Alumni Testimonials and Careers
While my academic focus has been in the sciences, I have carried the lessons I learned from my Introduction to Literature course with me, and I am often given great compliments on my writing and analysis by my science professors. I will admit, ENGL 110 was very challenging for me, and I had to put in infinitely more effort than in my science classes - but the rewards have been great. We have been publishing several papers and I have written two of my own manuscripts (one of which is going to Nature), and undoubtedly, the skills obtained in my introductory English class have carried me through this writing process. In addition, the close reading skills I acquired have really helped me to perform well on the medical college admissions test (MCAT) - so thank you!
Colton Boudreau, BSc Hons Chemistry StFX 2014, MSc Physiology McGill, 2016
I had the change to participate in a poetry workshop with Prof. Douglas Smith in spring 2014. There, I learned about the different schools of poetry which are taught in North America. The academic influence together with the spirit of X that influenced me as a person never left me ever since I returned back to my home university in Germany. Writing my final thesis, I was inspired by what I had learned in Antigonish (poetry) and was still motivated by the Canadian flag that hangs over my desk.
Christoph Börner, Exchange Student
University of Stuttgart
Taking an English degree is almost considered a running gag among people who pursue other degrees. A common joke you'll often hear when talking about your decision to be an English major will be something to the effect of: ‘Oh you're majoring in English? Have fun asking people if they want fries with that!’ I beg to differ. Majoring in English can, and in my case has, lead to great things. I learned how to really clean up my writing and developed skills that have proven to be a great boon to me. As a result, I went on to build an excellent journalistic portfolio of freelancing writing; this is something I'm currently using to pursue a career in journalism.
Sam MacDonald, B.A. Advanced Major 2011
Freelance Writer, The Chronicle Herald, Halifax
I graduated from StFX in the spring of 2011 with an Honours degree in English and began my Law degree at UNB the following September. The StFX English Honours program has been instrumental in preparing me for my Law degree. I am way ahead of my classmates in both the content and my approach to legal study. I believe the StFX English department's focus on critical theory has put me eons ahead of my classmates, who have either never encountered literary critical theory, or were not as engaged with the material as I was. The thesis work I did with the English department at StFX has been invaluable to my approach to legal study; independent study was not part of most students' undergraduate degrees, but the independent research I did for my thesis has grounded me in thorough and meticulous research methods required for legal study and practice. Furthermore, I believe my English degree (specifically the Honours program) has given me an edge in close reading, which is one of the most important practices of Law. Rigorous focus on language and text is the basis of all legal study, and unlike my classmates, I had that skill before entering the law program. Needless to say, a degree in English from StFX has provided me with the skills and background to set me apart and ahead in my Law degree.
Jaclyn Phillips, B.A. Honours 2011
Student, Faculty of Law, University of New Brunswick
StFX is one of the best English departments across Canada for two reasons. First, as a small university, StFX consistently offers smaller class sizes than a larger university can offer. This means that your professor doesn't just remember your name. He or she remembers what you're having difficulty with, what you're interested in, and what your strengths as a writer and a thinker are. And that's good, because the second thing that the StFX English program offers you is a department filled with highly qualified, talented, and motivated professors, who will devote significant portions of their time to helping you. The professors at StFX have earned their credentials at prestigious universities, are passionate and driven to do outstanding research, and most importantly, are willing to challenge you as they share their expertise with you. You don't just come out of the StFX English program with specialized knowledge in English literature: you leave with skills of critical thinking and interpretation that you can and should apply everywhere. I graduated in 2010 at the top of my class, winning the Governor General's Award and two other departmental awards. I am now a student in the faculty of Medicine at the University of Alberta. Many people have asked me why I chose to complete my undergraduate degree in Honours English rather than switch to science once I realized I wanted to be a doctor. I always answer by explaining that completing my degree in English at StFX gave me a greater advantage in any future career path than science labs could.I was even able to organize a guided reading course on theoretical approaches to the medicalized body to better enhance my particular interests. Studying English here can be your path to anywhere: what any professional career demands is the ability to evaluate information critically and efficiently, and this process is at the heart of the StFX English program.
Kathryn P. Wood, B.A. Honours 2010
Student, Faculty of Medicine, University of Alberta
What distinguishes English at StFX from other undergraduate programs in Canada is its attention to training researchers, critical thinkers, and writers with a rigour and technique sorely lacking in other disciplines. The English Department houses some of the best and brightest researchers in the country, which gives students the opportunity to witness and participate in unique and exciting work.
In no other department can you spend four years thinking seriously and creatively about culture, sociology, history, economics, biopolitics, gender, etc. from innovative and interdisciplinary perspectives. Faculty members encourage their students to acquire the skills necessary to thrive at the next level, be it graduate school, professional school, civil service, etc.—providing you an important advantage over students at other departments and schools.
Upon graduating from the English Honors program I received one of the University of Alberta's highest internal awards during my MA, and a federal SSHRC CGSD for the first three years of my PhD, thanks in no small part to the research and writing skills on offer from those with whom I worked at StFX.
Jeff Diamanti, B.A. Honours 2009
Doctoral Student, Department of English and Film Studies, University of Alberta
I've never felt a sense of belonging in my life as strong as I did during my time as an English Honours student at StFX. Professionally, the relationships I established with the Department's professors more than prepared me for graduate school and, without a doubt, it was their accolades that were partly responsible for the scholarships I was to receive as a graduate student at York University in Toronto. Personally, I developed a secondary family of both students and professors, all of whom I am proud to call friends. The difference with StFX is that my new family did not disband after four years. Although I no longer see these people on a daily basis, I know they will support my future endeavors in an instant, and will also be available to offer advice at a moment's notice. That's what family is all about. It's hard to put it in words and without nervous humor. I love the place, pure and simple!
Jarett Burke, B.A. Honours 2007
News Editor, 1310 News Radio, Ottawa
The greatest lesson I learned at St. FX was how to think critically. Studying in the English Department made me question what I'd previously taken at face value. I love the rush of discovery you get when you start exploring what's actually happening underneath a text. "Why do action heroes always have dead girlfriends or wives?" "Why is almost every Disney character an orphan?" I was able to use my degree to travel the world teaching English. I've worked in Russia, the Arabic Gulf and East Africa, and I've traveled to the Philippines, Eastern Europe, Australia, the Middle East and Southern Africa. Knowing how to read and write well will open doors for you. I'm now using my English skills as a professional writer. My first screenplay is currently being filmed in Ottawa. I'm developing a comic book series, and I'm also working on several other scripts. The faculty at the St. FX English Department is outstanding. What you get at St. FX is something hard to find elsewhere: actual one-on-one time with highly professional and talented people. I strongly recommend the English program for anyone who wants to know more about what actually happens in the stories we all love so much.
Thomas Jardine, B.A. Honours 2007
I graduated from the StFX English Honours program in 2007. I went on to earn a further degree in Journalism. I have no doubt that my English degree from X has played a big part in this, as well as in other successes in my life. Studying English at X was a truly unique experience, which went beyond book-marking passages in Penguin classics and underlining sentences in a Norton Anthology. The English professors at X unlocked my brain and taught me how to think critically. Through close one-on-one discussion of the texts and contexts and themes and everything else, I received a rigorous training, which challenged my focus and discipline like no other time in my life. I came out of the program well-read and able to write monstrously long essays, but I also graduated with an ability to face challenges—intellectual or otherwise—with determination and gusto.
The skills I developed during my English degree will stay with me for life, and so too will the friendships I made with my classmates and professors. These relationships were developed in the small classes and seminar rooms at X. They were also developed at the campus pub and in the offices and living rooms of my professors. I still keep in close contact with many of these people, and I feel very fortunate to have a close network of like-minded individuals all across the planet. It was an unforgettable experience, and one that I would recommend to anyone who wants their literary interests tickled and their passions stirred by an intelligent and caring faculty and staff.
Jake MacDonald, B.A. Honours 2007
English instructor, National University, Busan, Korea
My experiences at StFX as a reporter and later the Editor of the university's student newspaper, The Xaverian, were instrumental in helping me realize my career path. I recently garnered national recognition as the recipient of the Dave Rogers Award "which recognizes the best in Canadian electronic jounalism" (StFX Alumni News Summer 2012, 19). My advice for today's students is to "Get involved. 'Every student should explore the opportunities outside the classroom. It's free, it's accessible and there'sflexibility to try new things every year. ... Scenarios I encountered at X helped prepare me for working in newsrooms across the country. It's a great way to get work experience and figure out what (you want)' " (19).
(The complete Alumni News article is available here.)
Elizabeth McMillan, B.A. Honours 2006
CBC reporter, Yellowknife, NWT
Studying English at StFX was a great experience. The small classes meant I had a chance to really get to know my professors and fellow students, and the rigorous academic standards of the program meant I was extremely well prepared for my graduate studies at Queen's University. After I completed my master's degree, I decided that my passion was for writing and editing rather than academia. The independent study course in narrative non-fiction that I'd worked on during my senior year at StFX provided a solid foundation for my magazine-writing classes at journalism school.
Ten years after graduation, I've worked my way up from working as a freelance writer and editor at a small weekly newspaper to a position as a senior editor at Canadian Living Magazine, a national publication that is read by tens of thousands of Canadians each month. True, my hours of studying Shakespeare and modern poetry as an undergraduate might not seem to have a direct application to my daily work, but those hours in the lecture hall, the seminar room and the library fostered in me a curiosity about the origins of language, a passion for well-crafted sentences, and a life-long love of words and writing that make the day-to-day parts of my job – from proof-reading recipes to line-editing feature articles – a joy. It hasn't always been easy journey, but I have never regretted my choice to switch from Information Systems to English, and from there to pursue a career in writing and editing.
Austen Gilliland, B.A. Honours English 2001
Senior Editor, Canadian Living Magazine
I don’t think I fully appreciated what StFX offered me until I left the school to pursue my Master’s degree in English at another larger university. Both universities boasted a high level of academic standards and a well-rounded literary education, but what X offered that I missed the most in graduate school were the caring, personal relationships nurtured between faculty, staff, and students. Faculty and staff at X took the time to meet one-on-one with students to discuss their course of study, accompanied students to undergraduate conferences, and in some cases invited students into their own homes for class parties and end-of-year celebrations. I rarely got the same kind of sincere, individualized attention during my graduate studies, and didn’t feel as passionate about my work as a result.
Ten years after I graduated, I returned to StFX to pursue a Bachelor of Education degree and ran into a former professor who not only remembered my name but stopped with a big smile and genuine interest to find out why I was there. We chatted for some time about my academic journey and the adventures I had abroad the previous years. She offered many words of wisdom and encouragement for the program I was about to begin. In a way, it felt like I had never left, I was welcomed back with such ease and wholeheartedness.
I believe the English program at StFX prepared me well by helping me develop strong writing, reading, and critical thinking skills. Obviously, these are essential skills for a teacher to have, but I believe they transfer easily to any profession in life.
Lindsay MacDonald, B.A. Honours English 2001