With any major comes a basket of expectations—and a boatload of presumptions. You know how it goes: environmental studies majors are hippies, chemistry majors are type A, economics majors will make a lot of money, and English majors will teach. And even though these stereotypes are usually wrong, they can still mess with the minds of those seeking or choosing a major.
Maggie Glover ’05 and Page Hill Starzinger, two visiting poets with the Harriet Ewens Beck Lecture Series, spoke to these expectations last week (Feb. 6), in the Barney Davis Board Room. Several hours before their evening poetry reading, Glover and Starzinger gathered with a group of students (many of whom were seniors) to speak about the terrifying and exhilarating concept of life after Denison.
Glover began by summarizing the negative connotations associated with a degree in English. She did so using the words of American entrepreneur and computer science millionaire Marc Andreessen. “I’m sure it’s fun,” Andreessen said, “but the average college graduate with a degree in something like English is going to end up working in a shoe store.”
“We’ve all heard some variation of this before but, let me tell you, it’s not the case,” said Glover who majored in English literature (creative writing) at Denison before obtaining an MFA in poetry from West Virginia University and publishing her first book of poems, How I Went Red, this year.
Starzinger, who published her first poetry book Vestigial in 2013, earned an English degree from Wesleyan University and has worked in New York for 30 years as copy director at Vogue and Estée Lauder. In 2000 she became a creative director at Aveda, a beauty product company with an environmental focus and holistic approach. “I look for poets to hire … because this business is about storytelling.”
Glover also has experienced success in the world of fashion. After graduating from WVU, she became one of the first employees and executives for the vintage-inspired clothing, accessories, and home decor website ModCloth. She currently works as the director of brand marketing for Ipsy, a personalized beauty product website, and is an expert in the fields of Internet marketing, advertising, and fashion.
In his introduction, award-winning poet and English professor David Baker set the stage for these successful businesswomen and writers. “Poets don’t make money poeting,” he said. It’s a lifestyle choice. And it’s possible to be a writer and hold a job in the business or entrepreneurial world—but it takes balance.
“One has to insist on your time,” adds Starzinger. “Sometimes I get up at 5 a.m. or close off my weekend to writing. It involves saying ‘no’ to some things.”
In the end, both Glover and Starzinger agree that the best thing for young English majors entering the job field is to do what you love and stay persistent. “Just be open to opportunities and doors will open for you,” said Starzinger.