An update from English alumna August Cassens ’13:
“I started off as a freshman English major as I assume most do: thinking I was already awesome at English because I was one of the few in my high school graduating class who actually cared about English.
However, about three weeks in, I realized just how naïve I was—I didn’t know anything. But looking back, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. My embarrassment and disappointment during that first semester was so humbling, and it made me that much more determined to get better. I knew it was up to me to dig in and work as hard as I could to make something of myself in four years.
I worked hard in my classes and started seeing improvement, but I realized as a sophomore (well, had a panic attack, really) that I wasn’t involved in anything—my résumé at that point would have been pretty sad. So I got to work. I joined Euphemism, worked as a copy editor at The Vidette, and I was lucky enough to intern at The Publications Unit. I became a part of Sigma Tau Delta and served as production editor for Polyglossia. I built my skills, made connections, and figured out (often through trial and error) what it takes to work in a professional workplace.
On top of my classes and my work, I was able to foster some wonderful relationships with professors in the English Department. I cannot stress enough how important it is to build these relationships. They were able to open doors for me that I couldn’t do alone. I am so grateful for the support and compassion I received from my professors.
I graduated in May as a Bone Scholar, summa cum laude, and from the Honors Program, and let me tell you, it wasn’t easy. I promise. I had sleepless nights, tears, and nervous breakdowns. But I think what propelled me, and what propels me now, is what the English Department has chiefly taught me: to be curious. What hasn’t really changed about me since the first few fearful days of freshman year is that I know I have so much more to learn, and I know I must never stop seeking out a better me.
After I graduated, I was extremely fortunate to be offered a position as a media communications specialist at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois. Beckman is a research facility devoted to leading-edge research in the physical sciences, computation, engineering, biology, behavior, cognition, and neuroscience. Essentially, the scientists do really cool research and I get to write about it, edit a variety of stories, market through social media, and design posters, newsletters, programs, brochures, and anything else the researchers need. I love my job, and I know I was able to step into this role because of the education and opportunities afforded to me through the English Department. When people ask me what my dream job is, I tell them I’m already doing it, and that is truly an amazing thing.”