Year of Graduation: 2013
Professional Title: Assistant Professor of English at West Chester University, PA
All students should “trust that their passion will carry them to exciting places,” says Jacqueline Alnes, “even if it’s not clear from the start where exactly that will be. I was happiest when surrounded by words and people who love them.” Being surrounded by a community of people who shared her love of English, Jacqueline also attests, “Writing has served our lives in different ways, but the skills and relationships we learn as English majors have carried us far.”
How has an English major helped you in your career?
“My English major at Elon has helped me in too many ways to count. The small class sizes, deeply invested professors, and variety of course offerings helped facilitate my growth as a critical thinker and encouraged me to be an engaged citizen in class and beyond. Many of the English courses I took were a beautiful blend of rigorous work and joy; I seek to emulate that experience in my job now as a professor, where I have the opportunity to teach many of the courses that changed my life as an undergraduate student. The professors at Elon not only cheered me on during my undergraduate years, but also have supported my work in many meaningful ways as I have moved through graduate programs and into my current role.”
“The small class sizes, deeply invested professors, and variety of course offerings helped facilitate my growth as a critical thinker and encouraged me to be an engaged citizen in class and beyond.”
What was the most impactful class you took at Elon University?
“So many classes at Elon opened the world to me in new ways: Cather & Twain with Dr. Schwind, Poetry with Kevin Boyle, and Contemporary Writers with Cassandra Kircher. But the class that changed the trajectory of my time at Elon (and life) in many ways was Introduction to Creative Writing with Drew Perry. When I first walked into class, I was at a crossroads of sorts; I had just quit the cross-country team at Elon due to health issues, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to major in. Though I had never taken a creative writing class before, I remember feeling a sense of familiarity during the first class session, as if I had come home to something. During that semester, I learned so much from Drew and from my peers, and I realized that writing was something I wanted to pursue.”
How did your Elon University education influence original career goals you had?
“I started off as an education major before switching entirely to English. I also secretly harbored dreams of being a writer, though it was a goal that scared me. I appreciate that Elon is a liberal arts school that emphasizes the importance of taking rigorous courses within your major as well as experiencing subject matter in other areas. I learned to appreciate interdisciplinary forms of learning and to value the ways in which my research in classes outside of the English major might serve and enrich my writing.”
“My Elon University education also showed me future paths I hadn’t had the courage to dream up on my own. From the wealth of knowledge that my professors shared to the creative energy emanating from so many peers, I felt inspired to pursue goals that I might not have otherwise.”
What are you working on now?
“While teaching, I also am currently working on a couple book projects. One is a memoir about a neurological illness that began at Elon and another is a narrative nonfiction book about the rise and fall of a fruitarian YouTube community. I am hoping to find a publisher for my book projects as well as continue teaching new courses.”
How did your English degree help to provide diverse career opportunities?
“I tell students in all my classes now that writing can take you almost anywhere, and I believe it. Being an English major/minor teaches you to think critically about your place in the world, analyze rhetoric, inspire change, empathize deeply with other people, and express yourself in powerful ways. These are skills that can translate across a variety of disciplines and professional opportunities.”
What is the most valuable lesson you learned at Elon University?
“This is probably corny, but at Elon I learned that even if life changes in ways that seem unfathomable, it can still turn out to be beautiful. I lost a lot of my familiar identities at Elon, but through classes and community, through professors who cared about me beyond the walls of their classrooms, and through experiences that the University offered, I found so many parts of myself that might have otherwise remained hidden. I’m grateful for the ways Elon opened me up to experiencing the world in new ways.”
“I found so many parts of myself that might have otherwise remained hidden.”
What advice would you give to seniors who are about to graduate with an English degree?
“I certainly encourage seniors to put their energy toward chasing dreams and applying for jobs that excite them, but also to trust that sometimes what seem like missteps or curves in the road are actually the most important part of the journey. I felt a lot of pressure when I was nearing graduation to know that I would land a stable job in my ideal field. Looking back, I would encourage myself to give myself time and be patient.”