Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Technology and the Humanities

I'm teaching Michael Herr's Dispatches in my ENG102 (English Composition II) class right now, and reading it reminds me of why I do what I do, or rather, why what I do is important.  The analogies between the Vietnam War and our ongoing conflict in the Middle East are of course limited by culture and geography, but I think most people would agree that we've expended a lot in terms of treasure, if not blood, with very little to show for it. One theme in Herr's book is the massive technological advantage of the American forces and how little that mattered, in the end:

At the end of my first week in country I met an information officer who showed me on his map and then on his chopper what they'd done to the Ho Bo Woods, the vanished Ho Bo Woods, taken off by giant Rome plows and chemicals and long, slow fire, wasting hundred of acres of cultivated plantation and wild forest alike, "denying the enemy valuable resources and cover."

It had part of his job for nearly a year now to tell people about that operation; correspondents, touring congressmen, movie stars, corporation presidents, staff officers from half the armies in the world, and he still couldn't get over it.  It seemed to be keeping him young, his enthusiasm made you feel that even the letters he wrote home to his wife were full of it, it really showed what you could do if you had the know-how and the hardware.   And if in the months following that operation incidences of enemy activity in the larger area of War Zone C had increased "significantly," and American losses had doubled and then doubled again, none of it was happening in any damn Ho Bo Woods, you'd better believe it...

Certainly technology is the biggest factor in increased productivity, and higher education has been slow to adapt to new technology.  I read Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen's book The Innovative University last summer.  Christensen argues that many schools have gotten themselves into trouble by trying to be like Harvard, with a focus on narrowly-defined research, and that colleges like Ashland should primarily teach "knowledge the world can use," practical stuff like business, science, and education, and leave the metaphysical navel-gazing to the prestigious liberal arts schools that can afford it.   He writes glowingly of the possibility of "disruptive technologies" like online courses, which he believes are becoming equivalent in quality to traditional face-to-face courses.

I think he's right, to a degree.  I went to a large state university, U.C. Berkeley, for my undergraduate degree.  Many of my courses were large lectures, and if we'd had the Internet then, I could have watched them online.   Yes, many classes had "discussion sections" with teaching assistants, but the bulk of the material was covered in lecture.  Actually, a lot of the material was covered in the textbooks, a very old technology.  And in those courses, I learned a lot about what people already knew.

But because I came to Cal already pretty good at English, I was able to get into the "by permission of the instructor only" creative writing courses and honors seminars.  And in those courses, I learned a lot about myself.   I still have my first paper from Stephen Booth's Shakespeare seminar, a reader-response analysis of the St. Crispin's day speech from Henry V.   My seven-page paper came back covered in four colors of ink, with ten single-spaced typewritten pages of comments.   In my other courses, I'd be lucky if I got more than a sentence from a teaching assistant.  The comments themselves were both brilliant and humbling, and I suddenly realized I wasn't as smart as I'd always thought I was:  "Don't let your reader hear you sweat trying to be winsome," Booth wrote at one point.   "You have the confidence that allows you to go off half-cocked," he commented on another passage.  "Confidence is a good thing.  Going off half-cocked is not."

The next semester I tried to take another course with Booth, a large lecture on comedy.   The rumor was that Booth wouldn't let you take more than one course with him-- "If I have anything to teach you, you'll learn it in one semester," he told us-- but I decided to put it to the test.   Midway through the first lecture, in an auditorium with about a hundred students, he saw me, stopped suddenly, and said, "You don't belong here," and then went back to the lecture.  I dropped the course that afternoon.    He had taught me what he had to teach. 

When I see footage of a new, $400-million-a-pop F-22 fighter blasting an ISIS command-and-control center, I think of Dispatches.   And when I hear business gurus like Christensen talking about teaching only "knowledge the world can use" and the "disruptive technology" of on-line learning, I think about the value of real human interaction in the classroom-- and the value of the humanities.    Adam Gopnik, a staff writer for the New Yorker, said it well in his blog post from last year, "Why Teach English?"

No sane person proposes or has ever proposed an entirely utilitarian, production-oriented view of human purpose. We cannot merely produce goods and services as efficiently as we can, sell them to each other as cheaply as possible, and die. Some idea of symbolic purpose, of pleasure-seeking rather than rent seeking, of Doing Something Else, is essential to human existence. That’s why we pass out tax breaks to churches, zoning remissions to parks, subsidize new ballparks and point to the density of theatres and galleries as signs of urban life, to be encouraged if at all possible. When a man makes a few billion dollars, he still starts looking around for a museum to build a gallery for or a newspaper to buy. No civilization we think worth studying, or whose relics we think worth visiting, existed without what amounts to an English department—texts that mattered, people who argued about them as if they mattered, and a sense of shame among the wealthy if they couldn’t talk about them, at least a little, too. It’s what we call civilization.

Or, as Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden, "The civilized man is a wiser and more experienced savage."  

Friday, October 10, 2014

Spring 2015 English Department Course Offerings


ENG102: Writing on Film and Literature
Dr. Maura Grady
TTh 12:15-1:30, TTh 1:40-2:55, TTh 3:05-4:20
Composition II Core Requirement

In this class you will meet the ENG 102 course objectives as you learn the basics of film language, read engaging and challenging texts on film and study 3 literature-to-film adaptations in depth, with the goal of producing several inquiry-driven research projects. 
 Our primary films will be The Shawshank Redemption, It Happened One Night, and The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum

Most readings will be available on Angel for download, but you are required to purchase the following texts:

1. The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, by Heinrich Böll, translated by Leila Vennewitz.  Penguin Classics, 1994.  ISBN-10: 0140187286  (make sure you purchase this specific translation)

2. A Short Guide to Writing About Film, 8th edition by Timothy Corrigan, Longman, 2011, ISBN-10: 0205236391


ENG217A:  (Postmodern) British Literature 
Dr. Gary Levine
MWF 11:00-11:50
Core Humanities

Likely Texts: 
Martin Amis, Money: A Suicide Note. Viking.
Caryl Churchill, Cloud Nine. Theatre Communications Group Press.
Peter Fallon, ed. Penguin Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry. Penguin USA.
Irvine Welsh, Trainspotting. W.W. Norton.
Jeanette Winterson, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. Grove Press.

Course preview:  This course will focus on more contemporary British and Irish literature, a period that has sometimes been described using the term "postmodernism."  Postmodernism by its very nature has multiple definitions, but perhaps the best way to think about it for our purposes is as the literary response to the conditions of late-modern capitalism.  Postmodern literature does not always obey the conventions of traditional and modern literature, which means it can be both exciting and frustrating.  This course satisfies the Tier II Humanities requirement for the Core.  Just be warned that this is literature for grownups and has mature themes- the film version of Trainspotting is "rated R for graphic heroin use and resulting depravity, strong language, sex, nudity and some violence."


ENG 303A: Writers’ Workshop in Screenwriting
Dr. Maura Grady
TTh 9:25-10:40 a.m.
Required for Creative Writing majors, elective credit for English and Integrated Language Arts majors

Have you ever wanted to write your own movie or television show?  Well, now you can do it and earn college credit at the same time!

In this course, you will develop and write your own original screenplay and workshop it over the semester with others in this intimate and supportive workshop setting (enrollment is capped at 14). 
You will learn about formatting, structure, character, and dialogue. 
Required text:
Duncan, Genre Screenwriting: How to Write Popular Screenplays that Sell

English 304X: Short Story
Dr. Jayne E. Waterman
Tu 6:00-8:30 p.m. (Hybrid)
Core Humanities, Elective for the English and Creative Writing majors

Who reads short stories and why? From the canonical to the experimental, this course will analyze a wide-range of short stories included in Dana Gioia and R.S. Gwynn’s comprehensive anthology, The Art of the Short Story, as we debate the purpose, function, and merits of this genre. We will explore the cultural, historical, and political implications and contexts of key stories alongside issues of craft, style, and form. The elements of this short fiction, authorial insights into the creative process, and critical approaches to this literature will broaden, enhance, and complicate our understanding of the short story. This is a reading-intense, writing-intense, and discussion-intense course.  Assignments will likely consist of two extensive papers, short literary analysis papers, class presentations, and lots of assessed, active in-class and online participation (short assignments, research projects, rigorous discussion and debate, and so on)

ENG 314A: Literature and Gender
Dr. Sharleen Mondal
MWF 1:00-1:50
Core Humanities, Elective for English and Integrated Language Arts majors

Global Narratives of Gender

Recently a debate has raged, in social media and in our broader popular discourse, around gender issues (see, for instance, #NotAllMen and #YesAllWomen, as well as #WhyINeedFeminism and #WhyIDontNeedFeminism).  Young people in particular are locked in a passionate debate about the need for and direction of gender-focused social justice movements.  At the same time, we have witnessed #BringBackOurGirls, a campaign addressing the kidnapping of female students from their school by religious extremists in Nigeria, and #IAmMalala, developed to show support for the Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban while on her way to school.  This course seeks to explore the deeper, more nuanced stories behind the 140-character tweets and television sound bites that often occupy our attention, and through careful analysis of literary texts—supported by their social, historical, cultural, and religious context—we will come to a better understanding of gender-based struggles around the globe.  Likely texts and contexts include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah (Nigeria), Adichie’s now viral speech on “Why We Need Feminism,” Malala Yousafzai’s I Am Malala (Pakistan), Helen Benedict’s Sand Queen (U.S./Iraq), Shaila Abdullah’s Saffron Dreams (U.S. and Pakistan), and Jackson Katz’s documentary Tough Guise (U.S.).  In addition to active and consistent participation in class discussion, class presentations on historical and social context, and several short close reading exams and response papers, students will be required to produce one long (8-10 page) literary analysis paper. 

English 317A: Studies in Shakespeare
Dr. Hilary Donatini
9:00-9:50
Requirement for the English and Integrated Language Arts majors, elective in the English and Creative Writing minors

We will immerse ourselves not only in Shakespeare’s language but also in historical and intellectual contexts for the plays. Performing scenes and studying film adaptations of the plays will bring the Bard to life. Two essays, two exams, and additional smaller assignments will make up the writing component of the course. Be ready for frequent and extensive class discussion.

Required Texts:
We will read one each of Shakespeare’s comedies, histories, tragedies, and romances, spending significant time comparing two film versions of Henry V: the 1944 version directed by and starring Laurence Olivier, and the 1989 version directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh. One of the writing assignments will concern these adaptations. 

As You Like It (Signet, Newly Revised) ISBN: 9780451526786
Henry V (Signet, Newly Revised) ISBN: 9780451526908
King Lear (Signet, Newly Revised) ISBN: 9780451526939
The Tempest (Signet, Newly Revised) ISBN: 9780451527127

English 324A: Modern Novel
Dr. Jayne E. Waterman
TTh 1:40-2:55
Core Humanities, Elective for the English and Creative Writing majors

This course will explore the idea of the very modern novel by examining the texts and contexts of key American novels published in the last five years (2010-2014). Framed by the notions of selfhood and nationhood, we will ask how the modern novel reflects, shapes, and contradicts the concepts and constructions of identity. We will also interrogate the tensions of historical narratives and postmodern discourse, self and society, and the individual and family. Close analytical attention will be given to issues of gender, class, race, sexuality, justice, language, and form. Approximately four to five novels will be selected from the following: Jeannette Walls’ Half-Broke Horses, Amy Waldman’s The Submission, Teju Cole’s Open City, Bonnie Jo Campbell’s Once Upon A River, Toni Morrison’s Home, Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You, and Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. This is a reading-intense, writing-intense, and discussion-intense course.  Assignments will likely consist of two extensive papers, short literary analysis papers, class presentations, and lots of assessed, active class participation (short assignments, in-class projects, rigorous discussion and debate, and so on)

Eng 325A: Major Writers Seminar: Hemingway
Dr. Weaver
MWF: 1:00-1:50
Requirement for the English major and English minor; elective for the Creative Writing minor

In this first–time offering, we will read Hemingway’s greatest novel and his four greatest short stories: The Sun Also Rises and “Soldier’s Home,” “Hills Like White Elephants,” “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” All these works show how Hemingway is able to present the moral complexity of life in his deceptively simple prose. Two papers and one presentation.

ENG 330A: African Literature
Dr. Sharleen Mondal
MWF 2:00-2:50
Core Humanities, Core GPS, elective for English and Integrated Language Arts majors

Nigerian Literature

Nigeria recently gained notoriety with the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, an online movement to address the kidnapping of female students from their school by religious extremists in the town of Chibok in April 2014.  The campaign gave rise to a series of debates regarding the efficacy of so-called hashtag activism, and more interestingly, what it means to respond intensely to a singular event in another part of the world, and then, when the frenzy of tweets has passed, to forget promptly about what is happening there.  In this course, we will discuss the recent hashtag activism, but we will also engage in its opposite: a sustained, serious study of Nigerian literature with thoughtful consideration of the social, historical, religious, and cultural contexts that shaped colonial Nigeria and that continue to shape it today.  Likely texts include Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God, Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen, Helon Habila’s Waiting for an Angel, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah.  In addition to active and consistent participation in class discussion, class presentations on historical and social context, and several short close reading exams and response papers, students will be required to produce one long (8-10 page) literary analysis paper

Eng 370A: Russian Novel
Dr. Russell Weaver
MWF: 2:00-3:00
Core Humanities; elective for English Major and Minor, elective for Creative Writing minor

This course allows the student to read the two of the greatest novels ever written: Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. They present not only psychological analyses of unparalleled depth but also discussions of history, theology, and philosophy that serve to deepen the portraits of the men and women inhabiting their pages. The grades will be based on two papers and two presentations.


ENG413A: Twentieth-Century Anglophone Literature
Dr. Deborah Fleming
TTh 1:40-2:55
Elective for English major and minor, Creative Writing major and minor, and Integrated Language Arts major

Readings may include
Yeats, W. B. Selected Poems and Four Plays.
Synge, J. M.  The Playboy of the Western World; O’ Casey, Juno and the Paycock; or Shaw, Saint Joan
Woolf, Virginia. To the Lighthouse or Mrs. Dalloway
Joyce, James. Ulysses, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, or Dubliners
Upadhyay, Samrat.  The Guru of Love or Arresting God in Kathmandu
Wolcott, Derek.  Poems.

Instructional Format
Regular class format will be seminar-type discussion.

Course Objectives
The course objective is to give students knowledge of English and Anglophone literature of the Twentieth Century through reading, writing, and discussing.

Assignments and Grades
–Two literary-critical papers on our readings for this semester, 10-12 pages each
–Final examination given at our scheduled final exam time
–Quizzes, position papers, or journal entries on our readings
–Class participation

English 426A: American Literature II: 1830-1870
Dr. Stephen Haven
TTh 12:15-1:30
Elective for English major and minor, Creative Writing major and minor, and Integrated Language Arts major

This is a course on the nineteenth century flowering in American literature called the American Renaissance.  We will read a selection of such American Renaissance authors as Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Dickinson, Whitman, and Poe.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Reading Slated for Professor Deborah Fleming's Novel

Deborah Fleming, Professor of English, will be reading from her novel Without Leave on Monday, November 3 at 4:30 p.m. in Schar 138. The press release below describes the book. 




Dr. Deborah Fleming, Professor of English at Ashland University, has written a novel that has been named the winner of the 2013 Asheville Award from Black Mountain Press.
The novel, titled Without Leave, places brave people into the hippie experience and turbulent antiwar movement of the 1960s and addresses the existential question of freedom of the will, according to Fleming.
Black Mountain Press of Asheville, N.C., published the book and selected it as the Asheville Award winner from among the 1,000 submissions.
“Published 47 years since the ‘Summer of Love’ and 49 years since the troop surge that ushered in the full-scale American commitment to the Vietnam War, Without Leave chronicles the stories of two alienated young people during 1967-70,” Fleming said.
David Shields goes AWOL from the Navy where he had hoped to find training and focus for his life but instead finds boredom and disillusionment during deployment on an aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Tonkin.
In the Haight-Ashbury region of San Francisco in 1967 he meets and falls in love with an artist, Diane Cavanagh, who drops out of college after a brutal rape and the death of the black man she loved. Through turmoil and separation, they find they cannot escape their past.



Thursday, September 25, 2014

Nursing Major Volunteers for English Faculty Research Project on Shawshank Fan Culture

By Emily Coughenour

AU Students survey fans of The Shawshank Redemption near the Ohio State Reformatory
“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."

One of the most powerful quotes spoken by Andy (Tim Robbins) to Red (Morgan Freeman), in the 1994 Oscar nominated classic, and Stephen King bestseller, Shawshank Redemption, was highlighted at the legendary Ohio State Reformatory (OSR) on the September 23rd weekend. Many fans from all over the state of Ohio, and even a few from out of state, came to celebrate a remarkable piece of American movie culture to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the blockbuster's release. I had the opportunity to volunteer for a research project about fan culture, directed by AU faculty Dr. Maura Grady (English) and Dr. Robby Roberson (Hospitality Management/Tourism). I heard about the project from my English composition professor, Dr. Jayne Waterman.

The first day of the anniversary weekend was a beautiful hot day, not a cloud in the sky. The parking spaces in the far front of the prison were so packed, the volunteers and workers had to place certain cars in the employee parking and even the front yard! The long lines for the tours moved slowly but surely into the building. The only complaint from most of the visitors was how badly they wanted to get out of the sun’s sizzling heat and into the reformatory’s shaded walls. If the heat weren’t so intense, they would have more time to enjoy the beauty of the prison, and I don’t blame them.

When I arrived at the Mansfield Reformatory, my jaw immediately dropped at the prison’s stunning architecture. I also thought that the building looked like it belonged in Transylvania. Its gothic exterior would be the perfect setting for a scary movie. Seeing one of America’s most intriguing historical prisons brought me back in time to when everything was alive and thriving. When I got my clipboard and recorder I was off to work, asking questions about how the tour was and finding out the importance of the movie to each individuals. I found out that there were three different kinds of fans out there. There were the Shawshank fans, the Reformatory’s fans, and lastly, the paranormal fans who seeked the prison's haunted past. It was more exhausting than you think. I was so eager to finish my shift volunteering, but I did manage to tag along on a short tour of the marvelous palace of a prison and learn more about it, besides its role in Shawshank Redemption. Here’s some history about this mysterious prison.

The Ohio State Reformatory was built from 1886, with some construction continuing to 1910, and remained in operation until it closed in 1990. The Reformatory was opened on September 15, 1896 to its first 150 young inmates that were sent to Mansfield by train. When the inmates arrived, they were sent to work on the prison's sewer system (Here’s a movie reference: one of the sewer tunnels the inmates built was recreated for Andy’s escape from Shawshank). After the Reformatory closed in 1990 due to the increasing number of inmates, the OSR brought in more than $10 million with the prison's popular ghost hunting events. As an avid ghost hunting television show fan, I was excited to be in a location where SyFy’s Ghost Hunters did their investigations,  along with the investigators from SyFy’s Ghost Adventures and Discovery’s Scariest Places on Earth. (For the record, these are my favorite paranormal shows of all time and are my favorite episodes!) The Ohio State Reformatory's past is… well… pretty famous for treatment of the inmates.

With the increase in income from previous tours, ghost hunts, haunted houses, etc., the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society wants to give the partially demolished building a makeover to encourage more Shawshank fans to visit throughout the year. These include “plans to clean, decorate, replace the huge cathedral windows and supply heating to the former prison so that it will be weatherproof for tourists within six months,” (Jess Denam, The Independent). When you walk into the prison, you will see all of the paint from the walls starting to peel off. Everywhere you step, the floors creak because the floors are slowly starting to deteriorate. Some of the rooms are missing wooden floor panels due to the rotting of the wood. The front grand staircase, though, still in amazing condition, makes you feel as if the reformatory was once a palace… not a prison.

I was shown around most of the important rooms and locations where Shawshank Redemption’s key scenes took place. I saw the warden’s office where Red was denied parole, the Jesus Mural room where Red and the rest of the prisoners watched Gilda (Fun fact: the Jesus Mural room was actually built just for the scene of the movie! It was never actually a part of the prison before Shawshank Redemption). One of the most interesting locations in the prison were the cell blocks. When I walked down the spiraling staircases, I swore I felt the cell block sway. (Another fun fact: the cell blocks of the OSR are the tallest free-standing cell blocks in the world! Six tiers to be exact). The inmates’ cells were very small—so small that they make our dorm rooms look like apartments! I was able to see solitary confinement where Andy was sent, and it was one of the eeriest locations throughout the prison. But none would compare to the chair room. The chair room was a large concrete room with no windows and a metal steel door… and one chair in the middle of it all. Let’s just say I almost got locked in with the lights turned off… not a fun place to be when you are scared of the dark… and in a haunted prison.

This experience volunteering at the Mansfield Reformatory was life changing. I have always wanted to go since I was a younger. This opportunity gave me an excuse to finally be able to go and experience it. However, at the end of the day (and in the back of my mind) I wished that Morgan Freeman and/or Tim Robbins was there. I mean… Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins! Thankfully Morgan Freeman did narrate a short video about the 20th anniversary in the link below. What a legend. Anyways, the journey I took was one that will definitely change one’s perspective on freedom. From walking in the footsteps of Red and Andy through their times spent at the reformatory and seeing through the eyes of the inmates during their sentenced years, you will enjoy every second of the prison. If you happen to go, breathe in America’s past, touch the walls and feel its history rub against your fingertips. Let the Reformatory take you back to its era. I guess Andy was right when he said no good thing ever dies. Shawshank Redemption will, I hope, never die and will never be forgotten. Happy 20th Anniversary Shawshank.

References from:

Monday, September 15, 2014

English Major Participates in Entrepreneurship Immersion Week


By Kristen Herrick

Kristen Herrick taking a break at Entrepreneurship Immersion Week with participants from other universities
I was on break at work during the summer and decided to check my email. Upon opening my inbox, I saw an email about Entrepreneurship Immersion Week from Read Wakefield, the director of Entrepreneurship Studies at AU. I was instantly curious  and after reviewing Read’s email, I discovered that Entrepreneurship Immersion Week is a part of the Entrepreneurship Education Consortium (EEC), a collaboration of 11 Northeast Ohio colleges and universities, in which Ashland University was a founding university. Read was putting together a team of five AU students  who would then compete at The University of Akron against 10 other colleges by creating a product or concept, determining all of the details that would make it a real product in the market, and presenting it to a panel of judges. Read told me that Bruce Keller, the previous coordinator of tutoring services as Ashland, referred me and that I should apply.

At first, I was hesitant. I’m not a business major, so why would I compete? However, I reminded myself that I had both an office job on campus and an ongoing marketing internship that I loved. I realized that my English degree may lead me to a fulltime career in business and this could be a valuable experience to both learn and network. So I applied and was chosen.

I was both extremely nervous and excited to spend a week at The University of Akron with 55 students and 12 faculty members that I did not know.  Not only was I nervous about not knowing anyone, but also that I had only taken three business classes in my life! My fears were quickly allayed when I walked into my dorm room at UA and met my friendly, fashion-forward roommate, Hannah Betz. Over the next few hours I met the rest of my team: Mack Reece, Morgan Hall, and Shelbie Prince and mingled with the other teams.

Over the next week, I attended entrepreneurship classes, listened to guest speakers, and worked at maximum capacity to think of an invention and bring it to life with my team. It was an exhausting, challenging, and enlightening experience. The professors and professionals who taught the classes were experts in their fields and very helpful, the guest speakers were wise and inspiring, and the students were intelligent and motivated.  The first two days, we had no idea what our invention would be. We finally decided on a tissue box that would have a slide-out compartment where used tissues could be placed. We thought it would be ideal for long car rides or road trips since most people don't have trashcans in their vehicles. After interviewing a diverse group of people, we discovered that moms and teachers were particularly interested. We created a prototype of our tissue box and perfected our presentation for the judges. Unfortunately, we didn’t place in the top three, but we were proud of our invention will always look back on that week as a great experience.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Salary Prospects for Liberal Arts Majors

"Parents, don’t despair. Even if your child spends four years of college reading Hungarian poetry or delving deep into the Faulkner oeuvre, he or she can still earn a decent salary shortly after packing up the senior-year dorm room." Read more about job prospects for English majors

Monday, August 25, 2014

Alumni Spotlight: Brittany Potter

By Brittany Potter, class of 2010, English major





An English degree at Ashland prepared me better for my job than any other degree I could have pursued. I work with copywriters, proofread their work and offer strategy as needed, and it's at this time that I am grateful to have spent hours in writing and literature classes, since there is no room for grammar or structural errors in an agency setting. On the other hand, I flex my analytical skills on a daily basis while dissecting websites and performing research. I can credit a lot to Ashland and the hours I spent studying and breaking down everything from classic novels to international literature to film. 

Creativity is not only encouraged at Rosetta, but expected - we're constantly looking for ways to make a difference in people's live with at the same time delivering business impact. I can wholeheartedly say that the professors and English department at Ashland offered me the creativity and skills I needed to dive into a career that I had no idea I would end up in, let alone fall in love with.

Shortly after graduation, I was lucky to land an internship with Ketchum, a PR agency in Washington, DC. I lived there for about four months and enjoyed every second of it - I got involved in their digital sector, which was the transition into my full-time career. I worked for a little while at a small digital marketing agency, and most recently grew into a Senior Digital Marketing Strategist role at Rosetta, an interactive marketing & customer engagement agency in downtown Cleveland.

I now work on a handful of nationally recognized clients. Without getting too technical, I'll say I work on my clients' websites to help achieve a few different goals: 
  • Work with their marketing teams to develop effective content strategies and content marketing campaigns (aligning with several other facets of online marketing as we develop them)
  • Help build websites in a way where they can be easily found across the web and in search engines (since most people online are spending their time on them)
  • Promote and share content across the web
Finally, I can say literature courses, and especially ones like the South African course that Professor Lehman  taught, were invaluable because it opened me up to the most important experience of all outside of work: the human experience. The values, philosophies, and musings that came out of the readings in many courses are those that cannot be absorbed in a science class (though science courses are insightful in their own right).