As an Associated Director of Advancement in the College of Arts and Sciences, Molly Purrington reaches out to alumni and creates opportunities for them to become re-engaged in the University community. With this in mind, she initiated mentor lunches for the English Department, an idea that has been successful with other units on campus as well. At these lunches, students have the opportunity to learn first-hand the impact a degree in English can have on whatever profession they choose, and alumni re-engage through the University’s best ambassadors— its students.
In October 2011, Molly invited former English major and now Internal Medicine Oncologist Robert Levenson from Highline Cancer Center to lunch. His love of literature and his joy in writing seemed surprising at first coming from someone who sees cancer patients all day, but the students responded with curiosity and enthusiasm. Two months later, Molly invited Bruce Clark to lead the mentor lunch conversation. As an attorney for Marler/Clark, a law firm that represents the victims in most worldwide suits concerning food-borne illness, he engaged the students in a rich discussion of ideas. Clark told Molly later that the opportunity to share conversation over a meal allows for an easy level of comfort, an intimacy that fosters rich multidimensional dialogue: “The mentor lunches have reminded me of the wonder of an education focused around the humanities, English especially. The wonder is expressed in the intelligent enthusiasm of the students and the breadth of their thinking.”
Michael Fulwiler, an Honors English Major spoke from a student’s perspective: “I attended both English Department mentor lunches this past fall because I wanted to gain a greater understanding of how valuable my English degree will be once I enter the workforce. The very fact that an English Department luncheon would feature both a doctor and a lawyer spoke volumes to me about the opportunities that my English degree will make available and the doors that it will open. It was not only inspiring to hear successful professionals discuss their English backgrounds, but also extremely interesting to learn how each incorporated their English degrees into their careers, both in medicine and in law.”
Students in the humanities are frequently challenged by both friends and family about what they will do with degrees in their field. The mentor lunches, provide some of our students with exciting answers to that question.