By Shannon Upton
When my clients look at my diploma from UWG on my wall, they usually have this befuddled look on their face. They ask with a surprising tone, “You mean you were an English major?” Then I get to proudly add that I pursued a Masters of Arts degree in English and graduated recently. People always ask, “Did you want to become a teacher?” and they laugh when I sometimes respond too quickly with a definitive “No.”
The truth is that I wanted to become an attorney, and English was always my worst subject. I knew that in order to make it on the LSAT, I was going to have to kick it up a notch on that side of my brain. Also, English majors tend to be favored when applying for law schools, so it seemed like the right thing to do. However, I found myself not pursuing law after I graduated and somehow made it into the classroom teaching high-school English at a college-prep school in Atlanta. While it was a great experience, I missed my graphing calculator so much and decided that I had to get out!
I really enjoy getting to know people, and I get a big kick out of helping them secure and grow their wealth and assets. I thought the insurance and financial services industry would make a nice fit. It has been an exciting career for me. I am opening a State Farm agency in January 2009. My dream career is now a reality, and my nine years in the UWG English department have helped me become a better professional in my industry.
I always tell people that being an English major taught me how to think. When you can read a one page poem and write a twenty-pager on your thoughts, keep it organized, concise, and exciting to read, it is incredibly artistic. I was never the scholar, but my professors taught me how to communicate effectively. I still hear their haunting words in my head: “Be concise! Be precise! Be creative!” This message has helped me become a better insurance agent to my clients because people want correct information, but they want you to keep it simple, and most importantly, exciting!
Although I prefer to present my ideas to my clients in person, the world lives by Blackberry and email. I have to communicate often in writing
and I am
so thankful that I was able to practice my writing when cranking out those seminar papers. I had one client, Mr. Anderson, whom I was meeting after weeks of emailing back and forth. He was coming in to purchase a large life insurance policy. One of my competitors had tried to offer him another product at a lower price, and Mr. Anderson explained to me that although my price was higher, the competitor had misspelled words all throughout his emails to him, and since my competitor did not think enough of him to use spell check, he decided to do business with me. Classic!
My experience in the UWG English department is one I look back on with much gratitude. Even though it was very challenging for me, I think it was a good decision to work on what I struggled with the most. It is funny how things work out. I finished up my exit exam (a panel interview) for my M.A. and within a month, I was sitting in front of a group of State Farm executives doing the same thing—talking about different topics.
Don’t let the Business School fool you. It is refreshing for executives to see someone who can think “outside the box.” Being an English major is the best decision I could have made.
Toto Pulls the Curtain on Janet Donohoe
Dr. Janet Donohoe spoke about her scholarship on memorials and how they function at the Toto Pulls the Curtain Luncheon held on August 13 at The Little Hawaiian restaurant.
The next luncheon will be held in January 2009. The guest speaker will be selected by the Student Advisory Committee. Details will be made available closer to time. All English students and faculty are invited.
The following is an entry from UWG English grad Kendra Parker's blog, Welcome to the Capstone. Parker was accepted into the doctoral program in English at Howard Univ. in Washington, D.C. where she is receiving full tuition remission and an annual stipend for five years.
Keeping My Head Above Water
I've been hitting the books hard lately; I really don't have any other options. As of last night, I realized I was completely finished with all the reading and writing I had to do for this coming week. I started to kick back and just sleep until I realized that it would be better to go ahead and get a jumpstart on the next reading assignments. So, I've been doing that. I even searched and printed out all of the journal articles that I will need for this semester so I can read them at my leisure and not have to worry about my printer dying on me.
Speaking of my internship/assistantship, I found out my asisgnment! I am the assistant editor of a theatre journal! How cool is that? I've been assigned to a professor in the English department. Her specialization is drama (she did her thesis on Amiri Baraka and she is an expert on August Wilson) so it is only fitting that she is the editor of a national theatre magazine. For the sake of privacy, I will not reveal the name of the journal on this blog. But I will email it to those who are interested in knowing.
In addition to being the assistant editor (I love the way that sounds right now), my duties will also include updating and maintaining the August
Wilson Society website, holding office hours to advise her students on their thesis statements and introductory paragraphs, observe her class at least once a week, and plan to teach at least one class this coming semester. I have taken a look at the syllabus, and I am interested in teaching Maud Martha (Gwendolyn Brooks), A Raisin in the Sun (Lorraine Hansberry), and Dreams of My Father (Barack Obama). Each class runs over a period of two days; the first two classes actually run back to back and the course on Obama is to be taught on the days surrounding this year's presidential election. How fitting.
Other than that, things are going very well. I haven't experienced a sleepless night as of yet, and I'm doing a pretty good job of keeping myself organized. I have an hourly planner of my day. You wouldn't believe how many meetings and one-on-one conferences I have already had to juggle in between classes and the internship. I was sort of hoping to get some reading and writing in during the day, but these first few weeks have made that impossible. I find myself consulting my schedule before making any permanent engagements between the hours of 8am and 6pm. (I swear, grad school is a full-time job plus overtime!)
In spite of my whirlwind schedule, I have been able to make some favorable impressions on some of the faculty and administrators. I spoke with the Director of Graduate Studies in my department, and he said my grad advisor is very impressed with me, and at the time I hadn't even started working! Definitely a good sign. Additionally, the Associate Dean in the Department of Retention and Mentoring for Graduate students told me I was making good impressions with my organization, attention to detail (read—asking a lot of questions), and timeliness. Either I'm doing something right, or they are lying to me. Personally, I like the former.