Name: Brett Ashmun
College & Majors/Minors: English (Undergraduate) Rhetoric and Composition (Graduate)
Current Location: Turlock, California
Current Form of Employment/Job Title: Full-Time Graduate Student/Teaching Associate
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I work at California State University, Stanislaus in Turlock, CA. I am a teaching associate.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
I started my first (and current) job in education as a teaching associate due to wonderful advice from my aunt who works in the financial aid department at UC Davis.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
As an undergraduate, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work as a tutor in the Writing Center at California State University, Stanislaus. Working as a writing tutor helped me become comfortable passing knowledge on to other writers, assessing students’ writing, and solidifying my own understanding of writing. Along with the benefits I mentioned, I also learned a lot about my particular approach to teaching writing.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
To put it simply, I built relationships. I have strong connections with many of my peers and professors. I have always been hesitant of the term “networking” because it implies a motive. I built relationships because I value the individuals who helped shape the man I am today. I am extremely thankful for the bonds I have forged during my education, and while many in academia will stress the importance of presenting at conferences and getting published, I think our main priority should be building genuine connections with human beings.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
In determining whether or not he should become a teacher, I once had a student ask me how much an English teacher makes. I explained to him that I teach for many reasons but money is not one of them. I then recommended that if he was going to decide on becoming a teacher depending on the pay, to find another career. I truly believe that the outcome of obtaining an English degree should be a better life. I don’t mean this from a financial viewpoint. Gaining an English degree is a privilege. It indicates that you appreciate life. You value your fellow human being. You cherish relationships over money.
If I was looking to “get ahead,” gain as much wealth as possible, and live a quick-paced life, I would have decided to look into the majority of all other majors available. For me, it is important to slow down. It is important to listen to my breath. It is important to engage in quality conversation. My advice: don’t try to compete with business, engineering, or science majors. That is not you. Don’t try to make as much money as possible. You are the rarity in a fast-paced world. You are the glue that holds society together. Own it.
As a teacher, what is your work/life balance like?
As a graduate student and teaching associate, my schedule may look a little different than most teachers:
- A typical week begins in a graduate class on Monday morning. After class I have an hour break then I teach freshman composition. Once I finish teaching, I hold office hours from three until five then it is time to head home and begin preparing for the rest of the week.
- On Tuesday (ah Tuesday), I am off all day. Any teacher knows that by “off all day” that doesn’t mean I am off, but it does mean I usually do not have any obligations that require a shower or a change out of my pajamas.
- Wednesday is my long day. I attend class in the morning, teach in the afternoon, hold office hours, and then attend a three-hour graduate class in the evening.
- Thursday is somewhat of a prep day. My only obligation is a three-hour graduate class in the evening.
- On Friday, I teach in the afternoon and hold an open conferencing/workshop for any writing students from three to five.
While what I have mentioned are on the top of my list of priorities, I also have a book I’m trying to write, try to get published whenever possible, and deal with long phone calls from my mom and father-in-law. Lost in all of the busyness are my fiancée and my black Labrador. They truly keep me sane and are the best friends a man can ask for.