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Alumni Spotlight

Profile of One of Our Graduates

Name:  Tara Plowman
Major:  Secondary Education—Spanish
Year Graduated:  2016
Job Now:  Service Coordinator for a Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Agency

What have you been up to since graduation? After graduating, I returned to Maryland and taught middle schoolers attending Frederick County Public Schools for three years in the subjects of Tech Ed, Computer Science, Life Skills, and Visual Arts. During this time, I realized that I gravitated towards giving extra attention and time towards the kids who were not well-behaved, and I really worked to gain trust and build good rapport with them. These kids had generally endured a lot of childhood trauma and didn’t have the greatest lives at home. I quit teaching and began to work at a residential treatment center, where I worked with teenagers with special needs who couldn’t attend public schools, teenagers who had just gotten out of or were on their way to jail, and teens who had behavioral issues that needed residential care. After about three years there, I transitioned to a group home setting in Virginia, where I worked with teenaged boys with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Somehow, since graduation, I’ve found the time to get married, and we’re expecting our first child in July of 2022.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? My most memorable on-the-job moment involves a client I worked with last year who was homeless and had a severe addiction to alcohol. After treating her with the respect she deserved and working with her for a couple of weeks, she woke up one day and told me that she’d had a change of heart. She wanted to get sober, and she had come up with a plan to participate in an inpatient treatment program and was moving to Florida. I got a phone call from her a couple months later. She was still participating in the program, sounded super clear and sober, and was doing so well! It’s wins like these that keep people in the trauma field coming back for more!
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? The Education program helped me prepare by starting the education and conversation of trauma-informed care and making sure that I become aware of my own biases so that I can work towards squashing them. The Spanish program prepared me by giving me access to various vocabulary words and assisting with growth towards more fluent on-the-fly conversations. The phonetics class that I took with Dr. Suárez was (in my opinion) the most interesting and most helpful class. I loved learning why native Spanish speakers speak English in certain ways and learning where the Spanish language comes from. If that class is still being offered, take it!
How has speaking another language helped you in your career and life overall? It’s helped tremendously! Not only do you learn the language with Spanish classes, but you learn so much about the people and the culture, as well. Therefore, I’ve been able to help a lot of my coworkers understand the dynamics of Spanish-speaking families and the culture in order to assist our Spanish-speaking clients with resources they may need. It’s also really fulfilling to know that I don’t need to rely on a translator to assist clients in our shelter program with their immediate needs. I can listen to their concerns and their questions and answer accordingly on the spot. I definitely make mistakes and ask for their help with vocabulary sometimes. However, in my experience, the clients are just grateful that I am making an effort to bridge that language barrier and are happy to provide words when I cannot think of them.
What advice would you give current students? My advice would be to explore all of the career options that you possibly can before completing a program. I truly had no idea what I wanted to end up doing and just kind of chose Education as a back up. Now, I do enjoy my current position and the amount of experience I have with trauma, but teaching is the last thing I wanted to do after I got into it. Network as much as you can and spend time talking to other professionals to get a feel for their daily work routine so that you’re as prepared as possible for your professional goals!

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April 2022

Name:  David Bennett
Major, Minor:  English (Literature), Political Science
Year Graduated:  2017
Job Now:  Consultant at Deloitte, Government & Public Services (GPS) Practice

What have you been up to since graduation? After graduation, a local technical writing internship I had been working at since my junior year turned into full-time work. While employed there, I applied for graduate school and ended up accepting a funded offer to pursue an M.A. in English in the Washington, D.C. area. I had a wonderful time in grad school, but realized that pursuing a Ph.D. wasn’t for me. I decided to go back to work after receiving my M.A. in the spring of 2020. My first job was as a proposal writer for Federal contracts, then as a technical writer at a company specializing in network traffic analysis, and finally now as a consultant supporting areas like enterprise architecture and cloud implementations.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? Since I don’t have an engineering or programming background, I enjoy the fact that my job consists of constant discovery and learning. I’ve found that my ability to ask thoughtful questions has greatly improved over the course of my career, allowing me to get up to speed more quickly than I could before. I’ve also grown comfortable with viewing new topics or concepts (even in deeply technical areas) as avenues for growth rather than evidence of my ignorance. It helps that many of my colleagues and clients are some of the brightest individuals in their fields, making conversations with them particularly invaluable.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? Getting an inside view into how the networks and technologies we interact with daily—from retailers to government agencies—actually operate on an architectural level is remarkable. The attention to detail required to make a web service used by millions function properly is astounding, and I’m grateful I be able to participate in helping design and document these sorts of systems.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? While skills like critical thinking and rhetorical prowess can be learned in other fields, I think there’s something unique about what an education in English literature and writing provides. Rather than simply imparting a relatively stable body of knowledge, English helps prepare you for how to deal with not knowing:  how to rapidly make sense of new concepts, new discourse communities, new modes of writing and thinking. Literary texts are some of the most amorphous, complex, and difficult ones that exist, and I can’t think of a better subject with which to hone your ability to comprehend the unknown and say something meaningful about it.
What advice would you give to current students? If you’re graduating soon, it’s a strange and exciting time to be joining the labor market. On one hand, hiring for white collar jobs is occurring at a frenetic pace, especially in tech and tech-adjacent fields. On the other hand, the rising predominance of remote work means that you’ll be competing for jobs globally. As an English major, you can set yourself apart by demonstrating mastery of the mechanics of the language and the ability to communicate to diverse audiences. Additionally, take advantage of Shepherd’s proximity to the D.C. area. Many companies and government agencies will continue to have a strong preference for people who can work in a hybrid manner, especially in a post-COVID world.

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March 2022

Name:  Joselin Fuentes
Major, Minor:  Spanish, Education
Year Graduated:  2015
Job Now:  Assistant Director for Upward Bound at Shepherd University

What you’ve been up to since graduation? Since graduating in 2015, I went back to school where I was given an opportunity to teach Spanish at the college level. That experience taught me a lot about teaching and learning a second language that I use in my current job. In 2018, I came back to Shepherd University to pursue a Masters in College Student Development and Administration, graduating in 2020. Currently I am the Assistant Director for Upward Bound, which is a federally funded program that helps first-generation college and/or income-eligible students gain the skills needed to be successful in college. I work with the four high schools in Berkeley County. I sincerely enjoy my job. I spend half my day in the office and the other half out at the schools with our students.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? The best part of my job is that there is never a dull moment. I really enjoy working with the population of students that I serve, as I, too, am a first-generation college student. My favorite component of my job is the Summer Academy that the program holds each summer. It is a lot of hard work, but watching our students step onto a college campus for the first time and watching their world expand is well worth all the hard work. In the summer we spend two weeks living in the dorms with our students. You might expect that each summer you would have the same experiences, but with this program you never do!
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? My most memorable moment on the job would have to be my first trip with my students. We were traveling to a student leadership conference in Flatwoods, West Virginia. It was the most stressful situation, because it was our first trip with students. We rented two fifteen-passenger vans and embarked on a six-hour drive to our destination. However, even with the long drive and the large number of students in each van, they were able to bond over things like music and life stories. It was amazing just seeing how these students were able to make these close connections in such a short period of time.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? I was pushed to study abroad, which was an experience that I will never forget. I was able to study abroad in the summer of 2013 in Malaga, Spain. I enjoyed every moment of it. I learned so much about the Spanish language, culture, and history. This sparked my love for Second Language Acquisition. I have been able to use these skills and knowledge to help develop a curriculum for our summer program where we teach students a second language whether it is Spanish or French. The language is important but so is the culture, music, food, and people. In the past we had our students learn different Latin dances such as Salsa, Bachata, and Cumbia. They also learned how to order food in Spanish, then we took them to a Mexican restaurant where they were able to taste Spanish food but use the language taught.
How has speaking another language helped you in your career and life overall? Speaking a second language is a huge benefit not only in my career but in life overall. I have been able to connect with parents and students who speak Spanish. I can help them figure out the collegiate system, and with my language abilities I am also able to explain to the parents the process of secondary education. The higher education process is overwhelming, so adding the stress of language barrier is even harder. I have found that it is so important to have the ability to speak another language.
What advice would you give current students? My advice to a current student trying to learn a language would be to immerse yourself in the language. This means for you to listen to music in the language you are trying to learn, watch a movie or TV show, and set your phone to that language. The more you use it, the more you learn. Also, do not be afraid to speak to people in that language; people actually will appreciate your efforts in trying to learn their language. When you have a use for a language, then you will learn it easier.

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February 2022

Name:  Jessica Friend
Major, Minor:  Secondary English Education
Year Graduated:  2018
Job Now:  Middle School ELA Teacher

What have you been up to since graduation? Immediately following graduation, I became a long-term substitute at Shepherdstown Middle school. At the end of that school year, I was hired for a full-time ELA teaching position. I have been working there ever since. I have gotten engaged, bought myself a car, and bought a house. It’s been a busy year!
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? Most people assume that teachers continue to reuse their lesson plans from previous years, but most of us create and try new or exciting lessons. So I would say that is one of the best parts of my job! The most interesting part of my job would definitely have to be my students. Seventh and eighth grade is such an awkward time, but my kids have a great sense of humor, which makes learning and writing so much better!
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? I became a track coach for the school, which has been memorable because I get to see the students outside of school and help them understand the true meaning of being a student athlete.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? I’m truthfully not the best writer and definitely went into the English program with minimum experience. Over the course of my years at Shepherd, I had some fantastic professors who walked me through writing processes, taught me how to write thesis statements, and conduct in-depth research projects. These lessons have been so helpful in my current job because in our school we have a split block schedule (one reading teacher and one writing/language teacher). I was blessed to be assigned as a writing teacher, and nothing pleases me more than teaching students how to plan, organize, and write strongly researched essays that they can be proud of. So, I want to say thank you to all of the professors who had me as a student and shared your wealth of knowledge with me.
What advice would you give current students? Take your classes seriously and learn as much as you can. Once you get out (if you’re anything like me) you will miss taking classes and learning on a regular basis.

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January 2022

Name:  Kristen Dick Bean
Major, Minor:  English, Communication
Year Graduated:  2015
Job Now:  Seventh Grade English Teacher at James Wood Middle School

What have you been up to since graduation? Since graduating from Shepherd University, I married my high school sweetheart, who is also a Shepherd alumnus. Around the same time, we purchased our first house and have enjoyed making it our own. I worked  as a library aide at a local high school, which is where I found my passion for education, and decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Secondary English Education.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? As a teacher, the students are ultimately the best part of my job. Seventh graders are at such a fun age. They are quirky and awkward; it’s great! But honestly, I am so lucky to laugh and learn with them. I simply enjoy watching them make connections during a lesson. It’s pretty amazing to know that I am making an impact on their educational journey. 
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? My teacher mentor organized a Santa Letter Project for the seventh grade English department. We gave our students the opportunity to write letters to elementary school students “pretending” to be Santa Claus. Our students loved this project! It was wonderful to watch the holiday spirit come alive! They had the opportunity to write for an authentic audience, which really made a difference.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? Shepherd University will always hold a special place in my heart. Many of the professors in the Department of English and Modern Languages are extremely passionate about the content, and they care about the future of the students. As I progressed into higher-level courses, I was truly excited to go to class each day! I believe that I am able to help my own students progress as writers, because of the instruction I received at Shepherd University.
What advice would you give to current students? Honestly, I know it may sound a cliché, but my advice would be to keep working hard and don’t let anything stand in the way of your ultimate goal. We only get one life to live, and it is up to us to make it count! There are going to be times when you may want to throw in the towel, but that’s when you need to remember the reason why you started in the first place.

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