Alumni Archives 2021
Name: Rachel DeGrave
Major, Minor: English (Literature), Political Science
Year Graduated: 2016
Job Now: Bid Coordinator & Proposal Writer
What have you been up to since graduation? Immediately after graduating, I participated in a technical writing internship that allowed me to further grow my writing skill set. As my internship came to an end, I began working for a government agency. In early 2020, I had the opportunity to begin a new career in a field that my major directly prepared me to excel in.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? There are many facets to my job, but I believe the best and most challenging/interesting part of my job is arguing to keep information, which would otherwise be released to the public after a request for proposal (RFP) is awarded, confidential. Generally, this information is considered a “trade secret” or something that could cause harm to my company if released. Creating these arguments allows me to pull from both my major and minor. Often, I am required to research legal cases to determine how courts ruled on certain lawsuits in order to build effective arguments. Every state has different laws, so I’m regularly studying state laws and lawsuits to build the best argument for my company.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? Recently, I was able to maintain confidentiality for one of our responses that had only been possible once before in my company’s almost fifty-year history! I also had the opportunity to work very closely and cohesively with another technology company on a project. We won the contract, and I gained invaluable insight throughout the response process.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? Shepherd University’s Department of English and Modern Languages is wonderful. Apart from learning a general skill set, each English class I attended sharpened my analytical and problem-solving skills—while also helping me create successful arguments that are strengthened by my ability to support them with well-researched facts.
What advice would you give to current students? Although an obvious statement, it is incredibly important to consume and understand the information you learn in each class. Once you graduate and begin your job search, you alone are accountable for building and maintaining your skill set; you will no longer have grades or a professor to hold you accountable. Shepherd University’s English Program is thriving with professors who genuinely care about their students; take advantage of the knowledge your professors possess, ask questions and ensure you understand expectations. Additionally, my internship was instrumental in shaping my career path. It is generally unlikely that you will land your dream job immediately after graduating, and that’s okay. Internships will give you the opportunity to decide if you are interested in a specific line of work before investing too much of your time in a career you aren’t passionate about or don’t enjoy. When I graduated, I was more unsure of the career I wanted to pursue than when I was a freshman at Shepherd. I began applying for internships a few months before I graduated. Having an internship lined up directly after graduation gave me time to think more about my future career while also creating a professional skill set that closely mirrored my degree. I would highly recommend being proactive and applying to jobs before you graduate with the idea that you’ll have something lined up after graduation.
Name: Kyla Niedermaier-Betts
Major, Minor: English, Appalachian Studies
Year Graduated: 2013
Job Now: FOIA Analyst with the FBI
What have you been up to since graduation? Since graduation, our family has grown quite a bit! We have two biological children, two adopted children, and fostered an additional 11 kids! Being a foster parent is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? I am currently a team lead in my division with the bureau, which means I get to mentor new employees and give guidance on handling all of the FOIA requests we get. There is a lot of reading and writing involved, and we have to defend our decisions regularly in court. Being able to help lead others in this organization is one of my favorite parts.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? What I love about my job is that it is a constant balance between protecting national security and providing government transparency and it requires a lot of critical thinking. Obviously, we want the public to be able to see these records, but we have to make constant decisions about what should and shouldn’t be released. We deal with the media pretty regularly, and our division is regularly mentioned in the news after we release records to the public. I love being able to read historical files about mobsters and serial killers. A lot of the material that I’ve worked on through the years has been posted to the FBI Vault, including the D.B. Cooper Files, and seeing things that I’ve worked on is rewarding. This job is a true-crime junkie’s dream.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? Since most of my current job is critical thinking and writing, the English program at Shepherd helped me tremendously to shape my writing and reading skills and, most importantly, to make me an effective communicator, regardless of my audience.
What advice would you give to current students? Take as many opportunities as you can! If you had asked me 8 years ago if I would be working where I do, I would’ve laughed. But now I get to lead a team and serve the American people. Having a plan for your life is great, but sometimes your life has other ideas. If you get an opportunity to do something you may enjoy, go for it!
Name: Jasmine Cleaver
Major, Minor: English (Creative Writing), Childhood Development
Year Graduated: 2015
Job Now: Transcription Company Senior Editor
What have you been up to since graduation? After graduation, I took a break to stay at home with my newborn daughter for a couple months to decompress. But eventually those student loans came knocking, and I worked at a local grocery store’s deli until I found my current job at a transcription company. My husband and I recently bought a house, and my daughter started pre-K this past year, so I have a few more things to balance on a day-to-day basis (especially with Covid), but everything’s been great for us!
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? I think the variety of calls that we cover for our clients is really interesting! I help in two of our departments with editing/sending files to clients: the broadcast department where rapid response is required for producing text to major news stations and their daily shows along with breaking news and interviews, and also the Wordx department where any kind of pre-recorded call can come in, including a number of companies’ quarterly earnings conference calls and even doctorate students’ remote final dissertation reports to determine if they passed their final year of school. I think the most memorable thing that I helped on was a scientific study pre-release of the findings on the advancement of cryogenic technology.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? Definitely my promotion from typist to editor about six or so months into working! Not only was it great to get that pay increase and know that my efforts had been recognized, but my promotion led to me having enough confidence to ask to work from home, which was accepted. Because of that, I no longer had to worry about child care and could be with my daughter so much more throughout the day.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? The two most important things at my job are producing quality work and meeting strict deadlines, and if that doesn’t match up with Shepherd’s English program, I don’t know what else would. Sure, the deadlines revolve more around an hourly basis instead of weekly ones, but honestly if I didn’t have the solid groundwork and time-management skills I developed during my time in my classes, I know I would be so much worse off.
What advice would you give current students? Stick with it and ask for accommodations when you need them! I know it’s easy to see your professors as people you can’t talk to or that you need to do things on your own for them to matter, but it’s just not true. I got pregnant my senior year and gave birth about five weeks into my final semester of school. I was beyond stressed and knew without a doubt that if I took a break from school, I probably wouldn’t come back to finish. My professors were so helpful and worked with me. If not for the support my family, friends, and professors gave me during the time I was driving 180 miles round trip every day that last semester, I would have broken down and quit before graduation day.
Name: Brianna Maguire
Major, Minor: English, Marketing
Year Graduated: 2018
Job Now: Associate Director of Customer Care at Carewell
What have you been up to since graduation? After graduation, I spent some time working with a really cool—Shepherdstown-founded!—company called OneClick.chat, where I learned how fun and exciting it is to work in a startup. I was (somewhat miraculously) accepted into a fellowship program called Venture for America, which helps place young professionals in growing companies and cities. When I accepted the fellowship, I knew that I had one primary goal: to get to work somewhere where I could make peoples’ lives better. The very first time I spoke to the founders of Carewell—where I work now—I knew that I’d found that place.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? Every part of my job is the best part of my job! I’m the head of Customer Care, which means I’ve basically gotten to build from scratch what I think is the coolest department at Carewell. Every single day is different—whether I’m creating a QA framework, figuring out how to project call volume and staff appropriately, partnering with content to answer our caregivers’ toughest questions, or just hopping on the phones for a few hours to provide support to overwhelmed caregivers, every day is such a joy. I remember working with our founders off a folding table and a couch, and now my team alone is expected to have around 60 people by the end of 2021. The pure energy of being in a company like this is incomparable, and I’m grateful every day that I get to do what I do. If I had to pick one thing to be the “best,” it would be the amazing work we’re doing at Carewell. Unpaid family caregivers are one of the most underserved groups in our culture, and being able to be a source of support, care, and even love for them is incredibly powerful.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? I can’t count the ways that Shepherd—and in particular the people there—helped shape who I am today. The skills you learn in the Department of English and Modern Languages are critical to really any role. Writing, persuasion, and careful reading can get you very, very far. Seriously, you don’t think about how important those skills are until you’re trying to teach yourself something like the never-ending complexity that is Excel off of blog posts. Equally important, though, are the skills that aren’t always what come to mind when you’re thinking about the English major. Being able to think critically, assess situations and people, and above all, foster creativity are abilities that will show up for you time and time again.
What advice would you give current students? I’ve learned a lot—and made many, many mistakes—while trying to find my footing in this role, and I’ll share two pieces of advice that have been really formative for me in the past few years. 1) Do the scary thing and stop limiting yourself. As a young leader, my biggest challenge has been overcoming my own expectations of what I can do. I’m fortunate to work under a female CEO in her 20s, so I’ve seen firsthand what can be accomplished once you drop the “I could never do that” talk. Google it, expect to fail sometimes, and seek mentorship when you can. That’s probably what your boss is doing, too. 2) It’s okay to be mission-aligned rather than role-aligned. I started my career with expectations of working in writing or publishing, which are amazing paths for a lot of people, but I quickly learned they were not for me. I never thought Customer Care was my destiny, but Carewell has taught me to be open to new challenges and that one of the most important factors in whether you’ll be satisfied in a role is whether you believe in the work you’re doing. Some days are super hard. I make big mistakes, and my “comfort zone” is a thing of the past. But I love my job—because I know why we’re all here, I know every person on this team is here for the same reason as me, and I know the impact this work is having on the world.
Name: Colin Henning
Double Major: Spanish and Political Science
Year Graduated: 2012
Job Now: Assistant Prosecuting Attorney
What have you been up to since graduation? After graduation I volunteered for the Peace Corps and spent two years on Java teaching English as a second language. While I was a volunteer, I met my wife, Enggar, and she moved with me back to West Virginia. I went to law school, and after graduating, I worked for two years as a law clerk. I have just begun a new position as an assistant prosecuting attorney and welcomed the birth of my daughter, Hanna.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? It may sound clichéd, but in my current position I have the responsibility and ability to both wield and blunt the overwhelming power of the state. I get to guard the guardians.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? After a year in the Peace Corps in country I was pretty much at ease with everything. I could speak the language fluently and was immersed in the culture enough to not get myself into trouble. I was in a fairly small village, and I was the sole representative of America there. This meant that I was posed many an interesting question. My favorite was one day when I took a bike ride into a remote mountain area. I stopped to chat with a man, and he asked me if Obama was still the king of America.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? Studying at Shepherd taught me that the more effort I put into something the more I will get out of it. Looking around, it seemed that one could pass one’s classes with the minimal effort required, or one could take advantage of the opportunity to improve oneself. That has been a beneficial lesson throughout my life after graduation.
How has speaking another language helped you in your career and life overall? I would not have been accepted into the Peace Corps if I had not been a Spanish major and especially had I not been a tutor at Shepherd. I also believe that learning Spanish made it easier to later learn Indonesian. Being a language learner also helped me to be a language teacher.
What advice would you give current students? Don’t just get by. Be the one who does a little more. It will benefit you in the long run.
Name: Keegan Brewster
Major, Minor: English (Literature), Journalism
Year Graduated: 2016
Job Now: Copy Editor and Editorial Assistant at J&J Editorial
What have you been up to since graduation? My first job post-graduation was in Wheeling, WV as a legal proofreader. I mainly proofread contracts and legal case documents. I then moved to Raleigh, North Carolina for a position as an Assistant Copy Editor, copyediting medical journal articles. I added on a second position at the same company as an Editorial Assistant. For that position, I help authors through the submission process for specific journals and assist the editors in their duties. The journals I have focused on are in immunology, biophysics, neurology, and otolaryngology. I have now lived in the Raleigh area for a little over three years.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? Reading articles in different medical fields has taught me a lot about different diseases and medical study protocol. I have also read so many COVID-19 articles that I have lost count. I get to see the new information as it comes out, which has been interesting. The company I work for and my coworkers are great, and I am so thankful that I found this job!
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? There have been a couple times when articles I worked on, whether in copyediting or editorial, have made such an impact that they ended up appearing, in a form for the public, in newspapers like The New York Times and others. I also recently learned that my company will be sending me to a professional conference later this year, which I am excited to attend.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? At Shepherd, I learned the importance of structure and word choice when writing papers and critical thinking skills, both of which have helped me with copyediting and communicating with authors to answer their questions effectively. I also learned how to help English language learners in writing papers in English, which has helped me when copyediting papers written by English language learners in my job. Learning time management skills at Shepherd ensured that I had all of my assignments done on time, which has helped me in juggling my responsibilities at work as well.
What advice would you give current students? Ask for help if you need it, either from professors or from tutors at the Academic Support Center. Take classes in subjects that interest you. Learn from any mistakes you make, so you can improve in the future! And if you can, add some extracurriculars and jobs to your time at Shepherd. I worked as a writing tutor while at Shepherd and joined The Rude Mechanicals for a semester. I believe that both of those helped me on my current career track, but they were also fun!
Name: Allyson Hayes
Major, Minor: English Education (5-Adult), French
Year Graduated: 2015
Job Now: English Teacher at South Hagerstown High School
What have you been up to since graduation? I’ve been teaching, and I went to France to earn my TEFL (Teachers of English as a Foreign Language) certification. I spent a month in Paris earning that certification, that month was probably one of the most formative of my life. I was by myself and forced to use the French minor I had earned at Shepherd. I’ve also been coaching soccer for the high school I work for, and that’s allowed me to breakout my dormant skills of yore (I played pretty competitively until I tore my ACL a second time in 10th grade). Between coaching soccer and surviving my first few years of teaching I’ve been pretty busy, now things are finally settling down. Last year I started pursuing my Master’s degree through East Carolina University’s online program; my focus is Multicultural and Transnational Literature. While I love the readings on their own merit, I also love the new texts and perspectives I’m being exposed to that I can bring into my classroom. Ultimately I’ve just been taking life one step at a time and keeping my eye out for opportunities.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? The best part of my job, hands down, is my students. I really do love them in all their teenage glory. They are unique young men and women just trying to figure out what to do next, and I consider it an honor to take part in their journeys. Every day I look forward to just talking to my kids, and not about school stuff. They aren’t always given the voices they deserve to have because of their age, and I love letting my room be a safe space for them to use those voices. During the lockdown when my school was teaching virtually, I think not seeing my students was the hardest aspect of being quarantined. I’m never bored; my kids never let me be.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? I mostly work with seniors, so it’s a hard choice for me between their excitement when the last bell rings on the last day of school or watching their joy at the graduation ceremony. Some of my kids never thought they would graduate; some of them are the first in their family to do so, and so for me those two moments make everything worth it. Nothing beats watching the kids hug and celebrate in the parking lot after the ceremony; it’s absolutely infectious.
How did our program help to prepare you for your current job? Shepherd did an amazing job preparing me for my career. Every single professor I had, especially in the English program, cared about my career goals. I’m thankful that I chose a school where the class sizes meant I could get one-on-one instruction whenever I needed it. Also, the education program has so much field practicum built into it that I felt prepared to walk into my future classroom. Also, I graduated on a Friday, and the following Monday I was walking into my first teaching gig. That gig is still my current job, and I wouldn’t have even heard about the position if it weren’t for one of my education professors. The connections and knowledge I gained from Shepherd were instrumental, and I’m grateful to my alma mater.
What advice would you give to current students? Keep your eyes and mind open to opportunity. You never know what new skills you’ll gain and what new insights you’ll learn. Also, it’s okay to be unsure about your future; everyone is whether they admit it or not. Embrace new ideas, approaches, and take things one step at a time!
Name: Jeremy McMullan
Major, Minor: English, History
Year Graduated: 2013
Job Now: American History Teacher (8th grade)
What have you been up to since graduation? Since graduation, I decided to enter education. I began as a substitute teacher before taking an accelerated Master’s program from May 2014 – May 2015. In grades 6 – 8, I am certified in social studies and English. For grades 9 – 12, I am certified to teach American history, world history, and English. At my second placement, I enjoyed the staff. I worked as a paraprofessional for a year before being hired as a 7th grade English teacher. After two years, my position was cut (low man on the totem pole). Due to my certifications, I was moved to a 7th and 8th grade split as a social studies/history teacher. I did that for two years before moving to only 8th grade American history, which is where I currently reside. As far as hobbies, I have always played basketball; however, during COVID I have experienced the longest basketball drought of my life since 1999. Furthermore, I have ambitions of being a bestselling writer. So far I have finished a novel that is to be the first in a series. Revising and editing has been the name of the game lately. I do admit I get sidetracked by my short stories. I worry if I don’t get it down, I’ll lose it. Before COVID, I was an avid concert attendee, brewery taster, and traveler to places previously unseen by my eyes. In 2019, I attended my first convention (Monster-Mania Con), pushing the envelope on just how nerdy I have become.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? I have unique interactions with my students and my coworkers. My profession is about adapting to the unexpected and conquering the unknown. I have been lucky to teach some great minds and to have seen some young learners progress more than I could have fathomed. Rapport with my students has always been one of my strengths. Likewise, I think it makes your life better when you find coworkers whom you can trust and be friends with outside of work. I have been fortunate.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? I think I have an outgoing personality, but from students I will battle disrespect and communication displaying undesirable and aggressive behavior. I don’t allow attitudes to slide and will generally push back, especially when it comes to interrupting the learning of others. If I have to remove a kid from my classroom, I always explain the unwelcome behavior and how to avoid those types of situations. Students learn quickly I have compassion and do sympathize with them, which is why I try to help them filter how they respond or create a situation. Usually, the disciplined students end up appreciating me, and I see the most improvement from these interactions. There ends up being a bond even with the worst behaved students, and we typically can open up more, which is what many of these kids need. You remember those moments the most.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? I was fortunate at Shepherd to have converted. I slowly transitioned to being a lover of fiction. I never read much fiction on my own. Teachers who taught me guided my writing and thinking progress. I try to instill some of the habits I developed. While at Shepherd University, I formed a special bond with Dr. Nixon. He was the first professor who deservingly gave me a D on a writing assignment (journals). I admit: I procrastinated, but what great artist doesn’t? However, what I produced was by no means brilliant. I was an A/B student and competitive, so the horrid grade crushed me deep down. I knew I could do better and this wasn’t my true character. I waited one week (learned a great lesson on how to present oneself and communicate effectively) before speaking with Dr. Nixon during his office hours. I told him how I felt and that this wasn’t me. I needed help so I wouldn’t do this again. After that meeting, there was a mutual respect, and he taught me more than any professor. I saw personal growth in my grammar, style, and sentence development. I would go over my writing with him as much as I could. His advice propelled my writing in many classes. In regards to my current career, I have been able to take the patience Dr. Nixon possessed with me and carry that forward in order to help my students. I too try to offer time. In American history, we constantly are teaching writing skills and how to produce all parts of an essay, so I am still using my English degree. I remember learning after writing a piece that it is best to let it sit before reading to revise and edit. I am pleased with the skills and knowledge I learned during my time at Shepherd University.
What advice would you give current students? I would use office hours if professors are willing to meet and discuss your work. Not every professor will do this, and that’s fine, but when one offers and you don’t take it, that’s on you. Ask questions all the time, even if it’s through email. Participate as engagement will help you command the content better. Have in mind what career you want. I admit, being a teacher was not my goal at Shepherd. I planned to attend law school. Also, I would experience as much of the college life as you can (even if you commute). Join some type of club or go to the Wellness Center. Develop not only your mind but a healthy lifestyle. Study days before a test. No, you’re not lame if you go study instead of hanging out with friends. Be open to meeting new people. Ashley Loudan, who was featured in 2020, is one of my best friends. We met in a creative writing class and continued from there. We still speak regularly. Above all, take the time to really learn. Enjoy your college life as one day you might just look back and miss it.
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!”