Autumn Kleiner ’22 has been a bookworm ever since she can remember. She devours true crime books, Stephen King novels, “sappy love stories,” literary fiction – you name it.
“If it’s a book, I’ll read it,” she says.
She has a particular interest in crime, so she applied to UMass Lowell as a criminal justice major, aspiring to become a homicide detective. But then she realized that as a police officer, she would have to deliver heart-wrenching news to victims’ families.
So, three weeks before moving to campus from her home in Methuen, Massachusetts, she switched her major to English, and ultimately she chose the concentration in journalism and professional writing. Kleiner, an Honors College student, also minored in marketing and digital media.
After completing several internships while a student, she graduated into a job as grants and communications specialist with Project LEARN, a Lowell nonprofit that provides cultural and educational enrichment opportunities for Lowell schoolchildren.
“Now I have happy work with kids,” she says, smiling. “I get to support and work with students in Lowell every day, and I’ve been able to become a part of a community that I love.”
English Prof. Jonathan Silverman set Kleiner on the path to a communications career when she met him at an “English Pathways” event. He encouraged her to take a variety of courses in professional writing, digital media and business.
Kleiner studied grant-writing and writing for new media in the English Department, marketing in the Manning School of Business, and multimedia storytelling and video production in digital media. For her honors thesis, she analyzed local social media influencers to see whether they could remain authentic while growing their followers and acquiring sponsors.
The synergy between her internships and classes was key to getting her current job, she says.
First, Digital Media Visiting Faculty Lecturer Dan Frank recommended that Kleiner apply for a communications internship with U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan’s Washington, D.C., office. During the pandemic summer of 2020, Kleiner worked remotely on press releases and social media for Trahan.
In the fall of her junior year, she took the English Department’s internship class, which paired her as a social media intern with American Muslim Women magazine, an online magazine started by UMass Lowell alumna Ayah (Awadallah) Shaheen ’16.
Kleiner repeated the internship class again in the spring of her junior year – and Assoc. Prof. Jenna Vinson let her pick her placement. She chose Project LEARN because the nonprofit’s development director, Jordan Scott, had been a guest speaker two years earlier in a class Kleiner took with English Assoc. Prof. Michael Black.
Kleiner’s position with the nonprofit continued through summer 2021 as a paid internship. Project LEARN promoted her to a part-time position during the fall of her senior year and hired her full time upon graduation.
Now, she writes grants to fund programs for Lowell children, manages the organization’s written communications and oversees logistics for programs like BookNooks and ArtUp Lowell.
“I feel like I’m the poster child for the English Department’s internship program, because this is exactly what an internship is supposed to do,” she says.
Although Kleiner is thrilled with her job, she also knows that with a degree in English, the future is wide open.
“Do I want to be a teacher one day? Do I want to get an MBA? Do I want to get an MFA?” she says. “I have all of these options, because getting a degree in English didn’t put me in a box.”