Prof. Emily Rutter shares some of her Senior Seminar students’ reflections on their learning in the English Major.

This semester, my English 444 students were asked to write autobiographical essays about their experiences as English majors. As a fitting close to the semester for some and to college for others, we wanted to share a few excerpts from those essays, which showcase the many lessons English courses impart and the varied ways in which our students will apply them in the future.

Vanessa Haro-Miracle: When I first signed up for English 308 course, I dreaded the idea of reading poems. As the semester progressed, one of the assignments was to pick a poet and read and analyze their work. I chose Erika L Sanchez because she wrote activist poems about Mexico. Her poems tend to be vivid and gruesome. Moreover, I knew there was a deeper meaning and I was able to grasp it because it was about the ugliness in her and my native country. Reading her poetry was a springboard to find other poems and poets like her.

Kelsey McDonald: Knowing that I can complete complex research papers, comprehend difficult texts, and confidently apply my skills to other aspects in my education and professional pursuits is extremely rewarding.  However, the best lesson I have learned is that the magic of the other worlds I have explored through literature has enabled me to be confident and adventurous in my own world. Reading has played such an important role in my life, and I hope to share my love of it with many students by teaching high school literature after I graduate and join the professional world.

Erin McKinley: I think and act differently in my everyday life because of what I have learned. I see literature as a vehicle or a lens to being able to look and discuss larger issues. It’s what helps people connect and learn from each other. This is why I want to become an English teacher and mentor. I want to be able to go out and make a positive impact on the world and help guide students in their lives.

Martina Myers: To maintain an engaging classroom, I must use creative thinking and problem solving. Using creativity has gotten me through many assignments and courses I felt unsure about at the time. I have learned to take a pedagogical approach to many of my assignments for classes that are not about education.

Ashely Padgett: Through literature I can facilitate tough conversations with my students about social injustice, oppression, racism, mental illness, suicide, rape, and the many other hard-hitting topics that people don’t want to discuss with students because they are kids. Teaching is a dialogue and within this dialogue I can teach my students through literature. With literature, I can prepare them for conversations that they can take out of the classroom, that will help them in their future and facilitate their continuing education.

Kaitlyn Sumner: My experiences as a Big Brothers Big Sisters mentee and as a Copywriting Intern taught me that I can use my favorite thing in the world – writing – to help further an important social justice cause, and that is something that I will always be thankful for.

Misty Titus: A novel can really pull out painful feelings and help you work through them, which is a very important lesson. This realization changes the way I think about literature, because now I will start reading books and recommending books that are more closely related to experiences of those who I ask; if these kinds of novels are cathartic for me, maybe it can do the same for others.

Val Weingart: Communicating with others, through both written and spoken words, is the greatest contribution that I can make in this world. This realization was crystallized in the speech I gave in honor of the late Dean Ruebel. In that moment, I was not a writer, a singer, the worst English major ever, the Student Honors Council president, or even myself. I was a vessel for the words that needed to be said—words that I hoped would touch the hearts and minds of those who heard them.