An Open Letter to CSU’s English Department

Dear CSU English Department,

I want to start by saying thank you. Most of you were the most dedicated college professors I had and were genuinely interested in my success and growth as a student and as a writer. I appreciate you and everything you do.

That being said, after graduating in May with my degree in English (writing concentration), I feel duped.

When I was majoring in English, I was told by all my teachers that you can get any job you want with an English degree (within reason). I was assigned articles to read that praised English degrees and spouted that English was one of the most employable degrees you could have. And now that I’m in the real world, I could not disagree more.

I should note that I do have a full-time job. It’s a traditional, 9-5, Monday through Friday, sit in a windowless cube, dead-end job. It’s a job that is sucking the life out of me. I was given this job because it involved editing, proofreading and occasional writing. Or so I was told. I am not trusted to write a letter on my own. My job consists mainly of typing others’ words and printing. That’s it. Anything I write has a template that requires me to fill in blanks, and even that has to be approved by my boss before it can be used. This job does not require any of my prior knowledge or any of the skills I honed at CSU. So even though I am employed, should the statistics for CSU really improve despite the fact that grads may not actually be using their degree, or are even happy with the job they have?

So of course, the simple solution would be to look for another job. Which I have done every day for the past month and a half. What has this job search resulted in? One interview for a part-time internship with no benefits and menial pay. And of course, countless generic “we are pursuing other candidates at this time” emails. And I have to ask myself, why is that?

Looking at the job market for writers in Colorado, there are plenty of jobs for one industry: technical writing. As a writing major at CSU, I took almost every composition class offered and many writing intensive classes. Why is it that CSU does not even offer a class in technical writing? I never even had an assignment related to technical writing. When I apply for such jobs, they undoubtedly ask for a writing sample. I can give all sorts of samples that show how I can tailor my writing to my audience, or how the theme of a story relates to the overall time period in which it was written, or how the rhetorical devices used bolster an argument, but I cannot compete with someone who knows how to put together a well-composed manual. Technical writing is one of the most sought after skills for English degree-holders and I know nothing about it.

I am privileged and grateful for my education. I do believe that the skills I learned at CSU are valuable, but for some reason, they just aren’t good enough. Be realistic with your students. Not everyone is made out to be a teacher, a profession that many English majors find themselves pursuing. Not everyone is able to move out of state to different job markets. This is not CSU’s fault by any means. All I ask that you are honest with your students and are able to have a conversation with them to find out where they see themselves, where they would like to be and whether or not this degree will allow them to get there. I know you struggle with enrollment numbers, but if you’re doing a disservice to students, you are not properly doing your job.

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