Major Spotlight: Ashley Mattei
Hometown: Farmington, MN
Why did you choose to major in English?
I first graduated from the University in 2015 with an Individualized Studies major, concentrated in Mass Communications and Business. After working in the marketing industry for two years and overcoming an illness, I decided to re-enroll and complete the English major I regretted not obtaining. While an English major is applicable to a marketing career—there are skills I hold now that I wish I held when I was working—I was looking to re-focus my professional life. I knew an English major provided base-skills (like critical thinking, analysis, and communications) desired in fields that span from the business to the service sectors. Since starting the major, I have been able to explore professions like publishing, teaching, public relations, and health advocacy. I found my passion in teaching and am excited to obtain a secondary teaching license.
"I was scared to re-enter college
as a student a few years older
than most of my peers. Luckily,
my fears were unfounded."
What has been your favorite part of your experience in the department?
I was scared to re-enter college as a student a few years older than most of my peers. I worried I would have a difficult time making friends, staying on pace with the other students, and finding a network to advise me on professional matters. Luckily, my fears were unfounded. The English department is a community. The instructors are passionate about their subjects and eager to spread that enthusiasm to their students. The advising office is open, reflective, and attentive to students’ needs. Overwhelmingly, my peers have been supportive of my unique path and pursuits.
How do your studies in English relate to your professional experiences and ambitions?
The English department has helped me understand that it is not enough for me to enter a public school with the desire to teach students. Students (especially those who face social and institutional biases due to race, religion, abilities, and/or economic status) need allies who will listen to them and continue to learn and adjust their actions. English studies have challenged me to think about the cultural work the words I use will do, far past my speaking them. The department has made me a more responsible educator.
Are you pursuing any majors, minors, internships, or fields of interest outside your English major?
I am completing a Creative Writing minor. I ended up in a poetry class last fall and fell in love with the writing style, which I never paid much attention to before. I am also excited to participate in the "Literacy and American Cultural Diversity" English class, which has a service-learning component. This sort of classroom experience allows me to observe learners, educators, and their curriculums in action. I plan to continue working with the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) to improve the way schools teach and discuss eating disorders.
What English course would you recommend for majors? For non-majors who want to take an English class?
I recommend English majors enroll in "Introduction to Chicana/o Literature." The class is also part of the Chicana/o Studies curriculum, meaning it includes both students who are practiced in analyzing literature and students who are practiced in analyzing culture. Through large and small group conversations, as well as some beautiful texts, I was able to see how words really do shape our ideas and worlds.
I recommend non-English majors enroll in "Modern Literary Criticism and Theory." We all communicate; we are all a type of author. In order to use our words responsibly, I believe it is crucial that we understand the history and function of language, the ways that language has influenced our learning and actions, and how we can enact and study a language to improve our society. Writing and speaking are the foundations of every career. This class will help everyone think about the ethical implications of their future work.
What's your favorite piece of writing?
It changes daily. Currently, I am reading (and loving) the poetry collection Look by Solmaz Sharif. It considers war, motivation, language, and the ways those factors interact to form our realities.