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The 3 stages of being an English major

At Calvin, it’s OK if you don’t know what you want to do with your English degree yet. You’ll walk alongside professors who care about your individual career goals and will equip you with a versatile skill set along the way.

  • Author: Michal Rubingh
  • Published: October 2, 2019
  • Author: Michal Rubingh
  • Published: October 2, 2019

Drew Reichard came to Calvin uncertain about his future career. His professors helped him gain practical skills, make professional connections, and think about why his English degree matters. Now Drew works at HarperCollins Christian Publishing. Here, he tells his story:

Stage one: It’s ok to be uncertain

Before I came to Calvin, writing was just something I enjoyed doing, not something I imagined I could do as anything other than a hobby. But after spending time in the English department, I realized that writing was a thing I could do long-term.

As I was working towards an English degree, my friends were learning to be engineers or teachers. They established clearly defined post-graduation goals fairly early into their time at Calvin. I was taking courses in creative writing and Russian literature because I liked them. I felt that what I was learning was valuable, but I didn’t know what I was going to use it for yet.

Stage two: Ask why your English major matters

Astonishingly enough, my English professors knew this about my peers and me. They understood that their students loved words and language, and they asked us why. In classes on journalism, poetry, literature, and linguistics, one question was always present: why is this important?

We wrestled with this question in class and outside of it—even on a writing retreat where we discussed it around a wood stove by a frozen lake.

The answers were never simple, but I learned that to be a good writer, I would have to grapple with the tension between language and truth. My time at Calvin taught me that I needed humility instead of wit, accuracy instead of clichés, and that developing these qualities would take effort and practice.

Stage three: Try, fail, succeed

Two things happened during my senior year that most clearly guided me to where I am now. One felt like a setback but taught me something important. The other was a big stepping stone to my current career.

The first was that one of my writing professors, who had taken an interest in my fiction, put me in contact with an editor in New York. (And just let me say, this is not common—professors at most schools don’t do this type of thing for their students.)

But the editor wasn’t interested in publishing my work. This was a disappointment that turned out to be a blessing. It took dead ends like this for me to realize that I had more to learn.

The second experience was my acceptance to an internship at HarperCollins Christian Publishing, where I now work. As a marketing writer, I oversee aspects of the advertising for the website Bible Gateway. In the emails and articles I write, I apply the same questions I learned to ask myself at Calvin. I often write about why people should read the Bible, challenging my readers to consider what it communicates and why it’s so important.

Even without formal classes in business or marketing, my education at Calvin gave me a framework for thinking about effective communication in the workplace. I apply that in my job by asking questions that people want to know the answers to. This skill applies as much to marketing as to storytelling.

I continue to write outside of my day job, and some of my stories have been published in journals. I occasionally share them with my old professors, who are happy to keep up with me.

  • Author: Michal Rubingh
  • Published: October 2, 2019


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