English MATTERS — SPRING 2011

Jaebadiah S. Gardner

As an undergrad, I wanted to pursue a major that made me happy. I loved to write, and I loved literature, so an English major wasn’t a difficult decision for me to make. All through those undergraduate years, people would ask me, “What are you going to do with an English degree, teach?” Or I would get the ever-so-common, “You know there’s no money in an English degree, right?” I knew what made me happy, and I knew what I was good at, but somehow, I was expected to put myself in this nice little box so that my life was easier for people to categorize. I always thought to myself, “There isn’t a box big enough to hold me.” I wasn’t worried about money, I wasn’t worried about what people thought I should do. I didn’t want school to feel like an obligation. I wanted to be happy. Mission accomplished.

How has the English degree helped me in my life after college?

Being exposed to a broad spectrum of literature from the 15th century, to U.S. slave narratives, to the most contemporary literary texts has given me a well-rounded and global understanding of who I am in this world. We don’t often hear about how important communication and writing skills are to any life, how important it is to speak, to be critical, analytical, and the list goes on. All of these are skills I developed with my English major, and I put them to use in my work everyday as a business owner (www.GardnerGlobal.com) and law student (Thomas M. Cooley Law School). These are transferable skills that I can use in any occupation. I know that I have taken the nonconventional path, but who wants to be conventional? That’s not interesting or exciting. I believe I can do anything I want with my English education. I can’t be content letting others define my experience and future for me. There are those who have your name on a box; it’s up to you to decide whether or not you’re going to get in it.

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