Major Spotlight: Liv Riggins
Hometown: Northfield, MN
Why did you choose to major in English?
I've always loved reading and writing, and wanted to make them part of my studies and my career. I originally also had a major in architecture—design being another one of my passions—but switched my second major to technical writing so that I could incorporate more classes in writing studies into my degree program.
Are you pursuing any majors, minors, internships, or interests outside your English major?
I'm also completing a BS in technical writing, as well as minors in interdisciplinary design and digital media studies. As varied as these academic interests may seem, I think they all intersect as part of thinking analytically about the creative pursuits of writing and design. Though my courses in design and user experience use different tools than my courses in English and writing studies, I see a focus in all of them on analyzing stories as part of communication to understand what story is being told, how it works in the world, and how you can shape it.
"Though my courses in design
and user experience use
different tools than my courses
in English and writing studies,
I see a focus in all of them on
Over the past four years, I've been fortunate to have had opportunities to practice critical thinking and communication as a marketing and communications intern, a writing consultant, a technical writing intern, and a usability research assistant. My studies in English have certainly made me a more effective writer in all of these positions, and have also helped me to develop strengths in collaborating with others about writing. The workshopping and peer review processes common to English classes made me more prepared to provide targeted, constructive feedback to students as a writing consultant, and receive and integrate feedback on my own writing as a technical writing intern and a marketing intern.
In my year-long senior thesis project in user experience design, I take usability testing data, analyze what messages users are receiving based on their verbal and written reactions to the product, and then propose ways to change structural, visual, and written elements for better communication of the desired message. Here, my English skills in interpreting, understanding, and crafting texts/stories has helped me immensely.
What English course would you recommend?
Two of my favorite classes: "American Indian Literature" with Adjunct Professor Susan Power, and "Literacy and American Cultural Diversity" with Senior Lecturer Eric Daigre.
What is something about the English department that most people wouldn’t know?
There are a lot of great opportunities to gain experience in communications, editing, publishing, and other applied uses of English, if you're interested in that! I came in to the English major somewhat worried about my ability to use it in work or in non-academic pursuits, as I really enjoy applied learning, but I've found the skills I gained in English helpful in several different applied areas, from volunteering to personal writing projects to internships. The service learning and internship classes in the English department connected me to the Franklin Library, the Museum of Russian Art, and First Avenue, Twin Cities organizations I never would have expected to be part of my studies in the English program.
Best book/movie you've read/seen recently?
I really enjoyed Patti Smith's memoir Year of the Monkey, and I also liked the movie The Lighthouse. Both are a bit slow to begin with, but gripping by the end.