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Recent English Alumni of CSUB Share Their Stories
Recent graduates from our department have pursued law degrees at Whittier College and Seton Hall University; M.F.A.s in creative writing at San Jose State, Long Beach State, and the University of Maryland; an M.F.A. in Film Directing at Cal Arts; an M.S. in Library and Information Science at San Jose State; an M.A. in South Asian Studies at the University of Michigan; an M.S. in Speech Language Therapy at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland; Ph.D.s in English and Rhetoric/Composition at UCLA, UC Riverside, and the University of Arizona, and in Political Science at Washington State University. One is a professional content writer in the social gaming industry; another is a courthouse reporter; another is a dramaturgy intern at the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Santa Maria, CA; another teaches English in South Korea at a school he founded with his wife. Many teach at Bakersfield College and local high schools, and others have found rewarding work with Americorps and Habitat for Humanity.
Kim Arbolante (2010) is a Library Associate for Kern County Library and also a Professional Consultant for the Bakersfield College Writing Lab. At the Eleanor Wilson Library, her primary responsibilities are planning and implementing all children’s programming, providing reference assistance to the public and assisting in overseeing the day-to-day duties of branch operation. In the BC Writing Lab, she assists undergraduate students with all phases of the writing process and also does ESL tutoring. She is also pursuing a Master’s in Information Science, to become a librarian, with San Jose State’s online program.
I graduated from CSUB in 2010. I have always been a writer and reading has always been a hobby. It wasn’t until my second year of nursing school that I realized I could pursue English as a major and profession. I think I always knew nursing wasn’t for me, but I knew it made my parents happy. I changed my major and completed my Bachelor’s in English. That fall I was hired at Kern County Library.
My knowledge of literature and its genres and research methods, and my ability to express myself well in written and verbal communication, have all been assets to my employer and are skills related to my Bachelor’s in English. In the summer of 2012 I was also hired as a Teaching Consultant at Bakersfield College. At BC I use my experience as a writer and knowledge of English mechanics to help undergraduates develop their writing skills. I assist them with all phases of the writing process from prewriting to proof reading. I also provide one-on-one tutoring to ESL students.
Looking back on my time at CSUB, I can recall many fond memories. I presented two papers for the CSUB Gender Matters Conferences. I attended many interesting lectures from guest speakers and California authors in the California Writers Series as well. The English community on campus is very close-knit and I have made many friends as well as developed a great professional network of colleagues and professors, which has helped me obtain my jobs. My advice for any future English majors would be this: think about what you want out of your degree when choosing a concentration. This, above all, will be what helps you land a job. Moreover, I encourage you to remember that loving what you do is worth exponentially more than you will ever be paid, so choose a concentration you can be passionate about and that aligns with where you see yourself in the future.
Jack Beckham (2003) attended UC Riverside and earned a Ph.D. in English specializing in American literature, Chicana/o literature, and film and visual culture. He has published peer reviewed journals articles on both U.S.-Mexico border cinema and cyber theory, as well as a book chapter on music-image theory. He currently works as an assistant professor at a community college and is an ad hoc reviewer for a peer-reviewed journal published by Routledge.
When I first transferred to CSUB from Bakersfield College, I was a Liberal Studies major, but I quickly changed my major to English after taking a few literature classes—a decision that, quite literally, changed my life. I enjoyed the high degree of critical thinking required to interpret literature and the challenge of trying to understand different critical theories. I felt then, as I do today, that majoring in English gives one access to a type and degree of intellectual stimulation that is almost without parallel. In fact, I loved this intellectual stimulation so much that I decided to pursue a graduate degree in English, and after receiving my BA at CSUB, I went on to earn an MA and Ph.D. in English from UC Riverside. Obtaining a doctoral degree is a grueling endeavor—it was the most difficult task I have ever completed—but the courses I took at CSUB prepared me for this challenge. One bit of advice I would give English majors who are considering graduate school is this: the job market for college and university English professors is extremely grim; it is not uncommon for 900 people to apply to one tenure-track university position or 400 people to apply for one tenure-track community college position. So if a person is thinking about going to graduate school to become a professor, he or she should be aware of this reality. Having said that, however, I should also point out that I acquired a tenure-track job immediately after completing my Ph.D. and then moved to another tenure-track position shortly after. And I give a large part of the credit for my success to CSUB. One of the things I have always touted on my CV/resume was my background in linguistics and second language acquisition because I took courses in those subjects to obtain my BA at CSUB. This made me very attractive to community colleges, which focus largely on teaching composition and need instructors who can teach developmental classes and help students who are not native English speakers. In this way, my CSUB degree has served me very well. In addition to this, one of the most practical benefits I have received from getting an English degree is (as trite as it sounds) the ability to communicate clearly and effectively, which has helped me do well in all the other, non-English, classes I had to take as an undergraduate student. And, of course, effective communication skills and clear writing abilities are attributes private-sector companies look for when they make hiring decisions (my wife, who also has a BA in English and has had a few wonderful non-academic jobs, can testify to this). Lastly, I recommend that any English major attend the weekly English Club meetings. My fondest college memories include hanging out with Professors Andy Troup and Emerson Case on Fridays with a dozen or so other students and just having fun. I am still in contact with many of the English Club members, almost ten years later, and I even call Dr. Troup a couple of times a year just to catch up, which is one of the perks of being at a cozy Cal State University like CSUB.
Jessica Boles (2012) is using her combined English and Theatre Arts degree by serving as a dramaturgy intern with the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Santa Maria, CA.
Since I was always an avid reader, a major in English made perfect sense for me. I delayed declaring a major until my second year, but after taking a few courses with the English department and discovering that I could double major in theatre, the choice was clear. The English major is incredibly useful because it demands that you think critically, beyond the obvious, and through many different lenses, making it a practice in empathy. It expands your cultural, political, historical, and social awareness. For me, particularly, the skills I honed as an English major spur my work as a dramaturg for those reasons. The professors in the department pushed me to become a better reader, writer, thinker, and, ultimately, human being. My advice to new majors would be to ask thoughtful questions--of your classmates and professors. Engage with the texts and with one another as much as possible. It's a rare luxury to be constantly surrounded by bright, dedicated, academically-minded people working on the same books, poems, plays, and big ideas that you are. Your fellow students are a great resource. Challenge and support one another. English majors don't have to be solitary scholars in towers. It's much more meaningful--and more fun--to explore together.
Kevin Chidgey (2011) is beginning his second year in an MFA fiction program at CSU Long Beach. His goal is to be a producing writer.
I retired from the electrical construction industry in 2004 and discovered over the next two years that you can only catch so many fish, and fishing becomes work too. I came back to school in 2006 with the intention of becoming a high school teacher. When the romance wore off and I looked at it realistically (helped by some substitute teaching experience), I realized I might be a little too psychologically frail to teach kids. I thought about changing my major to linguistics but stayed with literature because I wanted to write. All advice for writers contains the admonition to read a wide range of material.
As a literature major I read a lot that I would otherwise not have read, and a good deal of it helped me as a writer. I had some classes that offered the option of doing creative projects, and I wrote stories in the styles of various periods and gained insight into voice.
I am currently beginning my second year in an MFA fiction program at CSU Long Beach. My classmates majored in creative writing as undergrads, and I thought I would be behind, but I was up to speed after the first semester. We have to take critical theory classes and literature classes with the M.A.s, and I feel comfortable in those classes having majored in Lit. The English majors who I’ve seen go on to graduate programs in Composition and Rhetoric seem to do fine also. If you like to read and write, creative and/or critical, a literature major is the best background.
Philip Duncan (2007, J.D., Seton Hall Law School, 2010) is a public interest attorney at the City Bar Justice Center, where he helps low-income New Yorkers navigate the legal system. He's also endlessly rewriting a novel, so he spends his free time surfing between coffee shops, scribbling on his manuscript, and talking to himself.
I started out as a bioengineering major at UC San Diego. It's a fine major and an excellent program, but to me it always felt like turning a crank. Whereas reading stuff like Lolita and Infinite Jest and Blood Meridian shook my foundations. These books felt Important in a way my other studies didn't, and switching to English was a way to explore that. Looking back on it, maybe I'd be happier as a crank-turner. Maybe I'd also be happier if I took a coat-hanger to my prefrontal cortex. Either way, I'd probably be less interesting.
My journey toward an English degree began when I got fired from my job busing tables. I was living at home, and my parents gave me the ultimatum that I either go back to school or find another place to sleep. Well I’d always fancied myself a writerly type, and figured if I had to go back to school I might as well read the classics, so I chose English. My classes exposed me to many great literary works, and CSUB has some brilliant faculty members, so I never regretted the decision.
Coming upon graduation I had to figure out a way to move out of the house, and since I wasn’t on the teacher track and my creative writing wasn’t miraculously paying off, I settled on law school. The English major was pretty useful here, both in developing my reading comprehension and giving me a vocabulary suited to my professional career. With these skills I got a job as an attorney at the City Bar Justice Center in New York, helping poor people navigate the legal system. Yet the main use I get from my major is more personal: I love words.
Prospective English majors take heed: you need to have a plan for after graduation. It’s a good major and CSUB has a good program, but few employers are going to ask you to explicate John Donne. Do it because you’re passionate about it, and because effective communication is important. If you’re smart enough, you can turn it into something.
Fabian Euresti (2007; MFA in Film Directing, Cal Arts, 2010) is a filmmaker. His experimental documentary “Everybody’s Nuts” won international honors and currently he is working with CSUB on a CalHumanities-sponsored documentary about first-generation college graduates from a migrant labor background, “Camp to Campus” (www.csub.edu/camptocampus). He is also an Artist in Residence for Kern Arts Council.
Kayla Freer (2012) is a Content and Community Manager in the social gaming industry. Being a storyteller at heart, she pursued a B.A. in English before moving on to the profession she has today of helping build the storylines for award-winning games. She credits her success as a confident and respected writer to the educational experience she received at CSUB.
I initially chose English because of my love for books. I was a reader long before I was a writer and, though I didn't much care for writing when I began, I could not resist a good story. It was during my classes at CSUB that I had the opportunity to fall in love with a writing style that was all my own. Because of CSUB, I was given the confidence, courage, and persistence to pursue a career in writing in my own unique way. I learned of my capabilities and strengths not just from the document that said I had a B.A. of English from CSUB, but from my entire educational experience.
Through the interactions I had with fellow students and faculty, I gained the knowledge and confidence I needed to go out and find a career I love rather than having a job that just pays the bills. I now work for a company that respects and admires my skills as a writer and I take part in creating award-winning games enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people all around the world. Because of the mindset that CSUB instilled in me as an individual, I am in a position where I feel no limitations on my creative ability or potential- either personally or from the company where I now work.
They always say that the chances of becoming a professional writer and doing what you love are slim to none. They were wrong and my experience at CSUB showed me that. To anyone else who's considering a degree in English, never put yourself in a box as to what you can accomplish. With hard work and a good education, the possibilities are limitless.
Nicholas "Max" Goodwin (2007; M.F.A. in poetry, San Jose State, 2010) is a freelance writer and poet living in the Bay Area.
A reformed freshwater ecology major, Max overcame his high school fear of English after taking Michael Flachmann's introductory Shakespeare class. Marit MacArthur’s care and skill as an instructor inspired him to begin writing poetry. His interest in performance and symbolism led him to pursue an MFA in poetry at San Jose State University. Thankfully, he studied Robert Frost as an undergraduate, attenuating the chances of ridicule from his graduate school professors; he humbly advises newer students to do the same! Max is now seeking publication of his thesis manuscript, The Body Dysmorphic, a book of poems about the human body and technology. He has received two James Phelan awards for metrical verse, has been published in REED Magazine, and has read his poetry at several events in Silicon Valley. His work in college helped him prepare a portfolio that has since landed him positions writing music reviews for a local radio station as well as content for business websites.
Jenny L. Holland (2007), a double major in English and political science, is a doctoral candidate in political science at Washington State University. Her research interests include voting behavior, campaigns, and elections.
I had an extremely rich experience at CSUB as an English and political science double-major. Initially, I chose to major in English because of its emphasis on writing and critical thinking, as well as my broader interest in the study of American literature. I also always had a strong interest in politics, which led to the double-major and my eventual decision to pursue a doctorate in political science.
The English degree has been extremely useful in my graduate work, particularly because of the analytical and conceptual requirements of academic research as well as the writing elements of scholarly publication. I have also had the wonderful opportunity to teach undergraduates and my English skills have certainly helped me to be effective in the classroom and push my students in the development of their written analytical arguments.
As I think about my time at CSUB, I am thankful for the diversity of subfields I was able to study; I not only had the benefit of taking American literature and poetry courses, but I also had the opportunity to expand my knowledge base by taking multiple courses on Shakespeare (which even included acting out scenes in class!), Medieval literature, Race and Ethnicity studies, Linguistics, and several others. These courses were extremely engaging, especially because the relatively small class sizes encouraged student interaction and discussion-based learning.
I would highly recommend taking courses in a variety of areas, and visiting with professors during office hours—they have much to share and are very willing to help! Ultimately, I am very proud to be an alum and hope new students have as great an experience as I did!
Rebekah Kearn (2011) is a courthouse reporter (not to be confused with court reporter!) and legal journalist with Courthouse NewsService, a nation-wide publishing company headquartered in Pasadena. She reports on lawsuits in which businesses and/or people in official capacities, like doctors, are being sued for over $25,000. She also writes articles for the company website and is developing a specialty in California environmental litigation. When she can pin down some spare time, she enjoys working on her many novels-in-progress, which span genres from science fiction and fantasy to mystery.
I’ve loved reading and writing since I was a little girl, so majoring in English was a natural choice for me. At first I thought I wanted to major in psychology, but after one quarter, I decided I would rather read literature and write essays than calculate ANOVAs and draw bell curves. Some people dislike how subjective English can be, but I think the fact that a work of literature can have multiple interpretations rather than one right answer is what gives the discipline strength. It forces students to develop skills in deep reading and analytical interpretation, and teaches them how to craft an argument and defend it with evidence and persuasion.
After graduating, I did some work as a proofreader. In December 2011, I found a permanent job with Courthouse NewsService, where I work as a courthouse reporter and legal journalist. I have always dreamed about law school, so having a job that lets me go to court and report on civil lawsuits without incurring the debt of law school is very appealing. The irony of my situation is that I deliberately avoided journalism while in college because I thought I wouldn’t like it. Now I’m a journalist, and I love it! My editors still call me out for being “academic” and inserting my own interpretations into my articles, though they are always constructive with their criticism. With their tips and pointers, I hope to one day master the new medium of journalism – or at least improve enough that they no longer want to rip their hair out when they see my drafts in their in-boxes.
I have many great memories of attending CSUB. During my senior year, I worked with a professor researching course material for a Literature and Technology class emphasizing the technology of transportation. I love research, so getting paid to wander through JSTOR and EBSCO Host and make a list of potential novels, poems, stories, and journal articles to use in the class was really fun for me.
Another great memory was presenting a paper at the Third Annual Gender Matters Conference. Although it was kind of scary –speaking in front of crowds makes me nervous! – it was also very rewarding to promote dialogue and discussion on gender construction with my work.
Probably the best memory I have of Cal State Bakersfield was going to the Alpha Chi Honors Conference in San Diego and presenting a paper I wrote applying modern marital theory to Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, which was awarded the Best Paper in the Shakespeare Studies category. The experience of attending a national conferenc especifically held to honor academic excellence is something I will never forget.
I am very fortunate to have a job where I can use the skills I learned at CSUB. Like many English majors who don’t want to be teachers, I often wondered what to do with my English degree after I graduated. My advice for future English majors would be to explore all the options out there, including temporary work, and to not be afraid of trying new things. Networking and promoting yourself are also important – I had the pleasure of working with professors because of networking, and asking my professors if they wouldn’t mind letting me know about possible job opportunities.
If you are working on novels, short stories, poems, or scripts, don’t give up on them just because creative activities like that might not get you a paycheck right away (or any paycheck at all). I still struggle with making enough time and having enough motivation to write for pleasure while also writing for work, but nothing is as satisfying as playing with language and creating something new just by putting words on a page. Even though getting a job is important, so is committing yourself to a dream.
Ranjanpreet Kaur Nagra (2008; M.A. in South Asian Studies, University of Michigan, 2010) is a lecturer and language instructor in Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi at the University of Michigan.
I graduated in 2008 with a BA in English. My minor was French and I also took several linguistics classes. I decided to choose English, because English is not my first language and I needed to improve my writing skills. I took courses in literature, I was a staff writer for The Runner, and I took very interesting linguistics and creative writing courses. As a result, I learned to be more articulate in my writing. I became more aware of language and its aesthetics, and I learned to manipulate language better.
During these years, I trained for long distance running with CSUB track and cross country team. I auditioned for plays because I thought drama was fun. My fondest memories at CSUB are running in the rain with the team and dancing on stage in a play. I spent the senior year studying abroad at University of Central Lancashire in North West England. While I was there, I applied to several graduate programs and was accepted at the University of Michigan where I earned a Master's in South Asian Studies.
I spent 2011 volunteering for a non-profit and collected 120 video interviews of the survivors of 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan. I then worked as a freelance medical and court interpreter, and in the fall of 2012, I will begin teaching Hindi as a language instructor at the University of Michigan.
My advice to CSUB undergraduates is that anything and everything you do that is constructive, that teaches you, that challenges you will help you when you get out of college. It will come in handy sometime in your life. Don't turn down opportunities and challenges because you think you're not good enough.
Kshiti Vaghela (2010) just completed her MFA in Fiction at the University of Maryland and is now working on polishing a novel and a short story collection while roaming the Smithsonian's in DC for inspiration. She will also be teaching composition and creative writing to undergrads at UMD.
I graduated from CSUB in 2010, two years after I had joined the community with a shift in majors from Biology to English. I was a semester away from graduating with a BS in Human Biology at UC Merced, but something told me I would never be satisfied until I pursued what I loved most: reading books. So, English it was.
I was not sure what to do after I graduated with the degree, but on a whim, I applied to several creative writing programs. I was extremely lucky and was accepted (and fully funded) at the University of Maryland. I have been here ever since, taking exciting courses in literature and writing while getting opportunities to teach undergrad courses. This opened a door I had not known would be one for me to go through... I have come to love teaching writing (both academic and creative). I graduated with a MFA in May, and will be spending the next year teaching undergrads and polishing my own work.
My fondest memories at CSUB include: being completely confused by Professor Ayuso in her theory classes, and having it all cleared up by simply going to see her during office hours, sharing jokes with Professor Dell'Amico about Murdoch's The Nice and the Good (a book I recommend over and over again as a perfect example of opinionated omniscient narration), Professor Flachmann's Shakespeare course's commercial assignment, Professor MacArthur's exercise of writing our own Whitman-esque lines, and the end of year feast in Professor Stafinbil's Renaissance class. There really are too many great moments to share!
I have only one thing to say in terms of advice: do what you want to do, and don't be afraid to do it. If you fail, it does not make it wrong. It means, keep trying. Sometimes, being the only one on your side is the best thing that will ever happen to you.
David Walford (2009) started his own business with his wife teaching English in South Korea.
When I transferred from BC to CSUB in 2006, I considered pursuing a degree in Chemistry like my father, but I thankfully chose English literature. I continue studying chemistry as a hobby, but my American literature 205 course persuaded me to major in English literature because of the active student involvement Dr. MacArthur demanded from us. Similarly, my other English professors also encouraged students to discuss merits of literary masterpieces, strengthen our academic arguments though scholarly research, and write a clear argument concisely. The skills I attained from CSUB have assisted me in my career overseas.
Since graduating from CSUB in 2009, I have been teaching English in South Korea. Like most expats, I began teaching English at private academies to primary school children. The private school I taught for was enjoyable, but I couldn’t grow with the company, so I applied to Samsung Electronics Corp. Working at Samsung was a pleasurable experience that allowed me to exercise many skills from my CSUB education, but writing clearly and expressing myself concisely was paramount to my success at Samsung Electronics in both the human resources and marketing departments. I loved teaching English in the HR department and assisting the translators in marketing, but my wife convinced me to become an entrepreneur and open our own English academy; California English Academy. We have since been self-employed teaching English in South Korea.
When I graduated from CSUB in 2009, the American economy was rather bleak, so my Korean fiancé suggested South Korea’s job market. As my degree was in English, I was very marketable in both education and Samsung’s English teaching and marketing divisions. While reading critically and writing clearly assisted my career in South Korea, the continuous constructive criticism offered by CSUBs dedicated faculty have been my greatest experience. English Literature as a major can be subjective, but I found that to be its greatest strength. The constructive criticism I received while studying English literature was humbling, but it also taught me to recognize my weaknesses and work with my peers in synergetic fashion.
Aaron Yniguez (2010) after graduation began undertaking master’s prerequisite courses in speech language pathology through Idaho State University. He was then accepted into Queen Margaret University’s Speech Language Therapy master’s program in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he now resides with his family.
When I arrived at CSUB I found myself at a bit of an academic crossroads. I had originally planned on majoring in History and keeping English as my minor in order to teach high school. As time went by I found myself rebelling against the confines of historical writing and found myself increasingly enjoying my English courses. I took a year off from school to deal with personal matters and when I returned History became my minor and English my major. Ultimately, my passion for literature, coupled with the knowledge that English encompassed a great deal of subjects from history to sociology as well as philosophy, made the decision of making it my subject of focus quite an easy one.
Since graduating I dabbled with La Verne’s single subject credential program but decided to work on my master’s in speech language pathology. I attended Idaho State University’s online master’s prerequisite program in speech language pathology and after months of researching universities I sent out a series of applications nationally and internationally. After weighing my options I decided upon the most exotic of my choices and decided to attend Queen Margaret University’s program due to its status in the field and the chance to live in Europe, which I have not regretted.
My English degree has been more than useful not only in my daily life but in my master’s-level coursework. The skills I learned as an undergraduate gave me the ability to write essays, which have earned me scholarships towards my program. Furthermore, when writing assignments are handed out, I do not feel the dread other students feel. I feel confident in my grasp of the English language and in communication skills.
My advice to current and future English students at CSUB is to not let future job prospects or other people’s advice keep you from pursuing your passion. A degree in English does not have to be the end result; it can be a stepping-stone to other career options. I originally planned on teaching but now I am living in Scotland working on my master’s in speech language pathology. It is a broad field of study and lends itself to degrees in almost any profession you wish to follow. CSUB is blessed with an amazing English department composed of fabulous professors. Learn as much as you can from them and enjoy yourself. Some of my best memories are sitting in class with my friends discussing concepts and assignments. I hope you enjoy your time at CSUB as much as I did and best of luck in your studies.
California State University, Bakersfield
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