Adding a “+” to the English Experience

English majors can struggle to get jobs after graduation. But a few of BYU’s English professors aren’t letting that get them down.

largePROVO, Utah (Sept. 18, 2015)— Most students finishing a final are only thinking about completing their individual work, not launching something that will have a lasting impact across the world.

According to English Department chair Phil Snyder, “too many English graduates have not been able to find jobs, or find ways to translate the benefits of studying English into the professional world.” So following the college’s Humanities+ idea, a handful of English professors have been working together to create their own English+.

Beginning fall 2015, students within the English major on campus will be required to take two half-credit courses – English 198, Academic Preparation, and English 398, Career Preparation. An “English+ experience” will also be required, wherein students will either take an internship course or English 394R, a newly created “Applied English” course.

Snyder says it isn’t just about doing an internship or study abroad. He says “Those are valuable opportunities, but we hope to give those and other extracurricular experiences more focus by pointing students to a set of six specific competencies they should develop in order to be job-ready.” The six competencies – not quite finalized – will include such things as taking initiative, managing projects and working collaboratively.

As the requirement goes underway, faculty within the department will need to shift their thinking and begin to provide guidance in developing the six competencies. But according to Burton, there has been a lot of consensus and enthusiasm among the faculty for the new requirement as they’ve recognized the help it will be for students. “I’m personally excited about it,” says Burton. As he prepares for the upcoming semester Burton has been focusing on whether or not to repeat his e-book launch idea.

For the launch students were assigned chapters to write as a team and then had to create a one-minute long video summarizing their chapters. Along with this, they had to use social media to contact individuals who would be interested and had a stake in their topics and then invite them to participate on Google Hangout or download the e-book. During the launch, about 33 people watched and participated with the students via online chat.

“The students enjoy this kind of thing,” explains Burton, “because it’s kind of esprit de corps as you’re working together to make this thing happen.” Burton chose this kind of setting for the course because project work helps focus people and gets them to work collaboratively – just like one of the competencies they’re asked to fulfill. Burton also believes that digital literacy will be a big part of the “+” in English+ as it will prepare people for life beyond college. With the e-book, Burton’s undergrads were able to contribute to the public by creating open education resources.

But Snyder says that “English+ is not just a set of classes to take or even a set of skills to master. English+ is our effort to help students take charge of their future by taking charge of their academic career while at BYU.”

—Amelia Wallace (B.A. English and editing minor ’15)

Amelia covers the English Department for the College of Humanities. She is finishing her degree in English with a minor in editing.

Watch the full Hangout

Download a free copy of the e-book

View the students’ chapter summaries