Profile of One of Our Graduates
Name: Catie Wilkes Delligatti
Major, Minor: Spanish, Business
Year Graduated: 2008
Job Now: Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney
What have you been up to since graduation? I went directly from Shepherd to a joint degree program where I obtained a law degree and an MBA. Afterward, I practiced commercial, tax, and municipal law with a firm in Martinsburg. In 2016, I was elected Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney. My husband and I also welcomed our daughter Isabel. In 2018, we had our son Jack, and in 2020, I was reelected to a second term as Prosecuting Attorney.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? I love many parts of my job. One of the more rewarding parts is obtaining justice for victims of violent crimes, including sexual assaults, and helping them achieve some measure of closure. We also play a part in obtaining treatment services for individuals suffering from substance use disorder, so having a role in the fight against the opioid epidemic is really fulfilling.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? One of the most memorable moments for me was when the jury verdict was read in a case where a mother killed her 8 year old daughter. It was an emotionally taxing case for all, but knowing that we brought some measure of justice for that little girl is one of the things that makes my job worthwhile. Another memorable job moment is the first time I got to stand in court and identify myself as Catie Delligatti, for the State of West Virginia.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? My education at Shepherd taught me to communicate effectively, which is vital both for presenting cases in the courtroom and connecting with victims and other members of our community. Also, participating in Shepherd’s study abroad program taught me to adapt more easily to new circumstances and value differing perspectives.
How has speaking another language helped you in your career and life overall? While opportunities to speak Spanish in my job are few, the process of learning a new language and the nuances of communication was invaluable as I progressed through law school and learned how to navigate legal concepts and language.
What advice would you give current students? Don’t pass up opportunities to learn new concepts and branch out, but also don’t pass up opportunities to relax and enjoy yourself, because while it might sound like a cliché, life moves so quickly.
Name: Sarah Alouf Vogelsang
Major, Minor: English, Technical Communication
Year Graduated: 2003
Job Now: Technical Writer, Knorr Brake Company
What have you been up to since graduation? Following my graduation, I continued working as a Technical Writer in the position I had taken following my internship. I was planning a move to Baltimore, Maryland. My minor coordinator, Dr. Linda Tate, had encouraged me to join the Society for Technical Communication, so through the Baltimore chapter of that organization, I found my next position in Baltimore. I worked in that position for two years, but my ultimate career goal was to shift into scientific writing and combine my love of writing with my love of animals. I began a Second Bachelor’s Program in Animal Behavior. I got two internships at the National Aquarium in Baltimore (NAIB), one in the Education Department thanks to my English background and one in the Animal Programs Department. I had fallen in love with the NAIB on a fifth-grade field trip and thought it was the most magical place on earth, so getting to work there as an intern was a dream come true. I continued working in the animal field for a couple of years. I enjoyed animal husbandry but didn’t love the weekend/holiday hours and being on call, and my dream job of scientific writing never materialized. I decided to head back to Technical Writing and accepted a position at Booz Allen Hamilton. I worked there until the birth of my children, when I took five years off as a stay-at-home-mom. When I was ready to rejoin the work force, I was worried that my time away from the career (in my animal husbandry jobs and as a stay-at-home-mom) would make it really difficult for me to find a job. I needn’t have worried, though, because my Shepherd education and experience set me up well. I was offered the first job I interviewed for and accepted their offer.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? My job is in an area I did not know anything about when I started. My company manufactures and repairs braking, door, and HVAC systems for the Mass Transit Rail Industry. I’ve learned a lot about passenger rail and brake systems since I started. I’m always learning, and that keeps it interesting. I also get to take breaks from writing to go photograph our products, see them in action, speak to engineers, and occasionally visit our customers on site. The best part of the job is my team. We are a team of five writers, three illustrators, and three trainers. We’re a very close team, and we support each other a lot. No one is an island on my team, and it’s great to have working relationships like that.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? I have had the opportunity to go on site with our customers and see our braking and door systems on the trains. That was pretty exciting.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? My experience in the Department of English and Modern Languages could not have been better. I learned so much about myself and had the support of so many of the faculty. They are all treasures to me. I stay in contact with them, and they inspire me to this day. I can point to all the strong aspects of my writing and tell you exactly which professors helped shape it. My advisor, Dr. Michael Austin, was the perfect mentor and was always there for me, talking me through my worries and giving guidance. And what would I have done without my mentor, boss, and friend, Prof. Karen Austin? It would be a shorter list to talk about the ways she didn’t support and encourage me. It was through her that I found Technical Communication. At the time, the minor had not been created, but Prof. Austin encouraged me to take her Scientific and Technical Communication course and to work at the Writing Center. She understood me better than I understood myself at the time, and she thought I was well suited for technical writing. The course and my experience in the Writing Center showed me she was right and gave me a great foundation for the career. When Dr. Tate created the Technical Communication minor later in my college career, I became one of the first two students in the minor. Dr. Tate’s teaching and mentoring set me up for success. It has been an excellent career track for me, providing stability and a good income for me and now my family. When I was hired at my current job, my team lead told me that my education specifically in Technical Communication was a big factor in their decision to hire me. And as a woman, having the guidance and mentorship of so many incredible, brilliant, strong women was a dream and gave me no shortage of role models as I forged my own path. I am endlessly inspired by Dr. Karen Austin, Dr. Betty Ellzey, Dr. Patricia Dwyer, Dr. Linda Tate, and Dr. Sylvia Bailey Shurbutt. I wouldn’t be who I am today without these incredible mentors.
What advice would you give current students? Take a few risks while you are young and unencumbered. If you’ve always thought about taking a summer to live at the ocean, or volunteer with the Peace Corps, or travel, do it! I played everything safe, and while I don’t regret where I am, I sometimes wish I’d been a bit more adventurous when I had the chance. Oh, and take this time while you are a student (and you have those student discounts!) to take in as much of the arts as you can! On a professional note, research what professional organizations you might want to be a part of. They sometimes offer student discounts you won’t get once you’re out of college, and a membership can connect you with professionals in your field who might be able to help you find a job.
Name: Kristin Stover
Major, Minor: English Education, Appalachian Studies
Year Graduated: 2016
Job Now: 8th Grade Reading Teacher
What have you been up to since graduation? Since graduation, I have been working as an 8th grade reading teacher. I would love to say I went on some grand adventure to find myself, but nope. I was offered my dream teaching position on my first interview, so no wandering excitement for me. After graduating, I have continued my love of the outdoors by hiking, biking, and kayaking; survived the nightmare of renovating a home DIY-style with my spouse; perfected my transformation into a little old lady by continuing to quilt (a skill I learned for my minor, Appalachian Studies); and adopted two, uh, “spirited” beagles.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? Have you spent any time with middle schoolers? They are most definitely interesting. Okay, but in all seriousness. It’s the kids. They are amazing. They teach me so much every single day we are together, and some of it is even relevant to their education. Students have this contagious energy that surrounds them; you can see it in their eyes and in their movements. That energy makes every moment with them invigorating. The students also challenge you to meet their energy, which calls for creativity every day, all day. You never know if they are going to come in full of teen angst or start “Naruto running” down the hallway. I am thankful for the opportunities to learn and laugh with them.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? For me, the most memorable and favorite part of my job will always be when a student asks me for a book or bursts out into spontaneous book talk. As a teacher, and lover of reading, that is the moment that brings it all together for me. It is pure joy. If I had to pinpoint more specific spots of time in my teaching career, I would have to say the two times that stick out the most for me are when a student asked me if we could “read the book out loud silently” and when a student commented: “Katniss ain’t no Legolas.” I mean, how can those moments not make you bust out laughing and permanently adhere themselves into your memory? Teaching is a blast, for sure.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? Teaching is not a solitary activity. It requires a strong community in order to be successful. I built my community through my time at Shepherd. Not only did I gain pertinent knowledge through observing master educators every day, I also created lifelong learning relationships that continue to this day. The study partners I found became my friends and ultimately my colleagues. I learned the importance of interdependence as well as independence. And, as for the nitty-gritty: I learned to speak, to write, to be passionate about a topic, and to follow my own thinking to my own conclusions. Not to mention, it is English. Who can’t use a good set of rhetorical skills in today’s world?
What advice would you give to current students? 1) Coffee is not a food group. 2) Take the random class. It may suck, or it may be worth it, but no matter what, you won’t forget it. 3) Always do the reading for Nixon’s classes.
Name: Patrick Briscoe
Major, Minor: English, History
Year Graduated: 2010
Job Now: Business Analyst for a company based in New Zealand
What have you been up to since graduation? I’ve been spending my professional career primarily in the software development sphere—a strange path for an English major, but one I’ve discovered is actually perfectly tuned to the skill set. Besides that, I’ve been spending a large amount of my time continuing to engage in and help organize a lot of political rallies given the various twists and turns of the past decade, hanging out with my now four cats and one dog, and most recently decided to convert a van into a camper! It was purchased right before the pandemic hit and could have been the best or the worst idea ever, and luckily it turned out to be the best. It’s actually really, really cool.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? Software development is a wild field. My absolute favorite part of being a BA is the integral role of translating throwaway comments from clients about what they want or think they need into technical documentation for developers, and then turning around and translating that again into easy-to-digest training material. To say I wear many hats is an understatement, and my education was paramount in being able to do it effectively.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? There were two moments in recent months where I received feedback from clients where they said, “I can’t believe how easy this process was after Patrick broke down its functions and potential.” Being able to give them not just an answer but an expansive learning opportunity is an incredible feeling.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? The biggest benefit I received was the ability to analyze not just “literature,” but abstract ideas. Being able to take something and turn it into something else by a switch in perspective, or putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, has been the reason for my success so far. These skills came from both the English and history spheres, where the latter is a little more concrete in the information at least, but was just as vital to understanding complex events and unwinding the threads that ultimately combined to create them.
What advice would you give current students? My biggest piece of advice, especially to English students, would be this: Whenever someone asks you what you’re going to do with an English degree, respond with the utmost confidence: “Anything I want . . . and exceptionally well!”
Name: Brianna Miller Baluyut
Major, Minor: Spanish, Communication and New Media
Year Graduated: 2013
Job Now: New Mother (and Linguistics/Phonetics Student)
What have you been up to since graduation? I moved to Los Angeles, California to continue my education a few weeks after finishing my undergrad at Shepherd. I met my husband in 2014, and we got married in 2015. My husband and I lived in a highly immigrant, low-income area where I spoke Spanish every day for about 6 years. I became a mom in 2019, and the three of us are expecting to move to Southeast Asia in the coming months to teach English.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? I get to work with new people and build new relationships. As I continue to work with people in different nations, my perspective of what is “normal” has changed so drastically.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? One time I cleaned out the fridge at the office and discovered that a coworker had left homemade kombucha in there for months. When I opened the bottles to clean them, the kombucha shot straight into the ceiling and ruined our phone lines! It was a huge mess, and I had to order a new phone system, but we graduated to a VOIP. You don’t have to go to college for moments like that, but they sure do spice up the workday!
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? I think watching the examples of professors such as Eva and Denis and reflecting on their genuineness and care for me has helped me the most in my current job. Now that I am seeking to learn a third language, I also admire their commitments to continue to learn outside of the classroom.
How has speaking another language helped you in your career and life overall? Speaking another language gives me an opportunity to engage with my neighbors in a new way every day. I can explain that my laundry is taking forever to dry, and I recommend the next dryer. I can explain the immigration laws and hear my neighbors’ stories, their fears, and their victories. I can have friends whom I probably wouldn’t otherwise have been able to engage with if it weren’t for learning Spanish. It is always fun to see how people react to my Spanish. Most native Spanish speakers do not expect me to be able to understand them. Once they hear me stumble through conversations, they are often more excited to practice their English with me. I also think that having previously learned a language will help me as I continue to try and learn other languages.
What advice would you give current students? Don’t take out large student loans. Actually push yourself to learn what is being taught, And finally, take advantage of study abroad opportunities!
Name: Chelsea DeMello
Major, Minor: English, Journalism
Year Graduated: 2015
Job Now: Software Engineer
What have you been up to since graduation? Right after I graduated, I started working as a journalist for The Journal in Martinsburg. However, ironically enough, I soon learned that journalism wasn’t for me. I just didn’t quite have what it took to get the job done (interrogating strangers on a daily basis gave me too much anxiety). A few months later I landed a job as a technical writer for a government contract, and the rest is history! Now, I am a software engineer and in the process of developing an application for the Army. I am also currently attending school for a Masters in Computer Science. Quite different from the life I’d imagined for myself five years ago, ha!
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? The best part of my job is learning something new every day. Most of my job is spent writing code or tracing new concepts for integrating existing software. I’ve found that writing code is very similar to writing an essay or short story. It takes clear logic, a keen understanding of the end goal, and adequate research in order to support the more complicated points. Coding is an art form, just like language, and I love finding the beauty of just how fluid it is—always changing and sometimes never good enough to call complete.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? My favorite moment on the job has to be moving to a new city and meeting my fiancé. Almost two years ago, I was offered an opportunity in Aberdeen, Maryland to join a new team and expand my career. Little did I know that here waiting for me was my sweet Jose! He was a software developer assigned to my team, and we bonded through my interest in wanting to become a developer as well. I had already picked up a lot of knowledge in my previous job, but working with him is really what helped get me over some of the more complicated concepts. I say this is my most memorable moment because not only did I find him, but I also discovered what I wanted to do as a career for the rest of my life.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? The English and Journalism programs helped me prepare for my current job because they taught me how to think critically, set goals, and complete tasks. The professors were hard, but extremely fair. In looking back, I wish I would have been more involved with my department and the opportunities that it offered.
What advice would you give current students? The biggest advice I would give to current students is to learn more prior to graduation about all the ways a degree can be used in the real world. There seems to be this false narrative that anyone who gets an art degree can only do one of two things: paint or teach, and that is completely untrue. Getting a degree in any study is both extremely valuable and transferable. During college you learn how to meet deadlines, complete tasks, do research, and communicate with others—all basic career skills. I would encourage everyone to understand that these skills can be used in any field and will help any student get to where they want to go. I graduated with an English degree, and I’m now a Software Engineer. Anything is possible!
Name: Chelsea Langevin
Major, Minor: English (Creative Writing), Biology
Year Graduated: 2013
Job Now: Human Resources Assistant at Davis Health System
What have you been up to since graduation? I returned to my hometown (Elkins, WV) after graduation and worked in Finance for five years (as a teller at Davis Trust Company and then as the Deputy Treasurer at the City of Elkins) before accepting my current position at the end of 2018. I’ve made the best of living in the mountains of West Virginia by hiking, camping, and horseback riding in my free time. I moved to the town of Beverly, West Virginia in 2015 in order to continue expanding my historical fiction novella from my English Capstone Project. That is still a major work in progress! I’ve also had the opportunity to travel, both internationally to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland and nationally to Yellowstone National Park. These experiences changed my life, and travel is now one of my greatest passions.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? I am responsible for the “fun programs” in our Human Resources Department, and those programs make a huge difference in the lives of our healthcare employees. In my first year, I expanded the DHS Employee Wellness Program (a program I am responsible for conducting each year) to include a plethora of new and interesting events to promote employee health and wellness. Employee participation has increased from the previous year, and I’ve been told employees really enjoy the new events. This job also tasks me with scheduling and leading the international trips that are offered every other year to employees and community members. Last September we organized a trip that sent 30 people to Italy. My first trip as a group leader is booked for September 2021, and we are going to Greece. I truly appreciate having the opportunity to share my enthusiasm for travel . . . and I get paid to write about it!
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? One of the new events I planned for the 2020 Employee Wellness Program is a hiking program. I have never led a program like this before, and I was concerned that it wouldn’t be a hit with the employees. The first hike was March 14th at Audra State Park. I had 47 people come to hike; the weather was beautiful, and everyone had a fantastic time. I have already received calls about the dates of the three remaining hikes. Employees came up to me in the halls of the hospital the week after the hike to tell me how much they enjoyed getting outside with their friends and families. It was an obvious morale boost for our staff. I’m now strategically planning locations for the next hikes that can handle a large number of cars, because we filled the parking lot at Audra! Raising employee morale in the healthcare setting is not easily accomplished, and this response made me proud of the difference I am making here.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? My daily duties as a Human Resources Assistant are mostly secretarial duties that include answering the phones, waiting on employees with a variety of needs, and maintaining calendars for the Vice President of Human Resources. I also check licensures for all employees in our health system whose positions require license renewal, plan and recruit for local and international trips, write and run the annual Employee Wellness Program, and serve on two committees whose primary purpose is taking care of employees. With all of this in motion at once, time management, lack of procrastination, and the ability to multitask are absolutely required to be successful in this role. As I switched majors halfway through my college career from Biology to English, all of these skills were refined in order to complete the English: Creative Writing major in a shorter timeline. The English program didn’t just teach me time management and how to be an adult with a successful career—it taught me to acknowledge my passions and then mold my life around those passions. As a Biology student carrying too many credits, I took Dr. Messenger’s Intro to Creative Writing as a “stress relief” class. I have been that amateur writer with a notebook in her hand since elementary school, but it took this class and this introduction to the Department of English and Modern Languages to remind me that writing has been my passion for years. I felt at home in Knutti’s halls. Being able to cultivate my writing skills with formal training and incorporating my love of nature (and horses!) into that writing style pointed me to the Appalachian Fiction genre that I have been dabbling in since I left school. Though my current job isn’t writing, editing, or publishing, I’ve been able to utilize my skills to bring nature and travel into my current role. For example, I have to get creative with my recruiting style for international travel (especially now with the current public health crisis and having health system workers as my primary traveler base). What better way to do that than to rely on the writing skills I have maintained since graduation? It’s not the writing career that I dreamed of, but I’m making it my own by incorporating those passions in the same way our professors incorporated their passions into their class material.
What advice would you give to current students? Pay attention to your passions and what drives you. That will be where you find your happiness in your career—not in whether or not you can pay your bills or can afford vacations. Incorporate those passions into your daily life and not just into your current job. Don’t panic if those passions change over time. As you move through the world and gain experience, your passions may change. Finally, as someone who has traveled internationally extensively: now is the time to travel the world. Accruing paid time off for vacation to other countries is difficult in our country’s workplace. Get that experience now as a student! Having a balanced worldview is important, now more than ever before.
Name: Ashley Loudan
Major, Minor: English (Creative Writing), Health
Year Graduated: 2012
Job Now: Administrative Coordinator at the Berkeley County Assessor’s Office
What have you been up to since graduation? A few months after graduation, I was honored to become a volunteer with the Ian Somerhalder Foundation as the Environment Division Editor. For four years, I was part of an amazing team who wrote articles ranging from critical environmental topics to new developments in clean energy. For those who don’t know, Ian Somerhalder is an activist and actor who played Damon Salvatore on The Vampire Diaries and, most recently, Dr. Luther Swann on the Netflix series V Wars. Ian founded ISF with the goal of bringing awareness and getting people involved with environmental and animal rights issues. After ISF, I decided to focus my time on other projects. I became employed at the Assessor’s office in 2015 as a Personal Property Transfer Clerk starting out in customer service and billing. The state of West Virginia charges an annual tax to anyone who owns a vehicle. The money generated from the bills gets divided up within the county, the majority going to our schools; basically, I make those bills available for payment, and people use the receipt to renew their vehicle registration at the DMV. In 2017, I was promoted to Personal Property Assistant, and more recently, I became the office’s Administrative Coordinator in charge of circulating more important documents like timekeeping and county exonerations.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? Honestly, with customer service being a huge part of my job, it does have its daunting moments, but, for the most part, I find it rewarding. Most of my past professors from Shepherd can attest to the fact that they had to pry my jaws open to get me to speak during class discussions. I never knew what to say, but working with people and being forced to have an educational dialogue has worked wonders for my shyness. In my department, I have had the privilege to learn various tasks, but everything comes back to good communication. At the beginning of my job, I waited on 30 – 40 people a day, and the feeling of being able to explain our tax process so that people understand it is fantastic! Now that I have become the office coordinator, the responsibilities rely on my organizing and problem-solving skills in order to complete daily tasks like processing important paperwork and handling the timekeeping for 30+ co-workers. Although it is less prevalent now, I still conduct customer service through phone conversations, but it is no less rewarding than before.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? My “work family” has been, and continues to be, the most memorable part of my job. Granted, we spend more time together during waking hours than with our own families, but we have formed a bond with each other for better or for worse. Some of my co-workers and I have bonded over frustrations or good times on late Friday nights out with a cold drink in our hands. The most memorable moments are the times when the inevitable prank is pulled and thus a new memory is made. There have been quite a few occasions when I have returned from vacation and my desk is covered in fake spider webs or multiple Christmas decorations. And, again, with our business being customer service-based, there is those few noteworthy customers whose attitudes are less than stellar because they have to pay taxes.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? Becoming an English major was one of the best decisions I ever made, and it opened up a whole new world for me. I had the best professors who patiently taught me a new way of thinking—whether logically or critically—and working rationally through a problem. Who knew that analyzing works from Mary Wilkins Freeman and Chinua Achebe would have such an impact? Wanting to be a writer since the age of 12 gave me a foundation for communication and understanding the world around me. Transitioning to Shepherd’s English program gave me a more solid foundation and immeasurable structure. Thankfully, I was able to go out into the world with a proactive and positive attitude about my future. Even though my current career is not exactly what I thought I’d be doing, it still leaves many possibilities open so I may continue to strengthen my capabilities as a writer.
What advice would you give current students? At the danger of sounding overly clichéd, I’m going to advise students to follow their dreams. Being a writer has been my dream since the day I read Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. Being an English major took my love for writing and literature to an entirely new level. I had wonderful teachers who graciously took me under their wing without a moment’s hesitation and welcomed me, let’s just say, to the other end of the college major spectrum with open arms. Secondly, don’t be afraid to tell people you’re an English major for fear of getting the age-old question: “Oh, so you want to teach?” While teaching is a wonderful and worthwhile profession, it is certainly not the only thing you can do with an English degree, no matter what outsiders tell you. The sky is the limit! In the real world, you will have acquired skills as an English major that are in high demand. As an intellectual writer (of whatever niche your heart so desires), you have the ability to comprehend and compose a range of content: technical writing, grant proposals, speech writing, travel writing, food critiques, music/film reviews, and so on. However, the most important thing right now is to enjoy your time as a student, soak up all of the knowledge you can, let go of too many worries, and just have fun.
Name: Katie Byrum
Major: English Education
Year Graduated: 2016
Job Now: Alternative High School ELA Teacher
What have you been up to since graduation? Shortly after graduating I packed up a U-Haul and moved down to Miami, Florida, where I taught remedial reading at an inner-city high school for two years. After that, some personal circumstances led me to relocate to Des Moines, Iowa, where I now teach at an alternative high school for at-risk students. I like it here, but I miss the mountains!
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? The best part of my job is getting to play a meaningful role in the lives of my students and build an environment that makes them feel safe and loved enough to think and ask hard questions. It is 100% impossible for me to have a boring day. I love the fact that I get to keep learning all the time and that I get the chance to show kids how much potential they have.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? I didn’t have the most phenomenal start at my second school—the teacher I replaced had been there for years and was absolutely adored by everyone, so in a lot of kids’ minds (for whom trust doesn’t come easy in the first place) I was this interloper who could never measure up. By the end of the year they seemed okay with me, but I definitely didn’t feel like I’d really won their hearts or made an impact. However, we recorded a video for graduation where students could say thank-yous, and one particular student thanked me and told me I was probably the only reason he graduated, because I never stopped pushing him to do better. There’s nothing that tops seeing how you made a difference in a kid’s life.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? I could talk about how the diverse selection of literature and the depth with which we were encouraged to engage with it was exceptional or how much I felt like I gained as a writer from my professors’ expertise, but honestly, what prepared me more than that was having strong and compassionate educators as role models. In every class I took I felt seen, acknowledged, and encouraged to explore and make meaning. While I value my ability to whip out a rendition of Beowulf in Old English or walk teens through Whitman’s verses, it’s the welcoming passion the professors had about those things that I carry with me and try to emulate.
What advice would you give current students? Find your “why.” If you can find the thing that drives you—your raison d’être—hold onto it, prioritize it, and remind yourself of it regularly. I think that will always take you somewhere you want to be. With the advantage of time and distance I want to say, “appreciate the work and the works you’re reading,” but I also remember blasting out five-pagers in the library a couple hours before class, so that advice might seem trite (but seriously, don’t do that). As overloaded as you might feel, try to do work that you can be proud of . . . and never be too proud to reach out and ask for help when you’re struggling.
Name: Michael Barbour
Major, Minor: English and History (double major)
Year Graduated: 2017
Job Now: Proposal and Multi-Content Writer with Apprio, Inc.
What have you been up to since graduation? Concentrating on being a good father, mostly. I became a proposal writer, which is basically a style of writing that revolves around persuasion, marketing, and rhetorical precision. I moved from West Virginia to Maryland, where I purchased my first home, so that was really exciting. I also began focusing on the work for my first book—a worthy but extraordinarily challenging experience.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? That really depends on the task, but I enjoy the competitive nature of my job. As a proposal writer, I am essentially tasked with convincing a room full of people whom I’ve never met, and likely never will, why my company is best suited to provide for their needs. Since I work for a government contractor, the words I put in a proposal for my company are competing with the words of hundreds, potentially thousands, of other proposal writers across the country. The real challenge is weaving highly technical, jargon-specific language into an engaging story. So much of my work is interviewing subject matter experts and learning quickly about products, services, applications, or other topics I’ve no direct experience with. For example, I didn’t know the first thing about the work that actually goes into an effective emergency response to large-scale disasters, but many of my colleagues do, and it’s my job to tell their story and win contracts.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? My favorite moment and most memorable on-the-job moment are different. It may seem a little grim, but my favorite moment so far happened in March when the VP of Federal Health Contracts of the company called and requested my help in writing an official statement concerning COVID 19. The acknowledgement I felt about my writing was heart-warming over such an incredible responsibility. My most memorable moment was the first-time hearing that my company won a big-money contract from one of the proposals I wrote—over $180,000,000!
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? Listing all the ways that the English and Modern Languages programs helped prepare me is impossible. But the rhetorical maneuvers and processes instilled in me from my professors in the programs are critical to being successful in my field. The attention to detail and experience I gained analyzing texts directly prepared me for what I do now, when missing just a single word in a “Request For Proposal” could be the difference between winning a contract or being disqualified. The ability to conduct exhaustive research to craft a critical essay really translates to my job, where I need to provide evidence to any arguments I make in a proposal and convince whoever is evaluating my document of the authenticity therein. Also, the sheer diversity in writing styles for different assignments really provided me with the flexibility to learn all kinds of new information and convey it to audiences. (Special hat tip to Dr. Nixon for inspiring me to use precise language; Dr. Lewin for inspiring me to strive for new, creative ways to write about topics; and Dr. H for inspiring me to appreciate criticism of my writing as much as admiration!)
What advice would you give current students? Take everything you learn and everything you’re assigned to do by your professors with absolute seriousness—it all translates to success. Moreover, give success time to be found when you’re working for it, no matter what you imagine it to look like. Beyond those platitudes, give special attention to your capstone class, especially on the résumé writing and professional portfolio. Knowing how to write an effective, aesthetically pleasing résumé will get you in the door for so many opportunities. Your professional portfolio helps you close the deal in an interview, both in how it’s put together and how you understand your professional self. Being thoughtful in how you approach professional life will help give you the confidence required to not just succeed, but also exceed.
Name: Chloe (Powers) McGuigan
Major, Minor: English (Literature), Strategic Communications
Year Graduated: 2016
Job Now: Events Project Manager
What have you been up to since graduation? I have managed to stay busy since graduation. If I put the last four years in a highlight reel, it would show that I started a career, bought a house, got married, and got a cat. What an average progression of life events you may say, well, yes, but these highlighted instances have each brought so many adventures and new experiences into my life that I don’t know that I could have fit many more things in the last few years!
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? I can honestly say there is never a dull moment. At my job I am managing a whole range of things, from conferences, to internal events, to a large, nationwide meeting. The constant change of pace and problems ensures I am always on my toes and having to take on or learn something new each day. However, if I had to choose one particular “part” of my job that is the best, it would have to be the wining and dining that happens when I go on a site visit. To spare you all the prep-work and details related to what that is, you basically just need to know that when an event planner is looking at a specific location or city, they go on a site visit that is usually hosted by the hotels and/or visitor’s bureau of the city. The main job and goal of these vendors is to give you, the planner, all the details and information you could possibly want or need regarding their location and also be sure you have a good time so you want to go back and tell the executives you report to: we need to take our large event here. There is usually at least one trip out of the year that I take that is like this, and they tend to be my favorite. I won’t downplay how much I sort of love when I check into a room and there is a welcome note and special cheese tray delivered five minutes after I walk in the door, or when I learn the driver taking us to locations over the next couple days regularly drive George Clooney when he is in town. While the perks are most definitely cool, I also think it is super interesting when I get to know special things about the cities I visit because my tour guides are experts. Plus, these visits give me an opportunity to build some great relationships with amazing people.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? I have a lot of memorable moments from my time in my current position. The joke in my office is I should write a book with all the crazy, funny stories I come back from conferences or events with. A moment that sticks out to me, though, is a chaotic morning last year on the first day of my largest event of the year. There were two main things I and my team of two needed to take care of that day: set up and manage registration for arriving attendees, and tweak the finishing setup of a tent and pavilion for our Opening Festivities BBQ. Now, outside events are always iffy because of the weather (I hate them), and I had been concerned about this, but there was not a bit of rain on the radar for the entire week, so I thought nothing of it until I woke up that morning to a steady, and heavy, drizzle. With a small team and a lot to do before Opening Festivities that evening, I made a decision to set up the pavilion anyway, because the rain was probably going to stop—right? The rain did not stop; the wind picked up; my musicians had car troubles and were late; and the banquet staff was calling me, at noon, telling me if I was moving my evening event inside they needed to know then and there. . . . The rest of that day was chaotic at best, but it sings the praises of what wonders a solid team and good communication can accomplish. Only a dependable and dedicated team would don their raincoats to run back and forth setting up for a BBQ knowing there was a high chance they would have to tear it down again all while helping arriving attendees find their way around. Nothing but solid communication among me, my staff, the hotel staff, and even our attendees could have managed to ensure the beautifully executed swap to an indoor event. This moment is memorable for me because it not only challenged me as a leader and event coordinator, but it humbled and reminded me that the team behind me, no matter what I am taking on, can make the difference in my success or failure.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? I am extremely grateful for my time in the program and how much it prepared me for the workforce in general. I am forever grateful to the professors who had such a major impact on the way I write, observe, and consider the world. I hope they each know how much my time in their classes and office hours meant to me, but just in case, I will name drop and seize the opportunity to say thanks once again to Dr. Hanrahan, Dr. Messenger, Dr. Nixon, and Dr Cantrell. Now, the obvious skill that I took from my time in the program is my writing ability. Because of my writing background, I am able to streamline, or even do, a lot of work that others have to depend heavily on our editors for. It is a great asset to me and the people I work with. The other skill I picked up in the program that serves me well today is my ability to conduct thorough research. While I generally dreaded having to scour the library’s databases for decent secondary resources for every paper, I can attest that in my current job my research skills make me incredibly self-sufficient. Finally, all that time spent constructing theses and well-built arguments was not for naught. On a fairly regular basis, I have to make a case for a change or decision I made or would like to make. I also work with a bunch of attorneys who seem to listen better when you “argue” with them. I have found that the general rules you apply to forming a great paper work just as well when you need to convince the president of your organization why the Christmas party needs to be in Location A and not Location B because XYZ—true story. The work required and standards held by the department faculty, and the comradery of the students who surrounded me, in my time in the program all had a great effect on the way I approach my job, my co-workers, and the work itself.
What advice would you give current students? I would love to be able to spout quotable advice for current students to take with them as they look toward their future, but I really have only this: have a work/life balance and actively engage in both. Work is not everything, but having a job you enjoy makes a world of difference. Yet, it is important to remember that you do have a life outside of said job. You have family and friends to cultivate relationships with; there are places to see and experience; there are books to read and movies to see. You should still strive to enjoy and be good at your job, but not at the expense of spending time doing something else you love and vice versa. There are too many fun things to see and do in life to be bogged down by obsessing over work (even if you love it). If I had to guess, you, current student, are probably a complex person with lots of interests. To you I say: go find a great career, but don’t neglect those other interests and relationships that contribute to who you are.
Name: Hannah Badley
Major, Minor: English (Creative Writing), Appalachian Studies
Year Graduated: 2017
Job Now: Training and Communications Coordinator for The Martinsburg Initiative (TMI)
What have you been up to since graduation? From November 2017 to November 2018 I served as an Americorps VISTA at The Boys and Girls Club of the Eastern Panhandle (BGCEP). I worked specifically with BGCEP to increase volunteer recruitment, organize student learning initiatives, and process data collection measures. After my year of service with Americorps, I joined The Martinsburg Initiative (TMI) as their Training and Communications Coordinator. TMI exists as a partnership among our local police, school, community, education and health systems, all united under the goal of preventing substance abuse disorders, building strong families, and empowering the Martinsburg community.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? The interesting thing about this job also happens to be one of its more hellish aspects. The world of grant funding is both flexible and fickle, at times empowering you to reach beyond the scope of conventional practice and attempt something no one else has done before. But it can also be incredibly rigorous, with timelines and budgets and work-plans piled on top of each other like layers of philanthropic sediment. Seeing the almost chemical reaction between a community and a grant, watching the goals crystallize and then coalesce or crumble in the face of reality, has been one of the most rewarding aspects of working with this program . . . but also one of the most disheartening.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? The people we work with have always been my passion. I love seeing kids empowered by kindness, loved without exception, and given room to feel what they need to feel, without judgment or expectation. Over the summer I was able to create and then co-facilitate a three-week social/emotional summer learning program in downtown Martinsburg. From 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. we played games, did yoga, practiced kindness, and went on walking adventures to the community garden, the library, and even the pool! The National Guard brought volunteers; my mom taught a painting class; we played with a pet turkey; and we danced Zumba on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That whole experience, from designing the curriculum to recruiting the volunteers and implementing the lessons, was instrumental in my growth, not only as a professional, but also as a community member. I have lived most of my (albeit young) life without feeling the weight of poverty, but the kids I work with now struggle in ways I still can’t understand. Nevertheless, an indomitable joy can be nurtured and a place of peace created where the imprint of relationships you thought were only a week and a half long will last well into the coming months and years.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? The English program at Shepherd University equipped me with the communication skills necessary to create or manage several different types of training programs. You need to be precise and effective, clear but not abrasive, and I think honing my writing skills in college allowed me to interact with people (especially digitally) in a professional manner. I am also very grateful for the many texts and articles I had to analyze, compare and contrast, and review. Writing and editing grants can be a very analytical process, so it was helpful to have some of those skills already under my belt for when I was asked to make contributions to the grant-writing process.
What advice would you give current students? Life is linear, but experiences are lateral. We are bound to time, but not to reason. Often we are told that there is a formula for success, usually some combination of determination, hard work, patience and practice. And while it is true that these skills are valuable, I would argue that no list of virtues can fully encompass the breadth of the human experience. We are humans (unless Shepherd University has added an extra-terrestrial program since I left!), and as humans we exist as tuning forks for others’ souls. Being in connection with others, seeing everyone’s worth, choosing presence over absence, is one of the most difficult things to do, especially in the midst of term papers and discussion forums. College can be the time when you find out who you are and how you want to exist in the world. My only advice would be to try and find pockets of pure experience, lateral living, places where who you are and what you are doing are so perfectly fused that the one illuminates the other.
Name: Chris Goodell
Major, Minor: Spanish, English
Year Graduated: 2010
Job Now: Guest Services Lead at Loveland Ski Area; Headboatman/Raft Guide on Clear Creek, Colorado
What have you been up to since graduation? After graduating, I received my M.A. in Spanish Literature with an emphasis on Post-boom Conosur writers from WVU. While studying and working as a TA, I also taught Spanish classes at West Virginia Wesleyan College. I continued traveling, working as a chaperone for WVU on their Santander, Spain study abroad (where unbeknownst to me at the time I met my wife). I lived for some time in North Carolina, where I worked as a Spanish Specials Teacher at Clyde Erwin Elementary IB school and taught night classes at Coastal Carolina Community College. After a couple of years, I received an opportunity to be a guide manager back home at River Riders in Harpers Ferry and also teach Spanish at Shepherd! After receiving promotions and ending up as Director of Operations at River Riders, my then-fiancée received the opportunity to pursue her dream-job as a resident pharmacist at Childrens Hospital Colorado in Denver. Upon much deliberation, we moved out to Denver where I currently work (and play) in the outdoor industries once again! My wife and I married in September and are enjoying life with our sweet English Bulldog, Edna.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? I work on the continental divide, leading a crew of professionals, and get paid to snowboard all day. It really doesn’t get much better than that. In the summer, I get to take people from all over the world down the river, through class IV rapids, and hopefully instill a love and appreciation for the outdoors.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? While teaching, my favorite memory hands-down is having the privilege of watching students find a genuine interest, and sometimes passion, in what I was teaching. Nothing is more rewarding in teaching than forming a unique bond with students and learn about them as they came back semester after semester. Outside the classroom, I often am on call with the local firefighter/rescue squad and go out with them on water rescues/recoveries. I have seen a lot of unfortunate situations, but one time I was able to save the life of a ten-year-old girl. She had snagged her clothes on some rebar in the middle of a class III rapid. Luckily she had on a personal flotation device (PFD) and was able to grab onto a piece of pillar to keep her head up, but the water was pummeling her, and she couldn’t keep it up for long. We just barely got to her on a motorized zodiac (type of watercraft), and I managed to rip her clothes off of the rebar and pull her into the boat. She came out of it with some minor bruises and cuts, and that was it. I later received an honorary “Outstanding Public Service Recognition” award from the county chamber of commerce. All in all, it was the best of a bad situation, and unfortunately it doesn’t always end the way that it did that time. It was nice to have a positive outcome and help that little girl get back to her parents.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? I brought the tools and knowledge I gained from the Department of English and Modern Languages to my studies (and teaching) at WVU, but the greatest aspect I gained from my studies at Shepherd was the importance of critical thinking and how to apply that to life outside of academia. Once I decided to pursue teaching, I tried to mirror the teaching methods and passion that I saw and admired in many of my teachers at Shepherd. Although I am not currently teaching, I think that the critical thinking and professionalism that I gained from my studies in the Department helped me advance to leadership positions in the outdoor industry.
What advice would you give to our current students? I gave plenty of advice to students over the four years of teaching there! But if I had to, I would advise them to take full advantage of the extracurricular opportunities provided by the school and fully invest themselves in their learning. It is four (sometimes more) amazing years that you can’t get back! (Wow, that sounded cliché even as I typed it.)
Name: Colleen Callahan
Major, Minor: English (Creative Writing), Psychology
Year Graduated: 2015
Job Now: Medical Scribe at Capital Women’s Care
What have you been up to since graduation? I am a Certified Medical Scribe, which roughly translates to charting, memorizing medical codes, and assisting the doctor. I have also had many exciting life changes as well. I became engaged in December and have been spending most of my spare time planning my wedding! I also have been spending a lot of time with my dog, Lulu. She is sassy and sweet and I love every minute I get to spend with her. Being a dog mom is awesome!
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? One of the best parts of my job is the daily thrill of being able to assist the physicians as they treat common and uncommon symptoms in gynecology. My favorite part is interacting with patients. I enjoy hearing their stories and connecting with them. My patients are my motivation and drive to remain in the medical field. I love seeing our office positively change women’s lives. I also am fortunate to have learned so much from the doctors, nurse practitioners, and my coworkers.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? There have been many memorable moments that I probably can’t talk about! However, I recently spent a weekend in Texas training and learning about bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. I learned a lot of valuable information, not only about hormones but medicine in general. It truly opened my mind to how holistic therapies can change lives and challenged the way I view medicine. The classes I attended during that trip have renewed my excitement about learning. I’m contemplating graduate school more than I ever have in the past.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? I learned many valuable transferable skills during my classes in the Department of English and Modern Languages. The biggest skill I use daily at work is working under the pressure of a deadline. The deadlines are much shorter at work than they were when I was a student at Shepherd. I have minutes to finish writing and editing charts before I need to move onto the next one, but I am much better prepared thanks to all of the papers I had to write! All of the creative writing classes I attended truly help me with the vocabulary and wording I use in my charts. Those classes also taught me how to critique my own writing. At the end of the day I like to think about what I can do to improve my charting techniques for the next day. The literature classes I took have helped me tremendously when I am free typing in a chart and trying to summarize the information I need to in a limited amount of space. I try to view what the patient tells me as a story I’m reading and then filter through it and record the most pertinent information.
What advice would you give current students? My advice for current students is to do the things that scare you and make you nervous. I was terrified to become a medical scribe because I had no prior medical experience, but I use my English degree every day. Now, four years later, I know so much about the medical field and should have never doubted myself. You can always find ways to relate your degree to your job position. Don’t be afraid to pursue new areas and don’t stop learning after you graduate! Also, take advantage of your summer breaks, use them to work as an intern. I had an internship in the marketing department at a medical school one summer, which piqued my interest in the medical field. I would have never known medicine was one of my interests if I hadn’t pursued that opportunity. Lastly, enjoy every moment you have at Shepherd. Soak up all the experiences you can and pay attention to every little thing the professors will teach you.
Name: Ashley Hudson
Major, Minor: English, Journalism
Year Graduated: 2013
Job Now: Human Resources Generalist with Monoflo International
What you’ve been up to since graduation? I entered the field of Human Resources a few months after graduation and found that a lot of the English and Journalism skills can certainly be applied. I had the opportunity to obtain my SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) certification as a Certified Professional in the field and to continue growing. Of course, I also enjoy crocheting, reading, hiking, baking, and playing video games. I’m also learning to focus more on my emotional and mental health.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? It’s people-oriented and no two days are the same. There is so much variety a field like HR can provide, and I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with so many interesting people.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? From a recruiting standpoint, it’s when you make a successful hire. Finding that “right fit” feels like a win! It is also great when you can finally roll out or announce new changes that you know will positively impact the staff or the company. I feel my position allows me a unique insight into the company and to all the different departments we have, and your coworkers definitely start of feel more like a “work family” over the years. We just had our first annual Summer Picnic in September, and it was great to see the joy on everyone’s faces and to meet their families, people I had heard so much about!
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? Firstly, it turns out Journalism and Recruitment are not that different! My experience on The Picket assisted in not being afraid to ask strangers questions, for example. The biggest thing to me, however, was that the Department of English and Modern Languages not only teaches you the necessary communication and critical-thinking skills that are vital in the workplace, but it also challenged me to grow on a personal level. I learned a lot about myself during my four years at Shepherd, and the professors of the English program played a massive role in this! The encouragement and feedback I received both inside and outside of the classroom helped me become a stronger, more confident, and more prepared version of myself for life post-graduation.
What advice would you give current students? Take advantage of extracurriculars! The importance of these activities doesn’t end with high school. I participated in both Sans Merci and The Picket while at Shepherd, and I gained a lot of experience being a part of both teams, including some leadership as the news editor of The Picket my senior year. Both allowed me to add to my résumé that not only had I completed my degree but also cultivated relative experience in communications, cooperation, and leadership while doing so. Be patient and open-minded, too! I started into my career almost six months after graduation. I didn’t think of HR as an option immediately, but I’m glad that pathway opened up to me. I’ve been growing in this field and with my company for almost six years now, and I’m ready to keep growing. Lastly, take care of yourself. Don’t be afraid to take time for your own well-being.
Name: Frederica Masini-Larsen
Major, Minor: Spanish, Geography/Anthropology
Year Graduated: 2012
Job Now: Adjunct Spanish Professor
What you’ve been up to since graduation? After I graduated, I decided to move to Puerto Rico, where I lived for 4 years. Eventually I got a teaching job there but later had to move back to Shepherdstown. Luckily, when I returned, I was offered the Spanish Adjunct Professor job here at Shepherd. This is my 3rd semester teaching Spanish at Shepherd, and I really enjoy it.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? I enjoy seeing how the Spanish language has evolved in the United States since I moved away. It is interesting to see what students get out of my lessons and the different energy in the classroom.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? My favorite thing is when I get the feedback from my students. Also, I love hearing students telling me about their experience using the Spanish learned in class in real-life situations and how it has helped them.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? I always knew I was going to be a teacher. Shepherd was very helpful with not making me feel nervous or anxious about starting this job, and it has definitely opened many doors for me.
What advice would you give current students? Stay positive! Go to class! Make mistakes and learn from them. Use the free resources (like tutoring) provided by Shepherd. Ask many questions and don’t be scared to try new things.
Name: Kara Funkhouser
Major, Minor: English, Journalism
Year Graduated: 2010
Job Now: Professional Development Program Developer for Workforce Development and Community Education at Delaware Technical Community College
What have you been up to since graduation? I moved back home to Delaware after graduation and married my best friend, Charles Funkhouser, in 2011. I worked several part-time jobs until I was hired as an Office Clerk for Conference Planning and Facilities Reservations at Salisbury University. While there, I completed my Masters in College Student Personnel online at Arkansas University in 2014. Afterwards, I was hired as an Administrative Assistant at Delaware Technical Community College. I was quickly promoted to Senior Administrative Coordinator for Workforce Development and Community Education. I held that position for over four years until I was recently promoted to my current position within the same division. On a more personal note, my husband and I have spent our free time serving our local community through the local fire company and church as well as taking road trips and family vacations. We welcomed our first child this fall and are looking forward to the crazy adventure called parenthood.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? The best part of my job is getting to do what I love. I have the creative freedom to develop courses in any trending area to offer programs that will help students gain employment or improve their career. Knowing that my work creates life-changing opportunities for others is the most rewarding part of my job.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? While working in this division, over the past four years, I am sure I could share many moments, but one that always seems to stand out is a moment that I only observed. I remember a student walking into our office asking to speak with one of our managers. He stopped in just to tell her his exciting news, that he had finally passed a certification exam. The manager celebrated his achievement with a high-five and short congratulatory chat. After the encounter, I learned more about the student’s background and how many times he had previously taken the exam and failed. This was truly a great accomplishment that our division helped him achieve and one that would tremendously improve his career and financial security. Capturing little moments of student success are my favorite.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? While completing my degree, I knew I didn’t want to teach. My holistic college experience sparked and shaped my passion for pursuing a career in education and student affairs. Pushing aside the list of commonly acquired skills, many of which can assist in any job, developing the ability to think critically as well as creatively and learning how to be resourceful instead of dependent, are two of the main reasons I was promoted. I truly believe my time at Shepherd helped me find my passion and gave me the skills to pursue a job that I love.
What advice would you give current students? Never think any job is beneath you because you can always learn and grow from any experience, and you can make a difference no matter what you are doing. Be patient while building your career. It took me eight years of working several jobs as an administrative assistant to get to my current position. While you are waiting for that “dream job,” always look for opportunities that can help you get to where you want to go. Never underestimate the power of networking and always take pride in your work. No matter what life brings your way, take care in how you choose to react, especially in the workplace. A positive attitude, kindness, and willingness to help can go a long way.
Name: Emily Womeldorff
Major, Minor: English, Gender and Women’s Studies
Year Graduated: 2017
Job Now: Field Organizer for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic in West Virginia
What you’ve been up to since graduation? After graduating, I moved back to Morgantown, where I began an internship with Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and have been with them since, working on reproductive healthcare access and rights in WV! Basically, I use grassroots organizing to engage communities, supporters, and volunteers around the state that impact reproductive healthcare, access, and rights in a lot of different ways. I also became a dog mom to a German Shepherd named Gus!
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? Getting to travel across this beautiful state and meet so many people who are doing amazing work to make my home state a better, happier, and healthier place to be. It’s an incredible privilege to know all of these folks and get to be a small part in this huge fight to change our state. Plus, working for Planned Parenthood is just pretty cool!
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? I wouldn’t exactly say my favorite, but absolutely the most memorable moment in this position so far has been the fight against Amendment 1 during the 2018 election cycle. It taught me a lot about how to find common ground with folks who may not be so friendly towards Planned Parenthood, but want to see our people be safe and healthy. Also, we recently held a candidate forum in South Carolina all about reproductive healthcare issues and 20 of the Democratic candidates attended. I helped staff this forum and got to meet some really awesome people and candidates that day!
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? I think both programs provided me with a lot of tools that have made me successful in this field. Not only have my writing skills come in handy a few times, but the ability to look at problems critically and have conversations about difficult/touchy issues in a way that is logical and understanding of another’s perspective have helped tremendously. The professors in this department constantly challenged me to question myself and my own thoughts and being comfortable doing so has really allowed me to grow in this role. Additionally, the exposure to so many different/diverse types of literature, film, etc. has helped me understand how to and why it’s important to apply an intersectional lens on this kind of work.
What advice would you give current students? Don’t limit yourself to jobs that are solely in the writing/teaching world. The skills that you learn as an English major are extremely transferable to so many different fields, and you’re much more of a desirable potential employee than you may think. Also, if I hadn’t explored other paths, I wouldn’t have found a career I am so fiercely passionate about and enjoy every single day. Write and teach if that is your passion, but also explore other opportunities that may be out there! The non-profit world always needs good writers, readers, and critical thinkers.
Name: Kellie Sansone
Major, Minor: Spanish, Education
Year Graduated: 2018
Job Now: Spanish Teacher at Spring Mills High School
What have you been up to since graduation? Grading a lot of papers!! Mostly enjoying each day in the classroom spent with my 140 “adopted” students!
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? The best part of teaching is being able to inspire and promote young students to have a passion for learning a foreign language. However, the most interesting part has to be my students teaching me something new every day. It is very entertaining when the teacher becomes the student!
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? The most memorable moment I have so far is the activities my classes participated in during Día de Los Muertos Week (Day of the Dead). Another Spanish teacher and I joined our classes together to create a week filled with culture, dancing, and singing for the students. It was truly a great experience to see the students laughing and learning about different Spanish cultures.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? The Spanish Program at Shepherd University is filled with amazing professors who pushed me to expand my speaking skills and cultural knowledge and watched me grow as a student from my first ever Spanish class to my final class before graduating. The classes were rigorous enough to keep me on my toes and always thinking outside of the box, which are two very important skills that teachers need to learn before entering the teaching field.
What advice would you give current students? Take advantage of the amazing professors and opportunities that Shepherd’s Spanish Program offers to you. You will never have the chance to learn from a greater, more supportive group of educators.
Name: Nicole (Nicky) Barnes Lucas
Major, Minor: English (Literature), Psychology
Year Graduated: 2016
Job Now: Jury Coordinator at the Montgomery County Circuit Court
What have you been up to since graduation? That is a loaded question! The week after graduating from Shepherd, I interviewed for an intern position at the Montgomery County Circuit Court’s Jury Office in Rockville, Maryland (say that ten times fast). Two months later, I was offered a full-time position as an Office Coordinator. Ever since then, I feel as if I have pushed a massive fast-forward button on life. I married my childhood sweetheart, Aaron Lucas, saw my younger sister, Taylor, through a year-long battle with Hodgkins Lymphoma, purchased a new home closer to work, and used some of the profits from the sale of our first home to pay off my student loans. Life since graduation has been a whirlwind, but I am so fortunate to be where I am.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? Honestly, working with the public has always been my passion, so my position in the Jury Office is a perfect fit for me. My co-workers and I assist roughly 500 people a week with their jury service. We perform a juror orientation, teach the community about one of the most important civic duties we as American citizens are privileged to have, assist the court by sending panels of qualified jurors to courtrooms, process mail, and answer phone calls when jurors have questions about their service. We are one of the smallest offices in the building with only four full-time employees, which can be chaotic at times, but I love the busy environment.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? My most memorable on-the-job experience was, in general, my entire first year at the courthouse. When I started in my department, the office was under new management. There had been a complete turn over in employees, and the office had just started processing jurors on a new system. As a team, we not only had to learn how to run the office from a general standpoint, but we also had to learn how to troubleshoot and solve daily issues with the new processing system. My first year was both thrilling and nerve-wracking, but my confidence in my abilities to work in a professional setting grew exponentially, as did my ability to rely on my co-workers. On a more humorous note, I have two favorite on-the-job moments to share. The first has to do with Shepherd’s very own, Dr. Nixon. The fun thing about jury duty is everyone is required to serve when called upon. Imagine my surprise when I saw Dr. Nixon in the jury lounge one day, prepared to complete his civic duty! I must admit, there was a certain sense of pride that came from having one of my mentors at my workplace. I certainly sat in my chair a little taller that day! My second favorite memory is one that I share with many of my co-workers. Please know I am in no way condoning this behavior, or encouraging anyone to try it out for themselves, but someone decided to show up for jury duty in a bear costume. No joke. Obviously, we had to have a serious conversation with the juror on proper courthouse attire, and we rescheduled their service to another day, but at the time it was very entertaining.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? The Department of English and Modern Languages can be largely credited for my professional success. It is entirely fulfilling to know that I utilize the communication, multi-tasking, and speaking skills that I gained during my time in the English Literature program at Shepherd. I have confidence presenting orientations in front of large groups of people, directly related to the number of projects and public speaking opportunities I was given while studying at Shepherd. I am more mindful of those in my work environment who require ADA accommodations due to disabilities (thank you, Dr. Wenger). I am not afraid to show passion and emotion in my workplace (thank you, Dr. Lewin). I felt knowledgeable and at ease during the interview for my current position due to the mock-interview practice and résumé building techniques that I learned in my Capstone course (thank you, Dr. Messenger.) I strive to evolve my thought processes and continually push myself to become better at what I do so that I can be the best version of myself (thank you Dr. Hanrahan and Dr. Nixon). I am extremely grateful for my time spent at Shepherd University, and I will always cherish the invaluable life lessons I learned while getting my degree.
What advice would you give current students? First and foremost, study what you think is going to make you happy and bring you fulfillment! When I would tell people that I was an English (Literature) major, most would assume I was trying to become a teacher. When I would explain that was not my goal, they would generally ask, “Well then what’s the point?” The point was, discussing literature was (and still is) my passion. I knew there were many other benefits to getting my Bachelors in English; however, my main reason for deciding which courses to study related to what I enjoyed. Second, build relationships with your fellow students and the faculty! Some of the best years of your life will be spent as a student, so surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed. Do the work, try not to procrastinate, and read as much as you can. Be involved in your classroom discussions. Utilize the library and the other tools that Shepherd provides you with. Spend your free time enjoying Shepherdstown. Eat with your friends at Kazu and Betty’s and the Blue Moon Café. In the words of the wonderful Mr. Edward Magorium, Avid Shoe-Wearer, “Your life is an occasion. Rise to it” (Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium).
Name: Anna Deeny Morales
Major, Minor: English, Piano Performance
Year Graduated: 1995
Job Now: Adjunct Professor for Georgetown University’s Center for Latin American Studies
What have you been up to since graduation? After graduating from Shepherd, I studied theater at the Accademia Nazionale d’Arte Drammatica Silvio D’Amico in Rome. Although I was studying theater, I have to say that what is most memorable for me of those years was the job I took to make ends meet. I gave tours at the Catacombs of Priscilla. These are the largest catacombs in Rome with the most ancient known image of the Christian Mary who holds a small baby Jesus on her lap. When the people at the Vatican found out there was a tour guide at the catacombs who spoke Spanish and English, they asked me to give tours of the necropolis beneath St. Peter’s Basilica. This was the Holy Grail, an epicenter—literally—of the Catholic world because it’s where, supposedly, St. Peter was buried. At the same time, I wrote La straniera, an adaptation of Medea by Euripides, and another play called Tela di ragno, based on the story of Arachne in Ovid’s Metamorphosis, for a contemporary dance and theater company called Il Balletto di Spoleto. All this research to write the plays and make a few bucks in the necropolis made me realize I was ready to come back to the US to get my PhD. I also realized that in Italy I would always be a foreign woman. With lots of help from our wonderful professors in the Department of English and Modern Languages—Dr. Ellzey, Dr. Tate, Dr. Dwyer, and Dr. Shurbutt—I began to apply to graduate programs and ended up at Dartmouth College, where I received an MA in Comparative Literature. Then I went on to the University of California, Berkeley, and received a PhD in Hispanic Languages and Literatures. Because my partner was living in Boston, I wrote my dissertation at Harvard and began to teach there in the History and Literature program, where I stayed for eight years. While teaching and writing my dissertation, I began to translate poetry. The same year I finished my PhD, the University of California Press published my first book in translation, Purgatory, by Raúl Zurita. This book was followed by other translations of Zurita’s poetry as well as other Latin American writers, such as Mercedes Roffé, Alejandra Pizarnik, and now Gabriela Mistral. One unexpected result of translating poetry has been the opportunity to give bilingual readings. In the meantime, I’ve returned to my roots in music and theater by adapting two zarzuelas, which are Spanish operettas. The most recent one, La Paloma at the Wall, debuted at Gala Hispanic Theater in DC. My next two writing and research projects include finishing my own book, Other Solitudes: Essays on Poetry and Consciousness and translating Tala (1938) by Gabriela Mistral, for which I am grateful to have been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? Teaching is wonderful. As I age, I have the opportunity to listen to and learn from young people. As a translator and writer, the most interesting part of my job is trying hard to understand the emotions, thoughts, and experiences of other people, and learning how to convey them through this extraordinary thing we call language. As a researcher, I love analyzing what others are writing, synthesizing ideas, and learning a new way to think about the world.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? My work is who I am; it is being alive in the world. So I feel very fortunate about that. What has been most gratifying and, at the same time, challenging is finding my own way. That is, finding my own way of being in the world and doing what I do. Also, through my research, teaching, translating, and writing, I never denied the human processes I was experiencing. So what has been equally memorable, gratifying, and challenging was, for example, as I wrote my dissertation and had a child at the same time, I allowed the knowledge I was gaining as a new mother to influence how I engaged and questioned theoretical concepts, how I evaluated linguistic and aesthetic forms. This was extremely gratifying for me. Similarly, all of my personal experiences influence how I think about language, teaching, and translation.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? The professors in the Department of English and Modern Languages were and continue to be extremely dedicated to what they do. They came to class prepared to teach, taught us how to write, gave us extensive feedback on our essays, and welcomed our comments. This takes a tremendous amount of time, patience, integrity, and dedication. The classes were a combination of lectures and guided conversations. The professors from the Department were never patronizing to students. They respected us, our range of experiences, and diverse ways of expressing thoughts. Our professors taught women writers and writers of color. They did not limit themselves to canonical works, and this also impressed me. They became my model for teaching as well as collegiality and scholarship.
How has speaking another language helped you in your career and life overall? The foreign language I studied in our department was English. Dr. Ellzey taught our linguistics course, and she also taught Old English (Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote . . . ). This experience helped me tremendously in my analysis of poetry as well as my work in translation. When I got to Shepherd, I already spoke Spanish fluently because my mom is from Puerto Rico, French decently because I studied it in middle and high school, and then went on to learn Italian after college. I would not have had a career if I didn’t speak another language, including English as a foreign language. And what is most important about another language is not the accuracy of grammar or vocabulary; it’s the basic concept that there is always an other way of thinking about the world.
What advice would you give current students? Learn with passion for two reasons: 1) you are going to die; and 2) there are others who would die so that they might have the opportunity you have.
Name: Emily Spangler
Major, Minor: English (Creative Writing), Sociology
Year Graduated: 2016
Job Now: Library Services Supervisor at McKeldin Library at the University of Maryland, College Park
What have you been up to since graduation? Lots of stuff! During my last semester at Shepherd, I was offered the unbelievable opportunity to work at the Library of Congress as a Library Technician. It was a chaotic Spring semester—I had classes Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and would take the MARC train down to DC on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I would write papers in Union Station! That opportunity allowed me to graduate with a job already lined up, but it was a contractual position, so a few months after graduation I landed a position as a Library Services Specialist at Priddy Library at the Universities at Shady Grove, where I really came into my own as a library professional. During my two years at Priddy Library, I oversaw the circulation desk, student assistants, social media, and many other aspects of the library’s day-to-day functions. During that time, I also began my MLIS (Master’s of Library and Information Science) degree at the University of Maryland, College Park, and I graduated in May! On a personal note, I also got engaged! And we met at Shepherd, the first week of freshman year, so shout out to Shepherd for fulfilling my personal life.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? The best part—or most rewarding part, rather—is knowing that at any given moment, anyone can approach me about seeking knowledge, and I can help him or her. Simply knowing that people are actively searching for information makes me happy. As for the most interesting? Libraries see a variety of social issues at play—homelessness, lack of internet access, immigration issues, unemployment. Many times, we interact with patrons at their lowest point, and we are a lighthouse. Hearing the stories is definitely the most interesting part, and sometimes it is the hardest part. Oftentimes, I wish I could do more.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? My supervisor retired abruptly at the beginning of this year, so I was a one-woman show for about eight months, managing my department that consisted of about thirteen employees by myself. I’m so proud of myself for everything that I accomplished during that time. That was the most challenging period of my life. It tested me emotionally, physically, professionally—I had never done anything like that and wasn’t prepared for it initially, but it made me a better supervisor. It forced me to believe in myself, to not fall apart completely, even when all I wanted to do was break down and cry.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? Let me tell you a story. Freshman year (first semester), I was in Dr. Nixon’s amazing Witches and Witchcraft in Literature class. My first paper, I got a D. I think I cried. The next paper, I got a C. Not good enough. The last paper, I got a B. Dr. Nixon literally wrote on one of my papers, “I know you are better than this” (I look at this when I need motivation). Basically, the Shepherd University Department of English and Modern Languages taught me growth. It motivated me to try harder—way past my comfort zone, way past the bare minimum, way past my own mediocre standards. They taught me that failure is a tool: use it to fuel your desire for something. The first time I applied for a paid Library of Congress internship, I didn’t get it. It broke me a little bit. The next year, I tried ten times harder, pushed way past the expectations, and got it. That is what every great job or experience wants from you, for you to push way past what they expect of you, and honestly, the English program taught me that.
What advice would you give current students? Be respectful in creative writing classes, even when you don’t love the story. Submit the paper you worked really hard on to a conference, even if it scares you. Go to the library, even if you haven’t been before. Try to meet new people, even if you’re shy (unless you hate people, which I totally get). This one might be the most important. Many of my lifelong friends I met at Shepherd (we still have a running Facebook chat with thirteen people in it and hang out all the time, two years later!). I met my soulmate at Shepherd—still not sure how that happened. I met my people in the English program though. Only they know how hard it is to dissect a single line of Shakespeare to create a well-written, amazing point in a twenty-page paper. They are your tribe, and it is so heartbreaking that it disappears after four years, but it doesn’t have to completely if you keep in touch. Finally, challenge yourself, always. You don’t know how high you can fly.
Name: Miranda Beahm
Major, Minor: English (Literature), Spanish
Year Graduated: 2014
Job Now: Admissions Officer at the University of North Georgia
What have you been up to since graduation? I was offered my first full-time position as a Financial Aid Support Team Specialist at American Public University System six months after graduating. I learned a lot about the inner workings of higher education on the financial aid side and feel this position helped me grow my skill set and make both professional and personal connections for which I am very grateful. After about three and a half years in this position, I felt it was time for a change and new adventures awaited! I made my way south to Georgia. I now reside in northern Georgia, about an hour outside of Atlanta, and have greatly enjoyed getting to know the area and everything the state has to offer. I started my current position as an Admissions Officer for undergraduate admissions at the University of North Georgia. I am continuously learning new things about the position and how I can best perform my job. This position has pushed me out of my comfort zone in just a short time, and I am immensely grateful for the opportunities provided to grow in both knowledge and in forming important connections. I am excited to experience each season at this institution as I grow to understanding a more traditional layout of the college experience.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? My current position allows for new experiences each day. No two days are alike, and it keeps me on my toes. I work with an amazing group of people who have been so helpful in my learning process and welcoming me to the campus and university as a whole! I also really enjoy meeting prospective students and walking them through the process of beginning their higher educational journey. It is satisfying helping a student in a way similar to the way so many Shepherd faculty and staff helped me at the beginning of my journey and throughout my time as an undergraduate student.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? Overall, I think my favorite part of my job is having the opportunity to be there to witness that initial step that a student takes towards his or her goals. This process is most evident in some of the events I get to attend. I take part in a few recruiting events with some of the local high schools and really enjoy being able to connect with the students and seeing their excitement at graduating from high school and the prospect of chasing their dreams.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? The process towards getting my degree taught me so much, not just in knowledge but also in skill set and outlook. My experience in the Department of English and Modern Languages taught me how to communicate effectively across a variety of formats, and this has been immensely helpful in each area where I have worked. An English degree has proved to be quite useful across many fields and allows for some creativity in a career path, which I wasn’t aware of prior to my studies. I am so grateful for my choice in major and how it has furthered my endeavors.
What advice would you give current students? Read all of the books and short stories and poems and plays that you can! Take advantage of the wealth of knowledge that stands at the front of the classroom! You will miss your professors when you are no longer able to stop by their offices and ask them about what you should do with your life. Take the time to enjoy the campus and the student experience. I get to experience a university campus on a daily basis once more, and it brings back such fond memories. Remember that your path is not limited to one profession, and get creative in how you use your degree. Perhaps most importantly, maintain the connections you have made. They will prove extremely valuable and will hopefully forever hold a special place in your heart and memories.
Name: Keira Cale
Major, Minor: Psychology and Spanish (Double Major)
Year Graduated: 2017
Job Now: Interim Coordinator for Multicultural Student Affairs
What have you been up to since graduation? I decided to pursue my Master’s degree in College Student Development and Administration at Shepherd University. During my time in college, I found that I loved working with college students, and I really felt like I could make a difference in the college environment, so I decided to make that a career. I graduate from my program in May 2019, which I am really excited about. I also bought my first house with my current partner, and recently we just got a new puppy.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? Personally, I love seeing students grow and self-author their own college experience. Some students come into college very unsure of what they want to do, and after a few semesters, they really start to explore who they want to be and where they want to go in life. The college experience is about more than only getting a degree. Students are able to really discover their passions and create the person they want to be for the rest of their lives. I think that their development is a really profound thing to see.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? Recently, the Multicultural Student Affairs Office hosted the second annual Diversity and Inclusion Conference at Shepherd University. The purpose of the conference is to educate students on issues of social justice, equity, and inclusion. It was really inspiring to see all the conversation and dialogue take place on these types of issues.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? In my current position, I serve as an advisor to students who are involved in a club or organization that is through our office. Many times, students or parents of students identify as Latinx or Hispanic. Having a degree in Spanish, I am able to connect with those students and parents in a way that I would not have been able to if I did not have a Spanish degree. It goes beyond being able to speak their native language; it provides important context to what this specific population may need to succeed in college.
What advice would you give current students? Challenge yourself to experience things that you may not otherwise choose to do. College is all about shaping who you want to be, so make sure that you expose yourself to all types of thoughts, opinions, experiences, and ideas in order for you to be the most well-rounded individual that you can be.
Name: Hannah Williams-McNamee
Major, Minor: English, Art
Year Graduated: 2011
Job Now: Success Coach in the Office of Student Success at Shepherd University
What have you been up to since graduation? I took a year or so after graduation to work and focus on my graduate school applications. My husband and I moved to Frederick, Maryland once I was accepted into American University’s M.A. in Literature program. I worked as a teaching assistant and writing tutor all through graduate school. It became clear to me that working with students was something I enjoyed, so I sought those opportunities whenever possible. After AU, I returned to Shepherd to teach English 101 and 102 as an adjunct. I loved teaching writing and doing so at Shepherd specifically. Still, I felt ready to move forward and devote my energy to a full-time position after three years of balancing teaching with the freelance copywriting and social media work I did on the side.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? It’s interesting how much feels familiar to my time in the classroom, but the lens through which I see any given student is wider. For instance, I still use a syllabus and give assignments and projects, and I still meet with students one-on-one just like I did when I held conferences for my English classes. I knew then that conferencing was so beneficial to how students connected with the course. Now, too, this kind of one-on-one work helps me meet students’ needs on any given day. I appreciate that the SSA creates that space for them. One of our guiding principles is that students should leave their meetings feeling better than they did when they came into our office. The best part of my job is having a role in that. I’m all for students working on their priorities and becoming more empowered by having the consistency and support of the academy. I enjoy being a part of the team in the Office of Student Engagement and Student Success, too. Everyone is hardworking, big-hearted, and creative.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? I can’t be too specific here, but several moments come to mind. Every time students tell me how they worked through some issue—maybe they did well on a test they were worried about, or talked with a professor even though they were really nervous—I am reminded all over again how much this work matters to me. These conversations, even the tough ones, offer something memorable.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? I’ve been involved with the Department of English and Modern Languages as a student, an alumna, and an instructor, which is a testament to how wonderful it is. Their support has never failed to be clear-eyed and gracious no matter how my role changed. The Department of English and Modern Languages helped build the character, patience, and communication skills I use in my job every single day. Reading and writing about literature in those classes was a test in discipline, creativity, and aiming high. I learned how to express myself clearly and persuasively and take pride in my work. The same goes for when I taught in the Department. The program offers the kind of thoughtful and versatile thinking, writing, and public speaking skills that are not only advantageous to my current job—I don’t see how I could do this job otherwise. What a gift!
What advice would you give current students? Treat every class you take as an experience worthy of all of your integrity. You will get back what you put into these courses, and they are training grounds for professional experiences and relationships. Plus, don’t forget to have fun! Cherish the sense of community that English classes offer! Also, seek work that means something to you and feels right in some meaningful way, whatever that looks like for you. You may need time for things to come together while you try out different opportunities. (This advice was always tough for me to follow, but it is so important.) Ask for help when you need it, and extend all the gratitude you can for the help you receive. Be creative and open-minded about how the skills gleaned from this program can apply to jobs you’ll have. You have it in you to be a great asset in many kinds of careers.
Name: Stephen McKenzie
Major, Minor: English, Appalachian Studies
Year Graduated: 2013
Job Now: Claims Specialist with the Social Security Administration in Corning, NY
What you’ve been up to since graduation? I was working as an intern for the Harpers Ferry Center (a branch of the National Park Service that specializes in media development) while studying at Shepherd. After graduation, I transferred to another federal agency only to be closer to family since I already had two young children. Since graduation, I had three more kids. We have four boys and one precious daughter.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? The best part of my job is helping people retire and plan their futures. It’s so great to see how thrilled most folks are to stop working or, at least, to collect another check while they keep working. It makes me dream of my own retirement some day surrounded by dozens of grandchildren.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? My job can be very high-stress and feature depressing lows when dealing with customers who are impatient, angry at the Federal Government, or have a problem that can’t be fixed. However, my favorite on-the-job moments involve providing help to those who truly need it: when the cancer patient is approved for disability, when the married couple celebrates 30 years and retires together with plans to travel the world, when a disabled child is able to get assistance receiving medical treatment. These moments are few and far between, but we must actively “stop and smell the flowers” as golfing great Walter Hagen is quoted. Putting smiles on people’s faces is my favorite part of my job.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? The Appalachian Studies program taught so much on the unknown history of the region. I was blown away by the information and inspired by the professors teaching these subjects. I actually used a brief timeline of Appalachia in my Social Security job interview which I believe actually won me the position. The interviewers were shocked and intrigued by what I laid out before them when they asked: “Choose a subject you know well and talk to us about it for five minutes.” However, if I could jam the entire Appalachian Studies program into five minutes, that wouldn’t do it justice. Furthermore, the English program at Shepherd was phenomenal. I have used my writing, speaking, and research skills to communicate with the public clearly, interpret complex federal policies as they relate to even more complex scenarios, and assist in the training of other coworkers even though I’m only in my fourth year (the Agency says it takes 5-7 years to become a journeyman).
What advice would you give current students? Pursue your goals with passion. Whatever you’re passionate about at the moment should be the topic that you form ideas around. If your collegiate-level work is mundane and you try to come up with generic topics, it will be a bland experience. If you truly pour your passion into your work, it will be worthwhile and engaging so that you’ll be disappointed to leave the college and enter the workforce. I allowed my Judeo-Christian worldview to strongly influence nearly every piece of work that I authored. This doesn’t mean everyone will agree with you—perhaps no one—but you will be more satisfied when you allow your passions to flow through your work.
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.