By Monica Sager
Willow McKeon ’22 went into college thinking she was going to be a history teacher or psychologist.
“I quickly found that history and psychology classes weren’t necessarily for me,” McKeon said. “What I did realize Freshman year is that I was really interested in the media analysis (mostly books and movies) that I did in other classes, that I missed my high school English classes, and that I definitely was passionate about education.”
And so an English major made sense.
McKeon has been working toward becoming an English teacher since her sophomore year, now graduating with a major and going next year to take part in Clark’s fifth year program for a Masters in the Art of Teaching for Secondary English.
“Hopefully (the major) will help me teach students English, if all my future plans pan out,” McKeon said. “In any case, I feel that reading and writing has been greatly beneficial in the development of my own identity and my ability to be critical of media, art, political pieces or ideas in general, and I’ll certainly carry that with me in whatever I do.”
McKeon, who double majored with community youth and education studies, said that the general wide breadth of the subject of English was one thing she enjoyed the most, as it exposed her to a variety of subject materials and authors throughout her four years in the major. She was able to read short stories, for example, in Professor James Elliott’s class that she wouldn’t have elsewhere.
“Lou Bastien really solidified the ways that I think about literature and interpretation in Mythopoetics and I’ve greatly enjoyed his poetry classes,” McKeon said. “Prof. Elliott’s short story class was also fantastic…Prof. Woodcock’s Post Apocalyptic Fiction was really unique and interesting, and of course the capstone with Prof. Neuman was so beneficial for improving my writing skills.”
For other English majors, the professors also really made the department for them.
“I decided to be an English major because I took Professor Senquiz’s Gothic American Literature course and, although it was difficult for my grade level (the course being a 300 level and me being a sophomore) I truly fell in love with the analytic style Professor Senquiz took to understanding literature,” Luna Stewart ’22 said.
Stewart, who is also a psychology major, noted that the attention the professors within the department also provided her made it special.
“I think the attention I received as an English major made the biggest impact because I was constantly pushed to give my best work and my professors knew exactly what that was since I had the same professor multiple times in my time at Clark,” Stewart said. “We have a fairly small English department here at Clark, but that allowed for me to have a closer relationship with my professors and receive more attention, both in criticism and support.”
Stewart’s plans for the future are to move to Brooklyn, NY and work as a paralegal while studying for the LSAT.
“I know my time as an English Major has greatly improved my writing abilities and speed of reading which I can only imagine will help a lot in the legal industry,” Stewart said.
For graduate student Alex Wells ’22, he worked full-time already at a position where good communication was fundamental, he said. With his new Master’s degree, he thinks he is prepared to do so even more.
“My English degree helped me think critically about how I was communicating in high-stress environments,” Wells said. “It also helped me when my employers were making changes to the employee handbooks/manuals because I was able to create reference documents which were precise, informative, and easy to navigate.”
Wells, who received an undergraduate degree in English from Grand View University, was inspired to pursue the field of English after a British Literature class he took at a community college.
“The professor teaching us was so excited and enthusiastic about the material, and it was clear to myself and the other students that he was having an enjoyable time teaching,” Wells said. ‘Seeing his passion and excitement every day made me realize that it was possible to pursue a career where I was interacting with literature on a regular basis.”
Through classes at Clark, Wells said that his viewpoints were really challenged by his peers. The graduate cohort pushed each other to think deeper and more nuanced on critical connections.
“Professor Blake’s Reading Voraciously class was a really interesting take on a lesser known type of literature – that which concerns itself with food and the act of eating,” Wells said. “This class in particular was really fun because it appealed to my interest in cooking and baking while also situating those extra-curricular hobbies within the realms of literature and academics.”
One class with Professor Dianne Berg on the Arthurian legend was “really fun to engage with,” Wells said.
“I learned so much – both inside the classroom and outside of it,” Wells said. “The English faculty here are truly some of the most passionate and dedicated I’ve ever had the good fortune to work with. It’s evident that they really care a lot about their work and their students, and that makes all the difference.”