Recent English alums offer their advice:
Anne -Evan Kale '98
graduate student, University of California Berkeley
Chuck Hurley '96
former editor of the Dickinsonian, producer, Turner News Network
Marketing Consultant, The Gazette, Washington D.C.
Justin Oppelaar, '96
writer and researcher, Individual Investor Magazine, NYC
Jake Rashkind '95
English and Creative Writing teacher, Pennington School, NJ
Peace Corps volunteer in Chad, Africa, now in publishing in California
Anne -Evan Kale '98 — graduate student, University of California Berkeley: During my junior year, I began looking for a more solid way to connect my two academic obsessions, literature and education. During my work in the previous two years with the PEER program, I had developed both a love of teaching and of sharing my love for literature. I had also become painfully aware of the problems involved in teaching children a love for literature when basic literacy skills are not present. It was frustrating for me, as an educator, but even more so for the kids. I became even more concerned for the older students who struggled with reading, those who had apparently "fallen through the cracks." It was then that I began considering the work of reading specialists. With the help of the education department, I organized an internship with the reading specialist at Wilson Middle School, where I could study the characteristics of students who are labelled "good readers" and those who are labelled "struggling readers." I spent four months in seventh grade classrooms, observing student behavior, reviewing student work, and learning reading instruction strategies from a Master teacher. It was after this internship that I decided my own future lay in literacy instruction. After completing my BA in English, with a teaching credential, I have attended the University of California, Berkeley, where I have studied in the Language Literacy and Culture program in the School of Education, focusing on reading and language arts leadership. I am writing my thesis, based on original, self-directed, qualitative research, on the process of student-generated inquiry as it is seen in inquiry-based science compared to the reading process. In the fall I will teach full-time as a reading specialist, and in the future plan to pursue my PhD in Children's Literature, returning to my roots in literature, but again with a bend towards instructional uses and literacy education.
Chuck Hurley '96 — former editor of the
Dickinsonian, producer, Turner News Network: First, a word or two in general about the importance of internships.
I can't stress enough how critical it is for today's graduate to have at
least one quality internship in the career field you wish to pursue.
Unless you are going on to graduate school, no one cares about your GPA or your extracurricular activities. What employers do care about is real world experience. And the only way you're going to get it before graduation is an internship.
My first internship was at the White House during the summer of 1995. And while I may not be the most famous person to intern during that time, the experience definitely helped me make a name for myself. I helped put together what they call the White House Daily News Report. Sound glamorous? Well, in reality it involved getting up at 2am, get into the office by 4am, and cut out newspaper articles and xerox them.
The truth is that you probably won't be doing any highly skilled tasks during
your internship. But the point is really to prove that you can handle working
in a professional work environment. It gives you
something to put on your resume.
My second internship was at The Sentinel newspaper in Carlisle. There I was able to write articles for the paper on a semi-regular basis. I was lucky in this regard. Many places will have you answering phones, sending faxes, and making copies. If that's the case, don't despair. It still will look better on paper than lifeguarding or working retail.
Lisa Goldman '95, Marketing Consultant, The Gazette, Washington D.C.: Creative writing has taken on a whole new meaning for me since Dickinson. Now when I do creative writing, it is mainly headlines and advertising copy. As a marketing consultant for a community newspaper, I am constantly shifting gears -- from information gatherer to trouble shooter to brainstormer to ad designer. I learn about new businesses and am challenged make their profits grow. When I meet a new customer, I do what we call a "marketing interview", which basically amounts to a needs analysis. I ask probing questions about their business goals, their customer base, their advertising history -- both successes and failures, etc. Armed with this information, I come up with marketing recommendations, which include several good ad designs. The goal for the ads is to accomplish two things 1) the ads must be well designed and creative, following the formula for store ad design that will get them noticed in a black and white newspaper; 2) they must capture the customer's message, image and goals for their business.
The consultative sales approach really brings out many of the skills I honed at Dickinson. I need to synthesize information and present it in a new, creative form. I delve into a large subject and narrow down themes and pertinent information, patterns and business solutions. And I get to do creative writing — only now it is aimed at getting the consumer's attention rather than the professor's feedback.
Justin Oppelaar, '96, writer and
researcher, Individual Investor Magazine, NYC: I went into the Dickinson internship at the beginning of my
senior year out of fear more than anything else. I knew I wanted to write
for a living, but that was about all I knew job-wise, and I was getting
Trying to distill my ambitions into something relatively profitable, I flipped
cursorily through the three-ring binders full of internship contacts and
career possibilities. It's a little frightening to think
about it now, but the page that finally caught my eye ended up shaping the direction of my entire professional life to date. It was a cub reporting gig at what is quite possibly the smallest
newspaper in the Cumberland Valley. The Valley Times-Star, in Newville, Pennsylvania, claimed a loyal readership of just under 3,000 and a staff of precisely one editor, one reporter and one office manager.
The Times-Star staff labored away in a narrow storefront office on Big Spring Ave. in Newville, industriously typing up the week's community news on computers that predated Madonna. Paste-up and production were done at the presses of the Times-Star's only slightly larger parent newspaper about ten miles away.
I was put to work immediately, covering such pressing news events as a local
high-school wrestling champ's return to his old grammar school, and writing
feature stories on the history of St. Patrick's Day.
The learning curve was steep. I quickly discovered the importance of attention to detail, after sitting through an hour and a half interview and returning home with five lines of notes. I also learned how to
economize with my words, and sort through a pile of information and cherry-pick the ones readers will want most.
In other words, I got a crash course in journalism, and I was hooked. I finished the internship committed to the profession, and immediately applied to J-schools for the fall. I've since worked for a major business wire and a monthly magazine in New York, the biggest media market in the world. But I'm still grateful for the thrill of sweating over my first deadlines, pounding out my first leads and, best of all, seeing my first ever byline in that little shoebox of a newsroom.
Jake Rashkind '95, English and Creative Writing teacher, Pennington School, NJ: My decision to major in English at Dickinson has played an integral role in my life. I have always loved literature and writing, but like many, I had some apprehension about committing myself to what seemed like such an "impractical" major, feeling that my future might be better served by sticking with a poli sci / pre law track.
But what ultimately sold me on English was the impassioned instruction I received from the professors in the department. I was repeatedly amazed by their ability to make their subjects relevant. To this day I remember discussions such as the one comparing some themes in Byron's poetry to themes in Rolling Stones songs.
The English professors are not only passionate about their fields of study, they are committed to the intellectual growth of young people. With the benefit of small classes, I felt that my professors really took the time to get to know me, that who I was really mattered in those classes, where the exchange of ideas was particularly important.
Ultimately, I learned some very practical skills as a result of my decision to major in English. I learned how to write. The writing assignments were thought- provoking , challenging, and constant. I took a number of writing courses within the major and benefitted a great deal from the guidance of both my professors and peers. Through Creative Writing courses I developed a love for writing fiction , and found that the challenge there was in synthesizing all of the pieces that we often worked to dissect in literature courses. I plan to continue my study of fiction writing next year at the Graduate School level, with hopes of earning a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing.
Through my English courses I also learned to be a critical reader, and was
empowered with the feeling that I should trust my own instincts in analyzing
a text. I received plenty of practice speaking in front of my peers as well,
defending my points, often with specific references from the work we were
discussing. Had I decided to pursue a degree in law after my four years at
Dickinson, I would have been ready. But just as I grew so much from the tireless
efforts of my English professors I came to realize the value in
fostering a love of learning in young people. Today I teach high school English - American and British Literature, and Creative Writing . For the past five years my commitment to my students has elicited the best I have to offer. I owe a great deal to my English professors, and hope to some day be teaching at the college level myself.
Andreya Valabek '96, Peace Corps volunteer in Chad, Africa, now in publishing in California: I made my decision to join the Peace Corps on my graduation day from Dickinson. I had been weighing my options at the time: publishing in New York City, or volunteering in Africa. I felt that I was choosing my whole destiny, shaping my whole life by making this choice. Either the high-stress, fast- paced material world of publishing and New York City or the low-stress, slow-paced natural world of the Peace Corps and Africa. As I chatted with professors, friends, and family about my future that beautiful day in the academic quad, I grew in confidence asI told more people—and my parents for the first time—that I was going into the Peace Corps.
I joined Peace Corps to recapture the feeling I had first experienced as a junior in Toulouse--of living every moment, of challenging myself to the fullest, of doing one thing I was afraid of each day. I joined the Peace Corps not for the noble reasons many people suspected—but for purely selfish ones. I wanted to learn about another culture, experience a new land, and learn about my capabilities. Was I capable of drawing my own bath water from a well, carrying a bucket on my head and squatting low behind a mud brick wall under the broad sky splashing water over my skin to bathe? Could I really eat with my hands—no utensils—for two years? Could I prepare a whole chicken—start to finish—range to stewpot ? Could I survive malaria and avoid tuberculosis? If I could do these things and more, then surely I could make the world my home. Because I was not expecting to save lives or create world peace, I was not disappointed in my experience. My expectations were only of myself.
I arrived in my town in southern Chad and spent the first day alone with an adolescent girl who spoke only Sara. The first day gave me an inkling of the solitude to come. In my early days in Sarh, I spent a lot of time floundering around my neighborhood, trying to start a water committee here, organizing a group to build a well there. I felt very awkward in my role as a water sanitation volunteer. Who was I to tell grown men and women how to live? After all, I had only just learned what water sanitation meant three months ago in what passed for training. Having little else to occupy my time, I spent many of my days lying sweating on a mat reading whatever I could find. Reading was an escape for me. I was happy to have the time and space to read indiscriminately. My mind felt sharp. My life was uncrowded, uncluttered, slow. I could read a book for three solid days and do nothing else. My discomfort and moral qualms with teaching people how to live grew as I retreated into my books. I was there to learn, not to teach. Or so I thought.
A few months into my service, I was asked to teach English to elementary school students. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have the first inclination, not to mention, the training to be a teacher; I was a native speaker. After a year of trial and error, I was intrigued and stimulated by teaching. I longed to expose students to English and American literature. I offered to teach full time at the local high school. Thus, I became “Miss An der rey ya” and something of a local celebrity in my town. Pedaling daily on my bike in the scorching heat, I was greeted by shouts of “Good Morning Miss Ander rey ya” behind me and ahead of me, leaving an audible trail of my comings and goings. Teaching had given me a place in the community where I felt I belonged. Though I still struggled with the ethical issues of promoting the spread of English around the world, I loved standing in front of a class of 80 students, most fathers of children, heads of households, and older than I. I took my love of literature and tried to offer it to these students. We had no books; I laboriously copied poems and texts on to the blackboard and taught my eager students how to read and recite.
In choosing Peace Corps I was choosing the course of my life, my destiny,
though not in the way I had expected. I met and married my husband, a volunteer
who shared my experiences in Chad. Together we struggled to translate our
experiences into the 9-5 culture of the states. My choice to join Peace Corps
was not an either-or choice as I had imagined. I had thought that by choosing
Peace Corps I was sacrificing a career in publishing. Instead, I was able
to blend my initial interest in publishing and literature with my newfound
inclination toward education. I am now an editor for an English as a Second
Language textbook publisher. I hope to continue to meld my interests in the
world and its people with my love for the English language and its literature,
perhaps in pursuit of a higher degree in African Area Studies or Comparative
Literature. Peace Corps has taught me that in order to really know a culture--even
your own--you must live in it, breathe it in, taste it, in all of its grandeur
Career Center Intership Information