Profile of One of Our Graduates
Name: Shannon Holliday
Major, Minor: English, Women’s Studies
Year Graduated: 2000
Job Now: Coordinator for Students in Transition and the First Year Experience (FYEX) program at Shepherd University
What you’ve been up to since graduation? I’ve explored different careers, gone back to school, bought a house, and married my longtime partner (Jesse Shultzaberger, B.F.A, 1999). We chose to remain in the area after graduation. We travel a lot but still call Shepherdstown home. My husband is a full-time musician, and I earned a Master’s degree through Shepherd’s CSDA program and work for the University as a clinical faculty member now. I teach one or two courses a semester and direct the Common Reading program, which I often describe as “a campus-wide book club,” so the English major in me loves those aspects of my job.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? It is so rewarding to work with college students, especially during their first year, which is such a crucial time in one’s life. There’s nothing better than watching students find their stride and really start to embrace their own identity, personal growth, and intellectual development.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? The annual academic ceremonies of Convocation and Commencement are the highlight moments for me. Inducting new students into the campus community at Convocation and then seeing those same students graduate a few years later is such an inspiring cycle. I like the pomp and circumstance, the regalia, the emotions, and the excitement of those two bookend occasions. It’s evidence of people who are pursuing and achieving their dreams, and it is amazing to witness.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? It challenged me to become my best self in so many ways. I realized quickly that to become a successful student I would have to engage in deeper research, careful reflection, and embrace the editing and revision process. I would have to stay focused, value constructive feedback, and seek support or help when I needed it. Those skills translated into valuable life lessons that I continue to use every day even now.
What advice would you give current students? Giving advice to current students is essentially my job description, so this is what I tell them: 1) Get to know your professors and let them inspire you. The faculty at Shepherd are phenomenal, and the relationships I formed with many of them over the years were life-changing. 2) Take advantage of all the campus and region have to offer. Get to know the area then keep exploring an ever wider radius. We’re so lucky to have DC, Baltimore, and even New York City all within close proximity. I learned the most valuable lessons in life from travelling, whether it was close to home or on the other side of the planet. 3) Live on campus, then live on your own. 4) Believe that you belong here and that you can succeed. 5) Give it your all and always give back.
Name: Katie (Fluke) Thacher
Major, Minor: English, Psychology
Year Graduated: 2014
Job Now: Senior Production Editor for ASCE
What you’ve been up to since graduation? Since graduation, I’ve been working for the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). ASCE publishes over 35 scholarly journals of engineering research, and I work with the authors of that research to polish components of their articles and make sure they are consistent with our style. I perform many quality checks and help maintain multiple areas of production. I am also working part-time on a graduate degree in Communication Studies from Shippensburg University, building the skills and connections I need to transform my career from editing others’ work to creating and implementing my own creative content.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? The best part of my job is the consistency. I have wanted to be a writer and editor since at least middle school, possibly earlier, but for a long time I struggled to believe it was feasible as a career choice. I heard often that it was impossible to get steady work as an editor and even harder as a writer. While I’m still working on the writing part, I’ve proven that consistent editing jobs exist. You just have to be willing to stretch to find them. I never thought I’d edit in a scientific field, but here I am.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? I can’t say I have one specific moment that stands above the rest. Some of the most enjoyable moments, though, are when I catch major errors before print. It’s extremely rewarding to know I did my job well and protected my team and my employer from embarrassment or even litigation if it’s a copyright issue. And as all grammar police know, it’s personally satisfying to find an error and make it right.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? My classes at Shepherd taught me the significance of accuracy, structure, and style in written communication. The department’s particularity in following a style guide, citing all sources, maintaining a consistent format, and other such meticulous things helped train my eye as a professional editor.
What advice would you give current students? I would encourage students to talk. Talk to your professors, talk to your advisors, find and talk to alumni in your field. The best thing I’ve done for my career is email coworkers at ASCE who work in the Communications and Marketing departments and ask, “Would you be willing to sit down with me for 30 minutes sometime and tell me about what you do?” They were happy to do so. These informational interviews gave me insight into my desired jobs, revealed specific skills I need to improve in order to succeed, and helped me create a list of goals that will guide me from my current position to the one of my dreams. I only learned these things because I initiated a conversation. So talk!
Name: Kathleen (Stritch) Huntsberry
Major, Minor: English, Spanish
Year Graduated: 2013
Job Now: Manager with BB&T
What you’ve been up to since graduation? Since graduation I have been enjoying life. I had my son, Michael Patrick, my last semester of school, and he has been a joy. I married in 2015 to Shepherd Alumnus Gavin Huntsberry; we met at the Butcher Center in 2010. We have enjoyed family life as well as travelling. Since graduation I have been to Santa Fe, New York City, Jamaica, and most recently Ireland. In 2017 I met back up with the Rude Mechanicals to participate in their summer production of Andromache. I still deeply enjoy reading, writing when I can, and singing karaoke. My best friends are still classmates of mine from Shepherd: Shelby (Taylor) Miller and Leah Drummeter. Recently my husband and I began doing foster care and hope to grow our family. I strongly recommend anyone who has the space in their home to consider being a foster parent. The work doesn’t always feel rewarding, but these children need all the love in the world.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? I certainly never pictured myself as a manager at BB&T, yet oddly enough I do find myself using my degree. I proofread emails for my colleagues that are being sent to upper management or critical clients; I assist our Hispanic community by utilizing my Spanish minor, and overall I find myself using communication and persuasion techniques that I attribute to my major. The most interesting part of my job, however, is getting to be out in my community and working with the public. BB&T does a lot of community service projects, and I greatly appreciate working for a company that wants to help our neighbors. I’m the team leader on an upcoming project partnered with Catholic Charities to purchase personal care items for our local homeless population. Projects like this really make my job a career to me.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? Some of my most memorable tasks on the job have been being involved in financial literacy projects. These are instances in which we go to a school, or even recently a shelter, and help teach people smart tips for handling money and budgeting. I’ve heard jokes from my generation about how we were never taught to file taxes or balance a checkbook, and while sure, it is sort of funny no one thought we needed those life skills, it is also distressing to see how many people struggle to make their paycheck stretch. The goal of financial literacy is to help young people understand the products and services available to help them achieve financial wellness.
How did our program help you prepare for you current job? While I am not using my degree in English directly, I would still say that my education at Shepherd University helped to prepare me for my career because it shaped me into a critical, independent thinker and someone capable of articulating my opinion and negotiating my position. I went through two promotions in six months, and although I am the youngest at my branch, I am the second in command. (Thanks, Dr. Nixon, for telling me to apply for jobs I didn’t feel qualified for!) I can also remember being shy and quiet in my Spanish classes, but then I would write an essay on test days and Dr. Büdenbender would write notes telling me to speak up more in class, that I spoke Spanish well. Just last week I assisted a client entirely in Spanish as we discussed building credit, and I took a credit card application from him.
What advice would you give current students? If you’re considering Shepherd University, I would certainly recommend it. The town is sweet and relaxing. We bought our home just outside of town; that’s how much we loved it. My class sizes were never suffocating, and I always had professors who would make time to talk with me after class or in office hours. My professors genuinely cared about my education and seeing me succeed. My advice to current students would certainly be to have faith and don’t be afraid to apply for that job you think you won’t get. Six years ago I never would have imagined my life looking the way it does now. I certainly wasn’t sitting in creative writing classes picturing myself in a suit and opening accounts. Life isn’t going to go the way you think, but that doesn’t mean it will be disappointing. Just be awesome and find something that makes you happy—even if it wasn’t what you studied at school and wasn’t what you picked for career day in second grade. Your education is going to lay the ground work for you to get exactly what you want out of your career.
Name: Katie Butler
Double Major: English (Literature) and Economics
Year Graduated: 2014
Job Now: Economist at The Bureau of Labor Statistics
What you’ve been up to since graduation? Right after graduation, I took a seasonal position with the National Park Service at Antietam National Battlefield for about a year, which was an amazing experience. I had the opportunity to work with some of the greatest people I’ve ever met and meet tourists from all over the world. I left NPS to take an Economist position with the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington, DC, and I’m still there today! When I’m not working, I love to read and write (especially poetry—shout out to my main lady Emily Dickinson), go on outdoor adventures with my dog Luke, and play the piano. I’m also very involved in my women’s ice hockey team, the Hagerstown Mayhem, so you can usually catch me at the rink on the weekends when we’re in season.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? The “Economist” job title has a wide variety of meanings at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some Economists work more closely with statistics. Some do more coding and building of sampling systems. My job as an Economist is mostly to teach. I train Field Economists how to use statistical sampling methods to collect price data from both big and small companies all over the country. We then take this data and use it to compile indexes that track different economic indicators, such as inflation. That being said, I think the most interesting part of my job is having the opportunity to teach all different types of people from all different parts of the country. Seeing your students leave and excel in their jobs and knowing that you had a part in that success is very rewarding.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? I’d probably have to say that most of my favorite on-the-job moments have stemmed from the opportunity to work on a series of videos that were published to the BLS YouTube channel. I and team of coworkers from various offices were chartered to try and create a series of informational videos from scratch. We researched, created a script, storyboarded our ideas, and finally used a video animation software to create some really high quality resources for the public to learn about what BLS as an agency provides. Following the publication of these videos, I had the chance to talk one-on-one with the Interim Commissioner of BLS about these videos, which was definitely one of my favorite experiences of this job so far.
How did our program help you prepare for you current job? My English degree has been invaluable in my current job in so many ways. When teaching, both written and oral communication are hugely important. My English degree has taught me how to write and speak with confidence as well as prepared me to create lectures, give helpful feedback to coworkers, and think both creatively and abstractly.
What advice would you give current students? The biggest advice I’d give current English students is don’t limit yourself in terms of career options with your degree. An English degree provides you with some of the most versatile skills you can have in the workforce—communication and critical thinking. Know your worth and have confidence in the skills that you hold because they’re much rarer and more valuable in the workforce than you may imagine. Besides that, I always think it’s important to have a side hustle. Aside from work, do something that makes you happy, grows your mind, or makes you a few extra dollars. Being a well-rounded individual is crazy important in life. You never know when an opportunity could present itself to make that side hustle that you’re so passionate about your full-time gig. So, get out there. Make a difference. Find something you love and hold onto it. Be kind to those around you. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Support your community. Oh, and read all the poetry you can get your hands on.
Name: Neal Crosson
Major, Minor: Spanish, Psychology
Year Graduated: 2017
Job Now: “Auxiliar de conversación” (Language Assistant) at two bilingual elementary schools in Murcia, Spain.
What have you been up to since graduation? Since graduation I have moved to Spain to work as an English teacher. I have been living in Spain since this past September.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? The most interesting part of my job is being involved in Spain’s initiative to become an English bilingual country.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? My favorite moments are walking into class every morning and being enthusiastically greeted by the kids.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? The Shepherd University Spanish program helped me immensely when moving to Spain. In other words, I was able to move to a foreign country without worrying about a language barrier. Additionally, I am better able to teach English as a foreign language because I have dedicated myself to the study of a language that is not my own.
How has speaking another language helped you in your career and life overall? The ability to speak Spanish is certainly helpful in Spain. In my job I work with primary school age children who have a fairly low level of English proficiency. I can better explain concepts and clarify doubts in their mother tongue, whereas if I only spoke English I could not.
What advice would you give current students? I would advise current students to be prepared always to meet changing life circumstances with a sense of optimism and determination. If I had been asked the first semester of my graduation year where I would be living and working the following year, I could not have imagined that it would be in Spain. I have spent almost a year in this country and now I am preparing to spend another year, this time earning my Master’s degree in Bilingual Education. I believe that opportunities are everywhere when one knows where to look.
Name: Matt Myers
Major, Minor: Secondary English Education
Year Graduated: 2013
Job Now: Graduate Assistant in the Office of Graduate Student Assistantships and Fellowships at The George Washington University
What have you been up to since graduation? I spent a year teaching 10th grade Honors English at Washington High School in Charles Town. I enjoyed every moment of it but ultimately decided to return to Shepherd for the Master of Arts in College Student Development and Administration program, from 2014 to 2016. I was fortunate enough to teach a section of English 101 at Shepherd during my Master’s degree. Shortly after finishing at Shepherd, I began working on my Doctorate of Education at The George Washington University (GW) in Washington, D.C. I just finished my comprehensive exam for my program, and I’m set to finish coursework in about a month, so I should be starting to work on my dissertation this fall!
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? I find the most interesting parts of being a student to be the challenge of doctoral coursework and the variety of people I’ve met. My cohort mates have been diverse and supportive, and plenty of my instructors have been scholar-practitioners with fascinating experiences. As for my assistantship, I enjoy the part of the position that involves serving as a teaching assistant for a course that equips new graduate TAs with teaching skills for their eventual classrooms. I also really love D.C. culture!
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? Serving on the search committee for a new dean has been very memorable. The first committee meeting was great. Engaging in discussion and debate with my fellow committee members of diverse roles and backgrounds left me with a greater appreciation for collegial respect and progress. More recently, the best times have been biking to the National Mall to eat lunch on warm spring days.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? Well, learning MLA writing style didn’t prepare me for APA! All jokes aside, I value my time at Shepherd. My courses (in the Department of English and Modern Languages especially) helped me foster a true appreciation of scholarship. I believe I was a Junior when I realized that being a student was no longer a chore; it was something I genuinely enjoyed. From writing and public speaking to analysis and critical thought, the skills that the SU English program helped me build are relevant to my everyday work.
What advice would you give current students? I would say, “Keep at it” and “Take it one day at a time.” School work, career demands, and life expectations can be overwhelming, but challenge is healthy, and a journey is composed of individual steps. To balance that idea: don’t put off happiness. The mentality of “once I _______, then I’ll be happy” is poisonous. Appreciate the good things in life.
Name: Erin Nissley
Major, Minor: Mass Communication, Journalism
Year Graduated: 2001
Job Now: Assistant Metro Editor of The Times-Tribune in Scranton, Pennsylvania
What have you been up to since graduation? I was lucky enough to get a job in journalism before I even graduated. I started at The Journal in Martinsburg, West Virginia one week after graduation. I covered crime and courts there for two years and then moved to State College, Pennsylvania in 2003 to take a reporting job at the Centre Daily Times. It was my first experience with a big college town. In addition to covering crime and courts there, I wrote feature stories about Penn State home games. It was so fun to stand on Beaver Stadium’s field, interview Joe Paterno, and find the best tailgates to write about. I knew nothing about Penn State coming in, but I’m proud to say I’m a fan now. I’ve also been lucky to travel quite a bit. I’m in the midst of a “bucket list” goal to visit every state in the US, and I’ve been to Europe twice, including a visit to Liechtenstein. I have a rescue mutt named Ruff Waldo Emerson, who keeps me busy, too. On the weekends, you can usually find me out on one of my town’s many hiking trails or in the kitchen, trying new recipes with locally sourced, seasonal produce.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? I love getting to know the communities where I live and work. As a reporter and an editor, it’s my job to be curious, to talk to strangers, and to deliver the news that people need to know. Being a good journalist means being connected to the community. I’ve been lucky to live in cool towns that have a lot of history and culture.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? While at the Centre Daily Times, I wrote dozens of stories about the disappearance of Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar. He took a day off from work on a sunny Friday in April 2005, went for a drive in his bright red Fiat, and was never heard from again. The car was found in a nearby town a day later; the hard drive from his laptop was found in a river after several months. As I covered that story, I appeared on Nancy Grace and other cable news shows to talk about the case and the developments. I still stay in touch with one of Gricar’s nephews, and I hope one day we’ll all find out what happened. In addition, Scranton is a great town—Hillary Clinton’s father was born here, and she still visits occasionally. Former Vice President Joe Biden was also born here and comes back often. In fact, when Barack Obama won his first term, I spent the evening watching returns with two of Biden’s childhood friends and wrote a story about their deep pride in seeing an old friend win. Scranton and the surrounding region have gotten a lot of attention from national media, especially during presidential elections, because of its blue-collar, pro-union history. In the last election, the newspaper covered visits from Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden. It’s an exciting town to write about, and I consider it my adopted hometown.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? Strangely enough, I enrolled at Shepherd with a goal of becoming a teacher. Thanks to a suggestion from Professor Ethan Fischer in the Department of English and Modern Languages, I took a journalism class and met Dr. Jim Lewin, who got me involved with The Picket. After that, my career goal was pretty much set—journalism.
What advice would you give current students? While classes with Dr. Lewin, Professor Sally Hresan, Dr. Kevin Williams, and Dr. Sylvia Shurbutt gave me the foundation for what I do every day, my internships really gave me an edge when it came to getting a job. I did two summer internships at newspapers. During the first, at The Journal in Martinsburg, I wrote 70 stories in 10 weeks. Shepherd’s Career Center also helped me get an internship doing community outreach at the Appalachian Trail Conference in Harpers Ferry. I also worked part-time for The Shepherdstown Chronicle from my sophomore to my senior year. All of my internships were paid, and getting that experience to put on my résumé was priceless!
Name: Lauren Coffey
Major, Minor: English (Creative Writing), Communication (New Media)
Year Graduated: 2014
Job Now: Technical Writer for the U.S. Coast Guard
What have you been up to since graduation? I was one of the lucky ones who got a job just one month after graduating! So it’s been 9 to 5 pretty much since I graduated, which I’ve found I’m actually partial to. Who knew a Type A would appreciate structure and schedule? On the side, I also do freelance editing and beta reading for unpublished authors. There are some seriously brilliant people out there writing incredible stuff, and it makes me beyond enthusiastic for the future in the publishing world.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? Definitely those miscellaneous tasks. I love a good standard operating procedure manual, but getting to exercise the more creative parts of my brain is refreshing.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? We did a total overhaul of our building’s property auditing system. It sounds super boring, but being involved in the process was actually a lot of fun. It was a great team of people, and it was more than a year’s worth of work, creating documentation and updating databases. When I finally got to see the auditing process in action, it felt really awesome to have been pivotal in its success!
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? It’s easy to say I wouldn’t be qualified for my position without an English degree, but it’s more than that. Shepherd really prepared me for the professional sector of writing and editing by constantly challenging me and helping me to grow as both a life-long English language student as well as a critical thinker. While editing and writing are certainly the main parts of my job, the ability to work hard under pressure, interact professionally with colleagues, explain my ideas succinctly to an audience, and other countless “real world” skills all came from being a student in the Department of English and Modern Languages at Shepherd.
What advice would you give current students? I was told countless times (jokingly and not) that an English degree would leave me jobless or teaching. As someone who attempted an English education degree before realizing two semesters in that I absolutely hated teaching, I can tell you neither of those sentiments is true. My advice is to study what you love, and if that happens to be English, then know that the opportunities provided to those who can effectively write and critically argue a point will be in abundance. If there’s one thing I’ve learned being in a professional office environment surrounded by folks who make a lot more money than I ever will, it’s that they still can’t write worth a crap, will constantly be in awe of my ability to know the difference between “affect” and “effect,” and are willing to pay to have other people (English majors) make sure they don’t sound like they haven’t had an English class since the third grade. And if editing isn’t your thing, the life skills you’ll obtain in the Department of English and Modern Languages are more than enough to qualify you for countless positions because the ability to write well is in high demand no matter what company, business, or organization it is.
Name: Stephanie Nasteff-Pilato
Major, Minor: English, Theater
Year Graduated: 1998
Job Now: Voice-Over Actor (e.g., Dannon Lite & Fit, Progresso Soup, Toyota Prius, Lysol commercials)
What have you been up to since graduation? In the summer after graduating from Shepherd, I followed my dream of being a professional actor to New York City. During my early years in New York, I continued my acting training at the acclaimed William Esper Studios. During which time, I worked as a nanny, a fragrance model, an assistant to a wardrobe stylist, a cater waiter, a sales assistant at a major fashion house, and of course I waited lots & lots of tables. In August of 2000, I married my college sweetheart, Eric Pilato (Class of ’97 Painting major, Printmaking minor). My acting training finished in June of 2001, and during that summer I co-founded a theater company called Crooked Neck Productions with two of my fellow Esper grads. Then, the towers came down. We gathered ourselves together and pressed on, producing 8 plays over the next 3 years. It was a special time of healing, discovery, grit, and exploration. At the same time that I was producing and acting with Crooked Neck, I completed a 500-hour yoga teachers’ training program. While teaching yoga, I had a serendipitous turn of events, which led to meeting my agents at Innovative Artists, who signed me on in their commercial division with a focus in voice-overs, in 2002. I booked the first job I ever auditioned for: a PSA encouraging pregnant women to quit smoking. In the fall of 2003, I went on sabbatical at the yoga studio and have been supporting my family with voice-over work ever since. Eric and I have two wildly creative and hilarious kids, Jesser (13) & Esme (8.5), and a house full of animals. In 2010, we left Manhattan and settled outside the city, in Maplewood, NJ.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? There are so many things I love about my job that are very specific. It’s almost like a creative puzzle to be able to tap into the sound that best supports the idea of the commercial, blends just right with the chosen music, and to fit it all in, in just 15-30 seconds. I love working with the writers, taking direction, and delivering the read that brings the whole commercial together. It’s a very satisfying process, to be able to put the finishing touch on the project and make it sound just right. Since I don’t have a traditional work schedule, another great bonus of my career has been the ability to spend a lot of time with my children. Although the unpredictable nature of auditions, holds, and bookings can be a harrowing at times—running around for last-minute calls and rescheduling family vacations around last-minute jobs—making it all work within the construct of a busy life is never dull. I feel very lucky every time the phone rings and every time I walk into a booth to record.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? That’s a tough one, because each project I work on is unique, and requires a different energy and attack—and that’s a huge piece of what I love about what I do. But, two highlights come to mind. A few years ago, I was able to fulfill a lifelong dream of being a part of Sesame Street, recording an informational video on how their global outreach and multi-cultural characters empower young girls around the world. And year’s Super Bowl viewing party was extra special, as my whole family was together to hear my Tide Ads play throughout the big game.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? Voice-over work (and all acting really) starts with the text. So, my English and Theater training gave me two complimentary ways into the written word. One idea that I come back to all the time in my work is that my job is to serve the script, however mundane or seemingly nonsensical it may seem. The language used in advertising is incredibly efficient, distilling big ideas into catchy little phrases used to influence perception and buying patterns. My job is to understand the larger meaning of the script, to infuse that meaning into the read, so the inflection, tone, and energy convey the intended effect. It may sound like a stretch, but reading Shakespeare or Chaucer aloud takes the same kind of skill. One must glean the meaning of the text to be able to deliver that meaning, no matter what words are used in the copy. I honed and developed my reading skills in the classroom, during my English studies, and my performance skills in the Studio Theater at Sara Cree Hall (may it rest in peace). Both programs have informed the way I approach a script, whether it be commercial copy, a play, or the narration of a documentary film.
What advice would you give current students? The best advice I can give to the current students would be to take advantage of the small class sizes and individual attention one can receive at Shepherd. Some of my fondest memories are of round table discussions in my Hamlet in Context class, or in American Ethnic Literature, History of the English Language, or in rehearsal for one of the many plays I was fortunate enough to perform in while at Shepherd. Take advantage of the opportunity to explore your personal interests through your studies. Go big! Go deep! Get to know your professors on a personal level and tune into their specific areas of interest. Read and read some more! Enjoy this very special time, where learning and exploration are at the top of your priority list. It is a precious and fleeting moment. Drink up all the language you can, and then take it with you wherever your personal path my lead. Read stories. Listen to stories. Tell stories. Allow those stories to deepen your connection to all that it is to be human. And, take that connection with you out into the greater world, into your professional life, and beyond.
Name: Melanie Snyder
Major, Minor: English, Biology
Year Graduated: 2013
Job Now: Financial Aid Counselor at Shepherd University
What you’ve been up to since graduation? I have mainly been raising my kids and working. I continue to read a lot, as that will always be my passion. Just after graduation I served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member for the Potomac Valley Audubon Society. I helped to research new funding opportunities, write grants, and track volunteers.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? I specifically work with the institutional aid (scholarships and waivers) and state aid (Promise Scholarship and the West Virginia Grant). I love being able to work with students to figure out their financial aid, to show them that it’s best to be proactive and not to be scared to ask questions. I also love being able to tell students that I have been able to award them scholarships or that they are eligible for a grant that they didn’t previously know about.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? My favorite moments are when I am explaining how financial aid works, and a student is engaged and asking questions, or when their eyes light up when they “get it.”
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? I believe being an English major has played a big part in my current position. Through my studies and classes, I developed strong oral and written communication skills. I also honed my abilities as a critical thinker, which is important in my position as each situation and student is different and requires an adaptable approach.
What advice would you give current students? Don’t think for one second that being an English major will only lead to teaching or editing. Both are awesome career paths of course but are far from the only thing available to someone with the communication, organizational, and thinking skills earned as an English major. As for students in general, my advice would be to listen to your gut. Take if from a failed Environmental Studies/Biology major, you have to work hard (regardless of your major) to succeed in college, but you also have to listen to that little voice inside of you that will tell you which educational path and program will work best for you.
Name: James McNeel
Major, Minor: English, Theater
Year Graduated: 2001
Job Now: Managing Director at City Theatre Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
What you’ve been up to since graduation? I have had the great fortune to work on various projects in the arts, as well as live in some extraordinary places. After graduation from Shepherd, I studied arts management in grad school at American University while being able to apply my English degree by working as a literature specialist for the National Endowments for the Arts, the nation’s federal cultural agency. At the NEA, I oversaw the literary fellowship program, assisted with grant-making for nonprofit presses, literature organizations, and festivals, along with the launch of such national initiatives as Poetry Out Loud, Shakespeare in American Communities, the National Book Festival, and Operation Homecoming (a program that paired writers with veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan). I then moved to New York City where I worked as a consultant for numerous arts organizations and artists, ranging from opening The Times Center—owned by The New York Times—to advising the legendary Arthur Mitchell and Dance Theatre of Harlem. In my final year in New York, I worked with the oldest Off-Broadway theater, Cherry Lane, located in Greenwich Village. It was there that I received a call from my Shepherd University mentor, founder and producing director of the Contemporary American Theater Festival, Ed Herendeen, asking if I had any interest in returning to Shepherdstown and working at the Festival. I accepted the position in 2010 and was managing director at CATF for four seasons during the opening of the Marinoff Theater (Phase II of the Center for Contemporary Arts), the festival’s 100th play produced celebration, its first Off-Broadway transfer (Uncanny Valley, October 2014), four commissions, 10 world premieres, and 20 new plays overall. While at CATF, I sat on the boards for the Shepherdstown Visitors Center and the Jefferson County Tourism Commission and worked closely with the Shepherd University Advancement Office. Including my intern years during college, I spent seven seasons with CATF.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? There is never anything routine about managing an arts organization; every day is a challenge and a privilege. The most interesting part of the job is facilitating the wondrous creative energy and ideas of the professional artists and seeing the extraordinary craft and skill they bring to the job—and to the world. The best part is the joy of sharing these unique moments with an audience and seeing the inherent enrichment that great live theater can provide its community. In a divisive period such as the one we’re living in now, we desperately need things that can bring us together. Art can and must do this.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? Every opening night at the Contemporary American Theater Festival. There is no greater professional feeling or sense of accomplishment than seeing that intense sprint and madness come together. (I also served as Sir Ian McKellan’s body guard one night in New York.)
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? I am huge proponent for the oft-misunderstood English major. The critical thinking, public speaking, and written expression skills and abilities I gleaned from the study of literature at Shepherd have prepared me in ways I would never have imagined. My love for humanity—and my hope that it’s not entirely being ruined by the capitalist set—comes from the debates and discussions and deep-dives I had in Knutti Hall those many years ago. But I owe my entire lot in life, career, and personal passion to the fact that I stumbled into the (now gone) Sara Cree Studio Theater for a random theater class all the way back in 1997. My entire worldview and trajectory changed with that and the discovery that theater was a thing and it could be my career. I learned more in the theater minor at Shepherd—with its affiliation with CATF—than most do in a four-year undergrad or graduate experience. Ed Herendeen taught me, instilled in me a love for new plays, and let me go out and be part of something magical. I am forever grateful to his gift to me and to Shepherd for giving it a platform to play, to fail, to make believe.
What advice would you give current students? Explore the world. Don’t ever settle. Question the habits of those who run with the mainstream. Read. Detach from the gadgets. See some art. Fall in love. Again. And Again. Live wild as long as you can before reality forces you to commit. Push your comfort zone. Be nice. Ask about other people—and mean it. Don’t be in a rush; the bullshit will find you soon enough. Drive across the country—at least twice. Live in New York City. Be curious, always. Find a reason to visit Shepherdstown every year after you graduate; you have no idea how special it is until you’re gone (but definitely go—there’s too much to discover out there to be ignored).
Name: Kelsey Stoneberger
Major, Minor: English (Creative Writing), Journalism
Year Graduated: 2016
Job Now: Editorial Intern with Tin House Magazine
What you’ve been up to since graduation? I stuck around Shepherdstown for a month after graduation before heading back home and living with my mom for the summer. I applied for AmeriCorps NCCC halfway through summer and got offered an acceptance a few weeks later. AmeriCorps NCCC is a 10-month residential program for 18 – 24 year olds. I was granted the opportunity to travel the Pacific Northwest and change the world simultaneously. AmeriCorps is known as a “domestic Peace Corps,” and that rings true. I traveled to California, Washington, and Nevada and immersed myself within communities and helped them accomplish a variety of things. I worked with Habitat for Humanity, The San Lorenzo Valley Habitat Restoration Project of The San Lorenzo Valley Women’s Club, Camp Fire USA, and The Boys & Girls Club. Not only did I get to jump into different jobs, but I also realized that I had an interest in many things I wasn’t aware I liked.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? I was initially going to say that being around creative people and feeding off of that artistry is the best part of my job, but the best part for me is pushing myself and learning more about the career I know I want. Learning is not always the easiest thing; sometimes you feel like you’re doing something wrong or you aren’t up to speed with everyone else, but that’s okay. That’s all part of getting better at something, and if that passion is there, you have nothing to worry about. When the assistant editor needs nonfiction (essays, creative stories, short memoirs) fact-checked, I get to do that. That’s really cool to me because it feels more hands-on with the material that Tin House is publishing.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? My most memorable on-the-job moment would probably be a creative nonfiction essay we all got to read recently for the spring 2018 issue. I kind of fell in love with it and read it multiple times. Although I can’t say anything about it, it’s written so well. I found out that our managing editor, Cheston Knapp (his book of essays Up Up, Down Down drops February 2018), selects pull-quotes for each issue. I really wanted to be a part of that for the creative nonfiction essay the interns got to read. One day while I was at the office, I knocked on his door and asked if I could sit with him while he picked pull-quotes so I could get a sense of that process. Before I left, I told him I selected pull-quotes for the same essay and would love to show him what I had, and he was really into the idea. Not only did I get to learn something new, but I also got to show him my talent outside of the work I normally complete as an intern.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? The Department of English and Modern Languages at Shepherd pushed me to be uncomfortable multiple times. I cried; I got mad; I laughed. I don’t know everything about being an editorial intern because I jumped from working at a university literary and art magazine to Tin House, which is a huge deal. The editors don’t expect me to know everything, but they expect me to do my very best, which is something the professors at Shepherd expected from me. The professors who make up the English program are something else. They don’t take no for an answer; they aren’t friends with excuses, and they have some of the biggest hearts for teaching literature and creative writing I’ve ever seen. They all operate on a whirlpool with no intention of slowing down, and that is what I love about them. The professors I connected with the most taught me to know my worth as an individual and a woman, taught me to keep pushing because we never know the answer right away, taught me to be open to growth, taught me that there will be opinions you won’t be fond of but you’ll have to endure them anyway and how you move forward after that will show who you are more than anything else.
What advice would you give to current students? Do what makes you happiest. Your parents or guardians or friends or whoever, they’re all going to have something to say about what you are doing or will do (and it won’t necessarily be negative but sometimes it will be). It is important to remind yourself to do the thing that makes you smile, to do the thing that makes you feel you are making a difference in the world and your own life, to do the thing that begins at your center, where that burning passion exists. Maybe you won’t figure this out right away, and that’s okay, because all of your experiences morph together to make you who you are. Keep figuring out who you are and take time to learn the place around you. When you start to get into low points, remind yourself why you made such a big leap in the first place.
Name: Saundra Johnson Harvey
Major, Minor: Spanish, Sociology
Year Graduated: 2012
Job Now: Branch Manager for a national employment service
What have you been up to since graduation? I married an active duty Lt. Colonel in the Army and relocated to Suffolk, Virginia. I spend a lot of time running long-distance races and training for those races. Initially after graduation I wanted to teach high school Spanish. I had the opportunity to substitute teach for Berkeley County School System for a little over a year. Obtaining my degree in Spanish to be able to teach was a career-change opportunity for me. I was a non-traditional student who had returned to college after having a family and a first career. After substituting, I decided to return to my former career in the staffing industry. I relocated to Hampton Roads, Virginia and am a Branch Manager for a Nationwide Employment service. I also tutor Spanish speakers through an ESOL program in coordination with Suffolk Literacy Program and Catholic Charities.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? Helping others to find their careers.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? My most memorable moments on the job will always be receiving thank you cards, messages, and notes from candidates who struggled finding employment for various reasons from being a military spouse always in transition to a person who may have had legal issues that have hindered him or her from finding viable employment.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? The program helped me prepare for my current job because my job requires me to engage with not just bilingual speakers for the benefit of finding employment for my candidates and filling open positions for my clients but also to be able to work with a very diverse population of professionals.
How has speaking another language helped you in your career and life overall? I have a lot of clients who have a bilingual requirement for some of their open positions. Because I am able to connect with bilingual speakers, I am able to assist them better with finding employment for bilingual job seekers. I love to travel. I really love to travel to Spanish-speaking countries. When I was in the program, I had the opportunity to travel to Guatemala and Costa Rica. These immersion experiences were life-changing for me. Through my travel, I have learned how diverse a language can be and how language has such a strong influence on culture and how culture has a strong influence on language.
What advice would you give current students? Embrace It! Use it! Network with it! Don’t simply study the language; study the culture of the people. When studying a foreign language, you benefit so much more when you learn to use it outside of the classroom.
Name: Kaitlyn May
Major, Minor: English (Creative Writing), Spanish
Year Graduated: 2012
Job Now: Interlibrary Loan Manager at Hood College
What have you been up to since graduation? A little more than a year after graduating, I got married on Shepherd’s campus, in Reynolds Hall. My husband and I bought a house and moved to Frederick, Maryland, and I started part-time in the library at Hood College. I also substitute taught during that time, while working on my Master’s in Library and Information Science online through the University of South Florida. I’ve been travelling; last year we went to Japan. And recently we adopted a retired racing greyhound, Maisie.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? I love searching for the resources students and faculty need to do their research; it feels like non-dangerous detective work. It’s fun to reach out to other libraries, sometimes in other countries, and work out how we can help each other. And it’s great to be around college students and help them grow and see what they’re passionate about and be involved in that work, even in a small way.
What has been your favorite/most memorable on-the-job moment? There was a library that wanted an article from an old journal, but they didn’t have the date, or the title—just a vague description. A colleague helped me flip through back issues, scouring every article until we found it. It turned out, the other library user was the child featured in the photo in the article, and he had lost his copy of it. He asked his librarian for my information so he could personally thank me and tell me how much it meant to him.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? I think about things that my professors in the Department of English and Modern Languages said every day. Writing is a big part of my job, and everything I write runs through the filter of their teachings. Now that I’m in higher education, I try to model what I always saw in the faculty: the kindness, enthusiasm, and open-mindedness that make students want to work with you.
What advice would you give current students? It can be easy to find a niche and settle in to it, but college is the best time to try as many different things as possible. If you have even a vague interest in something, try it. It may not lead to a career or change your life, but it could give you a different perspective and add depth and richness to your experience.
Name: Sarah Crickenberger
Major: Secondary Education with a Concentration in Spanish
Year Graduated: 2011
Job Now: Founder/President—Ministerio Familia de Promesa
What have you been up to since graduation? After graduation, as I’d been planning all throughout college, I moved to Honduras to work as a missionary, primarily with the socially at-risk population. I started by assisting in administrative needs for a long-established, non-profit ministry in Tegucigalpa. Because they work primarily with street kids, impoverished families, and gang members, I was given many opportunities to work in child sponsorship feeding programs, government-run juvenile delinquent centers, and street ministry with food distribution. After volunteering at a government-run home for at-risk youth, I became a foster mom to former street kids with drug addictions. I supported nine young people in a drug rehabilitation program, and I fostered two teenagers in my home. Since then, I started a Honduran non-profit called Ministerio Familia de Promesa, which currently supports former street kids and drug addicts in their educational endeavors. This year, one of our kids, a former drug-addicted street kid, will graduate high school. His mother died last year from ongoing illness, and he never had the opportunity to finish his studies before because he has always been the bread winner for his siblings. Another one of our kids, who has nine siblings and comes from a background of alcoholism, is in his second semester of college, studying to be a lawyer. This past year, I helped some family and close friends start a US-based non-profit called GodSend, Inc. with the purpose of equipping, supporting, encouraging, and sending more missionaries throughout the world. A few months ago, I got married to Raúl, my Honduran complement, who keeps me grounded and dreaming all at the same time. Since he is a small business owner, we’ve been able to work together to provide employment for some of the young people in our program and other at-risk youth.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? As a follower of Jesus, I got to a place where I asked myself, “Is this seriously it?” I was tired of religion as a system of rules or as a routine of church-going or Bible-reading. I was also tired of the concept of success as being measured by a dollar amount or by a title. I didn’t want a normal life. Everyone has his or her own individual journey and personal convictions. I just knew personally that Jesus was actually a very revolutionary person who lived an extraordinary adventure of selflessness and love. I believed that if Jesus is real and if his love is real, my life had to reflect that radically in my decisions of how I spend my time here on earth and how I interact with others. So, the best part of my life is that I have the joy of living that adventure. So far, it’s been truly heart-breaking and has pushed my limits in loving, forgiving, healing, serving, etc., but I am constantly challenged, always learning even through my failures, and blessed to see a very real Jesus where all else has failed.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? I have inspiring stories (unknowingly helping a teenager leave a life of prostitution and only finding out about it later), language mix-up stories (accidentally asking for something pornographic in an office store because of a vocabulary failure), eating-weird-food stories (cow stomach soup, cow udder, and chicken feet, anyone?), and cultural difference oddities (total strangers playing with my hair in public places without asking just because they’re not used to seeing blondes). I have too many to pick a favorite.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? The program greatly helped in my comprehension and fluency of Spanish through the classes. Through the Spanish program and the aid of Dr. Berenschot, I was able to study abroad in Mexico on scholarship, an option I’d never even considered because I didn’t think I could afford it. The education department, classes, and field work gave me the skills and confidence to develop my own curriculum for teaching classes here where resources are limited. I had an amazing student teaching experience. My supporting teacher and I became dear friends. She’s like another mother for me and has even brought teams of her own students to serve on short-term missions here. My time at Shepherd, especially as a resident assistant, prepared me for working with all different kinds of people under pressure but with wisdom. And, my capstone, which was also greatly supported and aided financially by the Honors Program, gave me the opportunity to do some research that changed my life on a personal level. I was so fortunate in my decision to go to Shepherd.
How has speaking another language helped you in your career and life overall? My entire life depends on being able to speak Spanish. My husband doesn’t speak English. My foster kids only speak Spanish. I was able to jump into cultural learning and social activity better when I moved here because I came already being able to speak the language. Speaking Spanish has become more than a skill; it’s become a part of who I am and how I see the entire world.
What advice would you give current students? Truly take advantage of the opportunities presented during your time at Shepherd. This is a season of life where you will have opportunities for community and making new friends handed to you readily. Developing real friendships after college requires much more effort and is still such a need. Take risks on things that matter. I found out so much more about myself and my interests by putting myself in jobs, environments, and classes that I wasn’t sure I would like or would be able to do well. Be compassionate and dare to see the best in people even when they don’t deserve it. Never stop learning. It doesn’t have to be in a formal classroom environment, but never stop pursuing growth. It’s part of the beauty of being human.
Name: Emily Daniels
Major, Minor: English (Creative Writing), Journalism
Year Graduated: 2015
Job Now: City Editor at The Journal Newspaper in Martinsburg
What have you been up to since graduation? I pretty much immediately moved to Martinsburg and started my job as a state government and general assignment reporter at The Journal newspaper, and I have been here since.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? There are so many wonderful and interesting aspects of my current job, but interacting with all types of different people and being put into situations that have challenged me are extremely rewarding. I have improved my writing skills exponentially, but I have also learned a lot about myself and the human condition in the process. I like hearing people tell me their stories and trying to justify them with the written word, or being at a meeting or listening to a politician speak and crafting that into something digestible for anyone and everyone reading the paper. Having access to credible information is extremely important, especially right now, and it makes me feel like I’m making a difference when I can share in the dissemination of that. My job has also taught me humility and understanding. Regardless of what I think of a particular story, it will always be important to someone; therefore, it has to be important to me. Plus, I just like the adrenaline rush of a deadline-driven environment. No day is ever the same.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? I keep revisiting this story, but when I first started reporting, I was given the assignment of interviewing a woman who would soon be celebrating her 100th birthday. I drove to her home (she still lived at home!) and interviewed her with a little help from her friend (she could walk with a walker, but she was completely blind and had trouble hearing, so she needed assistance with certain things). I could not believe the sharpness of her mind. She could spell out names and rattle off addresses and talk about her experiences like they happened yesterday. It was just absolutely phenomenal, and it was one of the first instances that really reinforced why I chose the path I had. I also enjoyed being able to cover last year’s state legislature and traveling to D.C. for the presidential inauguration.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? There are not enough words to describe the English program at Shepherd. When I entered college, I was painfully shy and awkward, and I would have died if someone asked me to call someone on the phone for an interview, let alone interview him or her in person. Being in classes that made me feel comfortable and having professors who made me feel so welcome in an unfamiliar environment did wonders to shape me into the person I am and give me confidence for future endeavors. While college cannot completely prepare anyone for a job, as I think on-the-job experience that you can’t really obtain elsewhere is extremely important, it certainly gave me the tools to be able to excel in any type of work environment. I am still in touch with many of my professors, and I cannot imagine a better college experience.
What advice would you give current students? Probably my biggest piece of advice is to take advantage of the resources you have right in front of you. Don’t ever feel too embarrassed to approach your professors during their office hours and go the extra mile to make sure your work is the best it can possibly be. Speak up in class! I still regret not talking more or sharing my feelings because I thought I would sound stupid or I didn’t feel 100 percent confident in what I thought about saying. Own your commentary, but also listen to what others have to say and be open to learning always. Also, be respectful to your professors. Read when you are supposed to read. Put effort into your assignments. And build relationships with your professors. They are beautiful people and wonderful mentors. Also, get involved with literary extracurricular activities. Definitely try writing for The Picket or submitting a piece of writing to Sans Merci. I hope your time at Shepherd inspires you never to settle for anything mediocre.
Name: L. Michelle Baker
Major, Minor: English, Accounting
Year Graduated: 1998
Job Now: Founder and Principal of the Conservation Writing Pro
After graduation, I briefly went into accounting and quickly realized what a terrible idea that was for someone with a passion for literature. So I headed for graduate school with one idea in mind: get paid to read! Be careful what you wish for, right? Student essays aren’t quite what any of us has in mind when we think about reading, but I read an awful lot of them. (You can take that adjective however you like.) I also found out that “getting paid” looks different when you’re in graduate school, especially when you’re helping your husband start a home business and raising two stepdaughters while commuting 5 hours a day—yeah, you read that right. Martinsburg to northeast DC is a bitch.
The 9 to 5 grind isn’t exactly an option. So you get creative. For me, that meant getting online. I type fast, 125 wpm fast. So I started doing transcription. Send me an audio file, I send you a written transcript. I actually asked my Nana for an iPod for my birthday so I could free my hands to type. I made a lot of money off that little blue sucker. Most of the files I got were from entrepreneurs teaching other people how to be entrepreneurs. So at the same time I got a Ph.D. in English, I was getting a crash course in business. Except this was the real deal. There was no theory here: these were real people making a living from home using the internet, building websites, and writing blogs.
I graduated in the fall of 2008 in the middle of the worst financial crisis our nation has seen since the Great Depression. I went on the market at a time when 40% of the jobs were pulled from the MLA between October and January. Big research states like Florida, Texas, and Massachusetts were under a hiring freeze. In two years, I got three interviews and one offer. I said no. And I quit my job as an adjunct instructor.
I’m not here to tell you that a degree in English is not worthwhile. I’m certainly not here to say that you can’t get a job with it. If there’s one thing that the Department of English and Modern Languages at Shepherd taught me, it’s flexibility. Being an English major doesn’t just open doors; it puts the universe at your feet. It’s up to you to understand how to capitalize on that.
Six months after I left academia, Conservation Writing Pro emerged, the combined result of my English education, my business experience, and a newfound love of our world’s precious natural resources, courtesy of the National Conservation Training Center. As the Conservation Writing Pro, I teach environmental scientists how to write more clearly. It’s a skill they desperately need, given the fact that they are scientists, not English majors, so they struggle to write clearly. They are intelligent, well educated, and passionate about the work they do. Serving them is a gift.
As founder and principal of the Conservation Writing Pro and her sister company, EnviroEdits, I listen to problems scientists have communicating their message clearly, and I help them find solutions. I develop curricula, such as Keys to Transparent Communication, Writing with Clarity, and Argument for Scientists. I edit technical reports and dissertations. I consult with government agencies about technical and regulatory documents and help them produce writing guidance for their employees. And I recently published my first book, Writing in the Environmental Sciences: A Seven-Step Guide.
Once upon a time, I remember sitting in my little cubicle in Knutti, with a stack of papers in front of me in which students said, repeatedly, they believed a work of literature was about this, or that, or the other. I put my head down and wondered how I could help students realize they needed to prove their opinions. I came up with what I thought was a dumb little acronym: HEAT (Hypothesis, Evidence, Analysis, Thesis). I hoped it would help. Nearly ten years later, I sat in a government training center and watched an Assistant Regional Director teach that acronym to a group of experienced field biologists. She explained how important it was that they connect the dots and show how their interpretation of the evidence led them to a specific conclusion. I had to leave the room so I could cry in private. I never expected a lesson that I created to have that kind of longevity. To know that something so simple helps people do their work more easily: that’s a gift.
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 have you 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 have you 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 have you 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 have you 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 have you 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 have you 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 have you 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 have you 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.