“What can you do with an English degree?”
Growing up, this was a question I encountered often, especially since, as family legend would have it, I spent much of my time in two pursuits: either burying my nose in a book or, pen in hand, being lost while creating my own. There was never a question – my heart belonged to stories: reading them, watching them, telling them.
Entering Millersville as an undergraduate, I was excited to study with dedicated scholars and cultivate a diverse skill set – which is exactly what I did. My critical thinking and writing skills – really, the way I viewed the world – were shaped by a variety of literature, writing, and journalism classes. I especially appreciated how classroom discussions and activities included situations I would potentially encounter in the professional field. For example, in Dr. Schneller’s technical writing class, our project was to craft a grant proposal to build a local recreational center, and it was a great experience (it was a project that I replicated years later, in my own college classroom).
I was also privileged to experience an internship through Millersville, gaining hands-on experience working for the Journal Register’s collection of weekly newspapers around Lancaster – an internship which eventually lead to a job offer after graduation in 2008.
As the field changed, I altered my course slightly, venturing into freelance journalism, eventually writing for a number of publications, including the York Daily Record and Lancaster County Woman, where I am still a senior member of the writing staff. Thanks to the confidence instilled in me by my Millersville education, I also was able to successfully undertake a variety of other writing projects, including grant writing, producing digital content, and copy editing.
In 2010, I returned to Millersville as an English graduate student because I knew the quality of the education I would receive there, and even as I was building a diverse professional profile, I was looking to expand into higher education. Again, I consider myself fortunate to be exposed to different kinds of literature, cultivating a broader understanding of world and how literature, film, and writing contribute to greater conversations. During my graduate degree, I was also privileged to work in the English office as a graduate assistant, honing my ability to teach through the guidance of experienced mentors – I consulted with students on writing assignments, discussed their experiences with literature, and even served as a Graduate Student Advisor to the re-launch of the then-named George Street Carnival. In the spring of 2012, I was delighted to defend my MA thesis and receive the distinction of Honors.
After finishing my MA, I began adjunct teaching at a number of area of institutions, including Harrisburg Area Community College, Baltimore City Community College, University of Baltimore, and York College, striving to emulate the strong guidance I received in my own education. In 2014, I opted to pursue my PhD and entered Temple University, where I am presently revising my dissertation focused on reading trauma in the literature of marginalized populations. While enhancing my academic profile, I have continued to build a professional writing profile, contributing my efforts to projects I believe in.
For me, the education I received at Millersville has been instrumental in helping me grow both personally and professionally. I cherish my experiences there and still use the lessons I learned to be more effective as a writer and instructor.
Thanks to Millersville and the MU English department, when faced with the question, “What can you do with an English degree?” I can answer confidently, “Everything.”
-Susan Cherie Beam