Category Archives: Guest Posts

Guest Post: Isaha Cook on The Infinite Museum

“Where can’t an English major take you?”

This is a question that many English graduates have been hard pressed to answer, considering how versatile the degree really is. Last year, senior Amory Orchard’s journey with three other English majors took her to a special experience at the Virginia Ball Center, where she and her team joined their skills to help create The Infinite Museum app. Now, you might be asking: how could the English major be useful in the creation of a web based application? The ability to write and work within a team setting represents just two of the many skills that English majors develop and learn to use in their future careers.

So what problem was Amory’s team trying to address for the VBC? A general pitfall for most museums stems from the overall feeling that you can see all there is to see in a day or two of browsing. The experiences that many museums offer to visitors can grow stale quickly, despite the various special exhibits that can enter the rotation from time to time. For those concerned over how best to address this issue, an answer has been a long time coming. Amory and the team’s answer to the question comes in the form of The Infinite Museum, an interactive app that provides numerous prompts and information about the pieces within the museum

Amory discussed some of the things she and her English major cohorts were able to bring to the table, as well as take away10712734_732239086849969_3715995415968922610_n from the experience:

“I guess I was worried because I would have to work on designing an app. There were a lot of TCOM and COMM majors, but I’d never even published a blog post before! When they were designing prototypes, I edited the web content. To make an app, there need to be people who can design and those who can write. I eventually became lead editor and also learned about design.

We wanted to stand out and give the world something different. The second week of the semester, we created and tested tours each of us had made. Some of the best tours were completely crazy like English major Cooper Cox’s ‘Feet in the Museum,’ which made the museum visitors notice all the artworks’ feet. I think his tour captured the essence of what we were trying to do the whole time: to make looking at art transformative yet relatable.”

Users of the The Infinite Museum are offered more than fifteen hundred prompts that can send them to every area available in the museum to explore and experience in exciting new ways. For instance, the app might ask the viewer to decide what subjects of a painting were thinking in the scene, or how a certain technique used in the creation of the piece might be applied to other forms of art.

The app also provides users a level of customization and interaction with other users. Through their login feature, a user can post their thoughts or responses to certain prompts to the app to be viewed by other users, or vice versa. Users are also encouraged to favorite prompts they like best (like on Twitter), share prompts via social media sites, and explore favorite prompts of other users.

Another feature of the app is the map that is provided with each prompt. With a simple click, users can follow the map to the piece of art that each prompt is referencing, offering them the chance to cut down the time they need to hunt for that work of art. This fact also means that the user will have more time to interact with the prompt that led them to the piece in the first place.

Museum visitors are encouraged to utilize the app on pretty much any device since it is web based. After visiting the link, a user can save the link to the home-screen of their chosen device, and immediately have access to all the prompts The Infinite Museum has to offer. This quick and easy form of access is extremely efficient for involving a wide audience of museum visitors. Users can navigate the app by using just a few buttons, and each feature is clear and responsive considering how many pieces of art and prompts are being dealt with. Considering the whole experience, I believe The Infinite Museum has the ability to appeal to a wide range of students, not just in the Art or English departments.

If an English major could help produce such a great application, the answer to “Where can’t an English major take you?” retains its small mystery. Check out all of Amory and her team’s hard work at http://theinfinitemuseum.com/. And if you’re an English major seeking to show off your skills just take this final encouraging word from Amory:

“Go for it. Seriously. Immersive learning projects are like real jobs and will force you to learn how to work with others, no matter what your future career will be.”

Guest Post: Anna Butler on The Skills No One Recognizes as Skills

For a long, long time, I have been a person who does not know what she wants to be in a society/workforce that is absolutely obsessed with defining people. I am beside myself that the first question well-meaning strangers and distant family alike ask is, “What are you going to do with an English and TCOM degree?” I am sick to death of people saying, “So you’re going to be an English teacher…?”

Regardless of how much they make me stress vomit, these encounters and my stuttered responses have taught me a valuable lesson: not everything fits into a box, including myself. Some skills aren’t applicable to just one thing, but to all things. The most technical STEM-centered pursuit and the most free-form creative project each need a manager. They also each need a content creator, a PR person, and a team mediator, and I can be any or all of these things.

Two screenwriting classes taught me about ways the mind makes connections within a storytelling context, associating information from one scene with information from the next. In Professional Writing, I learned how to gather data via survey and draw from it conclusions and strategies that could aid a businessman or entrepreneur. Writing and Reading About Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 2.19.35 PMPublic Discourse taught me to analyze the motivations, biases, mediums, and structures of information and entertainment that fight to reach our eyes and ears every day. Practicum in Literary Editing and Publishing reinforced in me the belief that there are a vast array of aesthetics and preferences in literature, and that each is equally valuable. Flash Nonfiction Writing helped me come to terms with the fact that the everyday can be exciting, can teach us lessons, can link us, as readers, to each other. In Rhetorical Writing & Emerging Media, I learned the basics of HTML and CSS web coding, opening up to me an entirely new type of writing in which to communicate: design via code. Continue reading

Amory Orchard: Making the Invisible Visible

Every English major encounters the same situation — maybe it’s already happened to you since going home for the summer: a neighbor, relative, or (just the other day, in my case) the optometrist politely asks you how school’s going and what you’re studying.

You tell them.

“Oh, English?” they ask with a note of concern in their voice. “So what’re you gonna do with that degree?”

I love being an English major and all, but I’ve had to go through this song and dance more and more since I changed my Screenshot 2015-07-16 at 12.17.31 PMmajor from English Studies to Rhetoric and Writing a year ago. Only now, the concern in their voice is coupled with a puzzled, raised eyebrow whenever I reply, saying that I’m an English major with a concentration in Rhetoric and Writing.

Creative writers and literature majors are lucky; folks can at least grasp that there’s a lot of writing and reading involved.

But what comes to mind when most people hear “rhetoric”? It sounds intimidating. Perhaps they think we spend our days labeling everything ethos, pathos, and logos like in the rhetorical analyses many of us did in ENG 103 and 104. Or maybe they imagine us in class firing back at each other like politicians on the news.

So, what is the English major in Rhetoric and Writing?

Continue reading

Pat Collier: Twenty-some films I think anyone who loves movies should see

A couple weeks before the spring semester ended, one of the students in English 425 (Film Studies) asked if I would make him a list of my top twenty movies. I said I would try, but wasn’t sure what I could offer. I didn’t have one at the ready, not having kept these sorts of lists since I was in about seventh grade, making and circulating lists of my Top 10 songs around the classroom. (I recall with some embarrassment that “Hotel California” was way up there.)

The problem today is that I like too many movies, and have seen enough in the last decade or so that I barely remember colliermany of them. Shortly after I started teaching English 425, around 2004, I made a point to spend many hours each summer catching up on essential films, directors, and traditions that I had missed along the way. Once, I watched ten Bergman films in a little over a week. I was amazed and moved by them all, but only Persona and Scenes from a Marriage have remained distinct in my mind. I did the same with Antonioni, with Kurosawa. Impossible to pick a top 20 from among these, to say nothing of the much larger cohorts of 1940s and 50s Classical Hollywood and noir films that I watch again and again, or the New Hollywood films (Mean Streets, The Godfather Part II) that first showed me that there could be more to film than escapist entertainment.

I gave up quickly on the effort to make a definitive list, and instead decided just to write up short descriptions of the first twenty or so movies that came to mind when I thought about movies that seem great to me. This list is quite predictable, I suspect. It has no consistent aesthetic, though it is skewed heavily towards my classical Hollywood comfort zone and to the auteurs (Hitchcock, Kubrick) that first ignited my fanboy enthusiasm for film. They are in no particular order: “first to knock, first admitted,” as Saul Bellow put it.

If anything holds them together, it’s that even the heaviest among them (2001, Children of Men) give some sort of characteristically cinematic pleasure, and even the lightest (CasablancaHis Girl Friday) provide something to think about. Continue reading

Jeff Owens: What I Learned from Writers' Community

Since we’re approaching the end of Spring semester, it’s time to hear what the English public relations interns have to say! Today, Jeff tells us about his experiences in the Writers’ Community — from freshman year to junior year.

If you’re interested in attending Writers’ Community, it takes place during the Fall and Spring. Meetings are from 8:00 – 9:00 PM on Wednesdays in Robert Bell’s Writing Center (RB 291).


Looking back, I guess I’d describe the majority of my freshman year as “comfortable.” After acclimating to college life, I was meeting new people, spending more time outside my dorm than inside, and writing more often.

When my second semester rolled around, I felt confident enough to attend a Writers’ Community meeting. And why wouldn’t I? In high school, I was head tutor of the writing lab, I edited too many narrative essays to count, and people voted me “Most Likely to Write a Novel.”

Writers’ Community would be old hat, or at least that’s what I told myself. But I didn’t make a single contribution to the writing workshop that night. Making proper small talk proved impossible. I spent more time wiping the sweat from my hands than looking people in the eye. Continue reading

Taylor Wicker: I'm the Girl Behind the Desk

Since we’re approaching the end of the Spring semester, it’s time to hear what the English public relations interns have to say! Today, Taylor tells us about her experiences as an English student — both inside and outside the classroom. 


I got my job as an English department secretary a few weeks before I started my freshman year of college. The office was inviting, my co-workers and bosses were friendly, and every day that I worked behind the front desk, I found myself meeting people, students, staff, and professors — all intimidatingly smarter than I was in every aspect of life.

I spent my first year hiding behind that front desk, watching clubs organize events I refused to go to, hearing about readings in local coffee shops I’d most certainly miss, and poetry competitions I would never dream of competing in. I got into the habit of staying behind the scenes, of appreciating my department at a distance. The more time I spent behind the desk, avoiding these opportunities, the more I craved to be involved in them.

I was writing, sure, but I wasn’t showing it to anyone. I was reading, definitely, but I didn’t want to talk about my experiences with anyone outside of my painfully disinterested friend group.

Continue reading

Nikole Darnell and Professor Angela Jackson-Brown Reflect on Maya Angelou's Legacy

On February 16th, Ball State held a tribute to author Maya Angelou, who died this past June.  English department faculty Prof. Mark Neely and Prof. Angela Jackson-Brown were both involved in planning the event, and Prof. Jackson-Brown spoke at the tribute.  The English Department asked sophomore English major Nikole Darnell to interview Prof. Jackson-Brown and to reflect on the event.


Prof. Angela Jackson-Brown speaking at the Maya Angelou Tribute. Photo courtesy of Jeff Owens.

Prof. Angela Jackson-Brown speaking at the Maya Angelou Tribute. Photo courtesy of Jeff Owens.

Almost every chair in Ball State’s Student Center Ballroom was full as people from all around packed in, eager to see the tribute to Dr. Maya Angelou that was sponsored by the Office of Institutional Diversity on Monday February 16, 2015.

While there were numerous Ball State students and faculty in attendance, the program also attracted several outside visitors. For instance, the gentleman sitting next to me said his group traveled from Ivy Tech to see the program.

It is an understatement to say that the tribute was spectacular—it was also beautiful, thought provoking, and, at times, moved me to tears.

Professor Angela Jackson-Brown of the Ball State English Department, one of the speakers at the tribute, graciously made time to speak with me about the event and her love for Dr. Angelou’s work. Professor Brown remembers becoming interested in poetry as a child when her father gave her a book of poems. It was then that she discovered Maya Angelou’s work and “all of these amazing black poets” and “that it was okay for [her] to write and explore [her] feelings through the written word.” It was obvious by the end of the night that Professor Brown was not the only one inspired by Dr. Angelou’s work.

Continue reading

Telling Our Story: Meet the PR Interns for Fall 2014

by Cathy Day

Screenshot 2014-12-11 10.17.46

(l to r) Taylor Wicker, Becca Austin, Lauren Lutz, Daniel Brount

Did you notice a difference this year in the English Department?

If so, it’s because of this group of students.

These are the #bsuenglish PR Interns. Supervised by me, the Assistant Chair of Operations, they coordinated the internal and external communication needs of the department.

Let me explain to you their specific duties as members of the team and what they accomplished in a relatively short amount of time.

Note: They worked 10 hours a week. Their first responsibility was to complete office tasks. Then they were ALL MINE. (evil laugh)

Continue reading

Johna Picco: “Don’t go to graduate school without funding,” and other sound advice

Time to tune in, English majors, for another round of excellent advice from Johna Picco. Below, she gives us four amazing tips on graduate school, internships, and Life After The English Major.

Photo provided by Johna Picco.

Photo provided by Johna Picco.

So, what’s up, Johna?

It’s been nearly four years (how?!) since my initial blog post and not only have the years flown by but they’ve also brought about a great deal of change.

Since we last spoke, I’ve left my job at the American Medical Association, applied to and attended graduate school at the University of Illinois, interned at various archives and secured full-time employment (as of October 29th!) as an assistant curator of special collections at The Filson Historical Society.

Yikes. When I write it all out like that, not only does it sound hectic but also ridiculously pretentious. Well, I assure you that it wasn’t all that hectic and that my aim for this post is definitely not to boast about myself but rather share my latest experiences on where an English degree can lead.

Continue reading

Alumnus Ginger Bollinger seeks 60 book recommendations for 60th birthday

Everyone, say hello to Ginger Bollinger.bollinger

Ginger graduated with a B.S. in Office Administration in 1978 and an M.A. in English in 1995. She has had a satisfying and successful career as an Executive Administrator in Fortune 500 and Nasdaq 100 companies in the auto industry and in healthcare as Assistant to the CEO. Ginger currently manages a small consulting business in Boulder, Colorado, but lives in the Twin Cities, just outside Saint Paul. She met her husband, Mark, on a blind date at Ball State in 1973 and they just celebrated their 40th anniversary. They have two sons, a daughter-in-law, and three terrific grandchildren.

Below, Ginger outlines her success, and introduces an important book project that she needs our help with.

Continue reading