English Major Spotlight: Valerie Paul

With experience in archival work, teaching, and publishing, this major plans to pursue library science in grad school
Head and shoulders, Person short brown hair, Light skin, dark grey sweater, standing in front of a grey wall, giant artistic fan on wall

Year: Senior
Hometown: Chanhassen, MN

Why did you choose to major in English?

It honestly just looked like the major with the highest proportion of classes I thought I’d have a good time in. Transferring from biomedical engineering was a big jump, but I had thoroughly enjoyed my English classes in high school. Two separate teachers had suggested I consider a career of some kind in writing and knew that English is a very widely applicable major in terms of career paths. I don’t expect to stay in the same career my entire life, so having the strong writing, critical thinking, analytical, and cooperative skills I’ve developed during my time in the English department will serve me well no matter where I end up after my mid-life crisis.

Are you pursuing any majors, minors, internships, or interests outside your English major? 

I have minors in linguistics and creative writing, as well as a Certificate in Editing and Publishing. I also tutor at 826 MSP, volunteer in the collections of the Science Museum of Minnesota, and work at Minitex in Wilson Library. I’m going to grad school next year for library science, so having a wide background in archival work, teaching, and publishing alongside my literature and language has opened up a lot of paths for my career. The linguistics minor in particular has helped me keep the scientific parts of my brain sharp since entering the humanities.

What is a favorite book you read for an English class?

Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. I’d never read one of Shakespeare’s comedies before, so exploring this side of his writing was a fascinating experience. Getting into Shakespeare can feel difficult, but with the right teacher (hey, Professor Andrew Scheil!) or a summary and performance recording handy, that bar to entry drops really quickly.

What English course would you recommend for majors? For non-majors who want to take an English class?

For majors: ENGL 3741 "Literacy and American Cultural Diversity"; for non-majors: ENGL 3506 "Social Movements and Community Education." These are both Community Engaged Learning courses. For English majors, I think having an understanding of the continuum of literacy is fundamental to navigating modern society with an English degree. For non-majors, knowing the history of social movements and the basics of how nonprofits are structured is important to contributing to ongoing social movements and discussions of them today.

What is your favorite thing about Pillsbury Hall?

I love the attic space. The natural wood creates an environment that feels very welcoming, and I’ve got some great memories there between my work on The Tower and events held by FUSE.

What is something about the English department that most people wouldn’t know?

The diversity of majors and interests of students in English classes. I’ve taken core courses with law students, comp sci majors, business students, and nontraditional students of all varieties. Literature is one of those things that becomes easier to appreciate the more life experience you have, and I’ve been very lucky to work with people from all walks of life.

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