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Major of the Month: Lucas Paulson

This senior has combined post-colonial studies with internships at refugee and human rights organizations
February 2, 2017

English major Lucas Paulson in front of mountains in Chile

English major Lucas Paulson in front of mountains in Chile
English and Global Studies double major Lucas Paulson at Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, where he studied last spring

Year: Senior
Hometown: Mercer, Wisconsin

Why did you choose to major in English?

I had a fantastic English teacher my sophomore year of high school who really revolutionized literature for me as a means of provoking critical thought and as a mode of engaging with others. He made me want to teach English. So I took a few classes my freshman year and really enjoyed them. Qadri Ismail’s Textual Analysis course revolutionized things again and really solidified my belief in the skills that studying English can develop.

"Most of my English studies
have focused on post-colonial/
post-structural modes of thought
—which are not only relevant
but also incredibly important to
political and human rights work.
English has absolutely informed
how I think about the work that I
do and the organizations I work
for."

What has been your favorite part of your experience with the department?

Probably the teaching styles in the classes. Most of the courses are very small and are almost always (in my experience) very integrative of student voices. Having the opportunity to participate always helps, and you get to learn from all the brilliant people sitting around you, in addition to the ones standing in front of you.

Are you pursuing any majors, minors, internships, or fields of interest outside of your English major? How do you feel they interact with or enhance your study of English?

Yes! When it’s all said and done I’ll have a double major in Global Studies, concentrating on Latin America and human rights. Last summer I interned for the International Institute of Minnesota, a small non-profit in Como that provides support programs for people with refugee and immigrant status. I worked with legally permanent residents on filing citizenship applications. I’ve also been working with openGlobalRights, a project started by James Ron at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. oGR is a web-based human rights magazine that publishes short contributions from a variety of actors (from legal experts to small grassroots organizers) on a variety of human rights topics in a variety of languages. I do a lot of page management (getting the article submissions into the web format, finding photos, etc.) and social media promotion. The technical communication skills from English definitely help, but I would say the majors and internships engage on a more profound level as well. Most of my English studies have focused on post-colonial/post-structural modes of thought—which are not only relevant but also incredibly important to political and human rights work. English has absolutely informed how I think about the work that I do and the organizations I work for. I don’t have a lot of input in content on oGR, but even in a task like selecting images . . . images tell a story. What are the implications if every article that we publish on refugee protection comes with an image of a disheveled looking Syrian child? You don’t have to look far for a word like interpellation to be relevant.

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

They aren’t easy, but I would absolutely recommend Qadri Ismail’s Textual Analysis (ENGL3001) or his Literary Theory course (ENGL3002). I think everyone should take a course that engages with post-colonial or post-structural theory. Those two in particular have changed how I approach my other college courses and how I think about my role more than any others. Aside from that, I would recommend lecturer Chris Kamerbeek, lecturer Annemarie Lawless, and any creative writing course. I think anything that challenges you to write in a manner that gets away from your standard academic paper is a really positive thing.

If you studied abroad, what did you take away from the experience?

I did a Spanish immersion program in Chile last spring. Among many lessons, I gained a lot of perspective on the history of Chile, the dictatorship, and the involvement of the United States. The semester also reinforced for me the value of investing time in learning other languages. Doing so gives you a much more profound (and humbling) respect for anyone who is multilingual. And for someone like myself, who is interested in international work, it’s like a first step in making a commitment towards communities you're interested in working with.

Best book or movie you’ve read/seen recently?

The Quiet American by Graham Greene. I also loved the movie Short Term Twelve.