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Alumni Spotlight

Profile of One of Our Graduates

Name:  Harley Smith
Major:  Secondary English Education
Year Graduated:  2015
Job Now:  High School English teacher at Antietam Academy

What you’ve been up to since graduation? I took a year off before beginning my job search to care for my son. I started teaching high school English in the 2016 – 2017 school year and have been the same ever since! I made the jump from West Virginia schools to Maryland schools and am very glad I did. I am in my seventh year of teaching and have become an active part of the Teacher’s Association, as well as an advocate for the students who need it the most. I now work in an Alternative School program that can work closely with students and their families to give them the best possible chance of success. I am also now working on my Master’s Degree to become a school librarian, which I am so excited for!
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? I can truly say that no two days are ever the same. The kids keep me on my toes and always have me thinking about how to change what I am doing to ensure they are understanding and maybe even enjoying it!
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? My favorite moment is always graduation, seeing students who have struggled so much getting to show they did something worthwhile and that they are proud of is the best feeling for a teacher.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? The English program really showed me how to dissect literature and then explain those ideas to others, which is a big part of being an English teacher. While I do not use many of the texts I was taught, I am able to constantly transfer and use the skills of literary analysis, critical thinking, and professional writing.
What advice would you give current students? Don’t just go to class and do your work and leave. I did this most days and I regret it! I didn’t get the social connections or friendships that I wanted, and looking back, I can see that is exactly why. Join that study group, go to those plays, talk to your classmates about something other than class, get out of your comfort zone, and really make an effort to enjoy your time. Oh, and talk to your professors; they’re pretty cool people with some amazing stories.


April 2023

Name:  Gabrielle Hersey
Major, Minor:  English (Creative Writing); Gender and Women’s Studies, Communications and New Media
Year Graduated:  2019
Job Now:  Customer Support Manager at as well as a part-time Editor, Ghost Writer, Social Media Manager, and Web Page Developer

What have you been up to since graduation? Since graduation I’ve moved around a lot. I went from living in Shepherdstown, right along Princess Street, to moving back home when Covid hit, to getting a place in Charleston, West Virginia with one of my best friends, to finally settling a little closer to home and Shepherdstown. In my spare time—not that there’s much (I like to keep myself busy)—I’ve been working on my own high-fantasy novel and trying to improve my art skills with painting and sketching. I’ve moved through a few jobs along the way, from a tutor at Shepherd University, to an assistant for a few poets, to a poetry editor for a small publishing company, to a Bookseller at Four Seasons Books, to what I’m currently doing. In all of these jobs, and throughout my life’s journey, I’ve been doing what I love most, which is surrounding myself with the written word and making meaning come to life through text.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? I think the best part of what I do is getting to meet the most interesting people. I’ve been regaled with such fascinating stories from exuberant princes to hilarious Scottish writers to down-to-earth CEOs. Part of my job allows me to interreact with many older adults (the target audience for my company), and because of that, I’ve also heard so many captivating stories of love, sorrow, existentialism, and absolute fun. It’s the best kinds of people to be surrounded by. And it’s the best way to gain insight into all the paths of life you can walk. With such a cast of characters to help make things more interesting, my writing has never been better.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? My favorite on-the-job moment would have to be when I finally got to attend the writing conference that I’d spent the better part of a year helping organize. Once you’re looking at things from the big picture, it’s hard to see how fun or informative an event will be, because you’re so busy trying to meet financial goals or advertising goals or attendance goals or—well, I could go on and on. But once I arrived, I got to meet several amazing people at the forefront of their fields, and it reinvigorated my love for the publishing industry that I hadn’t known I’d started to lose. Specifically, it also gave me a better outlook on that world:  most people in the publishing/writing world are just little nerds trying to make you feel something with the stories we tell.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? Everything I learned from the English program about clear and effective communication is put to use. I spend a lot of my time writing, whether it’s emails, team reports, social media posts, fiction, or any number of other things. During our many literary discussions and creative writing workshops, this program helped me hone the ability to see different perspectives and actively listen to other viewpoints without bias. Dr. Hanrahan’s encouragement to make our essay prompts our own (even if we didn’t like a particular story or didn’t even know what we wanted to say about a story), helped me develop the skill to make all my work an adventure—and a fun one at that. Without the time I spent with Sigma Tau Delta or Sans Merci, I wouldn’t have developed leadership skills that make me an effective manager, event organizer, and team lead. When I first got to Shepherd University, I was a shy little thing, but the colorful and amazing people I met in the Department of English and Modern Languages helped me bloom into the person I am today, someone able to make lasting connections and collaborate with people, no matter their story.
What advice would you give current students? First off, whatever you do, never give up on your dream. I know it sounds like some trite platitude better suited for a bumper sticker than as actual advice, but it’s a phrase worth keeping close to your heart. There were a few years after graduation where I asked myself “Is this really what I want to be doing? Answering customer support calls and writing someone else’s words instead of my own?” but I kept trying. I took every opportunity to improve my writing, my editing skills, my connections to people in the industry, and now I’ve won a couple of awards and have so many more career opportunities because of it. So, even if it seems like it’s taking forever, just trust the process and don’t give up—you never know what might be right around the corner. And second, take a random class just because it sounds interesting or you need the credits or you like the professor. I randomly took a class on Queer Cinema because the topic was awesome and found my way to my second minor, with great appreciation for Gender Studies, and became an activist because of it. I randomly took a literature class my last semester because it sounded cool, and I loved the professor (it was my seventh Dr. Hanrahan class) and came out with one of the coolest essays I’d ever written (I’m still proud of it, to this day). Finally, take advantage of the opportunities you have and get involved in what interests you. Being involved with Sans Merci and Sigma Tau Delta gave me so many skills and networking opportunities that I still value today. Plus, they were how I met one of my ride-or-die best friends, and they were absolutely some of the best moments of my life. Enjoy your time at Shepherd and with the friends you’ll make in the English program as much as you can. It goes by fast.


March 2023

Name:  Paige (Kitchen) Nally
Major, Minor:  Secondary English Education
Year Graduated:  2016
Job Now:  English teacher at ABLE (Academy of Blended Learning Education) in Washington County

What have you been up to since graduation? After graduation, I was fortunate enough to be hired at a middle school in Washington County where I taught 6th and 7th grade English (separately and simultaneously) for six years. I also coached a few seasons of high school volleyball, too. In the fall of 2020 I graduated with my Master’s in Educational Leadership from Frostburg State University and got married! The year 2020 wasn’t great, but it wasn’t all that bad either. At the start of year seven, I was teaching 6th grade English but then ventured into the realm of administration, where I served a short two-and-a-half-month sentence as an assistant principal at another middle school in Washington County. I’m not giving up on administration entirely, but I have found myself back in the comfort of the classroom for now.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? The best part of my job is the unknown that everyday brings. Sure, as a middle school teacher, I know havoc is a part of the lifestyle, but the kids keep me on my toes.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? After almost seven years in education, I have found that the favorite and memorable moments pile up. I think I was most touched when my 6th graders made me a “going away slideshow” after I told them I was leaving to be an assistant principal at another school. They remembered how much I loved pizza and Starbucks and hoped it would be plentiful at my next job. It was sweet, and I actually hadn’t experienced that level of thoughtfulness from a middle schooler up to that moment.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? The great thing about Shepherd’s English and Education programs is that everything is personal. Being able to feel that my instructors and professors sincerely cared about me and my success made me want to strive to be that much better regardless of the path I chose to take after graduation.
What advice would you give current students? Truly, nothing will prepare you for the reality of it all. No matter how many times you hear that and think you’re ready, all of the “firsts” will come out of nowhere. You will wonder if you’re cut out for the classroom, if you made the right decisions, but I promise, you wouldn’t be doing this if you weren’t meant to.


February 2023

Name:  Claudia McCarron
Major, Minor:  English (Literature), Modern Languages
Year Graduated:  2019
Job Now:  APUS Admissions Manager

What have you been up to since graduation? The summer after graduating, I worked as a tutor/counselor for an Upward Bound summer program while thinking about what I wanted to do next. I briefly worked as a content writer and was hired by the admissions department at American Public University System (APUS) right around the time they started transitioning to a remote work environment due to Covid-19. It was definitely a unique experience! I worked as an admissions representative for a little over two years and was promoted to admissions manager in September 2022. As a manager, I spend most of my day doing what I enjoyed most when I was a representative, like presenting and building trainings, creating employee and student-facing resources, and coaching a team of my own.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? I love being able to build relationships with my team members. Working with them to set performance and professional development goals, and getting to cheer them on as they work towards those, is very rewarding. I also love my department’s work culture, which is very supportive and friendly.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? When I was an admissions representative, I volunteered at APUS’s 2022 commencement. It was our first in-person graduation ceremony since the pandemic, and we recognized over 14,000 graduates. Most of my work with our students happens before or immediately after they apply, so getting to see so many of them graduate was very rewarding. More recently, I was able to meet many of my colleagues on the management team and tour APUS’s physical offices for the first time.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? I spend a large chunk of my day writing, whether that’s emails, team meeting slides, training resources, or any number of other things. Everything I learned about clear and effective communication by working on paper after paper gets put to use. Discussing literature and critical frameworks also exposed me to so many different viewpoints, and that was crucial in helping me understand the importance of empathy. A lot of my time is spent listening to others and understanding without passing judgement is still something I strive for.
What advice would you give current students? Take advantage of the opportunities and get involved in what interests you! While I was at Shepherd, I was involved with Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society, and Sans Merci. I learned so much about writing, event planning, and time management, but most of all it was fun! The learning you do while enjoying yourself is just as important as the learning you have to strive for. Also, don’t hesitate to ask questions, and take advantage of open office hours. The professors were so generous with their time, knowledge, and encouragement. It made a huge difference in my experience.


January 2023

Name:  Bethany (Knight) Clark
Major, Minor:  English, Spanish
Year Graduated:  2013
Job Now:  Lead Editor/Proofreader and Administrator with Christian Editing and Design (CED)

What have you been up to since graduation? The summer after graduation, I was hired as an English instructor at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College. I taught for three semesters before finally accepting that it wasn’t a good fit for me. While figuring out what to do next, I took a temporary position at the Blue Ridge bookstore for the spring rush. My bosses ended up training me as the store supervisor, and I worked there for three and a half years. Most of the time, it was just my bosses and I, three pretty cool ladies, running the bookstore by ourselves. We got along wonderfully, and I loved it so much. I married my college boyfriend in 2014; our son was born in 2018. We stayed in the area, and we love walking around Shepherdstown and getting ice cream at Rock Hill Creamery. I still write for fun when I have the inspiration and the energy.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? Getting to do what I love—from home, on my own time, while my son sleeps or colors or builds LEGO robots—is an incredible privilege. I also enjoy proofreading in general; the detail-oriented nature of the job makes my brain very happy. I love that feeling of accomplishment when I send a manuscript that I’ve ensured is as clear and correct as possible on to the next step in the publishing process.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? Recently my boss, our lead formatter, and I were working on a very messy manuscript with a tight deadline. It was exhausting and stressful, but I loved working so closely with two of my favorite team members on the project. We were in constant communication for about a week (including sending each other questions over video chat in our pajamas as we worked late into the night; that kind of thing creates a bond). When we were finally finished—before the deadline—that manuscript looked amazing. The author was thrilled with our work, too.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? The English program at Shepherd showed me what makes good writing in terms of both mechanics and content. Even though I’m now more proficient in Chicago than in MLA, I use what I learned in my English classes with every single manuscript I edit. Also, thanks to Dr. Nixon, I will never forget the difference between a hyphen, an en dash, and an em dash, and I see a lot of those in my line of work. My junior year, I went through the writing tutor training class; then I worked as a writing tutor for three semesters. Although I’m more hands-on with manuscripts as an editor and proofreader, I’m still essentially tutoring authors as I collaborate with them to clean up their manuscripts while telling their individual stories in their unique voices. I also have the job that I have because of a dear friend I met in Dr. Messenger’s Intro to Creative Writing class. After I graduated, Katie (Thacher) Scalf encouraged me to contact a family friend who is an editor. This editor ended up giving me the training and connections I needed to land my current job at CED.
What advice would you give current students? Don’t let anyone tell you that humanities classes are a waste of time and money. You will use what you learn in those classes not just in your job but every single day of your life. Critical, thoughtful contextual analysis of media is a crucial skill that too many people don’t have. My English professors (especially Dr. Hanrahan, with whom I took six classes) taught me how to think critically, and I’m so grateful. If you’re feeling unsure, overwhelmed, or nervous about an assignment, go talk to your professor; they want to help you. Take that random class just because you need the credits and like the professor! That’s what I did with the writing tutor class, and it led to so many opportunities for me. Finally, enjoy your time at Shepherd as much as you can. It goes by so fast. (Though if you’re like me, you might still have recurring dreams, a decade after graduating, about taking classes in Knutti.)

Alumni Spotlight Archive 2022 ¦ Alumni Spotlight Archive 2021 ¦ Alumni Spotlight Archive 2020 ¦ Alumni Spotlight Archive 2019 ¦ Alumni Spotlight Archive 2018 ¦ Alumni Spotlight Archive 2017 ¦ Alumni Spotlight Archive 2016