Name: Marisa Stickel
College & Majors/Minors: BA in English and French from Fairmont State University in WV; an MA in English and Women’s and Gender Studies from UNC-Wilmington in NC; and a(n) (in-progress) Ph.D. in English from the University of Tennessee in TN.
Current Location: Knoxville, TN
Current Form of Employment: Doctoral student/Graduate Teaching Associate
Where do you work and what is your current position?
As a full-time doctoral student with funding, I serve as a Graduate Teaching Associate, instructing Freshmen Composition for UT’s First-Year Composition program.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
Aside from being a dance teacher for a few years, all of my jobs have been in higher education or teaching. Most of my positions have all been in higher education, and I have occupied both realms of the university: Student Affairs and Academia. There is a significant divide between these two sectors, and because I have experience in both, sometimes it is difficult to implement the skills from one area in the other, but I daily work to transgress the boundaries between these two areas. With graduate work, most programs offer funding in the form of a GTA position, offering you experience in instructing composition. While I have this experience and I currently serve in this role, I have also worked in Retention, Orientation, Graduate Studies, and Campus Life. Additionally, I have taught English and college prep at the middle school level. All of these roles have required me to be an excellent writer and speaker, and my background in English has taught me how interdisciplinary the field itself is. You can do a lot with an English degree if you don’t limit yourself in your education and experiences.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
I did grant-writing for a short time, and while this might be a worthwhile job for some people, I far more enjoy teaching in the college atmosphere. While working in Campus Life as an advisor for the student-programming board, writing was intricate to my position when it came to organizing events, marketing and advertising, or writing pieces for the university’s magazine.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
Even though I have not left the academy and my life’s work is dedicated to the collegiate atmosphere, the most beneficial thing that I did as a student (and continue to do) is to treat my degree as an interdisciplinary field. Studying English means that while you do spend most of your time reading and writing, you are also learning snippets of other disciplines: psychology, sociology, anthropology, geography, cognitive science, ecology—to name a few. English is a humanities degree, and learning how to understand and value humans and culture is a significant part of the degree experience. Embracing English and its link to the humanities and the human experience helps you transfer your knowledge beyond the classroom. You quickly learn empathy, and I think that’s one of the most important things a person can learn in this field. It can save the world in the work you do post-grad.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
English is an interdisciplinary field and the work you do in the field helps you understand and value humans. Reading and writing cultivates empathy, and I truly think this is intricate and necessary for people who love and study culture and society. The humanities are so vital and our work matters. We understand the human experience far more than most people and we appreciate the vitality and diversity of people’s stories. These are the things that matter, and I really think it is the people who study English that can make a difference in our culture. My advice: read challenging texts; write often—and in genres that you’re unfamiliar with; listen to people’s stories; don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and share your stories.