When Bethany Cooper first went to college 10 years ago, she wanted to be an English major, but never really got the encouragement to do so.
“You were discouraged back then to go into a profession where people tend to say you won’t get a job,” Cooper says today. “A lot of people associate English with ‘oh that’s great, have fun with it, but what are you going to do with it?’”
Cooper started out fresh out of high school at the University of New Hampshire. She always did well with English in high school, but wasn’t getting any support in pursuing it as a major in college. Cooper meandered through the next two years, taking her general education courses and trying to figure out what she wanted to do.
“I had no focus,” she says. “I had a good time and learned a lot of new stuff, but I left because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. And I didn’t want to keep going to college and not use my education.”
In the meantime, she got married and had three kids.
“I think with that life experience comes a little clarity,” Cooper says.
So at 29, she decided to go back and took a chance on English. One of her first assignments was to research what she can do with an English degree once she’s back out into the real world. What she discovered, she says, is that there are myriad opportunities for her. She can teach, she can go to graduate school, write, manage people, do sales, become a corrections officer—virtually any profession that involves working closely with people and being able to analyze and communicate concepts.
“I’m hoping to be secondary English, so I can teach, but it was actually an interesting thing,” she says of the exercise. “It was really insightful. You don’t think about it, you think, ‘oh English, I have to teach,’ or ‘I have to write,’ but I know now other graduates go off and get higher degrees. It’s a good foundation for anything in graduate studies. It doesn’t hurt to have a good English background.”
Holland Morris ‘14
Holland Morris always knew she was an English teacher at heart. But it took a tragedy and a few supporters to make her realize she was also a writer.
And that discovery has already led to one published piece and the promise of more.
Morris was just studying English with the plan of teaching when she became pregnant and discovered she needed to write through a personal tragedy.
“I had a miscarriage,” she says. “I wanted to write about that because it was a way to grieve over everything that had happened. I wanted to be able to tell myself that I would be okay eventually and to help other people if they were going through the same thing.”
She decided to take on a writing minor, which her advisor Jan Yoga encouraged. Morris “randomly” took an experimental nonfiction class for credit, she says.
“I just loved it and loved writing,” she says. “I never considered myself a writer, more of a reader. So I took the class and absolutely fell in love with it. And I fell in love with being able to have writing be like — when you really can’t say anything you want to talk about, you write about it instead. So it’s a little escape I have.”