Looking back on my time at King’s University College, I am struck by not just what an overall wonderful experience it was, but by how much it actually prepared me for the many challenges I faced in the “real” world.
I was fortunate to benefit not only from some of the greatest and most engaging professors one could ask for, but from an environment that valued open discussion and free-thinking. We weren’t “spoken to” by faculty, but challenged to think for ourselves; this fostered a curiosity that continues to burn within me throughout by professional life.
Speaking of which, shortly after graduation from King’s, I found entry-level work at an advertising agency as a copywriter. There was a catch though; it was in healthcare advertising, a field I admittedly knew less about than “regular” advertising!
That first year required me to work hard to learn the many intricacies specifically related to the marketing of pharmaceutical products, but it also made me realize something: I love advertising! Writing headlines, coming up with campaign ideas, giving presentations—it’s an exciting career that’s perfect for me.
Also, it made me realize that much of what I learned as an English major at King’s was directly applicable to my role, both inside and outside the classroom. The most important thing is that in order to get results, you have to do the work. This means being an active participant in discussions, being prepared and never, ever being afraid to ask questions.
I’ve now been in advertising for 11 years and am proud to have worked on many successful and award-winning creative campaigns and can say without hesitation that without my education from King’s, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
King’s really was “the best of both worlds” when it came to preparing me for a graduate career. I came to King’s for the small class sizes; with enrollment ranging from ten to forty students, I never felt like just a number. Discussion-based lectures prepared me for graduate seminars, and professors’ individualized support helped me write essays that went beyond assigned topics. Their reference letters were invaluable for graduate admissions and funding, and even though I’ve graduated we still meet occasionally for coffee and a chat! It’s also been a privilege to meet other talented students in my classes and to watch as they head on to teaching careers or graduate education.
King’s’ connection to a research-intensive university such as Western kept me open to new possibilities. In my fourth year, I participated in Western’s year-long exchange to the University of St Andrews in Scotland (where I will return Sept. 2015 for my PhD), partially funded by a King’s study abroad bursary. Even when I moved to Western Main Campus for my MA, I kept returning to King’s, working as a marker for one of my undergrad professors and taking a reading course with a respected faculty member. The link with Western provided me with opportunities for professional development and further study, while King’s’ more personal approach gave me the connections and confidence I needed to succeed.
“What are you going to do with an English degree?” is the most common question I was asked during my four years at King’s. The answer involves the understanding that English is more than reading and writing and more than simply learning about texts from different centuries and cultures.
Studying English is far from limiting; rather, it is opening the doors to endless opportunities. While I was studying abroad and travelling to different countries for non-English related courses and purposes, the critical skills I had developed from my English classes advanced my opportunities to connect with others, as well as my ability to communicate personally and professionally and to appreciate different cultures.
As I prepare to begin my M.A. in English at Queen’s University, I could not feel more grateful that I chose to complete my undergraduate English degree at King’s. The English program and greater community at King’s foster a challenging and highly rewarding experience--from the small classes to the comfortable academic learning environment that becomes your home, to the high calibre of professors, who know each student by name, who make you want to wake up for your early morning classes, and who always have time to offer feedback on a thesis idea.
So, what am I going to do with an English degree? Anything. Whether my career path will continue on the academic route to become an educator, or move towards public relations and communications, or evolve into a career I have not yet considered, English at King’s has prepared me to succeed on any of these paths.
As a Client Service Representative in a Human Resources related field, I investigate, validate, analyze and present significant information and data to clients to help them make the right hiring decisions for their organization. Taking literature courses at King’s opened my mind to new perspectives and enhanced my understanding of different worldviews. My educational experience gave me confidence that has allowed me to interact with individuals in diverse professional fields. The English program at King's built the foundation of my critical thinking and taught me to not accept information at face value. The connections I made as an undergraduate student have supported my post graduate pursuits at Western; my positive experiences with extracurricular groups encouraged me to get involved with surrounding communities on campus. I also enjoyed the small community experience at King's; its intimate campus offered better opportunities to connect with professors and peers. The education and events that I experienced at King's equipped me with the ability to engage with the world and explore opportunities I would not have examined initially.
After finishing high school, I was not sure what I wanted to do. I took a year off and worked entry-level jobs and decided that I wanted to continue my education. However, I still wasn’t sure what career or field to pursue. My academic path reflected this fact as I bounced from Social Justice, to Social Work, to Philosophy, and eventually settled in the English Language and Literature Program at King’s. When you study English, everyone asks if you want to be a teacher, as if that is the only profession that the study of English prepares you for. Contrary to the prevailing belief, a degree in English Literature has much more versatility in the job market because it equips you with a set of skills and tools that can be applied to any career. Writing well and writing under pressure are skills necessary for success in all fields. Of the students I studied with, some have gone on to study law, others have become professional academics, and others became journalists. I’m fascinated with translation theory and language acquisition, so I am pursuing a career in teaching English as a second language. My Bachelor of Arts in English from King’s prepared me for admission to one of the top graduate schools in North America (University of Toronto) and has furnished me with many possible career paths.
There are things you will feel in this world that will be impossible to locate other than through the power of story. When I began my English career at King's College, it was after a three-year hiatus from Western. Upon my return, I found myself immersed in a community of readers. All the readers I met were each unique in how they connected history, politics, art, geography, theory, and their identities into a conversation I found myself always changed by. There were times when my professors brought forth ideas in between the physical spaces of words that I alone could have never imagined. Each time I found my mind revolutionized after a text and more informed on how I see myself in this large community of readers. With my experience editing Canadian poetry, reading works from countries I have never been to, and presenting ideas to my classmates in the intimate classrooms at King's , I can say I believe in the transformative power of words and my ability to transform spaces with my words.
“So you’re going to be a teacher then?
I heard this time and again when I told people that I was pursuing my B.A. in English Language and Literature at King’s. When I chose this degree I had no idea how I was going to turn it into a practical career path, so I would respond vaguely about “exploring options” while asking myself: “What AM I going to do with this degree?”
Now, as a Manager of Recruitment and Admissions for the MBA Program at the Ivey Business School, I am so thankful for the skill-set that I developed by pursuing this degree. The need to communicate effectively and persuasively cannot be underestimated in the job market. Regardless of the industry , those who have the ability to analyze information and create a compelling case, while adapting their communication style to those around them, are the ones who can make the most impact with their actions.
What I loved about this degree and the skills I developed is that I now don’t feel limited to a specific profession. Once I recognized this, I was able to explore career options that I never knew existed. Having worked in editing, marketing communications, and recruitment, I apply the skills I gained from my English degree every day. Given that a young professional will change jobs an average of 8-10 times in his or her lifetime, I can confidently say that this degree from King’s didn’t just prepare me for a specific job or profession — it prepared me for a successful career.
I have had a very positive experience studying English at King’s University College. The English classes at King’s are great for the reasons that many of the classes at this college are great: fewer students per class, discussion-driven lectures, and more opportunity to learn, work, and bond with other students in the classes. That being said, the English courses I have taken stand out as being the most positive learning experiences so far. Before beginning my studies at King’s, I couldn’t have imagined how attentive and caring the professors are towards their students. They are not only enthralled by and enthusiastic about the material they teach, but also genuinely concerned with the success and well-being of the students. In every English course I have taken thus far, I have felt comfort in the knowledge that my efforts will be met with useful feedback, and that my professors will encourage my literary fascinations. I am thankful for the flexibility and openness of the King’s English program. Many times I have met personally with professors in order to discuss research papers, dragging with me dozens of peculiar ideas (and occasionally, a sense of panic and confusion). Every time, I have left with confidence--and often with great excitement to continue researching as well! The discussions in my English classes have been exceptionally helpful and valuable. The combination of focused, attentive professors and engaged students allows class discussion to be fluid and enlightening (and often times entertaining). These discussions are where I have learned the most--they are where I have questioned my own worldview, and deeply explored the themes, context, and purpose of various literary works. I feel that I have matured a considerable amount as a result of studying English at King’s. It has certainly improved my ability to write clearly and read critically, but it has also given me a far greater understanding of myself and my surroundings.
I still remember what my first-year English professor told our class in the Fall of 2001. He said writers are like fish out of water— they have the ability to see their own social environment from an outsider’s perspective. It is this perspective that shapes their writing and challenges the preexisting beliefs and values of the reader.
His words resonated with me and they still do to this day. In the English courses I continued to take at King’s I studied writers like Mary Shelley, whose works encouraged me to think about the ethical implications of science and technology , and George Orwell, whose works helped me recognize how those in power often manipulate language in order to deceive and control the masses.
My professors at King’s were crucial in helping me develop the skills I needed to reach an in-depth understanding of these works. Their lectures were engaging, innovative, and changed the way that I think about literature and about the world. Upon completing my Honours Bachelor of Arts at Kings, I realized that I wanted to do what my professors had done for me— to teach young people literature that challenges them to think critically about their own beliefs and values and gives them an “out-of-water” experience.
King’s students really do get the best of both worlds. I graduated with a Western degree, and I had access to all Western’s classes and amenities, yet I had the comfort of calling King’s campus my home away from home. As an English student in particular I can say King’s has an excellent program. Although I did not have the opportunity to take a class with every English professor on campus, I can say that all the professors I did experience firsthand were fantastic. Due to the smaller class sizes I was able to meet individually with all my professors before classes, after classes, and even on days I did not have their class to discuss a wide variety of academic and non-academic topics. They really helped me broaden my mind as I thought about things in ways I never had before. The other university services such as The Write Place volunteers, the librarians, and the effective-writing instructor all helped me to become a better writer, critical thinker, orator, and researcher. All these skills, the friends I made, and my contacts with professors will be a huge benefit as I pursue a career in teaching. My professors showed me how the greats do it, and now I just have to learn to emulate them.
Being a part of English at King’s means spending time with professors who extend English from the classroom to everyday life. At King’s, Professors can broaden the writings of one author into themes and ideas that affect your interactions with the world. Take, for example, my Shakespeare course: from family and loyalty in Romeo and Juliet to egoism in Richard III, English at King’s challenged me to connect my learning with the outside world. Here, English is about making the literature you’ve discussed prevalent and relevant in your own life. At King’s, English is not the obscure identification of metaphors. English at King’s is about supporting your claims with literary evidence and learning how to expose others to your thoughts, letting new educational experience breathe life into familiar ideas.
I couldn’t have predicted exactly how my studies in English Literature at King’s University College would lead me to the admittedly engaging career that I find myself in; but as I shoulder-check to glimpse the trajectory from there to here— or then to now—it’s clear that whatever successes I've enjoyed are the result of the solid foundation that my undergraduate education provided. The English Literature program did far more than teach me how to interpret a language’s written words and hidden meaning; it equipped me with a critical perspective, rooted in historical context, which has empowered me to make sense of the things around me that I feel most impassioned about—food, media, the arts, nature, relationships. . . . As such, I naturally got much more out of my studies at King’s than a degree, or a transcript, or the opportunity that has followed since my graduation; I got a chance to take a good look at the world, to make some meaning of it, and to take a fair shake at finding my place within it.
Sam La France
King’s English Program is particularly proud of its 1984 graduate Nonie Brennan, now Chief Executive Officer at Chicago Alliance—All Chicago, Making Homelessness History.
Dr. Brennan took on the role in Chicago of Executive Director of the Emergency Fund in 2003, and was selected to be Chief Executive Officer of the new organization formed by the consolidation of the Emergency Fund and the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness in October, 2011. She has overseen the organization during a period of significant growth. Under her leadership, the Emergency Fund has become the largest provider of homelessness prevention funding in the mid-western US. Brennan took a leadership role in developing Chicago's Homelessness Prevention Call Center. She is a founding board member of the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness, and was part of a community development team from DePaul University who worked with government and nonprofit leaders in post-Katrina New Orleans.
Prior to joining the Emergency Fund, Brennan was Executive Director of the Volunteer Center in Battle Creek, Michigan. During her tenure there, she was credited with bringing "211" (a three digit dialing code to access community resources) to the state. She served as President of Volunteer Centers of Michigan and was a founding member of the ConnectMichigan Alliance Board of Directors. Brennan also served on the Volunteer Center National Network Council and was appointed by Governor Engler to the Michigan Community Service Commission.
After graduating from King’s at Western, Dr. Brennan completed her Master of Public Service degree at DePaul University and her Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management. Her current research focus is non-profit collaboration. Brennan is the recipient of a DM/Mandel Center Fellowship and the Mitchell V. Morse Memorial Scholarship. In addition to her speaking engagements at national and international conferences, she is a part-time faculty member at DePaul University. She is winner of the 2015 winner of the King’s University College Alumni Award of Distinction. This award is granted annually to members of the King’s alumni community who display significant achievement, commitment and service to the community. Recipients demonstrate a dedication to others, and are recognized by their peers as having reached a high level of expertise in their field.