Name: Sumiko Martinez
College & Majors/Minors:
- B.A. in English from Westminster College, Salt Lake City
- M.S. in Communication from University of Utah
- Ph.D. (in progress) in Communication from University of Utah
Current Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Current Form of Employment: Full-time at a not-for-profit state government agency
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I currently work for the Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority (UHEAA for short) as a Community Outreach Officer. I travel throughout the state, working with high school students and their families as well as counselors and educators, helping people learn how to prepare and pay for college. This job involves a pretty wide variety of duties, such as researching federal student aid policy and regulation, giving public presentations at scholarship nights, working with students one-on-one to file the FAFSA, and producing blogs, videos, and publications to support our mission.
My other job (the one that takes up all my free time!) is being a Ph.D. student in Communication at the University of Utah. I’m currently working on my prospectus and with any luck will be starting my dissertation research this fall. My research interests are critical rhetoric, rhetorical theory, media and cultural studies, rhetoric of education, critical pedagogy, and U.S. education policy.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
I found my first job as an internal trainer with UHEAA by searching through websites and job classifieds for anything that required writing skills. It was pretty serendipitous, actually. I interviewed the week before I graduated, and started working the week afterwards! I later learned that my performance on the required writing test was what made me stand out as a job candidate.
I did a lot of technical writing and training for student loan servicing in that position, which really allowed me to apply my skills as an English major in an interdisciplinary field.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
While I was an undergraduate student, I worked as a writing center consultant for my college. This was the first important writing-related job that I had, because it made me learn that even though writing came somewhat naturally to me, that was not the case for a great many people. I had to reconcile my own assumptions with my clients’ struggles, and compassionately help them through a process that may have seemed daunting, annoying, and/or pointless to them.
There’s one session in particular that stuck with me. I was working with a student who had been referred to the Writing Center by a professor. He particularly needed help with comma splices. Ashamed to admit that I didn’t know what a comma splice was, I inadvertently advised him to put in ANOTHER one! After the session, a colleague pointed out my error, and I was completely embarrassed. I learned so much, so fast in this job, but the most important thing I walked away with was that it’s all right to not know everything. Now, if I’m unsure about something, I research the answer for my clients and share what I learn with them.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
In hindsight, I didn’t prepare nearly as much as I should have! I visited my college’s Career Center for advice on job searching and resume writing. If I could give my younger self advice, it would have been to pursue more internships to get a better feel for the type of work I really wanted to do. I would have also told myself to get involved in student clubs or organizations, take on leadership roles, and generally not to be a chicken about networking. (I’d also argue that networking can be called “making friends with other professionals,” which I think sounds much more appealing.)
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
I’m a huge advocate for the humanities, and I know we’ve all heard people disparage our chosen field of study, but take heart! An English degree can benefit you so much. In a society where choice of major is often judged by its perceived utility, studying English teaches you to think above the noise. Learning how to assess sources, frame arguments, and consider an issue from multiple angles are all skills that are necessary not just for the job market, but also for life as an informed citizen. Extend those critical thinking skills that you’ve picked up by studying English, and you’ll find ways to build a meaningful and satisfying life.