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Winter Session Helps Students Link Academics with Careers

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By Jeffrey R. Wakefield

Perhaps the most endearing of the fanciful organizations that mock-sponsor A Prairie Home Companion (think the Catchup Advisory Board and the American Duct Tape Council) is the Professional Organization of English Majors, or P.O.E.M. The joke – gentle as it is, given host Garrison Keillor’s clear affection for the species and card-carrying membership in the club – lies in putting the words “English major” and “professional” in the same sentence.

That knowing wink at the career prospects of English majors wouldn’t sit well with Susanmarie Harrington, professor of English and director of UVM’s Writing in the Disciplines program.

Harrington just finished teaching a one-credit online winter session course called “Careers and English: What Next?” that made clear to the nine English majors in her charge that their job prospects – given the right preparation – were just fine, thank you.

“What an English major teaches you is that words matter,” she says. “I can’t imagine a world in which those skills aren’t important, but it does mean we have to be creative in figuring out how to talk about those talents to other people.”

Harrington’s course was one of 22 offered between Dec. 26 and Jan. 10 through Continuing and Distance Education — covering majors from anthropology and computer science to areas of interest like public health, arts administration and the environment — that sought to help students marshal their academic interests and accomplishments in the service of determining an actual career direction and strategy.

Read the full story on UVM Today.