Prof. Evan Radcliffe's reception remarks:
In “The Starbucks Myth: Measuring the Work of the English Major” (ADE Bulletin 152 , pp. 36-46), Sheryl I. Fontaine and Stephen J. Mexal report on a survey of alumni who had been English majors at California State University, Fullerton. They found not only a low unemployment rate, but also that these former majors had a high degree of satisfaction in their work and that they often use what they learned as English majors: “The vast majority . . . saw a high degree of crossover between the skills they cultivated as an English major and the skills they now deemed important to professional success.”
Besides what you’d expect—such as the value of writing and of analytic reading—these alumni referred to other skills that were very important to their professions: “the ability to learn independently,” “the ability to consider things from others’ perspectives,” “the ability to entertain multiple conflicting views,” “the ability to think logically,” and “creativity and imagination”—all of which they reported developing to a great extent as English majors.
The alumni also found their work to be “meaningful and remunerative” Here are the (rounded) figures for alumni being very satisfied or satisfied with various elements of their work: 84% with the “substantive content of [their] work,” 84% with the “overall direction of [their] career,” 66% with their “current salary.” “Most, nearly 74%, felt that their English degree had been ‘extremely important’ . . . or ‘very important’ . . . in their professional lives. Given the chance to do it all again, an overwhelming majority of respondents (96.8%) said they would recommend the English major to others, and less than one percent (0.65%) said they would recommend instead a ‘more practical’ major, like business.”
Finally: “business was the most commonly reported major from which students changed to become English majors. Yet despite choosing English as an apparent escape from business, many of our alumni ended up working in business in one form or another. Perhaps their inclination toward business was not redirected away from a major in business so much as it was rerouted through a major in English. As one alumnus explained, ‘Developing more cultural literacy [as an English major] in many areas has been so important. It has helped me to understand the world around me, the times we live in, and to appreciate the richness of life.’”
In sum: English allows you to do meaningful things in your career, but it’s also about much more than that. It’s about your full life.