Category Archives: Courses

Romantic Ireland: Studying Abroad with the Purdue English Department

Study Abroad at Purdue

Purdue University offers a large selection of study abroad opportunities, ranking nineteenth in domestic student participation in study abroad. Of the multitude of possibilities, “Locations that attracted 100 or more students in 2016-17 were Australia, China, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom” (Oates). For a long time, study abroad seemed oriented primarily to foreign language majors, but, in actuality, “students in most academic backgrounds can find programs that meet their academic and career goals” (Mohajeri 382-383). These experiences are highly recommended. Studying abroad allows students to develop new skills, oftentimes influencing their future professional aspirations, as “the more international experiences one has, the more likely one is to develop a globally-oriented career” (388).

Romantic Ireland

Trinity College, Dublin

During the summer of 2019, Professor Maren Linett led an incredible study abroad entitled “Romantic Ireland,” one of the English department’s annual summer programs in Dublin. It boasted the opportunity for students to gain a more global understanding of Irish literature, offering six credits of coursework over the span of three weeks. During the program, students resided at Ireland’s most distinguished university, Trinity College Dublin. With 17 nights in Dublin, 2 nights in Galway, and 1 day spent exploring Sligo, the program allowed students to immerse themselves in another culture, visiting “key Dublin literary and historical sites such as the Dublin Writers Museum, the Parnell Monument, The James Joyce Centre, Trinity College Library, and the Abbey Theater.” These daytrips, as well as evenings in local pubs, allowed for engrossing experiences upon which the students would later reflect, turning in self-reflection essays on their time abroad.

Crystal Webb

After learning about this study abroad through her academic advisor, Crystal Webb, an English Literature major participating in Purdue’s Degree in 3 Program, realized that it would be a convenient way to travel while still progressing towards graduation. Webb also highlights how her experience in Ireland enhanced her understanding of Irish authors and literature by “bringing these stories to life.” Webb similarly credits it with helping her better understand how important a global perspectives is to any future career plan. Seeing her own culture through the eyes of another was an eye-opening experience, teaching her how often we, as American citizens, tend to assume that we know enough about the world, when we don’t. Basically, Webb claims that her experience was “globalization in action.”

Malahide Castle and Gardens, Near Dublin

Nyke Bounket, a double major in English Literature and Anthropology, also spoke highly of his experience. First, he mentions the workload; participants were expected “to read probably 30 poems, a couple dozen short stories, several plays and even a novel. All within three weeks.” Bounket humorously quips, “I’m not sure I even remember as much of U.S. history as I do Ireland’s.” He also stresses that exposure to such a different culture would be difficult, if not impossible, to simulate in a classroom setting. Bounket mentions meeting various types of people during his time in Ireland, including “a French philosophy professor, a woman from D.C. who used to serve as a Senator, a group of friends from Russia who were biking the country.” This eclectic group, along with the immersive nature of the trip, allowed him “to reflect on [his] own culture, behaviors, and values.” Finally, Bounkett identifies the natural beauty of Ireland as his favorite part of the experience; the group took a 40-minute train ride to Howth, a town “rugged with history.” He’d “never seen ocean water so clear. It was brimming with brightly colored sailboats, and in the distance were massive, jutting cliffs.” This idyllic scenery must be experienced in person!

Both Webb and Bounkett emphasize communication skills as a major aspect of study abroad. They recommend that other undergraduate students participate in either this particular opportunity, or some study abroad experience during their time at Purdue to develop their communication skills in a global context. Both also express their appreciation for Dr. Linett, who in Webb’s words is one of Purdue’s “hidden gem professors.” Her program class helped Webb to communicate her exact ideas, emphasizing precise writing as key to disseminating knowledge and connecting with other people. Bounkett agrees, identifying Dr. Linnet as “a powerhouse of knowledge and the most intelligent person [he’s] ever met.”

Other Benefits of Study Abroad

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stating that “over the past three decades, the number of students enrolled outside their country of citizenship has risen dramatically, from 0.8 million worldwide in 1975 to 4.3 million in 2011, a more than fivefold increase.” As technology continues to advance, the world becomes more interconnected and workers with the ability to understand global perspectives increase in demand. Employers desire students who can travel beyond their comfort zones—students who readily embark to new frontiers. Although possibly daunting, study abroad experiences quantifiably assist student’s job prospects and improve their overall empathy and perspective-taking abilities. Ultimately, such opportunities “offer unique experiences to students by providing life-long personal and professional benefits such as personal growth, cultural awareness, employability, new language skills, creativity, communication skills, social network development and other benefits” (Tamilla, 63).

Nyke Bounket (bottom row, from left), Prof. Linett (third from bottom right), and the rest of “Romantic Ireland” crew

Globally, interest in study abroad programs has grown exponentially, as the personal and economic benefits have become more apparent. Purdue has certainly taken note, and now offers over 200 experiences in more than 45 countries. Romantic Ireland represents one of many opportunities designed to stretch and grow undergraduate students. As Bounket says, “go for the experience and allow yourself to digest everything, slowly and appreciatively.”

Works Cited

Mohajeri Norris, Emily, and Joan Gillespie. “How Study Abroad Shapes Global Careers: Evidence From the United States.” Journal of Studies in International Education, vol. 13, no. 3, Sept. 2009, pp. 382–397, doi:10.1177/1028315308319740.

Oates, Matthew. “Purdue Ranks 19th in the Nation for Study Abroad.” Purdue University News, Purdue, 9 Nov. 2018, www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2018/Q4/purdue-ranks-19th-in-the-nation-for-study-abroad.html.

OECD (2013), Education at a Glance 2013: Highlights, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/eag_highlights-2013-en.

Tamilla, Curtis, and John R. Ledgerwood. “Students’ Motivations, Perceived Benefits and Constraints Towards Study Abroad and Other International Education Opportunities.” Journal of International Education in Business, vol. 11, no. 1, 2018, pp. 63-78. ProQuest, https://search.proquest.com/docview/2040569860?accountid=13360, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/JIEB-01-2017-0002.

Ally Geoffray is a junior majoring in English Literature and Professional Writing at Purdue.

 

Exploring Learning Communities, Engaging English

Learning communities are fundamental to big public universities like Purdue. As one of 11 “high impact” practices identified by the AACU as essential to enriching students’ college education, they encourage deep learning, correlating to high levels of academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, and faculty-student interaction.

Learning communities are integrated experiences; students take two classes together in their first semester, while also participating in residential or extracurricular activities with their classmates. Learning communities are, basically, fast tracks to academic success, assisting new undergraduates’ transition from home and high school to dorm and university; they help students earn better grades, make friends faster, and graduate at higher rates. Learning communities provide smaller class sizes; increased faculty-student mentoring; and opportunities to meet and interact with other students who share similar personal and academic interests. They also make a big campus feel small.

For this reason, each fall the English Department hosts its own learning community called “Engaging English,” open to first-year English majors and Exploratory Studies students. While we encourage the residential component, it is not required. So, students who live in the Honors College, for instance, or who have off-campus living arrangements can still participate. In 2018-2019, we won the Office of Residential Life’s “Real World Experience Award,” recognizing the best learning communities offering introductions to various opportunities within their academic fields. 

Left: Dr. Barbara Dixon; Right: Professor Roby Malo

Let’s take a closer look at the different aspects of our award-winning learning community, and hear from faculty and students who were involved in it.

ENGL 195 Introducing English

“Introducing English” is a 1-credit course (one 50-minute class meeting/week), which initiates students to departmental and college resources, gives them a jump-start on career planning, lets them work on writing skills, and also encourages community through participation in our “Big Read” common read program.

As our departmental Associate Head Dr. Barbara Dixon says, the “course is unique because we interacted in a deeper way than students in classes normally do—meeting often for dinner during the semester, reading The Underground Railroad [our Big Read for 2018-19], researching the slave trade, and spending an entire day together on a Saturday going to The Levi Coffin House, part of the Underground Railroad network in Indiana.” The biggest lessons that she hopes her students learned were that teamwork on projects is hard work (but also important to their future careers); that reading can be not just informative, but fun; and that faculty are people they can trust if they need help. Students very much enjoyed the experience. Julia, a student in the class, writes: “Dr. Dixon made her classroom feel like a home, and my classmates and I became … a family through the environment she created.” During the semester, the students even suggested creating a “GroupMe” to send text messages and to keep in touch. Dr. Dixon used it to plan a class “reunion dinner” the following semester.

Dr. Dixon’s students pose near a mural in Fountain City, Indiana that depicts Levi Coffin and his wife, Catharine, who helped more than 2,000 people escape slavery.

Her advice for prospective students? “If you have the chance to join a learning community, take it!” she says, “Try to get out of your comfort zone and go to activities you don’t think you’ll like with people you don’t know!”

The Big Read

Our annual Big Read is designed to enrich Purdue and Greater Lafayette through the shared experience of reading literature. Each year we select a great book, integrate it into our learning community curriculum, create a calendar of engaging events (including lectures, book group discussions, performances, workshops, author visits) and then provide free copies of the text to undergraduates, high school students, community members, public libraries, and more. Studies show that book ownership contributes to academic achievement, educational, economic development. It’s important for us to reach outside the borders of our campus and the temporal bound-aries of the undergraduate degree. Engagement programs like the Big Read produce demonstrable, positive communal effects, and are essential to Purdue’s mission as a land grant university.

English 202 Engaging English

The second course in the learning community is “Engaging English.” Dr. Robyn Malo, Associate Prof. of English Literature, says that the course teaches students the “basic skills but also the comfort-level and confidence to continue as English majors…We think about storytelling, whose stories we tell, whose stories we elide, and whose we ignore; how our interpretive faculties shape and limit what we are able to understand; and how can we start to get around this difficulty.”

Of course, Prof. Malo also organized a variety of extracurricular events for her students, like a trip to a play at the Indiana Repertory Theater; poetry readings; meals at the dining halls; meeting authors whose books they read in class; and after-class writing workshops. She even facilitated an impromptu study group during finals week. “Finals week can be overwhelming and stressful,” she says, “and so I thought, ‘Ok, this is a chance to re-connect to the group’…So, I was like, ‘Do you guys want to get together and study so that you don’t have to do it alone, and so that you have a little bit of accountability [to each other] while doing it?” 

Students from Prof. Malo’s class study in the English Department’s Under-graduate Studies Office during finals week.

What did she like best about the learning community experience? “It was fun to see them [in the dining halls].…Hanging out as a group makes learning more possible; I could see that they trusted each other and they trusted me. They knew I liked them and respected them as people. That makes it easier to give and take critical feedback. Students respond to that in a way that helps them learn rather than feel shut down.”

Prof. Malo’s biggest takeaway for her learning community students? “That you can balance learning and hard work with being ok the way you are and not needing to be perfect.”

Conclusion

Our “Engaging English” learning community is an enriching experience for faculty and students alike. One student raved that the experience “is very good at fostering a fun sense of community” and that the course instructors’ “kindness motivates me to perform well.” We consider this high praise, indeed!

“Beyond English”

It’s time to answer “The Question”: What is the point of an English degree?

When faced with this query, English majors sometimes find it difficult to verbalize the value of their education. That’s where ENGLISH 39900: Beyond English comes into play. This capstone course is designed to answer “The Question,” and all the other pesky uncertainties English majors face on a daily basis. The course is broken up into distinct segments, each designed to help students better understand where they fit in the world as English majors. Writing exercises help them articulate their interests, the readings showcase the many different ways English skills apply in the workforce, and peer discussions build up confidence.

So, was the class helpful? Here’s what three students have to say.

Grace Morris
English Literature Major Dance Minor

Grace describes Beyond English as a space to discover how English applies to real life. She loved the diversity of the readings, with materials ranging from news articles, such as “Why America’s obsession with STEM education is dangerous,” to novellas like The Little Prince. However, it was the commencement speeches by notable figures such as J. K. Rowling that Grace enjoyed the most, because they explored ways her degree could open doors later in life.

Every unit of the course offered Grace something useful. She gained resume writing and networking skills, discovered ties between her major and minor, and even learned tips for “adulting.” Beyond English gave her the language to explain her major to skeptics and helped her take pride in her studies; she now has a fuller appreciation of how English promotes empathy, creativity, and perspective-taking.

Scattered throughout the course were writing assignments such as journaling and creating career maps. These exercises helped students consider what they wanted out of life and brainstorm ways to get there. Like many of her classmates, Grace’s path to English started in a completely different major. She began in Management, but, eventually, switched to English. Journaling allowed Grace to reflect on her journey at Purdue and to map out potential paths for her future.

In addition to being reading-intensive, Beyond English was very discussion-based. Every student had to contribute to the daily conversation, and, with only 11 students in the class, no one held back. Everyone enjoyed the honesty of the discussions and shared their thoughts without judgment.

However, the highlight of the course was a visit by Purdue English alumni Kristi Brown, Project Manager at Capital Program Management. Kristy had worked her way into the construction business from the ground up. She shared that knowing how to learn and taking the initiative to teach herself propelled her into important roles, such as managing the State Street Project and the construction of the new arch in front of Purdue Memorial Union – all without an engineering degree. According to Grace, Kristi’s experiences revealed the vast opportunities available to English majors. “[T]he English major is not a linear career path,” Grace says, “If we wanted a linear career path we would be in Engineering . . . I think that is what attracted me the most because I have so many options.” Although she intends to pursue graduate school in communication and dance, Grace isn’t ruling out other careers now that she knows, “If I want to, I can also lead a huge city project.”

Filled with dreaming and planning in equal measure, Beyond English offers a judgement-free space for English majors to assess where they are and where they want to be. Grace’s advice to students? “Be willing to find yourself within the course, and find your passions, and find where your future could lie.”

Liz Walker 
English Literature and Professional Writing Major
Political Science and Theater Minor

Liz Walker entered Beyond English discouraged and frustrated. Constantly trying to prove the value of English to others had left her disheartened, and the negativity was taking its toll. After three years of people questioning her major, she had started to doubt herself: “Had majoring in English been the right choice?”

Although she was initially skeptical, Beyond English turned out to be the right experience at the right time. Liz credits the course’s more philosophical readings, like “What Is the Point of College?,” with getting her back on track. She also credits the class with revamping her love of English and effecting a tangible change in her mentality. Looking at the bigger picture reminded her that the purpose of college is more than just landing a job. It is also about learning and growing as a person.

Liz recommends Beyond English because it helped her realize that there is no one definition of success, and that life does not transition predictably from point A to point B. Until her junior year, Liz had her life neatly mapped out with the intention of becoming a lawyer. It wasn’t until after attending a law seminar that she realized law was not the career for her. “Life is very fluid, and it’s not linear” she says. She admits to initially having a hard time grasping this, but that Beyond English helped her come to terms with it. The course provided Liz with practical tools to market her skills to the fullest extent. Participating in required Center for Career Opportunities (CCO) events offered her experiences she would not have pursued otherwise. She also found the down-to-earth advice in Adulting: How to Become a Grownup in 535 Easy(ish) Steps useful.

Liz also enjoyed the course’s different thematic sections. One section focused on the purpose of life, or as Liz put it, “being a basic human being.” Another delved into the practical questions every English major worries about: How can you use your degree? What place does Liberal Arts have in a tech-based society? How does the study of English fit into the modern world? A third looked toward the future: What comes after college? What does adulting look like?

“It was a unique class,” Liz says, “because even though it did deal with deeper theories and concepts . . . it was very relationship-based.” She enjoyed hearing from her peers and forging close relationships with them. Talking with other English majors reassured her that she was not the only one worried about the future. Months later, Liz and her classmates still chat over GroupMe and are trying to start a book club. Although she is still unsure where life is heading, Liz is okay with that. She no longer feels the need to justify herself to others: “I feel like I’m leaving Purdue very confident in my abilities.”

Rachel Muff
English Literature Major
Spanish Minor


For Rachel Muff, the highlight of Beyond English wasn’t just the content; it was also the people she got to know, starting with the class instructor. “[Prof. Pacheco] puts a lot of himself into the class and he encourages, like, a comfortable atmosphere . . . he makes it feel casual without being unprofessional.” This made it easy to for Rachel to get to know her peers to the point where she feels like she “could pick out a present for every single person in that class.” As a non-traditional student, she was inspired by the excitement of this new generation.

The course readings were another source of inspiration for Rachel. She especially loves this quote from Martha Nussbaum’s book, Cultivating Humanity:

“A child deprived of stories is deprived, as well, of certain ways of viewing other people.  For the insides of people, like the insides of stars, are not open to view. They must be wondered about. And the conclusion that this set of limbs in front of me has emotions and feelings and thoughts of the sort I attribute to myself will not be reached without the training of the imagination that storytelling promotes.”

Filled with texts like this, the course helped Rachel articulate the value of reading, writing, and interpreting stories. The same skills needed to tell a story are also extremely valuable in the workforce. Employers want workers who connect with other people, and are disciplined, self-reflective, and able to take criticism – all skills found in English majors.

Prior to Beyond English, Rachel didn’t know what she wanted in a career. But, after spending the semester discussing the readings with her classmates, exploring career paths through research exercises, and verbalizing her experiences through a group podcast project, she emerged with a clearer understanding of her career interests. Rachel is currently applying for a marketing positions at the Wildlife Habitat Council and Utah Department of Natural Resources. She is also exploring the possibility of writing for medical journals. Rachel’s career interests are diverse, but she feels confident about her prospects and she expects that her classmates feel the same. “I think everyone walked out of that class with a higher self-esteem,” she said, “Everyone loved that class.”