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Eastern English Alumni Discuss Careers in Law and Library Science

Published on April 19, 2018

Eastern English Alumni Discuss Careers in Law and Library Science


This semester, the English Department at Eastern Connecticut State University hosted two alumni panels to combat the popular notion that English degrees lead only to academic professions. The "English at Work" series welcomed several Eastern graduates who took alternative routes following their time at Eastern - some went on to receive a Juris Doctor (J.D.) and others earned a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree.

Kristen Brierley '08, Samuel Lisi '13 and Andrew Minikowski '12 made up the February panel, while the March panel consisted of Hilary Saxton '13, Caroline Hayden '13 and Eric Alan '12. Each group discussed their transition from studying English to joining the working world, sharing real-life professional experiences and providing helpful insight for current English majors.

When asked about which English classes they consider particularly helpful when applying to law school, the J.D. panel agreed on the importance of rhetoric and composition classes. "That's what law is… that's the meat of practicing law," said Minikowski, calling attention to the importance of being able to structure evidence and form coherent arguments. Lisi pointed out that it is beneficial for English students to participate actively in these classes as a means of refining discourse skills. "You need to be able to speak in a way that's clear and makes sense."

As a law student, "You have to have balance," said Lisi. It is no secret that English majors also require remarkable balance. The dedication behind the field and those in it is a sweeping part of what shapes a student to succeed in a demanding discipline later in life. "In hindsight, law school is like training for anything. It's very difficult because it's worth it."

"Of course there are moments here you're in over your head," said Brierley, reassuring students that every professional journey comes with challenges - especially in the field of law - and that struggling does not make somebody a failure. Rather, she suggested, one must learn what methods work best for them and put in consistent effort. "It is not what you expect, it is not like your time as an undergraduate, but you know yourself."

In the same way studying both English and law showcases versatile character, an array of connections brings widespread career possibilities. Lisi mentioned the benefits of interning and becoming familiar with companies that pertain to one's field, even if not in an expected position, as a means of "learning-by-proxy." The J.D. panel stressed the magnitude of this multifaceted effort. "Be strategic in looking for places you'd want to gain some exposure," said Minikowski.

Likewise, the Library and Information Science (MLIS) alumni also emphasized that finding the right career fit is an individualized process, which is why it is important to consider a number of options. Hayden shared that before English, she had majored in art, and before that, psychology. "I needed to reevaluate my career choices," she stated. She found value in her on-campus job, working in the archives at Eastern's library.

Saxton, on the other hand, knew that she loved English, but did not know what to do with her degree after graduation. She revealed that her decision to get an MLIS was because a friend was doing it, and it turned out that she quickly took to the study. However, it was not before Saxton discovered that she hated being a college librarian that she discovered she loved being a children's librarian.

The MLIS panel members touched on the flexibility of their degrees, promoting the field as a promising space for the adaptable English student. Much like an English degree, a library degree does not inherently land somebody in academia. "It's not just universities, it's not just historical societies," said Hayden. "We all go into the program, come out and go off in a million different directions."

Alan concurred, pointing out that many people do not have a distinct plan going into this graduate study. "The great thing about a library degree is that you can do practically anything with it." He added that the English major's polished ability to gather and organize information makes for a smooth transition into library and information science.

The varying degrees of experience called attention to not only the professional growth that comes with library science, but to the academic development undertaken by an English student. Alan affirmed that the overall practicality of the English major is a powerful quality in the working world, whether it is directed toward an MLIS or elsewhere. "You will be able to take that and use it."


Written by Jordan Corey