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English Students Learn From Professional Peers

Alums, Communicators Offer Career Insight

Coburn Hall
English students heard the importance of learning beyond campus reinforced by alumni and communications professionals.

By Julia Gavin

English and communications students are getting valuable previews of where their versatile degrees can take them. Through interviewing career communicators for class projects and meeting recent graduates in a panel discussion, the students are gaining more insight into their chosen areas of study.

In lecturer Rita Sullivan's Writing on the Job course, students interviewed people working in communication fields including publishing, finance, local government administration and many other industries. The interviewees — at various stages in their careers — discussed career paths and the role of writing in different industries. Students shared their findings with the class in presentations, passing on tips from their subjects.

"The goal of the project is to help students see how writing and good communication skills are important in the working world," says Sullivan. "It's also an excellent networking opportunity since the students connect with people in their fields of interest before graduating."

According to Derek Doubleday, a communications and critical thinking student minoring in business administration, students are already seeing the benefits of building such connections. Doubleday interviewed staff members in the University Relations office.

“The project helped me apply real, hands-on tactics to my job search,” says Doubleday. 

"I was able to interview several people who gave me excellent advice and golden connections to other professionals in my chosen field. I’ve followed up with those connections and have had success in my career pursuits.”
Alumni Return to Share Trade Not-So-Secrets

During an alumni panel of recent English department graduates, students heard the importance of networking, positivity and out-of-class experience. The graduates are all putting their degrees to use in diverse fields just a few years or even months out of their undergraduate studies.

Ryan Axford ’11 credited his various internships and strong connections to faculty and University staff in preparing him for the workforce. His coop experience at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre led to a job after graduation where his communication and creative skills helped the organization increase their ticket sales through development of effective marketing materials.

“It isn’t always what you learn” says Axford who recently began a new job as an inbound marketing specialist with SmartBear Software, “It’s making positive connections and applying your skills to other opportunities.”

Krista Perry ’09 stressed the importance of pairing skills with passion. After an injury, Perry changed majors from music to English and became the editor-in-chief of The Connector. After graduation, she wrote for a local newspaper before building the Chelmsford Patch as its first editor. Now, she plans to use the skills she’s honed — writing, marketing, videography and social media — to support her love of sports, namely hockey.  

Perry is pursuing her master's in sports management and working as the operations coordinator for The Hockey Academy, an adult hockey league organization. Perry took this path after volunteering with the River Hawks in the hockey press box, a position that’s led to vital connections in her field.

“I found the skills I wanted to develop as an English student,” says Perry. “Now, I’m bringing those 21st century skills to something I love and making it a career.”