Course aims to make networking, career prep less daunting for English majors

Brynn Boehler
February 26, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As a college student, one of the primary challenges that undergraduate education can bring is building a professional network while learning and growing in classes. Internships, resumes, future schooling options, entrance exams, networking events and so much more can be difficult to navigate confidently, especially for liberal arts students. With a wide variety of career options in the liberal arts, the process can get confusing.

A new study says that with today’s evolving economy, there’s a greater need for the skills of liberal arts graduates but that many colleges could do better in helping students translate that into jobs.

An English course at Penn State is doing just that.

ENGL 111 The Possibilities of English aims to make networking and career skills less daunting, especially for English majors. The structure of this course gives students professional role models and guidance on how their post-collegiate paths may develop.

Sean Goudie, associate professor of English, currently teaches the course. He begins the semester by asking, “What are you going to do with an English major?” and then, “Why do people ask that question?” These prompt students to think about the assumptions that many people may have about what can and cannot be done with an English major. Goudie says he hopes it will help students answer those questions “in practical and systematic ways.”

In English 111, two main components help students find the value in their major. First, faculty and staff in the English department and College of the Liberal Arts discuss the numerous options that will allow them to make the most of their major and expand their opportunities. They discuss everything from study abroad programs and fellowships, to concentrations and minors.

The next step involves bringing alumni speakers who represent a variety of career fields. So far, the class has heard from speakers whose jobs range from working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to Penguin Random House to Penn State’s Institute for CyberScience.

Former English 111 student Pooja Bhatia recently wrote to Goudie to praise this aspect of the course, which she said helped her greatly.

“It helped me to build up the confidence I needed to enter the world of advertising and marketing, even though I used to think that my skills were limited to one thing,” Bhatia said.

During her time at Penn State, English 111 and Goudie led Bhatia to an internship at the Penn State Press. After graduation, Bhatia spent some time in the U.S. looking for work before moving home to Dubai. There, she learned that there were not many opportunities in the publishing field. Despite this, she found a position at an advertising startup, where she enjoys being a full-time copywriter and social media content manager.

Bhatia’s example shows the cycle of the English 111 class, where English majors see a broad view of opportunities for their major and eventually go on to be successful in varied fields themselves. Of the alumni and his former students, Goudie said, “They inspire me each and every time I teach the course and reaffirm my own belief in the profound benefits of a liberal arts education.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated February 26, 2019