On Friday, October 14, of Homecoming Weekend, F&M held a panel called “Careers & Lives after F&M: Four English Majors Tell All” in the Great Room of Ware College House. The panelists are four accomplished alumni—Latanya N. Jenkins ’99, Reference Librarian for Government Information and Africology & African American Studies at Temple University, Keiran Miller ’15, College Advisor of Pennsylvania College Advising Corps, Elizabeth Ressler ’07, the Senior Director of Commercial Learning Development Advisory Board Company, and Jennifer M. Schlener ’94, the Chief of Staff of Association of American Medical Colleges.
Elizabeth Ressler ‘07, an accomplished student and athlete who received her BA in English and MA in Health Education, did not instantly get to where she is today. She had started as a clerk—doing basic managing, planning and organizing things. She highlighted the transition gap from college to the career world; in college, you know what you are doing, you know you can study hard and get good grades, and you know you can be successful when you work hard, but at work, everyone basically works hard yet sometimes, hard work does not necessarily result in instant fruitful results. You might face rejections from your clients even though you work hard and you need to know how to handle these situations.
Latanya N. Jenkins ’99, who came to F&M as a Pre-med but took an English major, also started her job from a clerk position. She was responsible for three departments yet was “still a clerk”. She reflected: “As, I graduated, I had no idea.” Initially, she did not stress herself too much about her career. She was involved in several social volunteer works. Nonetheless, she later decided to further pursue an Information/Library Sciences Degree and has become a professional librarian. Soon afterwards, she was recruited for the Resource Librarian position at the Temple University. During the panel, she also commented on how gratification works in the job world: whatever you are doing, you need to be engaged and stay positive; you might not necessarily hear back about the fruits of your advice; yet, you need to continue working with self-confidence.
Jennifer M. Schlener ’94 came to F&M considering a major in Accounting, yet discovered her love for English while at F&M, ended up majoring in English. She had spent about 15 years of her life as a development leader before moving to her current position. Reflecting back on her experiences, she commented, “Opportunities pop up when you are not expecting them.” Throughout her time at F&M, she was involved in several extracurricular activities and she found these experiences benefitted her life after college. She pointed out the privilege of current students, which her generation in the 1990s did not have—a lot of career mentoring programs led by the Office of Student and Post-Graduate Development (OSPGD). She encouraged the current students to grasp the opportunities they are afforded to develop themselves as leaders.
Keiran Miller ’15, a Posse Scholar, highlighted how his experiences throughout his F&M career have influenced his career choice. Since high school, he recognized his passion for writing creatively; yet, back then, he thought he would do it just as his passion, not his job. His epiphanic moment came when he took a creative writing class at F&M; he knew then that it was what he wanted to do. Now, he appreciates how his English creative writing background plays a role in his advising job. He mentions that as an English major, he can help the students with their college essays, scholarship essays, and resumes. When asked about challenges in the job world, he warned about delayed gratification; you won’t necessarily receive instant praises for your positive actions, though you will be blamed for your wrongdoings; yet, avoiding feeling depressed about this issue and believing in what you do is important.
Each of them mentioned how experiences at F&M supported them in their careers and lives beyond college. Keiran Miller mentioned how his involvement as facilitator in the College Prep program, and peer mentoring made him realize his interest in leadership and mentorship. Reflecting back, he wished he had joined the Writers House earlier than he actually did as he has now realizes the stunning support this community provides to students. Elizabeth Ressler mentioned, “F&M really forces you to become a hard worker.” She discussed how she has benefited from the rigor of F&M and the English major: while her colleagues have difficulty in outlining and writing business emails, her everyday experiences have trained her for this. Her writings and daily planning during her college career has developed her skills not only in outlining and effective communications through writing, but also in project management, problem solving, and critical thinking. She thus noted, “Don’t underestimate what you are doing every day.” Looking back, she wished she could have been involved in more social activities rather than just focusing on academics and athletics because social experiences are also crucial in networking in the job world.
Asides from academic rigor, Jennifer M. Schlener found her extracurricular involvement particularly enriching for her. While at F&M, she was involved in music, admissions, and residential life. She mentioned that her involvement in administrative areas somehow seemed to even foreshadow her career. She has no regrets as she spent her college life exactly as she wanted to. Latanya N. Jenkins also said that tools she gained at F&M made her job easier. She could not think of anything to regret because F&M experiences, either good or bad, helped her grow and shaped her to become who she is.
Alumni of F&M are willing to share their experiences and help current students develop. As F&M provides such networking opportunities, I think it is up to the current generation students to grasp these opportunities to be well-equipped for their lives beyond college.