“What can you do with an English major?” Alums answer
Centre College alumni are full of sage advice, and several recently returned to their alma mater to share some wisdom with current students. On Monday, Feb. 28, four alumni joined current students to discuss the many practical uses of an English major—proving that this major is useful in a plethora of career fields.
“We wanted to show students that there are more things one can do with an English major than just teach high school or college English,” says H.W. Stodghill Jr. and Adele Stodghill Professor of English Dan Manheim. “Reading carefully, discovering patterns, making intuitive connections, expressing difficult ideas in clear terms—these are skills that are valuable to anyone in any profession.”
Speaking to current and future English majors were Rob Duncan ’00, an attorney in the Lexington U.S. Attorney’s office; Rob Edwards ’98, the Director of Public Affairs for UK Health; Jen Adkins Reynolds ’95, who does marketing in the publishing industry; and Jenny Taylor Tarter ’93, an Ob-Gyn.
During the event, these alumni shared the many ways their years at Centre—and their many English courses—paved the way for their success. Their advice, Manheim says, included that the current students should “follow your dreams, enjoy what you’re doing, don’t be afraid to study what you like studying—that sort of thing. Several had more specific, pointed information for students who contacted them after the event. It was possible to do a little networking, if anyone wanted!”
Manheim adds that “what struck me most about the event was the way none of the speakers, not even the physician, felt any discontinuity between what they had studied in college and what they were doing with their lives. As Jenny Tarter said, paying careful attention to what people say is something she does every day. Reading literature doesn’t have to be seen as an indulgence of highly verbal people; it’s at the heart of living well and working well, whatever the profession in which you discover your most deeply satisfying life.”
Centre’s English department hopes to hold a similar event in the future.
“Providing an opportunity for students to meet outstanding alums who are successful in fields that don’t have an obvious connection to their college major is a good thing not just for the English major,” Manheim says, “but for how we all perceive the liberal arts. It’s not about training—it’s about learning how to think and write and reason and understand people.”