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Alumni Stories

Philip Johnston, 2013

English Major with a Creative Writing Concentration

Philip Johnston

I majored in English because I was trying to understand myself and the world around me a little better. I was a Psychology major before that and loved it, but literature and creative writing allowed me the same study of people, yet added these lenses of art and character. The art gave me some distance and a protective buffer, while I unpacked the world and discovered myself.

Since graduating I have put my degree to use in the world of creative marketing, still studying people. I got a temp contract at Hasbro doing something else, just to get a foot in the door. I got my first ad agency job after my contract was up. I came into my own as a professional writer. Now, I’m headed back to Hasbro—this time to write ads. It was a process. There were tough days. It was worth it.

My liberal arts education taught me to think critically, look beyond the surface in any situation, and liberated my thinking in terms of perspective. The real value in my degree comes from the fluidity in thought and the application of that fluidity in the workforce, and more importantly, in my life.

To any English majors, I say—stay fluid. Understand that it’s a strength that we have. Make it work for you. Life isn’t static, it’s nuanced. In our field and craft, the art teaches us this with every great story and character. Therefore, you are already equipped to live outside the lines, combine passions, change lenses, and create new opportunities for yourselves—and others.

Emily Chase, 2015

English Major with a Creative Writing Concentration

Emily Chase

I majored in English because I wanted to write, and because I wanted to be around other writers. I knew I wanted to work in publishing, but had heard it was a difficult industry to break into. For a while I worried that the publishing world was reserved for people who came from different backgrounds than me, who could afford to attend New York City universities and work unpaid internships, but I was offered my first job in publishing shortly after earning my degree from RIC. That is not to suggest that my story is the norm, or that finding good employment is easy, but I want to wave away the grim-looking cloud hovering over discussions of publishing that I think deter some people from considering it. It is not unattainable.

I took a position at a Big Five book publishing company in Boston, in a department I had little initial interest in but immediately came to love, and have since moved to another department with higher pay and greater responsibility. While interviewing, I talked about books the company published that I had read for class assignments. I brought along a copy of the essay I published in Shoreline, RIC’s literary magazine. I now work in Product Management, which is one of many departments I hadn’t known to consider until I began working for a publishing company and became familiar with it. I’ve learned that publishing work expands far beyond the editorial, sales, and publicity departments, and what I like about my work in Product Management is that it has allowed me to learn a little bit about all of publishing’s many facets.

My advice to current students is to take yourselves seriously, and to be your own biggest advocate.

Curtis R. Pouliot-Alvarez, 2012

English Major, Political Science Minor

Curtis R. Pouliot-Alvarez

I began my college career knowing that becoming an attorney was my ultimate goal, and to that end I wanted to choose a major that would assist me in that endeavor. I settled on English while taking a class with Dr. Judith Mitchell and realizing that the skills I was learning would be valuable in law school.

Through my studies, I strengthened the reading, writing, comprehension, and analysis skills that are important in any field, and especially important in the legal field. But more than that, I developed a better understanding of humanity through my study of the characters and personalities that literature allowed me to get to know. My ability to empathize with people unlike me, oftentimes my clients, is a direct result of spending time getting to know characters like Nora Helmer and Edna Pontellier.

I am now an attorney admitted to practice in the state and federal Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. I serve as a Staff Attorney at the Rhode Island Center for Justice, a private non-profit law firm that provides free legal assistance to low and moderate income Rhode Islanders. I use the skills I developed as an English major every day in my advocacy for my clients.

My advice to current students is to take advantage of this time to develop skills that will benefit you in whatever career you choose. The ability to write is essential in any field, but being able to write concisely and persuasively is a skill that takes a lot of practice and one that not many people have mastered. Secondly, visit your professors during their office hours, even if you have nothing specific to talk about. The wisdom and insight that they have will be immeasurably valuable beyond your time in school. Lastly, have fun. This time will fly by and you will regret not taking time to sit back and enjoy it.

If you would like to share your story, please contact Dr. Anita Duneer, Chair of the Student Outreach Committee: aduneer@ric.edu

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Page last updated: September 27, 2017