The Misconception of the English Major

Written By Gladys Oster

Choosing a major can be intimidating and stressful, especially when you start considering the financial aspect of a future career. Many students may be hesitant to choose something in the humanities, thinking they will be confined to working in education. Students joke about English in particular, saying it essentially will lead students to wasting time and money.

Provost David Whalen disagrees with such a misconception.

“The problem with the English major isn’t that you are limited to one career, but rather, it almost equips you to do too much. It may take a little bit longer to land on their feet, but once English majors do, they advance more quickly. Specific to Hillsdale, English and the humanities in general are rigorous here, unlike many other undergraduate programs.”

Two shining examples of Dr. Whalen’s sentiments are English alumni Mark Naida, ’18, and Chandler Ryd, ’18.

After graduation, the Koch Institute offered Mark a spot in its Media and Journalism Fellowship program. Mark currently works at The Detroit News as an editor and occasional columnist.

“I was stunned by the number of media connections Hillsdale has to offer me. It’s been a blessing to start with a leg up. People shouldn’t feel limited by their majors. Because of my time at Hillsdale, I’ve learned to understand the bigger picture and to think for myself. Hillsdale’s given me everything I have.”

Chandler graduated with a degree in English and was all set to head to California so he could pursue a career in film. A few months before he finalized the plans with his fiancee, the marketing department at Hillsdale had an opening for a video producer. He made the decision to stay on with the marketing department because of how much he liked the challenge, freedom, and resources at Hillsdale.

“Hillsdale’s English program beats film school, for me. I learned the principles of storytelling, studied great authors, and considered pieces of art. I gained applicable tools to see, learn, and think about art in a significant way. The English major provided a foundation for my knowledge.”

Ryd produced a short film last January and continues to produce promotional videos for Hillsdale.

Many other English majors have pursued careers in fields besides media and journalism. Dr. Whalen recalls three of his past students: one currently runs a non-profit; another works in Washington, D.C., for a philanthropic organization; and another is studying at medical school.

“It is no wonder an English major can be successful in any field. English majors have the ability to cut through dizzying complexities,” Dr. Whalen remarked. “You have to analyze and synthesize. You are asked to make coherent wholes out of things that may seem completely unrelated. Giving someone training prepares them to perform a function. Education is preparing someone to live up to their humanity. From there comes the melting point of intellect and emotions where one’s intelligence increases in a tangible and abstract sense.”

No matter a student’s major, the education Hillsdale has to offer prepares them for life’s many challenges and opportunities.

Gladys Oster, ’22, plans to study psychology and journalism at Hillsdale. In her free time, she loves to read murder mysteries and eat dark-chocolate covered pretzels.

Published in February 2019