Coordinator of Youth and Community Programs, Red Hook Community Justice Center, Brooklyn, NY
Grad Year: 2006
I chose English after a semester of pre-med classes that I really disliked. I took an introductory-level poetry class and absolutely loved it, so I decided to pursue English as a major. I also majored in Spanish Language and Literature, and I thought that the two would complement each other well. I graduated from U of M with a waitressing job, a lease that was about to expire, and no promising career prospects. On a whim, a friend and I moved to Brooklyn, and I applied for various entry-level jobs at non-profit social justice agencies, but was not excited about the idea of answering phones and filing paperwork. I remembered seeing a video in a legal anthropology course about the Red Hook Community Justice Center in southwest Brooklyn, so one day I showed up at their door with a resume and asked to interview for any open positions. They had some volunteer positions available within their AmeriCorps program, and I began working as a case developer in their Youth Court. I spent six months in that position, and then I was hired by the Justice Center as the Coordinator of Youth and Community Programs. Since then I have coordinated the AmeriCorps program as well as several youth programs in the Justice Center. I plan to attend Fordham University School of Law in the fall to study public interest law. I would not have been able to move forward in my agency as quickly as I did were it not for my writing skills. I quickly gained a reputation of being a strong, effective writer, and that in turn gave my supervisors confidence to give me more assignments. When I came to the Youth Court, there had been a large staff turnover just a few months before, and the new staff was still trying to streamline the office's operations. I feel that my analytical and organization skills, honed after countless English essays, were helpful as we developed policies from scratch. Through all the grant writing, press releases, and even daily emails to my supervisors or other agency staff, I use my writing skills constantly, and though I think I would have been a good writer if I had pursued any other degree, I feel I am a strong writer because I studied English. My English background has helped me excel because of the writing skills I gained as an English major. Looking forward to a career in law school and, later, as a lawyer or policy-maker, I expect my writing skills to remain an integral part of my professional life. One of the reasons I loved the English Department so much was that the faculty, for the most part, was very open to integrating social and political perspectives into the study of literature, which became of great interest to me my junior and senior years of college. Understanding how literature reflected and affected current social issues helped me realize that I wanted to study law.
Advice to Concentrators
Take classes with professors who love what they do. If you find professors you connect with, take as many of their courses as you can - and if some of those classes include subject matter that doesn't interest you, try it anyway. A great professor can make an awful book great, just like an awful professor will make a great book awful. Go to that professor's office hours, or ask them to talk about a piece over coffee - get to know them outside of the classroom. That was one of the most meaningful things I did as a student. Academically, I wish I had taken more risks in the English Department, either in the form of tackling difficult topics for essays or taking classes that sounded too challenging. Easy A’s always sound enticing when you’re picking classes at the end of finals week, but the most satisfying classroom experiences I had were in environments where I felt I earned my grade, along with the instructor’s respect. Also, get involved on campus, whether it's through the English Department or not. It helps keep you balanced when you're in school, and it looks great on your resume when you're done. In my experience, college has been the only place where literally every interest I had was represented by an already-existing organization. I did not take full advantage of everything Michigan had to offer. Part of that is because there just weren’t enough hours in a day, but I do wish I’d carved out more time for things like intramural sports and political groups, for example.
Elizabeth Bender, Faith Adler Brown, Jennifer Conlin, Vanessa Febo, Chris Hall, Lawrence Landman, Amanda Richardson, Lisa Vandenbossche, Stephen Brown, Joseph Ferrentino, Ethan Goodman, Robert Kleinberg, Neil Rao, Margaret Vincent, Dory Gannes, Rachael Hudak, Aric Knuth, Katherine MacNair, Michael Richman, Melissa Shook
Related Career FieldsCommunications/Marketing, Law, Non-Profit