Former Undergraduate Student Testimonials
I graduated from SDSU with a degree in English in 2011. I absolutely loved my time as an undergraduate student at SDSU, and I would not change a thing about my experience. My professors were passionate and inspiring individuals who truly changed my life. I had no intention of going to law school, but my advisor told me he thought my skills in writing and analysis would carry over well into the legal field. The more I looked into the legal profession, the more excited I became. I attended law school at the University of South Dakota, graduating with a J.D. in 2015. My background in English set me apart in that it gave me the skills to write effective legal documents and the ability to analyze various legal arguments. Since graduating law school and passing the South Dakota bar exam I have held different positions. Initially, my husband and I created and operated our own private law firm. From there, I worked for Brookings County as a Deputy State’s Attorney where my primary role was to prosecute criminal cases. Currently, I am a law instructor at SDSU teaching courses in business law, criminal law, real estate and construction law. I absolutely love what I do and I am incredibly grateful for the foundation the SDSU English Department provided me.
Where do I start? My experiences in the English Department at South Dakota State University set me up for a lifetime of success. Skills I learned in school have helped me in nearly every aspect of my career as a copywriter and editor. The more I live and learn, the more I realize what I can trace back to my foundation at State. Strong research and critical thinking skills taught me to read any piece of information, extrapolate salient points and create informative content that anyone can understand. Technical Writing and a handful of other courses (Visual Rhetoric comes to mind) taught me the value of concise, engaging language, whether you're writing an email to a client or coming up with headlines. I went from getting my B.A. at SDSU to writing articles for a handful of magazines to owning my own freelance copywriting business. It was a fairly straight shot, thanks to my solid start. Also, the SDSU English Department fosters a sense of community and passion for language that has followed me. SDSU profs and fellow students ignited a spark when I was a student that still fans the flames of my writing life.
First, what an honor to be able to help support you. You meant so much to my development in college and I could never thank you enough for being there for me. I hope this will help repay that gratitude, no matter how minutely.
An English Degree is one of the, if not the most flexible degrees, you can earn in my opinion. To name a few intrinsic benefits, getting [a] B.A. in English forms the opportunity to think critically, form well-constructed and thorough opinions quickly on material one has read, and communicate effectively both verbally and in written form. Something more palpable to take away is the ability to think for yourself in a world that seems to increasingly disdain it and want you to "follow the herd," e.g. your boss, your political activists, the media, etc. To be able to ingest information, form critical thoughts about it and not take things at face value is a very powerful tool for your career and life in general for relationship building.
My English degree has assisted me in my life in ways I cannot describe. Maybe the most effective way to demonstrate this is the different things I've been able to "break into." I've worked in on-set production in Hollywood. I know for a fact my critical thinking skills got me my first gig when breaking down a mutual favorite film with the interviewer (Aliens). I now work for IBM as a Digital Sales Manager. I've overhauled the system at IBM on how to communicate effectively, emphasizing that the power with which we discuss topics gets us results, focusing a lot on the power of how we write and how we interpret and clarify what our prospects want versus need. My writing and critical thinking skills have gotten me promoted twice since joining IBM three years ago.
I can't put a value on my degree, but I can put a value on…the faculty as vital to my development. They're the best thing I could have asked for in my formative years at the end of my teens and early twenties. I miss my time at SDSU immensely. This is mainly because I miss discussing art, film and literature with people who challenged me to grow and fostered an environment of accountability and responsibility. I wouldn't be the man I am today without my experience with them and my time in the English Department from 2005 to 2008.
My experiences with English and the SDSU English Department have really set me up for a successful experience at the University of South Dakota School of Law. I feel, more than most students, I am prepared for the extensive amount of reading and writing that is required of us all thanks to my background. This has further allowed me to make Dean's list, join the Moot Court Board, and accept a position with the Governor's Office last summer working with the Governor's in-house counsel. I remember one individual mentioning that they chose me for the position because of my background in English! Now, I am finishing up my second year of law school with one year to go. I will be working this summer closer to home in Yankton with Marlow, Woodward and Huff, where I hope to learn more about civil litigation. My current dream upon graduation is to return to SDSU to finish my M.A. before taking a full-time job. One day, I really hope to return to teaching, but that is a long-term goal.
I work for a nonprofit in Omaha called Partnership 4 Kids where I do graphic design and write stories about the students we serve, our volunteers and our staff that publish on our blog, social media and in donor cultivation materials. I also do grant research and writing. While I never took grant writing at SDSU, my ability to write eloquently and concisely has helped tremendously as I navigate writing grant proposals. The biggest help, though, is the skills I gained in research through my English degree. I’ve learned to apply that to researching funding opportunities for my organization as well as discovering resources that can help P4K grow and learn (on a nonprofit’s budget). I’ve always believed an English degree is a great foundation to grow from because the skills you gain are versatile and diverse, making you adaptable to all kinds of job opportunities depending on your interests. An English degree can open many doors of opportunity for you. Mine has allowed me to work in journalism, publishing, corporate communications and now marketing and grants.
They told me “you can go anywhere from here” and I took them up on the offer. After graduating from SDSU in 2012 with a degree in English and a 7-12 teaching certificate, I launched my career by teaching sixth grade writing in New York City for several years. Ultimately, teaching wasn’t for me, but I knew my English degree could help me pursue many different career paths, as long as I “sold” it on my resume. After receiving my master’s degree from New York University—where I won the award for top master’s thesis—I transitioned into a career in health journalism. I currently write for a health website in New York, writing articles and video scripts on mental health, nutrition and more. My studies at SDSU definitely gave me the skills and finesse not only to dig through jargon-filled medical journals and present complex information in engaging ways, but also to think critically about how to market myself to break into new careers in one of the most competitive cities in the world.
I didn’t start out as an English major at SDSU. My dad had a degree in English and I didn’t want to copy him. However, after two years as a Political Science major, I grew disenchanted with politics and decided to change course. I happened to attend a speech given by an SDSU English professor. I was so impressed and inspired that I decided to change my major to English. It was the best decision of my college life. The English department was like a family. Every professor I had was encouraging, challenging and thoughtful. I graduated twelve years ago, but when I go back to Brookings and see former professors, they still remember me.
The classes I took in SDSU’s English department have a direct impact on my work now. I’m an actor and tour guide in New York City. Proficiency in script analysis, grasp of character development and the general knowledge from studying a wide range of literature give me a distinct advantage and a solid base in my acting career. The skills gained from studying language and literature also improve my work as a tour guide. Storytelling and the ability to communicate effectively are invaluable. I even lead a literary tour in Greenwich Village where I get to talk about authors and poets I studied at SDSU.
A degree in English lays the foundation for success in a multitude of careers. The classes foster a connection between students that is difficult to achieve in other disciplines. Most importantly, the professors in the English department at SDSU are passionate about their work and truly care about their students’ education and success.
I’ve been a reader my whole life. Diving into a story (fiction or nonfiction) has always been an outlet. But the English department at SDSU took this to a whole new level. In addition to Austen and Brontë, SDSU taught me O’Brien and Caputo. It would be easy to say that it ended there. But strangely enough, I found my place in a world of finance, accounting, and numbers. As much of an abnormality as I may be, my background in stories, persuasion (Jane Austen, thank you) and grammar are skills I use daily. I would not be in my current role without SDSU and without a solid background in using writing to make a “business” case. I have, and will continue, to donate regularly to SDSU English department for this reason.
Former Graduate Student Testimonials
I think what I appreciate the most from the English program at SDSU is the individual attention I received from faculty and their level of commitment to their students. I always felt that the faculty truly cared about my educational and personal success, and for that, I am very grateful. (Ph.D., University of Kansas; now Assistant Director of Center for Academic and Professional Communication at a research university.)
As a teacher, I am able to apply some of the information that I learned from literary works to work we read in my own classroom. I found it helpful to have seen what a grad school discussion looks like with the students engaged in the topic and responding to each other, not just the teacher. In my own classroom with my high school students, that is something to strive towards achieving. (11th and 12th grade English and journalism teacher.)
During my time in the Master's program at SDSU, I appreciated the opportunity to work closely with my professors on research and teaching projects. The faculty was incredibly open to allowing students freedom to pursue their own interests and amazingly supportive. The research I conducted and used for my Master's thesis was a strong factor in my acceptance to UH because of its focus on pedagogy and as an illustration of teacher research. Further, the faculty unwaveringly supported me during the application process for Doctoral programs. (Ph.D. Candidate, University of Houston.)
I reflect fondly on my time in the M.A. program at SDSU. The program is unique in its intimate size, which allows graduate students to form a tight-knit community. Moreover, as the M.A. is its top degree, graduate students are valued as contributing members of the department. I appreciated the emphasis the program places on teaching, and I felt prepared and qualified to accept a teaching job at the college level when I received my degree. The program also represents the many facets of English studies; graduates can go forth as experts in British or American Literature, Rhetoric/Composition, Film Studies, Old English, Linguistics, Creative Writing—or as polymaths of the wide-ranging discipline. I know that the program deepened my life in many ways, and challenged me to improve as a writer, as a teacher and as a citizen. (former community college writing program lecturer; now a Ph.D. student at University of Minnesota)
I deeply appreciate my program here at UC yet want to say that attending another graduate program has reinforced my opinion that I have truly benefited from the exceptional coursework I received at SDSU as well as the relationships I had with faculty and my peers. I continue to appreciate the English program's focus on student learning, the ways it prepared me to conduct academic and creative research, and how it taught and promoted critical thinking and analysis. (Ph.D. Candidate in English and Comparative Literature, Creative Writing: Literary Nonfiction, University of Cincinnati)
My experiences in the graduate program have enhanced every aspect of my professional life. I have called on them directly in writing, editing and teaching, and I continue to use them more generally in my current job, which involves working with authors, illustrators and publishers and, of course, reading books of all kinds! I truly appreciate the opportunities the graduate program gave me to think deeply about a broad range of ideas which still influence my outlook and activities today. (Director, South Dakota Center for the Book, South Dakota Humanities Council; former positions include South Dakota State University English Instructor, writer/editor for SDSU Marketing and Communications).