Profile of One of Our Graduates
Name: Katie Hardy
Major, Minor: English, Business Administration and Family and Consumer Sciences
Year Graduated: 2019
Job Now: Dependency Case Manager
What have you been up to since graduation? Life has been a whirlwind since graduation. Initially, I got a job as a Human Resource Specialist for a Community Health Center. I worked there throughout the pandemic, and my main responsibilities consisted of new employee onboarding and orientation, verifying certifications and licensing, processing medical leave paperwork, and other various employee-related tasks. I worked there for about two years, and lived in Martinsburg with one of my Delta Zeta sisters! In that time, I also got a pitbull named Peaches. At the beginning of this year, I decided I wanted a change, and began the process of moving to Florida to be closer to my brother and sister-in-law. Before I moved, my roommate and I got to take a road trip to the Grand Canyon. I felt so lucky to be able to take some time off work to travel across the country, and I have also been so incredibly happy to travel to a new place to live. Since being in Florida, I have started a new career path in Case Management. I have only been at my job for a short while, but I am absolutely loving it. I perform home visits, document case notes, attend court hearings, and much more. It has been a really good change of pace for me.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? I really enjoy getting to meet new people and have new experiences. There is something new happening every day, which keeps things interesting. I’ve also gotten to enjoy hearing stories from people’s lives when I sit down to have conversations with them. This really helps me to have some insight into who they are, how their family operates, and what strengths and weaknesses we can focus on.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? Between my previous job and my current one, my favorite moments always include getting to help others, having important conversations, and having the opportunities to make suggestions and implement them. At my previous job, I had so many moments that new employees would pop in to ask me a question or to thank me for helping them through their first week. At my current job, I’ve already had families update me with pictures of their weekends spent together. Those little moments make me feel so good to be doing what I’m doing.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? The Department of English and Modern Languages at Shepherd did so much to help me prepare for many things. The English program gave me wonderful résumé-building tips, confidence in sharing my opinions with those who might differ, and the skills to approach every situation with an open mind. I have so many professors I wish I could personally thank, and so many stories that have stuck with me into my professional life.
What advice would you give current students? My biggest piece of advice would be to keep your confidence and passions going into the workforce. It is challenging to be a young, fresh-out-of-college, new adult in the professional world, but it helps when you remember your skill-sets and remind yourself of what you bring to the table. I would also encourage current students to appreciate the college experience as much as you can—you might be ready for it to be over when you’re stressing about a long paper or a test, but some of my favorite memories are from sitting in a classroom discussing plot twists and potential thesis statements. I miss it all the time!
Name: Katy Cousino
Major, Minor: English (Creative Writing), Women’s/Gender Studies
Year Graduated: 2013
Job Now: Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program Counselor
What have you been up to since graduation? Shortly after graduation I moved to South Bend, Indiana to earn my MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Notre Dame. I wrote so much and grew as a writer, gained wonderful friendships, attended a professional cat show, and visited Chicago as much as I could. Perhaps most formative, though, was my work as the program’s Outreach Coordinator. My passion for working with at-risk youth became a clear path for me to follow when I began facilitating writing workshops at a juvenile detention center. I enjoyed, too, community involvement the role granted me, like writing spontaneous, custom poems out of a historic book shop for passersby or organizing LGBTQIA+ writing workshops and fundraising events in the South Bend community. After graduate school, I moved to Hagerstown, Maryland and struggled initially to find a job or career that really fit. In the spring of 2019, I began working as a PRP Counselor at Excel Youth, a therapy office with a twist of social work and community engagement. I also taught an English 101 course at Shepherd University in the 2019 fall semester, which was a whirlwind of learning for my students and me, as well as a professional challenge for me to balance both counseling and teaching.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? I love making my own schedule and doing something different each day. I feel honored and lucky to be in my clients’ lives, whether it be helping them to overcome hardships and achieve mental health goals, or just getting them out of their homes and unglued from electronic screens. I hope, too, at my ripe age of 31, that continuing to work with kids will keep me spry!
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? Times I enjoy most with my clients: seeing them try new things like chocolate-covered espresso beans or ice-skating. I enjoy making things with my clients, too, like DIY journals, “mental health badges,” and recreating a variety of therapeutic worksheets that promote confidence or explore behavioral issues. That’s probably the best part, when I see that my efforts are working and those behavioral issues are waning.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? The English program enabled me to work on Sans Merci for consecutive years, which gave me a versatile skillset of collaboration abilities, organization, editing, use of language, note-taking, and creativity/thinking outside of the box or from all perspectives. The last of which I attribute also to the nurturing of the English faculty and my study of the humanities in general. Never let those cheerleaders for STEM programs devalue the humanities’ purpose; human beings need art, stories, empathy, and communication skills every day (especially during a pandemic)! Finally, one mind-blowing, foundational realization for me during my time as an English major was that one can make an argument for anything, and if written well enough, that argument can convince anyone. What a delightfully powerful yet menacing tool writing is! In this light, research becomes vital for writer and reader, another skillset I learned (excruciatingly) through the building of bibliographies. If I close my eyes and imagine I’m inside the computer lab of Knutti Hall, I can still feel the scrutiny of proper MLA citation hovering over me.
What advice would you give current students? Keep your avenues open and take creative risks. Don’t allow other students or professors to talk over you. Wear pajama pants to your morning classes, for comfort and protest.
Name: Marta Senn
Major, Minor: English (Creative Writing), Theatre Production
Year Graduated: 2012
Job Now: Mid-Atlantic Regional Manager for Muse Paintbar, overseeing nine studios in Maryland and Virginia
What have you been up to since graduation? The year after graduation, I moved to Japan to teach English as a second language to middle school students. I stayed for two incredible years and got some great life experiences out of it. For a few months after that, I traveled Southeast Asia and Europe before coming back to the states and settling in Virginia.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? No two days are ever the same. Our studios give customers a fun and entertaining space to get creative and make memories. The most gratifying part of my position is hiring local creative minds to teach these classes, connect with other artists, and to grow in a very competitive field. When customers say they had a great time and thank the employees for helping them try something new, we know we’ve made a difference and sparked creativity in people.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? I think my favorite moment was the day we opened our newest studio in Arlington, Virginia. It was a years-long process that was delayed for every reason under the sun, but after an incredible journey, plenty of blood and sweat, and more than a handful of fourteen-hour days, we opened in the fall of 2020. It was so satisfying after such a long wait to finally open our doors and to give our newly hired employees their studio.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? Shepherd University gave me the tools to think creatively. I use what I learned every day in communications with my teams as well as drafting press releases and marketing copy for social media. Shepherd also gave me opportunities to step outside of my comfort zone and take risks, and every day I reap the rewards!
What advice would you give current students? Be flexible! Keep learning! You don’t know where your path will lead, but what matters the most is that you take advantage of every personal connection and opportunity you encounter. You don’t know who will be helpful or offer you the next piece of advice that will make a difference in the long run. Did I ever think I would be where I am today? Of course not! But every job I’ve had gave me the leadership experience and communication skills I needed to be a regional manager. Some days I feel like I’m making it up as I go, but I ask questions, I lean in, and every day I get better at what I do.
Name: Keara Heck
Major, Minor: English, Education
Year Graduated: 2020
Job Now: Proposal Coordinator
What have you been up to since graduation? After graduation, I was hired by the Berkeley County Board of Education in Berkeley County, West Virginia, after serving as a communications intern during my senior year of college. This was a great transition for me as a recent college graduate, given the economic climate we were facing due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I knew that for a short time after graduation, I wanted to stay in the area and continue pursuing a career in education. Over the next year, I contemplated the option of pursuing a master’s degree in teaching and entering the classroom or pursuing a master’s degree in communications to remain within my current career path. However, that all changed when I was offered the opportunity to join a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) based out of Northern Virginia, specializing in government contracting (it also provided the opportunity to work 100% remote from home, so that was a bonus). I joined the company as a Human Resource Specialist and, within a few months, transitioned over to our Growth and Business Development team as a proposal coordinator.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? As a proposal coordinator, I help facilitate the development and strategic approach of my team’s written responses to the government’s Request for Proposals (RFPs). Typically, my team consists of members from my company and members from various other companies within the industry. This collaboration allows major networking opportunities and the chance to learn from an even more diverse group of professionals. A majority of the work my company bids centers around supporting technologies utilized by the Department of Veteran Affairs to enhance the lives of our active military service members, veterans, and military families. So, I would have to say that the best/most interesting part of my job is collaborating with an array of specialized professionals who can come together to share a common goal of providing the best, most innovative solutions to our military service members and their families. It gives our work a purpose and meaning.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? My favorite/most memorable on-the-job moment was when I was invited to attend the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore’s 39th Annual Awards Gala to honor active military servicemembers, veterans, military families, and USO volunteers. The evening highlighted the hard work and sacrifices of military medical professionals, especially their work during the height of the global pandemic. This was also one of my first in-person events “post-Covid” since joining the company, so it was nice to officially meet and connect with my team members and partners while supporting a great organization like the USO.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? I know for certain that I would not be the person nor professional I am today if it weren’t for the steadfast support and encouragement I received from the professors in the Department of English and Modern Languages. My daily tasks as a proposal coordinator include organizing a proposal team in developing complete, compliant, and compelling customer proposals, maintaining schedules, organizing resources, coordinating inputs and reviews, and ensuring strategy implementation to secure wins. My role now makes me appreciate the hours of peer review workshops that my classmates and I would dread as it taught me how to provide critical feedback to the solution architects and technical writers I work with daily. I now appreciate the multiple English courses I took each semester as they prepared me to remain calm and organized during the busy proposal season. I know now that being able to think critically and communicate effectively are invaluable skills that I was fortunate to learn from my professors and can now use to build winning proposals.
What advice would you give current students? 1) Don’t let the preconceived ideas you formed before college or during college hold you back from making a change that might be for the better—even if it’s in the final semesters before you graduate. I thought I had to stay on track to become an English teacher because that’s what I had decided when I was a freshman. In reality, as an English major, I was given the tools by my professors to be anything and everything I wanted to be after graduation. 2) Do not take round-table discussions with your professors and peers for granted. I would do anything to be back on the second floor of Knutti Hall arguing my point of view over a James Baldwin or Virginia Woolf piece again.
Name: Justin Tyree
Major, Minor: Secondary English Education
Year Graduated: 2016
Job Now: 8th Grade English Language Arts Teacher
What have you been up to since graduation? After graduating from Shepherd, I moved to Wake Forest, North Carolina to pursue a master’s degree in Christian Education from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS). While studying at SEBTS, I served as a substitute teacher in Wake Country Public Schools, building many practical classroom skills and gaining knowledge of a new state’s school system. After graduating with my M.A. in 2019, I accepted a long-term substitute position at Wakefield Middle School in Raleigh, NC . . . just before the pandemic began! The next fall, I joined the staff of Wakefield Middle as a full-time English teacher. I serve on our school’s improvement team and will step into the role of English department chair next school year, which feels both surreal and exciting. These years of pandemic teaching have been full of surprises, pivots, unforeseen challenges, and creative problem solving, but I truly enjoy what I do!
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? Working with middle schoolers means that “interesting” moments will be daily occurrences! However, one of the best parts of my job is how collaborative my school is. Teaching is often seen as a very individualistic job because traditionally teachers plan and teach in their own classroom bubbles. But at my school we work in teams of four teachers who all share the same students and plan in PLTs (Professional Learning Teams) with all of the teachers who teach the same subject and grade. (That’s 8th grade English teachers in my case.) These teams of teachers make it possible for us to share ideas, capitalize on individual strengths, support others’ weaknesses, and build a united front of support for students. I have to admit that initially this level of collaboration felt daunting, but experience shows that these teams can be true blessings to teachers, students, and families alike.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? My favorite on-the-job moments typically involve seeing the proverbial lightbulb come on when my students finally grasp a difficult concept, relate to a character’s experience, find a book they enjoy for the first time, or make a real-world connection to something we are learning in class. Those moments remind me why I chose education as my career path and why it is so important that schools exist as places to help students have those lightbulb experiences. As for memorable moments, I love to laugh with my students. Whether those laughable moments are created by my intentionally cringey dad jokes and improvised silly songs or my students’ feeble attempts to teach me the latest slang, we are making memories that I’m sure we’ll all carry for years.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? The Shepherd English program prepared me to work as a teacher and professional in innumerable ways! Of course the broad scope of authors and works covered in each class at Shepherd provided me with diverse options to teach and suggest to even the most reluctant readers for “fun reads.” The rigor of Shepherd’s program helped me build an attention to detail and foster stamina that is needed in the very demanding and multifaceted world of teaching. But perhaps the most impactful ways that Shepherd’s Department of English and Modern Languages equipped me to teach English were the subtle, skillful methods of the professors that were simply modeled (but never explicitly taught). For example, Dr. Messenger’s “form and function” mantra has proven an excellent tool for helping even middle schoolers understand an author’s craft and dissect difficult texts. Dr. Wenger’s emphasis on shifting one’s view of writing from linear to recursive, when applied with my middle schoolers, has built confidence and fostered growth in writing. Finally, I adopted Dr. Nixon’s revision PowerPoints that utilize authentic student errors (the ones that caused great trepidation in so many college students—ha!) and have seen significant growth in my students’ writing each year. The amazing thing about the Shepherd English program (especially for future teachers) is that you can learn just as much from the craft of its professors as you can from their lessons, if you know where to look.
What advice would you give current students? My advice to current students is to keep your eyes open for unexpected opportunities to learn and to build a community of fellow students in the department whom you can learn, laugh, and grow with. Your experience will be significantly enhanced by a great group of friends! Take advantage of the extra opportunities like the AHWIR events to remind yourself how all of the literature you are studying and writing you are doing translates into real peoples’ lives. If you truly invest in your studies at Shepherd, your investment will pay dividends for years to come!
Name: Joshua Cross
Major, Minor: English, Education
Year Graduated: 2003
Job Now: Senior Lecturer, Department of English, Coastal Carolina University
What have you been up to since graduation? After graduation, I worked as a proofreader for a year before starting my M.A. in English at UNC-Charlotte, where I taught college courses for the first time. I followed that up by returning to Shepherd in 2006, where I taught as an Adjunct Professor of English for two amazing years. Then I began my Ph.D. program in English with a concentration in Creative Writing—Fiction at Oklahoma State University, graduating in December 2015. While working on my Ph.D., I met my wife, got married, had a kid, taught a lot of classes, and wrote most of the stories that eventually made up my book. I began teaching at Coastal Carolina University in the fall of 2016 and published my first book, Black Bear Creek: Stories (Southeast Missouri State University Press) in March 2021.
What is the best/most interesting part of your job? The best part of my job at Coastal is getting to work with bright students and getting to see them progress as readers, writers, and critical thinkers. While my teaching duties are primarily with first-year students in composition and intro to creative writing courses, I have had the opportunity to work individually with some advanced undergraduate and graduate students on creative projects they are passionate about. I’ve also mentored graduate students who are transitioning into the classroom for the first time, which has been immensely rewarding. This past year, I became the faculty Fiction Editor for our online literary journal, Waccamaw, where I had the privilege of working with a great group of students from our M.A. in Writing program to select and edit the content of the most recent issue.
What has been your favorite and/or most memorable on-the-job moment? My second year at Coastal, I taught an amazing section of ENGL 201: Intro to Creative Writing. It was one of those rare groups of students and writers who just immediately clicked and formed a real community. That class made me smile every day, and I remained close with a number of the students over the past five years. I worked with a few of them on projects after our class, taught an independent study for one, and helped them apply for scholarships and fellowships and graduate programs. I’ve seen them graduate, get jobs, go to graduate school. I’ve written letters of recommendation for them and even had one write a letter of recommendation for my promotion file this year. Building those lasting relationships with students has been a joy, and it reminds me so much of the type of relationship I was able to build as a Shepherd student.
How did our program help you prepare for your current job? I can say without exaggeration that I would not be the teacher or the writer I am now without the English program at Shepherd. I can trace both of those careers back to Shepherd. Every semester, I give my students advice that professors like Dr. Betty Ellzey and Dr. Michael Austin gave me when I was an undergrad, important lessons from almost twenty years ago that have never left me. I learned so much about teaching in those classrooms on the second floor of Knutti Hall, and then even more when I taught in those same classrooms. Shepherd was my first teaching job, and the experience of working closely with the professors who had been my teachers was transformative. When I came toward the end of my M.A. program, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. or teach college English. Thanks to the faith that Dr. Ellzey and Dr. Charles Carter showed me, I learned from my time teaching at Shepherd that it was the right career path, and they helped me apply for Ph.D. programs to take the next step. I also learned so much about writing at Shepherd. I had written a lot of poetry before, but one of the first short stories I can remember writing was in Dr. Philip Bufithis’s Introduction to Creative Writing course. More important than that story itself was the feeling I got in workshopping and revising that story, the feeling that I could write fiction. I was also exposed to so many influential writers in the courses at Shepherd and through the Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence program and other readings and events on campus and around Shepherdstown. When I returned to Shepherd to teach, the department paired me with Dr. Alan Tinkler, who was the creative writing faculty at that time, as a mentor, and he read and reread countless drafts of stories I was writing. Two of those stories that I worked on with Alan were the first stories I published in literary journals, both while I was teaching at Shepherd. My paths as teacher and writer both began at Shepherd.
What advice would you give current students? The advice I give my own students is: Go to your professors’ office hours. Get to know them, and let them get to know you. I couldn’t begin to add up all the hours I spent in the offices of Dr. Sylvia Shurbutt and Dr. Ellzey and Dr. Carter and all the other faculty I had as a Shepherd student. I learned so much from those individual meetings where we looked over drafts of essays I was writing or continued discussions that had begun in class. They were always gracious with their time, and those meetings shaped my education just as much as the time I spent in the classroom. The other piece of advice I would give current Shepherd students is to get involved and take part. Go to everything you can. Readings, lectures, plays, concerts, festivals, art exhibits—everything. Take advantage of all the enrichment opportunities Shepherd University provides, and branch out from campus too. Shepherdstown has a rich history of literature, storytelling, art, music, and culture. Experience it all. Take trips to DC and Baltimore and experience even more. Study abroad if you can. You won’t regret any of it.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.