The Digital Age of English - Professors and students detail what studying English encompasses in and after college.
Written by Austin Harris, junior English major/communications intern
When she’s not in class or working at the Academic Enrichment Center in Morrill Hall, Ohio State Marion junior English major Kelly Spears has carved out a living as a freelance writer, primarily creating content for various online websites.
While studying English does involve analyzing literature and writing papers, many people are unaware of the practicality and usefulness that a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English provides, especially considering the rise in use of digital media globally.
“I’ll get a lot of jobs for one or two articles,” Spears said, “but then I write for a couple of blogs weekly and a couple of blogs monthly."
Even though she dabbles into the newly minted digital territory, she still has dreams of teaching English professionally.
“My ultimate goal is to be an English professor one day,” Spears added.
Ohio State Marion English Lecturer Lynda Behan felt that many former students have disproved the stereotype that English majors can only get jobs in publishing or education after college.
“Only a few of our former students are teaching,” said Behan. “We hear feedback from employers that tells us what they want is someone who can communicate well and if you can communicate clearly enough you can put your thoughts down in writing. It gives you a really broad background. It teaches you how to analyze. It teaches you how to think critically,” Behan said.
Ohio State Marion Associate Professor of English Sara Crosby painted a similar picture when asked about what people are doing with their degree.
“I know people who’ve gone through the English program and they are not in publishing or teaching; they are in all sorts of different things,” Crosby said. “We have people that do web content for various businesses. We’ve had people who work for Boys and Girls Club and various other non-profit organizations. People do a lot of different things with English.”
Ohio State Marion Associate Professor of English Ben McCorkle also shared his exuberance about the great skills gained studying English.
“I would say that any job that requires you to communicate with other human beings could benefit from any English studies education,” McCorkle said. “I think it has a pretty expansive soft-skill set and habits of mind that aren’t overly specialized.”
A big part of English studies has recently strived towards the training in and utilization of digital formats and platforms, such as social media, in courses like Digital Media Composition.
McCorkle is definitely an advocate of this movement.
“This recognition that with the advent of computers and the evolution of technology the thing we call ‘writing’ is more than just black marks on a white piece of paper,” he said. “I’m part of that camp of people, this digital media studies cohort, interested in what these new technologies mean and how we communicate using them.”
Ohio State Marion junior English major Erin Rhoades predicted a possible future home for many a word-lover.
“I think that digital media, social media, and websites are good places for English majors, if that's where they want to be,” Rhoades said. “Digital discourse is becoming increasingly popular, to the point that we see books being published solely online rather than physical copies”
“I think it depends on the individual rather than generalizing and deeming digital media suitable for all English majors,” Rhoades added.
There is a shared desire among Ohio State Marion faculty and students to change the generally accepted misconception that English is a not a worthwhile major for those seeking employment in today’s fast paced world.
“Obviously we are aware of these misconceptions and we are trying to sell different narratives to perspective majors and current majors,” McCorkle explained.
In the end, it’s not a dead-end for people who choose to study this major. Crosby felt that communication between entities is key.
“Employers really do appreciate people who can be creative, who know how to be team players, and who can communicate well, both writing and oral communication, and those who can think,” Crosby said. “That’s something English majors do very well.”
An important thing to bring up is that this anxiety isn’t exclusive among English majors or any other liberal arts majors. Rhoades explained, such universal fears.
“I think for any college student-- no matter the major --is right in worrying about landing a job after college,” Rhoades said, “but I know that there are many job opportunities out there for an English major post college. I feel as though a lot of people don’t view English as a useful degree,” she added, “when in reality it is very valuable.”
Researchers, such as Dr. Ben McCorkle, who study rhetoric and changes in the way we communicate as a society, feel we are on the cusp of a new era in English. With the advent of digital media communications, English is more than just grammar. There is a wealth of jobs in which a degree in English would not only be valued but sought after.