Alumni Archive 2020
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.