lot in your life. 3) Listen to your professors. Ask them, even the ones you don’t agree with, questions. They know a heap of stuff that’s worth knowing, and you don’t have that much time to learn it. 4) Schooling gets you the interview; extracurriculars get you the job. 5) The Rams Den has (or had) a steak and cheese thing. Get it with double meat and double cheese and fried onions . . . basically get two and put them together. 6) Do a midnight run to Krumpe’s Do-Nuts and get a cup of peanut butter icing. 7) Exercise, I guess.
Name: Tyler Ayers
Major, Minor: Spanish, Psychology
Year Graduated: 2013
Job Now: High School Spanish Teacher. (I was a Flight Attendant for United Airlines for a very brief time and lived in New York City.)
What you’ve been up to since graduation? Traveling, working, and attending graduate school at West Virginia University School of Social Work
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? Sharing my experiences about Shepherd and my travels abroad, bringing in authentic foods for my students to sample, helping students develop their strengths, and instilling an everlasting desire to be more culturally cognizant.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? My favorite on-the job moment was when I instructed my class through the process of making Paella. Students prepared, cooked, and served Paella to their peers and several teachers.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? The Modern Languages program at Shepherd is small, but mighty! I had three foreign language instructors—Dr. Suárez, Dr. Berenschot, and Dr. Jarman—all of whom are superb and connect well with their students. Shepherd provided me the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica and Spain. Without the Study Abroad Office, it would have been much more difficult to find a program and university abroad. Being able to travel often has allowed me the opportunity to share stories and knowledge with my students.
How has speaking another language helped you in your career and life overall? When I worked for United Airlines, I often found myself speaking Spanish to passengers and colleagues because they were more comfortable with their first language. Sometimes, I would speak my very broken French, too. I think by being able to communicate and comprehend with as many people as possible, it helps create true neighbors and friends without walls and borders!
What advice would you give current students? Enjoy it! Do not rush your undergraduate life away. Find your niche! Savor every minute of life at Shepherd—phenomenal students, extraordinary faculty, and a remarkable community. Be courageous! Travel as much and for as long as you possibly can. Be open-minded! Try as many new opportunities as you possibly can.
Name: Stephan Antoine Viau
Major, Minor: English (Creative Writing), Education
Year Graduated: 2013
Job Now: Head Native English Teacher at a private academy in Seoul, South Korea
What you’ve been up to since graduation? In some ways, graduation seems like it was just yesterday, but, I guess, in reality, a lot of things have happened since 2013. In August of my graduating year, I applied for the Peace Corps and to teach English abroad in South Korea. By December I was accepted into both programs and had a huge decision to make. In the end, I turned down the Peace Corps. It’s not everyday that the Peace Corps receives withdrawal letters from candidates who worked tirelessly to be accepted, but a large amount of debt from university weighing down on me worried me too much to do volunteer service for two years. I decided, however, that if I chose to teach in Korea as the alternative, I would have to make of it everything I could have made from serving with the Peace Corps. I would have to delve into learning the language, read the literature, volunteer anywhere I could in my spare time, and try, as much as possible, to integrate. I think I’ve done most of those things.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? The best part of my job is definitely working with my students. As much as I try to teach them English through examples from Western culture or through my experiences in Korea, my students teach me about what it means to grow up here. Despite being horribly overworked due to the ridiculously high competitiveness of Korean society, the students come to class curious about me, wanting to be able to communicate with me about their stresses, their friendships, their parents, and their goals. For many students in Korea, teachers are as present in their lives as their parents are, and sometimes more, due to how many hours they spend in classrooms each day. Teachers and students learn to be around each other and appreciate each other in the same way families do.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? Students love Halloween in Korea. It’s a Western holiday that they obsess over more than people ever would in the States. At my academy, Halloween is the one day each year when the students don’t have to do regular classwork. Instead, the teachers prepare games for the students to win candy prizes. Everyone wears a costume, and the central hallway is turned into a catwalk for the students and teachers to model their outfits. Last year, along to blaring K-pop music, the teachers performed an impromptu dance on the runway that was caught on camera by most of the students. More than six months later, the students are still not letting us live that down. They bring it up everyday.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? The English program at Shepherd University was indefinitely valuable. A huge part about pursuing any liberal arts degree is learning tolerance for opinions other than your own. The English faculty at Shepherd didn’t just teach students to tolerate other opinions though. The faculty encouraged opinions outside of their own. When a student brought up a potentially ludicrous interpretation of a text, professors went along with it—asked the students to test the limits of their theories and the texts. There is no wrong answer, they said, so long as you can support it. I think I employ this approach everyday in my classrooms. I don’t ask my students to share my opinion, but I ask them to form their own when we do debate topics or speeches. I only require that they can support their ideas with real evidence. It’s made better thinkers out of all of my students and me.
What advice would you give current students? Don’t feel infallible. Everyone is wrong sometimes. Even the most open-minded individuals harbor prejudices they didn’t even know they had. Some basic things I thought were common sense, like how to queue for a bus, aren’t the same abroad. There are cultural and historical reasons for the way things are in every place. Traveling and living abroad aren’t always leisurely. You’ll learn there’s more than one way to tie a shoe, more than one way to sing the ABCs. You’ll learn something about yourself when these strange, new things are presented to you. Relish the fact that your way is not the only way.
Name: Lilli Bing
Major, Minor: Double Major in English (Literature Concentration) and History
Year Graduated: 2010
Job Now: Social Studies, World History, and US Government Teacher for ESL students at a high school in Northern Virginia
What you’ve been up to since graduation? After graduating from Shepherd, I spent two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Azerbaijan. I worked as an English as Foreign Language teacher in the town of Oguz, nestled in the Caucasus Mountains. After returning to the US, I taught adult ESL students while working on my Masters of Education at George Mason University.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? All teachers will answer this question the same way, I’d imagine, but my students are both the best and the most interesting part of what I do. My kids have been through a lot to get to the US, and when they get here, they’re faced with a whole new set of challenges. Despite all these barriers, though, my students are the bravest, hardest-working people I’ve ever met. I feel honored and proud that I get to work with them. Also, they’re hilarious and constantly make me laugh.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? When I was having a hard day at work, one of my students noticed and said, “Ms. Bing, it’s okay. Tomorrow is a new day, and we must have hope and look to the future. You must be positive.” This—coming from a student who works a full-time job after school to support his family and who has been through more in his 17 years than I can imagine—blew me away and taught me the power of perspective and positivity.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? My education at Shepherd (in both the History and English and Modern Languages departments) prepared me exceptionally well for graduate studies and gave me a solid foundation in writing and literature that has informed my work ever since. Beyond that, my studies taught me how to think about, question, and analyze the world around me. Shepherd made me a lifelong learner and explorer.
What advice would you give current students? Take advantage of the fantastic faculty working to help you at Shepherd! As cliché as it sounds, this is a time for finding out who you are and where you’re going; seek out the many voices that can help you on that journey.
Name: Nick Matzureff
Major, Minor: English Literature, Political Science
Year Graduated: 2013
Job Now: Associate Attorney at Power Beck & Matzureff Law Offices, Martinsburg, West Virginia
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? The best part of my job is helping others seek justice in the legal system. My job allows me to assist those who have been discriminated against, injured, and even incarcerated. Importantly, my job allows me to provide a voice for the voiceless and help others by listening to their concerns and needs.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? One of my favorite moments happened about a month ago. I was able to help draft a “durable” power-of-attorney for a friend. In doing so, he was granted the power to oversee the management of his elderly grandmother’s estate and make important health care decisions for her. It was rewarding to share that experience with him and put his mind at ease.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? The Department of English and Modern Languages prepared me for law school and legal practice by forcing me to think critically and express my ideas persuasively. The skills that I gained through analyzing texts, contributing to class discussions, and listening to my professors allowed me to strategize and communicate effectively as a lawyer.
What advice would you give current students? Ask questions and engage your Shepherd University professors. The professor-student relationships that are formed at Shepherd make it anomalous among other colleges and universities. Whether it be an academic question or broader guidance needed, just ask!
Name: Matthew Point
Major, Minor: Spanish, Music
Year Graduated: 2011
Job Now: Director of Housing and Residence Life at Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia, PA
Previous Jobs: Assistant Director of Housing at Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, and Admissions Recruiter at Harrisburg Area Community College, Gettysburg, PA
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? The best and most interesting part of my job is getting to meet and work with students who come from a variety of backgrounds and bring with them different life experiences. My job is to keep students safe on campus, while providing them with “real life” learning activities. Even though I am now in the role of the administrator/educator, I find myself learning from my students every day!
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? This past summer I had an intern come from LA to stay with me for three months. On the day she left, she said, “Thank you for teaching me so much.” For some reason, I was really affected by her statement. I don’t think of myself as a sensitive person; however, I was changed for that day. It felt so good to know that I had possibly made a difference in someone’s life/career/education. Momentarily, I had a flashback to Shepherd and all of the faculty and staff who had inspired and encouraged me to go do something. Now, I have finally done it.
How did our program help you to prepare for your current job? The Spanish program at Shepherd has helped me in many ways in my current role. For example, I recently met with a mother of an incoming student from Puerto Rico who did not speak any English. I provided her with the information she would need to help her student enroll in the college. It felt good to be able to help. I also believe that learning about the cultures of other people has also benefited me in my work. I feel more confident in my ability to understand the needs of my students who come from different backgrounds.
How has speaking another language helped you in your career and life overall? In my first job out of Shepherd, I worked at a community college. There, I worked as an Admissions Counselor at a campus with a large ESL population. I planned and performed bilingual Spanish/English information sessions with a colleague. It was great to provide a service that not everyone could do! I realized in that role that I had a skill that others do not possess, a skill that would make me more valuable to future employers. Also, I think it’s just fun to be able to communicate in another language. I enjoy reading news articles in Spanish; as a matter of fact, some of the best Olympic coverage I read was in Spanish!
What advice would you give current students? My advice to current students is to enjoy the experience and to keep your mind open. Before I graduated, I would have never believed that I would be working at an art school in Center City, Philadelphia—it just wasn’t in the plan. However, plans change, and almost everything I learned at Shepherd and in the Spanish program in particular has become applicable to my personal and professional life. Even though I’m not currently teaching Spanish or living abroad in a Spanish-speaking country, I find that the knowledge I gained is always helping me out. Overall, I’m a more well-rounded, culturally sensitive, and open individual because of my time in the Department of English and Modern Languages.
Name: Erin Munley
Major: English Education 5-Adult
Year Graduated: 2010
Job Now: High School English Teacher with Berkeley County Schools
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? My job is hardly ever boring. Each day and class is very different and interacts with literature and learning in its own way. They are funny and challenging and always keep me on my toes!
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? Oh man! I have so many great stories, and you want me to pick one?! One of my favorites was from about two years ago while reading Romeo and Juliet with one of my freshman classes. We were reading Act 5 when Paris is killed by Romeo. I read out the stage direction for Paris’ death. The student reading for Paris said, “So, I’m dead now?” When I confirmed it, he promptly fell sideways out of his chair. Startled, I asked if he was okay, and he simply gave a fake body convulsion in response and then continued to lie “dead” on the floor for the rest of the scene. He fully committed to it!
How did our program help you to prepare for your current job? The Department of English and Modern Languages was an incredibly supportive environment for me to grow my knowledge base in. I met teachers (and friends) who challenged me to be better and to think differently. The Department of Education really laid the foundation for the practical aspects of the job and gave me more field hours than I ever thought I’d need, until I was in my own classroom and realized how crucial that time was.
What advice would you give current students? Find your tribe and get involved in things you’re passionate about. The people you surround yourself with should always push you to be a better person. If you’re passionate about what you’re doing and whom you’re doing it with, you will never be lacking. Also, always keep your end game in mind; if you don’t know what you want to do with your degree, start figuring it out before you cross the stage and those bills get real.
Name: Joyce Orlando
Major, Minor: Mass Communication, Print Journalism
Year Graduated: 2012
Job Now: Public Safety Reporter, Shelby Star, Shelby, NC
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? My job is never the same, and there is always something going on. One day I will be sitting in court listening to testimony and evidence in a drug case and the next I’ll be at a breaking news story.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? Last year I was interviewing the chief of police of the City of Shelby when he was called out of the room and told me to wait a minute. I sat and waited. Five minutes later I received confirmation that Dylann Roof had been captured by Shelby Police. Roof was wanted in the shooting deaths of nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. I was given a “backstage pass” and was in the thick of things as the day played out. One of the hardest and most exhilarating days of my career so far!
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? Journalism is a rapidly changing field and now has strong ties to the digital world. Through the journalism minor, I learned the basic skills needed in my job and the how-to of getting a story out there. Combine those skills with mass communication, and I have the know how of using social media, video, and other media to tell peoples’ stories along with the printed word.
What advice would you give current students? Two things actually: 1) Be open. Never in a million years did I think I would end up in North Carolina. I applied for a job I didn’t think I was qualified for. I took chances. I moved, and I followed my gut instinct. Sometimes you have to take a risk to get where you want. 2) Ask questions. The one thing I’ve learned is the smallest detail can change things—whether it’s in writing or anything else. Don’t be afraid you are going to upset someone by asking for more information in any situation you find yourself in; it could help in making a better story or a better life decision.