Student Spotlight: Catie Gilhooly

Catie Gilhooly is a sophomore double majoring in English Literature and Professional Writing, with minors in Management and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, as well as a certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Catie is very involved in Purdue student organizations as a Dean’s Ambassador for the College of Liberal Arts, an editor with the Journal of Purdue Undergraduate Research, and an undergraduate tutor at Purdue’s Writing Lab. She is also involved in Purdue Bands and Orchestras. I had the chance to sit down with her and discuss her time as an English major.

Why did you choose to major in English?

I guess, growing up, I was the book kid—the bookworm. All of the sudden, though, I got to high school and I was like, “I have no idea what I want to do!” But then I would literally be flipping through my books, going through the acknowledgements sections and seeing, “To my editor.” I realized that authors are not the only people behinds books. I always felt I wasn’t creative enough to write a whole book myself, but I wanted to be a part of the process. Then I was like, “Oh, publishing! That works.” So that’s how I chose the English major.

Why did you choose English at Purdue in particular?

I was initially scared of coming to Purdue for English because it’s a STEM school. I knew that Purdue had a good English program, though, and I eventually went on a visit here. I think the first faculty member I ever talked to was Dr. Robyn Bartlett. She just sat down with me and my parents, and I was like, “This is what I want to do!” And she looked at me and said, “Okay, here’s how we’re going to get you there.” She was a super sweet, super nice person. She sent me a list of books she was reading at the time and we shared reading lists for a little bit, so yeah, it was awesome! I was still a sophomore or a junior in high school at that point, so I was still pretty early in my process. Then, in my senior year, I ended up coming back and talked to Dr. Pacheco and Dr. Dixon, who I just absolutely loved. Really, for me, it’s more the faculty than anything else, the people in the program. I love the College of Liberal Arts. I think it’s such a cool thing that we can have such a small community on the big campus. Small classes were definitely a draw as well; I love small class sizes. Oh, and the Writing Lab too!

Why your specific double major?

I like being able to mix it up. Ultimately, I consider it a way to keep myself well-rounded, to sharpen my skills on both ends. I really like the combination of English Lit and Professional Writing because I’m going to be able to read literature and do theory and be in that brain space but also be in the more practical brain space [of Professional Writing]. That’s partially why I did the entrepreneurship certificate too, so that I can work my brain in different ways, which makes reading more fun. I wanted to make sure I never got tired of what I was doing.

What’s the best part of the English major, in your opinion?

I love the people, everyone from the faculty to the students I’m working with. It’s cool having a small community of people that I know are on the same wavelength as me—you know, “Books are really cool!”—in the middle of a STEM campus. I can talk about The Hunger Games, or all my favorite little things. I can rant about Little Women for 30 minutes and people will love it! I think that’s definitely one of the biggest things for me. And I love that everyone’s here because they had to dig to find it. You don’t just happen upon English at Purdue. No one’s here because they don’t mean to be here—they’re here because they went out and they found it and they decided that’s what they’re going to do. I love it here and I know a lot of other people who love it here too. It’s a nice combination of passionate people, which is really cool.

What’s your favorite class you’ve taken so far here at Purdue?

I’d say the one that has challenged me the most is my “Introduction to Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies” class. I think it fulfilled a core requirement, which is the reason why I took it. My mind was blown by every single discussion. It was all discussion, too; it was all just people relating their own experiences to our readings and it was super interesting. It felt like it was the true college experience, getting out and seeing all these different perspectives and learning about other people’s cultures and how they grew up and how this shaped that. So, that was definitely the most challenging and the most fun too. I also really enjoy the literature classes here, because I feel like I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to sit and study literature in high school besides AP Lit. I especially enjoyed learning about the ins and outs of early America in “American Literature to 1865.” Because you’re not just reading and saying, “This is fact.” Instead, you’re disputing it and pointing out its contradictions, which is really cool.

What are you reading now? Do you have any recommendations?

I’m reading A Monster Calls for my YA lit class. I’m also reading Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. I feel like it’s one of those classics that I just have to read in order to call myself an English major, as well as a WGSS minor. I feel like it’s a super important piece of literature! Overall, I really like reading the classics and using this college time to brush up on them. But at the same time, I also love a good John Green book. Looking for Alaska is a reread for me; it’s a good time. I also just adore memoirs. I have yet to read Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, so that one’s on my list.

Fayth Schutter is double majoring in Professional Writing and Mass Communication at Purdue University.