Originally Published November 25, 2014
Last Wednesday, the Department of English hosted its eighth semi-annual English Major Alumni Panel. Designed to highlight the exciting work and achievements of Columbus area alumni and to introduce current English majors to potential career fields, the Fall 2014 panel included a buffet dinner at The Blackwell Inn here on campus. More than 100 undergraduates, 20 faculty and staff, and 15 undergraduate alumni gathered together for food and informal conversation before Department Chair Debra Moddelmog kicked off the hour-long panel discussion.
The panel featured Jarod Anderson, Operations Manager with the Columbus State Community College Foundation and an alumnus of the Ohio State Newark campus; Alyssa Denisky, Field Team Leader for Alliance Data’s Retail Services group; Faith Durand, food writer and Editor of The Kitchn, a daily web magazine focused on kitchen design and home cooking; and Khalila Hayden, Marketing and Communications Specialist for the Girl Scouts of Ohio Heartland.
As the panel moderator, Undergraduate Studies Manager Pablo Tanguay opened the discussion by asking Jarod Anderson to talk about his passion for writing poetry and science fiction. Acknowledging the importance of writing in both his personal and professional life, Anderson explained, “I love to write. I write and publish science fiction stories in my spare time. But writing science fiction doesn’t bring in much. I’ve learned to perfect the craft of writing for the work place: that includes grants and funding, but also minute tasks like letter writing and emails.”
Two-time cookbook author Faith Durand, recently featured in Better Homes and Gardens, further emphasized the importance of learning to write in and for professional settings: “The writing process is formulaic; it’s simple. So few people know how to abide by it, however. They all want to break free—they don’t want to lose their sense of self through technical writing. I advise you to look beyond that. You’ll have opportunities to build yourself into your writing. I want a person who can write the way my blog works. You can figure out how to fit yourself in there by understanding what already works.”
Coordinated by Tanguay and Undergraduate Advisor Ruth Friedman, the evening event was organized to offer English students, alumni, faculty, and staff to get to know one another and to hear about the career paths actually taken by Ohio State English major alumni.
“We wanted to provide an opportunity for undergraduates to meet the people they’re always promised and sometimes don’t get to meet at all,” says Tanguay. “Students have access to faculty as teachers and mentors in the classroom, but they get a different—dare I say, closer—connection with those faculty when they talk about the future outside the classroom."
“Students are much likelier today to have an online presence than in the past. Because of this, we know that students need to be equipped with different kinds of professional connections, skills, and goals in order to be effective applicants in today’s competitive job market. We wanted to use this opportunity to give many students a first-look into the various types of jobs but also the existing resources to get them into similar positions.”
Tanguay and Friedman have hosted semi-annual alumni panels since 2011; however, this was the first panel that included a sit-down dinner and drew a large number of English faculty and staff. “We decided to go all out this fall,” said Friedman. “We wanted to give everyone—our undergraduates, alumni, faculty, and staff—the opportunity to sit down together; to find out about one another’s careers and career interests; and to lay the foundation for a more vibrant, engaged, and engaging community moving forward.”
In an effort to build more and stronger connections between alumni and current undergraduates, the Department of English plans to fully launch the Buckeye English Alumni Mentoring (BEAM) Program in January 2015. This program pairs alumni with current English majors for once monthly communications in person, via email, or over the phone. Current majors and English alumni from around the world are invited to participate in this program. If you’re interested in serving as an alumni mentor or undergraduate mentee, please contact English advisor Ruth Friedman.