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What Do You Do With A B.A. In English?

Posted by on Sunday, December 6, 2015 in Academics, College of Arts and Science, Professors.

Avenue Q

Hi, my name is Heather Jackson. I am a Vanderbilt student, and I am an English major.

Wow. That took a huge weight off my chest.

While I am incredibly proud to be an English major, sometimes there is a guilt associated with it that I fall victim to.

If you’re a fan (as I am) of the hit musical Avenue Q, then you’ll be familiar with “It Sucks to be Me”, a song about the woes of having a B.A. in English.

It seems everywhere I turn this day and age, I am getting heat for my major. People don’t seem to understand why someone would go to a top 15 school if they aren’t going into the wild world of STEM.

Friends and family in my small town often ask, “Why Vanderbilt if you aren’t going to be a doctor?”

And you know what, I am tired of the stigma. I am not a computer science major. I am not an engineer. I am a loud and proud English major, and I have learned to have immense pride in that.

Why? Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt has taught me that my major is important, significant, and the most versatile of any major offered at this university. Vanderbilt’s English Department is absolutely phenomenal. Professor Mark Jarman, my advisor, is an award-winning poet. All of my professors have been accomplished novelists, poets, or critics. Every single one of them.

The English major at Vanderbilt is not simply about reciting the greats or writing sonnets. Vanderbilt’s English major requires a sociological approach to literature. One of my classes this semester, Asian-American Literature, has discussed concepts from “The Other” to “the blindness of whiteness”, and we do not simply apply these concepts to literature, but to our everyday lives as Vanderbilt students.

At Vanderbilt, I never receive question for being an English major. People here understand that English majors are not simply “book worms”, but people who enjoy complex thought and diverse perspectives. Vanderbilt is evolving the definition of the English major, and it is because of schools like Vanderbilt that English majors are becoming sought after in the job market.

As someone who wants a career in business and marketing, it is absolutely crucial that I be able to articulate complex concepts clearly and succinctly, that my communication skills are on point, and that I make convincing and compelling arguments to justify my actions. These are all skills I practice intensively as an English major.

So what do you do with a B.A. in English?

At Vanderbilt, anything.

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