Wondering where your degree in English will take you after graduation? Ask the experts.
In fall 2014, the English Department launched the first ever Alumni Speakers Series. Distinguished graduates of the Wheaton College English Department spoke on the value of the English major as preparation for the world of business. Students and faculty of Wheaton gathered in Blanchard Hall on September 18th to hear the perspectives of Bill Stadick ‘84, John Phillips ‘80, and John Augustine ‘79 (the fourth panelist, Leslie Elkin ‘98, was absent due to a last-minute circumstance). Each of the three panelists spoke about how they used a degree in English to transition into successful careers in business.
Bill Stadick, Director of Content and Brand Development at strategic communications consulting firm Charleston|Orwig, graduated from Wheaton with a B.A. in English and a love for creative writing. He described his successful career in advertising as the opportunity for “endless wordplay,” adding that the most serious practitioners of creative writing and advertising share a common focus. “In the world of branding and marketing, storytelling is a huge thing these days,” he said.
John Phillips, Managing Principal of Griffin Phillips LLC whose work in the financial sector has taken him across six continents, emphasized how an English degree equipped him with a versatile set of skills: the ability to write and sell ideas, to read and research critically, and to capture a client’s imagination. Even by studying the stories of great literature, said Phillips, he gained the right perspective for the ups and downs of the business world: “Understanding persistence and failure are part of the rich tradition of literature.”
John Augustine, Managing Director at Barclays Capital, emphasized the transformative power of an education in English. Through the reading of great literature, said Augustine, he developed the imaginative ability and empathy necessary to understand what people are really thinking and saying. Both the study of English and the pursuit of business, said Augustine, require an understanding of indirection. “It’s about learning that it’s not so simple,” he added, explaining how the study of English equips students to deal with the interpersonal complexities of business.
To conclude the discussion, the panelists offered strategic advice to English majors headed for a career in business. Stadick encouraged students to capture clients’ attention with their storytelling. “Be bold,” said Augustine, emphasizing how an English major can and should stand out from the business crowd. “If you’re doing an interview, refer to Shakespeare. It’ll blow their minds. That’s your advantage.” Phillips urged English majors to capitalize on their ability to research and solve problems creatively, adding, “Don’t stand in line. Do something original.”
By learning to apply the English major in just one of many possible spheres of work, English majors are discovering how to translate their education into a future. Part two of this Alumni Speakers Series, featuring English Alumni in Publishing, will take place on October 23, 2014 and feature:
- Amy Collins ‘96, President, Squid Ink Literary Agency
- David Congdon ‘04, Academic Editor, InterVarsity Press
- Randall D. Jahns ‘84, Senior Vice President, Bible Ministry Relations, Crossway Publishing
- Eric Siewert ‘10, International Relations Agent, Tyndale Publishing