Category Archives: Stars to Steer By

What can you do with a Humanities degree? We’ll show you! Here we tell you all about our Stars to Steer By series upcoming events, recaps of past events, and feature interviews with Ball State alumni who have gone on to be incredibly successful. The goal of the series is to encourage students who wish to or are currently pursuing a Humanities degree. Be sure to consider coming to the next event and find out what you can do with your degree!

Christina Dionesotes: (Not) Lost in Translation

Christina Dionesotes graduated from Ball State with degrees in both English Studies and Spanish. She then went to New York University for her Masters in Spanish and Latin American Cultural, Literary, and Linguistic Studies. Since then, she has worked as a freelancer translator editor and proofreader, and is now the Associate Project Manager at RWS Life Sciences.

What was your first job after graduation, and how did that lead you to your current position?

After graduation, I went right into graduate school in Spain. Because I didn’t have a work visa and was in school full time, my work options were limited. I ended up nannying/teaching English to two young girls to supplement my loan money. I also started getting into freelance editing and translation. After grad school, I came home to Chicago and looking for jobs that were related to language or included Spanish. I found my current job, under “Linguistic Validation Project Manager” quickly. I had no clue what that position entailed, didn’t know anyone at the company, but managed to score an interview. I have been working here for about 2 years now and can’t believe how much I’ve learned about the translation industry through this job.

What does a typical week look like for you?

I currently work as a contractor for my full-time job which means I’m working from home full time. I tend to go to coffee shops a few days a week just to get out of the house. What I love is that my job allows for the perfect balance of collaborating with coworkers and plugging in music and being in “do not disturb mode”. I have client calls maybe once a day but spend the most of my time working with linguists, proofreading, quality checking translations, collaborating with other vendors, and working to improve internal processes.

Right now, we’re going through quite a busy period so it’s normal to work until 6 PM, take a break, and then log back on around 9 PM or so. Right now I’m working anywhere from 40-60 hours for this job. 

I also maintain my status as a freelance translator. Now that I’m living back in the US, I’m speaking Spanish much less than I want to. Although being a rather inexperienced translator does not pay very well, I still maintain that it’s important and try to pick up a gig 1-2 times a week.

What is the most fulfilling part of your job?

The most fulfilling part of my job is getting to work with languages every day. This is what I loved to study in school, so to be paid to ask about tense, aspect, and modality is pretty cool.

Even more, I work with language-minded people. All of my colleagues speak at least one other language and the majority of us have lived in different countries and have significant others from other places.

Do you have any advice for English majors who are trying to figure out their next step?

Enjoy the process of figuring it out. I was so afraid of making the “wrong” step at the time of graduation. I just wanted to be able to tell people I was doing SOMETHING. Looking back, it would have served me well to look at all the options (yes, including moving back in with my parents).

I remember looking at jobs at the career fair and almost none of them listing “English major” as a degree that qualified me for that job. Hear me loud and clear: that is bullshit. Don’t pigeonhole yourselves into certain jobs you think you have to do. You can be an English major and not teach!

What are the most valuable skills you learned as an English major? How have they helped you post graduation?

This may be a very basic answer but being an English major taught me to analyze problems and come up with creative solutions. In my job, we’re constantly having to come up with new processes as the technology and industry changes. Sometimes clients come to us with near-impossible requests and ask us to make it happen. It has been so helpful to be able to extract pieces of information, draw conclusions, and make a plan of action based on said conclusions.

In a more “real life” sense, my professors really encouraged me to question things. They taught me to question the norm, to ask why that is the norm and who benefits from that being the norm. That’s probably something I use on an everyday basis with work, relationships, etc.

 

Does this type of career sound interesting to you? Join us at Stars to Steer By on October 23rd to learn more about career opportunities involving languages.

Gerry Cox: From the Peace Corps to the classroom

Cover of Gerry Cox’s book, Children Surviving Traumatic Death

Gerry R. Cox is a Professor Emeritus of Sociology at University of Wisconsin- La Crosse. He was the Director of the Center for Death Education & Bioethics. His teaching focused upon Theory/Theory Construction, Deviance and Criminology, Death and Dying, Social Psychology, and Minority Peoples. Cox graduated with a B.A. in sociology with a minor in English in 1965 from Ball State. He earned an M.A. in sociology in 1966, and a Ph.D. in 1975.   

He has been publishing materials since 1973 in sociology and teaching-oriented professional journals.

He is a member of the International Work Group on Dying, Death, and Bereavement, the Midwest Sociological Society, the American Sociological Association, The International Sociological Association, Phi Kappa Phi, and Great Plains Sociological Society, and the Association of Death Education and Counseling. He serves on the board of Director’s of the National Prison Hospice Association.

What was your first job after graduation?

Immediately after graduation, I flew to Philadelphia to start my Peace Corps training. It was an extremely fulfilling vocation. I would not call it a job. After returning from the Peace Corps, I chose not to go to law school, but rather began my career as a teacher.

What does a typical week look like for you?

I work on Habitat for Humanity projects several days a week. I mow for three to four hours at our Church. I write. I enjoy my grandchildren and children. I also travel extensively. I have been to forty-nine states and almost as many countries. I have authored and edited thirty books and have published poetry in a number of venues.

What was the most fulfilling part of your job?

Making a difference in people’s lives. I taught for forty-three years. I still hear from students about how I impacted their lives. I enjoyed the classroom, the colleagues, and the many activities involved in being on University campuses.

Do you have any advice for English majors who are trying to figure out the next step?

For me, it was doing what you love. I could have become a lawyer as was expected by my family, but I followed my heart and became a teacher and worked with the dying and bereaved

What are the most valuable skills you learned as an English major? How have they helped you post-graduation?

Probably the one that impacted me the most was a love for words. I think that the words opened up my ability to think and to appreciate life and the people in the world. I also learned how to write, though I do not consider myself to be a great writer. I think that the reason that I have been able to publish books is because I have something to say that is hopefully worth reading. I have also been fortunate to work with many of the leading people around the world in my field. Professors like Porter Nesbitt helped my appreciate my place in the world.

Publishing + Law: Sarah Roth

Sarah Roth is a 2003 graduate of Ball State University, where she earned a B.A. in English, and a 2007 graduate of Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

She currently works as Publications Manager of Michigan Judicial Institute (MIJI), and prior to this was a research attorney with MIJI and a law clerk with the Friend of the Court Bureau.

You can connect with her at linkedin.

 

What was your first job after graduation, and how did that lead you to your current position?

After graduating Ball State, I went on to law school in Michigan. As a law student, I held a variety of part time positions. However, my first full-time position following graduation of both Ball State and law school was as a research attorney with the Michigan Supreme Court’s Michigan Judicial Institute (MJI).

I am currently still employed by MJI and was promoted to the Publications Manager in 2011 where I oversee a team of attorneys who maintain a library of publications designed for trial court judges.

What does a typical week look like for you?

A typical week involves:

  • reviewing e-mails for recently-published cases and amended statutes and court rules
  • culling through all of this information and determining whether and where the new information needs to be included within our library of publications.
  • editing the work of three full-time attorneys
  • overseeing the publication process from start to finish every month
  • overseeing two monthly e-mail distributions
  • serving as liaison with a third party website vendor
  • attending meetings where I advise our director on issues affecting our office as well as our organization.
  • serving as the content manager for our website and ensuring it is functioning and getting updated as necessary

What is the most fulfilling part of your job?

I find the fact that our work is serving the judiciary, and ultimately the public, very rewarding. While we directly serve the judiciary, our work helps serve the public by providing more informed and educated judges and court personnel.

Do you have any advice for English majors who are trying to figure out their next step?

Coming out of Ball State, I was sure I wanted to become an editor at a huge publishing firm in NYC – mainly because I thought that was all that was available. Just know there are a ton of options for you, both big and small.

Explore and discover what it is you like to do, do as many internships as possible, and I assure you that something is out there that you will love.

What are the most valuable skills you learned as an English major? How have they helped you post-graduation?

In terms of helping me professionally, the writing skills I developed at Ball State have been second to none. In order to advance my career, writing exercises have been a large part of the interview process, and in order to get the job, I had to outperform all other applicants.

Here is a link to the MJI website if you are interested: https://mjieducation.mi.gov/

Bill Bradford: From Teacher to Administrator to Federal Grants Specialist

Bill Bradford graduated from Ball State University in 2007 with a BA in Education with a concentration in English. He later obtained an MS in Educational Leadership from Indiana University: South Bend.  He has served as a school administrator, athletic director, and as a teacher in South Bend Community School Corporation and Indianapolis Public Schools.  With over 10 years of field experience, he is now serving as a Federal Grants Specialist for the Indiana Department of Education

How did your English major lead to your current position?

As an English major, I was presented with several really important leadership opportunities in the field of teaching. Since Language Arts is heavily tested in the K-12 environment, I was given the responsibility of leading collaborative discussions, curriculum planning and developing assessments. Later, I was given some administrative opportunities as an Athletic Director and Assistant Principal in a large school corporation. In my current position, I work for the Indiana Department of Education as a Federal Grant Specialist.

What skills did you learn as an English major that helped you transition into that job?

While I was an English major at Ball State, I developed skills that are very important to my current position such as: communicating effectively with school leaders, editing and revising large grants with great attention to detail, and the collaborative skills needed to work in a small team of other specialists. Critical thinking plays a huge role in my work since federal education funds are often subject to cuts, which means that school districts need expert advice on how to coordinate all of their funding sources, so that they can accomplish their programming goals for students.

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Sarah Flores: Making a Difference with an English Degree

Sarah Flores. From her Twitter: @heyitsflores

Sarah Flores graduated from Ball State University in 2016 with a BA in English studies. After graduation, she returned to her hometown of Columbus, Indiana and worked for the school corporation. In April 2017, she accepted a position with Turning Point Domestic Violence Services on the Prevention Team. 

 

How did your English major lead to your current position? What series of steps did you make after college to get there, and what skills did you learn with us that helped you in that transition?

I wouldn’t say that I took a series of steps to be in my current position. After I graduated, I knew that I had one goal: get a job. I was privileged in that I had a place to stay, reliable transportation, and no other responsibilities that got in the way of my search. I knew that I wanted to work with youth, so I looked for open positions in the school system. I was quickly hired as a teaching assistant at a high school and, because of my degree, I was placed in an English classroom. Long story short, one of my current coworkers came into the classroom as a guest speaker on teen dating violence, and I knew that I wanted to do something similar. As luck would have it, they were hiring.

Full transparency, I was amazed that I was hired for my position with an English degree. In this field, it’s more common to see people with social work or psychology backgrounds. But taking a step back, it makes sense. Prevention is not intervention (i.e. working one on one with someone who is in crisis). Prevention is looking at a complex issue (which, in my case, is intimate partner violence) and finding ways to deconstruct the unhealthy behaviors that contribute to the problem. This echoes the skills I learned in the English department: analyze the situation, break down its layers, and communicate it to an audience.

(If you want to know more about violence prevention, or if you’re just a cool nerd who likes to read things, the CDC has a lot of great info: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/overview/index.html)

What’s a typical day like for you?

I’m happy to say that I don’t have a typical day. During the school year, I’m most likely in a classroom. Our prevention team does programming in all of the middle and high schools in our county. Sometimes I’m in an 8th grade class doing an activity on consent. Other times I’m with high schoolers having a discussion about break ups. Maybe I’m at an in-patient facility helping teens brainstorm coping skills for when they get angry. Regardless of my location, I’m given the freedom to be as creative as I want to be. If my main goal is to prevent and eliminate intimate partner violence, then I need to scaffold what a healthy relationship looks like in relevant ways.

(For anyone interested, www.loveisrespect.org is one of my favorite websites for information on healthy, unhealthy, and abusive relationships.)

On a typical day I’m doing what we call “chasing the squirrel,” which is having a Jimmy Neutron-esque brain blast and then running with the idea. There’s a lot of crafting (which I’m not good at), document designing (shout out to Eva Grouling Snider), and supporting our very talented and beautiful grant writers.

Many moons ago I slapped together a presentation for one of Rory Lee’s courses all about working at a nonprofit with no intention of ever doing it and behold—here I am. Spooky.

Do you have any advice for English majors who are trying to figure out what comes next in their lives?

My advice: APPLY FOR WHATEVER JOB YOU WANT. Seriously. Just do it. Here’s the little secret that I learned pretty early on: your major doesn’t define what you can and can not do. Employers are looking for people with relevant skills and, baby, no one can put you in a corner. Your English major is a skeleton key to any career field.

Can you write? Heck yes—and in different genres!

Can you research? You bet! Your Google search history is probably alarming, but you know your facts!

Are you organized? Not only have you learned how to effectively communicate in a logical flow, but you have also juggled multiple deadlines. You got this.

Are you a critical thinker? You kick so much butt when it comes to analyzing information, distinguishing the relevant from the irrelevant, and communicating possible solutions that they call you Truth Lee (this is a Bruce Lee pun and I am sorry).

This is just a short list that doesn’t even cover half of your magical abilities you’ve EARNED.

Honestly, the best advice I can give is just to take chances. So what if you don’t have the “experience required”—you’d be very surprised on the calls you get back. Oh, and try to work at a place that allows dogs because it rules.

You can find Sarah on Twitter at @heyitsflores.

Ellie Fawcett: Creating Social Media Content

Ellie Fawcett. From her website: www.elliefawcett.com

Ellie Fawcett graduated from Ball State with a BA in English Literature in 2017. In college, she served as a member of the marketing team for the 2015 Digital Literature Review and as a strategic communications intern for Jacket Copy Creative. Fawcett now works for Englin’s Fine Footwear as a content creator for their blog and as a manager of their social media.

What is the most interesting part of your job?

I love getting to spend everyday creating. Figuring out what problems customers have, researching how to solve those problems, and creating new information resources is really, really fun!

If things develop as you would like, what does the future hold for your career?

If all goes according to plan, I would eventually like to transition to a position as a content creator for an agency where I’ll have the opportunity to work on more content topics.

What skills are required in your position on a day-to-day basis?

My position requires research skills, the ability to write in specific tones for specific audiences and to determine who the audiences are, the creativity to find new and interesting content topics to cover everyday, and the ability to work with a team. A good foundation of what sometimes get called soft skills is pretty essential to my job. Continue reading

Allison Tourville: Telling Stories for Vulcan

Allison Tourville. Photo taken from Tourville’s profile on LinkedIn.

Allison Tourville graduated from Ball State with a BS in History and Geography in 2007, and later received her MA in History in 2011.  While Tourville was working on her MA, she worked at the Boys and Girls Club of Noblesville as the Assistant Manager of Athletic Operations. After graduating, she accepted a position as the Resource Development Coordinator of the Boys and Girls Club of Bellevue, Washington.  Tourville started her current career in Seattle, Washington at Vulcan Inc. as a writer and editor.  She worked her way up to Senior Digital Media Strategist where she helps develop different kinds of social strategies and digital content campaigns in order to share the compelling story of Vulcan.

What is the most interesting part of your job?

The diversity of work I get to be involved in. We do a wide range of programs, projects and initiatives at Vulcan, [a company owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen] I’ll swing from creating storytelling campaigns around elephant conservation to launching a music festival to live-streaming a sunken ship discovery.

If things develop as you would like, what does the future hold for your career?

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Jessica Carducci: Service work, halfway around the world

Jessica Carducci graduated from BSU with a BA in English Studies in 2016. During her time here, she worked on the Broken Plate and the Digital Literature Review, and was the design coordinator for Reacting Out Loud. As an avid hockey fan, Carducci has volunteered as an editor for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. She served as a secondary English teacher with Peace Corps Kyrgyzstan in the rural community of Asky rayon, Jalal-Abad Oblast. In this post, she recounts her experience with the Peace Corps and how it has impacted her life.

Why did you choose to go into the Peace Corps?

A workday selfie in a traditional Kyrgyz quilted jacket.

It sounded so interesting to me, so at least initially, it was because I’m such a curious person. It seemed like such an offhand discovery originally; I first thought about the Peace Corps because I stumbled across the blog of an RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) who had been in the Ukraine. I was only looking for resources about learning and practicing the Russian language, but the more I read, the more I became enamored with the idea of traveling to a far-off country to do service work.

But in speaking with PCV’s and RPCV’s, it became about more than just curiosity and the world-traveler lifestyle. The Peace Corps places a lot of emphasis on both sustainable development and cultural exchange – both in learning about local cultures and in sharing the diversity of American culture. I wanted a place in that; I wanted to really be a part of whatever community I was in, and I wanted to see positive and permanent change happen. Continue reading

Jolene McConnell: “Do things you’re afraid of doing.”

Jolene McConnell graduated from BSU in 2006 with her MA in TESOL and Linguistics. She is now an English Language Fellow in Albania with the US Department of State. Jolene has taught at a private language school for adults in Poland, at public schools in Korea, and on cruise ships teaching ESL. Upon her return to the US, Jolene worked for ELS Language Centers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Kansas State University before taking a leave of absence to do her fellowship.  

In her current role in Albania, Jolene is conducting workshops for English teachers throughout the country.  She conducts the Regional English Language Office Belgrade Facebook page and works with a division of the Ministry of Education in Albania.

How did your English major lead to your current position? What skills did you learn as an English major that helped you transition into that job?

I am on sabbatical from my job as an ESL instructor at Kansas State University and I currently do teacher training for English teachers in Albania.  I majored in English, not only because I love how language works, but specifically because I wanted to learn more about the world.  Having a degree in English has opened so many doors for me and I have had opportunities to travel that I would never have had otherwise. English didn´t just help me with my job; it is my job.  

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Michael Prosser: A Teacher’s Odyssey

Michael H. Prosser received his BA in English with minors in Latin and speech in 1958, and his MA in English with a minor in Latin at BSU in 1959. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois in Communications with a minor in English in 1964. He has taught at Ball State, the University of Virginia, and the University of Swaziland, and other schools across the world. Prosser is also a founder of the academic field of intercultural communication, and has written or edited books on topics ranging from classical and medieval rhetoric to international public discourse.

You are among Ball State’s most esteemed alumni. What are a few memories that stand out to you from your time here?

I was an undergraduate debater at BSU and president of the campus Newman Club. In 1978, BSU gave me an Outstanding Alumnus award. Several of my books are in the BSU library, as well as my MA thesis ‘’Solitude in the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne,” (under the leadership of Alfred Harding Marks), and my Ph.D. thesis “A Rhetorical Analysis of the Speeches of Adlai Stevenson in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Sessions of the United Nations General Assembly.”

When I was a teaching assistant at Ball State in 1958-59, I taught one quarter of American Literature and two quarters of public speaking (which included lots of vets who had fought in Korea). My supervisor was Lucille Clifton, and I had classes on Milton with Jon Loury as well as courses with Paul Royalty, Alfred Harding Marks, Joseph Sattler, and Edward Strother. The most interesting three quarter course that I took in the English Department was Shakespeare: in fall, histories; winter, the comedies; spring, the tragedies. Continue reading