In a follow up to his previous post, Tyler Fields, the winner of our 2013 Outstanding Senior Award, discusses the New York Arts Program and his journey towards his first job in publishing.
In mid-December, I will say goodbye to my thirty housemates with whom I’ve shared a brownstone in Chelsea for the past sixteen weeks. Collectively, we will end our internships which, this semester, have ranged from publicity and marketing to assistantships in such fields as publishing, theatre, and visual arts. However, unlike my fellow housemates who will pack up their New York City lives and return to their respective universities and homes as far away as New Mexico, my move will be a mere 82 blocks to my new apartment in Harlem. In addition to calling New York my new home, I’ve also just landed a job which I will officially begin in January, and I’m in the midst of launching a brand new media production, distribution, and discussion project. And despite the whirlwind of events coming to a head in the coming weeks, my perception of getting to this point reveals that not only did the New York Arts Program, but also my years at Ball State University, guide me toward accomplishing some of my biggest dreams.
In this post, Tyler Fields, the winner of our 2013 Outstanding Senior Award, describes how his experiences and his English degree at Ball State helped prepare him for the New York Arts Program and the three internships that he currently holds at D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, Inc., at MAGGY Poetry Magazine, and at the Lauren Cerand publicity agency.
The memory is vague. My honors advisor is asking me what I think I’d like my major to be. “What are your interests?” she asks. This question seems a bit cavalier. After all, my answer could very realistically determine my future career or livelihood. I said, “books.” And with a click of her mouse, my advisor set into motion a series of events, called the Creative Writing Major, which would lead me to a number of opportunities and eventually several internships in New York City. For the next four years, many would ask the infamous question all humanities majors come to know so well: “What are you going to do with that major?” My answers would change over the years from, “I’d like to write,” to, “Maybe I’ll teach,” to, “I have no clue.” Now, as I am working at several internships in New York City and participating in the New York Arts Program, I realize that my Creative Writing degree from Ball State University is exactly what I needed to begin realizing my original desire to surround myself with books. It is because of the opportunities afforded by Ball State’s English Department that I now have a clear and confident reply to anyone who asks, “What are you going to do with that?”
On February 21st, Dr. Adam Beach and English department intern Tyler Fields attended the Ball State Job Fair to ask employers about their views of job candidates who hold a degree in English. In this post, Tyler writes about the suggestions of the company recruiters for ways that English majors can make themselves more marketable. Click here for Dr. Beach’s previous post about the recruiters’ positive views of English majors.
From parents of prospective students to graduates entering the job market, many find themselves asking the same question, “What do you do with a BA in English?” A creative writing major myself, I have asked my share of similar questions; however, after visiting Ball State’s job fair this past February with English Department Assistant Chair Dr. Beach, I discovered that the answer is, “Quite a lot, actually.” After visiting 30 job fair booths and talking with representatives, Dr. Beach and I began to notice the distinct pattern that many professions – ranging from insurance to media – were not only accepting of the idea of hiring an English major, but were often excited about the prospect. Many representatives noted a lacking skillset in their work force such as communication, critical thinking, and leadership among others. The English major can offer many of these skills and also allows for unique customization, where many other majors cannot. The question should not be, “What can I do with a BA in English?” but rather, “How can I enhance my BA in English?”
“It doesn’t matter what your degree is—it matters how capable you are. You have to have good communication and writing skills.”
“We can teach a good writer how to do other things, but we can’t teach people how to write!”
“We need people who can think critically and who are able to make decisions. We don’t need black and white thinkers.”
“We want people who can write, learn, and communicate—we will teach them the rest in our training program!”
“When we look at your online profile, we want to see pictures of you reading The Odyssey. We want serious, intellectual people who read. Readers make for good employees.”
Many people have the erroneous impression that the English major is an impractical degree that does not lead to gainful employment after graduation. Some believe that English majors are only good for teaching jobs, or that creative writing majors are doomed to work in coffee shops while they pursue their dreams of being successful and published authors. These impressions stem from the increasingly prevalent idea (at least in American society) that the main purpose of college is job training of one kind or another. Thus, many students feel pressured to take a course of study that they think is “practical,” by which they mean a major that is, in fact, intended for professional training in a specific field: accounting, nursing, pre-medicine, architecture, etc.
Those of us who work in the English Department like to tell a different story, one in which we encourage students to see college as a time to pursue their passions, to expand their minds, to engage in intellectual adventures, to read great books, and to develop their skills in writing, analysis, research, creative thinking, and communication. We tell them that there is work out there for smart, hardworking English majors who have those skills. We tell them that you cannot “major” in most of the jobs in our economy, nor can we totally anticipate what kinds of jobs will be available in the future as our economy and technology develop. Over the years, those of us who have worked on the blog have collected enough great alumni stories to reaffirm our view. You can read these stories here. But, we wanted to have more evidence to support this view, and, to that end, we decided to ask employers directly about their views about students who graduate with English majors.
On Thursday, February 21st, I attended the Ball State Job Fair at Worthen Arena along with department intern and graduating senior Tyler Fields. Our goal was to pose a simple question to as many company recruiters as we could: do you hire English majors? We talked directly with 30 company and organization recruiters, and only 4 of them told us that they were exclusively hiring people who hold specific or technical degrees like software engineering or accounting. Every one of the rest of the recruiters told us that they would certainly hire a student who held an English major who was right for the job and showed interest in their company and field.
These recruiters represented companies that worked in the following fields: insurance (general and medical malpractice), banking, energy market brokers, financial planning, media (TV and print), large box retailer (store management training program), homebuilding, logistics and transportation, software development, international resorts, industrial manufacturing, industrial scale food production, consumer products manufacturing, and clothes manufacturing/fashion. Every one of these recruiters said that English majors would be competitive for jobs in their companies and industries!
The quotes that lead this post were taken directly from different recruiters that we spoke with at the fair. They express the recruiters’ sense that college is not necessarily for job training, but rather they see a college degree as only a first step towards a professional career, a place for students to develop a set of dispositions and skills that will serve them well in any number of jobs and careers throughout their lives. Many of the most desirable dispositions and habits that employers are looking for, in fact, can be developed in the study of English and other humanities degrees! The recruiters also offered many tips for English students about how they can make themselves more marketable. Next week, Tyler Fields will post about the recruiters’ advice and about how English students can enhance their prospects on the job market.
Last Friday we introduced “Recommended Reads,” a new segment in which Ball State students and faculty contribute a short review of a recommended piece of literature. Continue below to read our second installment in the series, which features Tyler Fields, a BSU Senior Creative Writing major, who reviews The Collected Stories by Amy Hempel.
Amy Hempel’s The Collected Stories was recommended to me four years ago as I entered into my Creative Writing degree. As a product of canonized, award-winning, or mass market novels, I had little exposure to independent or short-form fiction growing up. Hempel’s collection inspired me to discover and explore various styles of writing. Her stories also helped me envision those themes and narrative elements I find most important, not only in my own writing, but in all art. Whether to discover your own writing voice or to experience Hempel’s incomparable narratives, The Collected Stories is a book worth reading.
Last year, BSU English professor Michael Meyerhofer released his third full-length book of poetry, Damnatio Memoriae. To recognize this achievement, interns Tyler Fields and Nakkia Patrick interviewed him to discuss various aspects of his new book as well as his publishing process, future plans, and his writing inspirations. See the interview below.
Tell us a little bit about your book, Damnatio Memoriae.
Damnatio Memoriae is my third full-length poetry book. Like my others, it’s basically a “selected” of all the poems I’d written over the course of about two or three years (with maybe a few older, revised ones sprinkled in).
I tend to be all over the place in terms of subject matter; some of the poems cover autobiographical/childhood stuff but there’s a lot of random factoids and oddball musings there, too. I basically try to take the reader with me wherever I go, like a well-intentioned but extremely dysfunctional carnival ride.
Each summer the Ball State University Alumni Center plays host to the Midwest Writers Workshop. This conference is a three day-long national convention which caters to reading and writing enthusiasts as a resource for learning, publishing, and general writing opportunities. In addition to award-winning authors, instructors, and agents, the conference hosts a number of seminars, lectures, and workshops on writing. This past summer, the MWW added a new segment which sought to focus primarily on social networking. With the help and guidance of English professor Cathy Day, four students and alum were chosen to act as social media consultants during the conference. Maye Ralston, Ashley Ford, Spencer McNelly, and Tyler Fields ran a series of micro-workshops dedicated to tutoring clients on the basics and theories of the relationships between social networking and writing. Below, Tyler Fields, describes his experience as a tutor for the conference as well as his attitudes regarding the importance of community and how social networking can help.
Earlier this year, English professors Mark Neely and Matt Mullins each released brand new books, Beasts of the Hill and Three Ways of the Saw, respectively. In honor of this wonderful achievement, we sat down with them to discuss various aspects of their new books as well as publishing, academia, and their writing inspirations. See the interview below.
Immersive learning. As Ball State students, or even local residents, it is difficult to have not encountered this phrase floating around in our daily lives: it’s everywhere from billboards to the university website. Unfortunately, I believe that a true understanding of the philosophy behind this phrase eludes many of us. Students and parents are told that Ball State is unique because of its commitment to immersive learning. We are told that we will be hard pressed to find other comparable universities that have this dedication to immersive learning. Where this might be an effective marketing strategy, the simple, and even unfortunate, truth remains that until the immersive learning approach is experienced first hand, its true benefits cannot be measured. And make no mistake that when I say “benefits,” I truly believe that immersive learning positions students (and even instructors on some level) to examine their strengths and utilize them in a manner that allows for the greatest amount of potential. Continue reading