Why Study English at Westminster?
Earning an English degree opens exciting career doors in many different professions, but your highly personalized experience at Westminster gives you that special edge to rise above the rest. You will be able to design a major that meets your specific interests and needs, choosing from four different tracks: literature and criticism, creative writing, English education, or journalism/publishing.
You will receive the kind of personal, one-on-one instruction and guidance that only the Westminster personal touch can provide—small classes, conversations over coffee and meals with your teachers, receptions in faculty homes with visiting writers, and an open door policy to meet with your teachers in their offices for advisement. You will become an expert in oral presentations and sharpen your writing skills because you are working directly with teachers who do the same things on a professional level they ask you to do.
Plus, you’ll have the freedom to pick topics of study that are personally appealing and to complete individual projects that you find interesting. And you’ll find yourself in the midst of lively classroom discussions that involve you and take your thinking to the next level.
Your English degree at Westminster will give you the communication tools, critical thinking ability, organizational skills, and leadership capabilities to take you to the top of your field.
English majors at Westminster begin with the basics, survey courses of English and American literature designed to fill in the “big picture,” an understanding of literary history that provides the context for more specialized, advanced courses in the junior and senior years.
One significant way in which the study of English at Westminster differs from the study of English in many other colleges or universities is what happens once students have built that solid foundation. Most colleges set before upper-class students a series of “period courses”: Renaissance Literature, Victorian Literature, American Realism, etc. Westminster students who have gained a command of the basics choose at the upper level from a series of topics courses, ranging from topics like American Writers in Paris to The Photograph as a Literary Text to The Gothic Novel. Make no mistake about it. Though these courses are interesting and a lot of fun, they are also intellectually rigorous and will prepare you well for life beyond college.
Concerned that, even though you write well, you need to improve, to move up to that “professional” level where publication seems a real possibility? That will happen when you study English at Westminster with faculty members who write and publish regularly and know from experience what you need to know. Every major is required to take at least one course from the “Writing Group” – Linguistics, Expository Writing, Introduction to Creative Writing – and most take several. Rigorous, analytical writing is a mainstay of every literature course, and after taking Critical Practicum you’ll be ready to research and write closely reasoned analytical papers.
Perhaps the single thing that most clearly sets the study of English at Westminster apart from similar study elsewhere is the opportunity to undertake an honors project in your senior year. Essentially a year-long independent study initiated by the student and directed by a single faculty member, the topic of any particular honors project is determined by which track within the major – Literary Criticism or Creative Writing – you choose. Projects in literary criticism usually grow out of previous coursework, the desire to investigate more closely a subject that piqued your interest but had to be set aside to get on with other work. Students in the Creative Writing track are free to “mix and match,” presenting a manuscript that combines poetry, short stories, and creative nonfiction. More than a few students have written their first novel as a senior project here! And in recent years several students have tried their hands at writing screenplays.
The Honors Project, the capstone sequence for our best majors, epitomizes what the study of English at Westminster is all about – working closely with faculty members who want to see you succeed.
If you think “English” is something that should not be confined to the classroom, you’ll feel very much at home at Westminster. Publishing opportunities abound. Janus, the college literary magazine, accepts poetry, short stories, creative nonfiction, and graphic work – and the best submissions each year are awarded cash prizes. The Columns, Westminster’s student-run, campus newspaper, appears bi-weekly and provides student writers with another opportunity to build a portfolio.
The English honorary society, Sigma Tau Delta, is more “active” than “honorary.” It sponsors three or four meetings each semester for students and faculty. You can read from your own work, try it out on a live audience; or you can read bits and pieces from authors whose work you admire and want to bring to the attention of others. Many find these meetings to be one of their favorite experiences here at Westminster.
Also, you’ll have the opportunity at Westminster to meet and seek advice from some of “the greats.” The Department of English sponsors several readings each year by nationally known writers. No less than four of America’s poets laureate have read at Westminster in recent years: Robert Hass, Howard Nemerov, Mona Van Duyn, and Robert Pinsky. Louis Simpson, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and Albert Goldbarth, winner of the 2002 National Book Critics’ Circle Award, have appeared here. And Lucia Perillo, Robert Hellenga, David Kirby, Mark Halliday, Scott Sanders, and Gary Gildner, David Gessner—the list goes on … And it is an impressive one!
Demand continues to grow for teachers, but the range of fields open to English majors is almost infinite. Here are a few areas where you may choose to focus your career:\
- Employment in the business world, which prizes critical thinking skills, ability to speak clearly and precisely, and writing clear and precise reports and studies.
- Positions as editors or publicists in a publishing firm.
- Jobs as political consultants or lobbyists.
- Employment in public relations within corporations or public relations firms.
- Acceptance in graduate school, law school, journalism school, or management and business administration.
What Students Say about Studying English at Westminster
“The English program at Westminster is a community. The classes are small enough to get to know others. There are a wide variety of fun classes to choose from, and the teachers genuinely care for their students and focus on discussion–based classes. I don’t know of many other colleges that would allow me to write a children’s fiction book as a thesis, or let me have so much fun while doing it.” -Ashley B. Nelson
“When my professor started making weekly trips to my House in order to give me one-on-one attention for my undergraduate English thesis, I knew I had made the right decision to go to Westminster. Now, nearing graduation, with a degree from Westminster College in my hand, I know I am prepared for anything.” -Jake Marsh