Class of: 2006
Dumbledore tells Harry Potter in The Chamber of Secrets that “it is our choices [. . .] that show what we truly are, more than our abilities.” I find many things of value in J.K. Rowling’s books, but the emphasis upon our choices really resonates with me, particularly given that my choice to attend Carroll College and major in English was something that I made with time. I chose Carroll primarily because of the speech and debate team, and I was originally a chemistry major. I loved chemistry, but after writing sonnets in organic chemistry lab, I realized that I truly belonged in English. I chose to change my chemistry major to a minor and focus on English, and I’ve never regretted it. I’ve spent the years since graduating completing a Master’s at the University of Chicago, and I am currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota in the English department, studying early modern and medieval literature, rhetoric, and critical theory.
My choice to call the English department home showed that I was meant to spend my time reading and writing about the medieval and early modern periods and critical theory. The faculty both supported and nurtured my interests. Dr. Stottlemyer helped me find a way to spend a summer studying at Cambridge University in the UK, and this time allowed me to begin researching what would become my undergraduate thesis. I was able to help organize the second Carroll Literary Festival, tutor writing, and guest lecture in some of my classes. All of these activities prepared me to excel in graduate school, and I was also employed as an editor at the end of my senior year because of the superior writing and review skills I acquired as an English major. I have presented at numerous conferences, recently had my MA thesis published, and won several fellowships both in my MA and Ph.D. programs, and I credit my education in English at Carroll with helping me achieve these accomplishments.
Dr. Matthew Kaiser, a Harvard professor, writes, “Study literature. Study it like your life depends upon it—because, in this wordy young century, it does,” and my advice would be similar to current or prospective English majors. Choose English, because you won’t regret this choice. Language animates our reality, and studying language and literature will give you power to shape your world. Don’t be cowed by scoffing from people who fail to see the value of studying English, and don’t quell in the face of incredulous naysayers who warn that studying English will only lead to unemployment. Long-term employment statistics for English majors actually reveal that English majors have very low rates of unemployment. Make the choice to study literature and language and you won’t regret it; I certainly don’t!