Monday, August 12, 2013

Alumni Spotlight: Shawndra (Thompson) Russell

By Shawndra (Thompson) Russell, Class of 2003, English major and Applied Writing minor

My first major was Psychology, but I quickly switched to Education before finally settling on English my senior year--mainly to avoid student teaching! All of these experiences helped lead me to my current career: the owner of a digital marketing and writing company based in Savannah, Georgia, Shawndra Russell Communications, LLC.
How did I get here? I didn't set out with any entrepreneurial goals, but majoring in English has been the best decision I've ever made thanks to the content-driven world we now live in. Everyone needs content, from the bakery down the street to multi-billion dollar global companies. The content I create manifests in the form of tweets, Facebook posts, direct emails, freelance articles for magazines and newspapers, blog posts, books and more.
The extensive writing assignments assigned by Dr. Weaver and thoughtful discussions led by Dr. Lehman were just some of the building blocks for my career. Like many English majors, I figured I would eventually teach English and did so for about four years. But two years ago, I realized that I was a hypocrite. There I was, telling students to chase their dream careers when I wasn't doing the same. Yet, those 3 1/2 years as an Education major also paid off because a part of what I do is teach other business owners how to master social media.

I loved focusing on English so much toward the end of my collegiate career that I decided to earn a M.A. in English from Marshall University. There, more heavy reading and writing assignments helped further strengthen my creative thinking muscles and prepare me for a career based on writing.

These degrees have led me to publishing two books: How to Become a Freelance Writer in 30 Days, and Couple Friends, a contemporary women's fiction title. Thanks to several English professors from Ashland, I learned that editing is not a dirty word.  I can crank out a first draft of anything without anxiety, which is immensely helpful for the daily demands of my content creating career. This realization was one of the most powerful lessons of my life.

My education has led to a self-designed career that affords me freedom and more financial potential than any standard 9-to-5 I could have pursued. Amazing doors have been opened as well, like being asked to become the Savannah Correspondent for Forbes Travel Guide and a regular contributor for the new magazine Society South (launching soon!). My husband was also able to quit his job and work with me full-time, helping small business owners with their content needs in addition to creating digital products. Our latest venture is creating a soon-to-be-launched website that will provide resources for aspiring female writers and entrepreneurs at

Shawndra is a digital strategist that helps small businesses tackle their social media and the Savannah correspondent for Forbes Travel Guide. Read about her services and work at