(From The Campus Lantern – November 13, 2014)
On Wednesday, October 22, the Eastern Connecticut State University English Department hosted the “English at Work” Panel. ENG 202, Introduction to English Studies teaching assistants Mikayla Zagata, Ryan Bahan, and Jessica Link, moderated the panel. Panelists included Dr. Elsa M. Núñez, president of the university; Michael Palumbo from the Center for Instructional Technology at Eastern; Starsheemar Byrum, coordinator of Eastern’s Women’s Center and the Sexual Assault & Interpersonal Violence Response Team (SAIV-RT); Christopher Drewry, Director of the Academic Services Center; and William Bisese, Director the Academic Services Center.
The panelists were first asked what English studies meant to them. Dr. Núñez and Polumbo agreed that the study of words is important in reading, writing, and transferring ideas from one person to another.
When asked why they chose to study English, the panelists discussed professors and teachers who inspired them to follow their dreams. Bisese spoke of an academic advisor who helped him find his passion for English studies in college; coincidently, he was also moved to work in advising. Dr. Núñez shared a personal anecdote from college in which a professor helped her improve her writing in an English course so much that she took up an English major. Byrum explained that English professors at Eastern helped her when she was feeling homesick in the beginning of college; it was that faculty-student relationship that inspired her to study English.
The moderators then asked what the most important lesson that the panelists learned as English majors. Polumbo talked about the “superpowers” that he learned as an English major: the ability to convey messages and the power to learn and teach. Drewry stressed that the English major teaches students to successfully read others’ points of views and articulate their own opinions. Bisese discussed the power of the written word and the importance of punctuation.
Although each panelist is very successful in their careers, there were still parts of the English major that were difficult when they were in college. Byrum talked about the difficulty she had in Dr. Tapia’s “Modern American Grammar” class here at Eastern. With a laugh, she said she still could not diagram sentences to this day.
Although each panelist went into different careers, each of them still uses the skills they gained as English majors in their everyday lives. Dr. Núñez discussed how she is given more opportunities because of her English skills; she is skilled at and enjoys writing, so she is a valuable member of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system.
There was also a discussion of different career opportunities that are available to English majors. Dr. Núñez mentioned that English majors are likely to be hired for marketing and advertising jobs because of their critical thinking and writing skills; she encouraged students to apply to entry-level jobs that may not suit traditional English majors. Drewry agreed that the options are limitless for English majors. On the subject of the idea that English majors will have low-paying jobs, he reassured students that some of the most financially stable people that he knows were English majors.
The panel ended with individual questions for each panelist. Dr. Núñez talked about how she went from being a linguist to being the president of a university; Palumbo discussed how he “moved up in the ranks” and became an editor in the publishing industry; Byrum spoke about how Eastern changed from when she was an undergraduate and her appreciation for the university; Drewry touched upon advice that he gives to English students in his work as an advisor; Bisese gave advice to students who may want to study English in graduate school. Students in attendance walked away that night with a variety of stories that they could potentially apply to their own career.