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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Why Would You Not Major in English?

    ‘Why would you major in English?’ All English majors will encounter this question at some point in their life. Unlike the Biology major, which will probably lead to a premedical education, or the history major, an indicator of future law education, a degree in English does not necessarily lead to a specific field. However, some people vastly differ on this viewpoint.

    One false assumption is that those who are undecided on a career path major in English. Another false assumption is that English is an easy major. However, English majors at Stony Brook University are required to major with 54 credits in courses ranging from history, foreign language to English literature. All English majors and minors are required to take EGL 204, or Literary Analysis and Argumentation. They also take coursework in Shakespeare and follow one of four tracks, which include British and American literature.

    Many agree that the benefits of a major in English expand beyond classroom interaction. According to Craig Stormont, a former English 204 professor at SBU, an English major ‘automatically suggests that the individual with that degree can communicate well in writing.’ He believes that English majors bring these communication skills to whichever field they choose. Whether it involves public presentations, or written research papers, mastery of English is an asset to even medical and law fields.

    In response to the recurring question of why you would major in English, the English Graduate Program Director, Joaquin Martinez Pizarro said that ‘English B.A.’s can go on to high school teaching or, with graduate training, to teaching at the college level.’ He also said that English prepares one for a career in law, publishing, and public relations. Most importantly, the major does not limit you to one specific career. For example, a PhD student in English at SBU is currently working in the SB Hospital and is involved with the relation of ethics and medicine.

    In relation to the undergraduate major, Stormont said that ‘SB requires English majors to write a thesis, [which] is an advantage; it’s good preparation for graduate work.’ The graduate program in English certainly builds on the undergraduate experience. According to Huffman, it ‘prepares one to teach, whether 7-12 [grades], or college. The PhD program requires coursework, a series of exams, and the writing of a dissertation. At the end of that, the students apply for openings in other universities.’

    The Master of Arts in English is targeted toward those interested in teaching. Candidates are required to have tenure in secondary education. According to Bente Videbaek, the Director of the Undergraduate Program in English, ‘the MA [program] has recently been tightened. The thesis is now 30+ pages where it used to be 15.’ As for the PhD program, Videbaek said that ‘8-9 out of 10 of these students will likely be teaching community colleges and doing work as adjuncts. 1-2 will go on to a PhD-granting institution. A small number goes into high school [teaching] or fields like publishing.’ Current PhD candidates will be interviewing at the Modern Language Association (MLA) in December.

    Clifford Huffman, an SBU professor who is currently teaching Shakespeare I, believes that an English concentration benefits any informed citizen. He said that ‘the original idea of a ‘liberal education’ is that a free [or liberal] citizen should be able to make decisions for his/her self on the basis of reason.’ A major in English provides this and more.

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