Wiley Summer Interns
“You’re majoring in WHAT?” Five Wiley summer interns share their experiences as humanities students.
“I go to about the least liberal-arts liberal-arts college in America. It’s trade and business focused, with an upside-down curriculum, and emphasis on major related work and classes. Despite this, the element of liberal arts in the curriculum is embodied in what are called “Core classes”. Instead of taking English, History, or Philosophy, these courses are a combination of sorts that evaluate the human experience. Every student takes two core classes a semester, and are the only courses that every student must take. The course titles guide the purpose of each class, for example there’s Concepts of Self, Rhetoric of Community, and Heroes and Heroines. The courses hinge on class discussion and essays where there is no clear cut answers given.
When put in a class where you probably have little in common with your classmates and then you’re asked to analyze some of life’s largest questions, it’s enlightening to hear how other people approach these topics; how they think. I think there is a cliché of college students lying about pondering big questions quite self-indulgently. To me, this is a farce. These courses have done more than informed me on the subject matter, but rather gave the opportunity to learn more about humanity, my own identity, and how I fit into the world around me. In no other area of my life have I ever experienced such intensive and intentional thought given to complex and important topics than in Core classes. For me, it’s made me a better student and person, and for that I am grateful.”
– Maggie Bean
Maggie goes to Champlain College in Burlington, VT where she majors in Management of Publishing and serves as the Vice President of the Student Government Association. She is passionate about theatre, social justice, and reading as many books as possible. She was a Summer intern with Wiley’s Editorial Management Group in the Malden MA office.
”My name is Abby Hiller and I’m a humanities person. Mom’s still holding out for me to take the LSAT, while I’m stuck somewhere between becoming the next Ernest Hemingway and the next Elizabeth Warren.
Like many others plagued with the same affliction, my academic favorites are fickle. I began as an English Major, spent time in the Sociology Department, then switched to Economics before settling on Government. Only because the paperwork was overdue.
My decisions are informed by the greats: Aristotle, Locke. I paint literary themes onto my life in broad, melodramatic strokes. I also paint landscapes.
Humanities extend their ubiquitous fingers beyond the classroom into every crevice of your life. You can cry while you listen to Karla Ortiz share her story to the Democratic National Convention because she reminds you of someone you met in a Junot Diaz story. You can lose a friend and write a poem about her.
I can’t tell you much about cumulus and stratus; condensation or precipitation. What I can tell you, though, is that if you’re reading a story and it’s a rainy day, that means something. It’s always deliberate.
I’ll never settle on one thing and I don’t care to. The humanities have allowed me a place to explore, express, and affect change. “The unexamined life is not worth living.” With my humanities background I examine. Everything. My life is rich and colorful and I am smart, sensitive, and soulful.
I guess if I were a science person I could identify rocks, collect them and count them up. Or something.”
– Abigail Hiller
Abby was an editorial intern at Wiley. She attends Cornell University where she studies government. Her dream is to open her own animal shelter.
“Often, when my fields of study, literature and philosophy, come up in conversation, I find myself sniped with curt questions and darting comments. “What can you do with that?” The insistence of equating the purpose of college with production pervades, and I often have to defend against arguments which robustly regard production’s primacy as bare, rarely acknowledging alternative modes of meaning. Why?
What lies at the origin of this quarrel is the question of safety. Concreteness and palpable standards, e.g. to move towards and make self-judgments, allow firm gripping points in educational and professional advancement; to know where to go and set a lowest bound of falling for how far one could fail, simple and rarely culpable. But, in the Humanities, tangibility, while still present, is obfuscated by a fog of ambiguity that refuses to calcify in all levels, including both the subject matter and applicability of respective skills within the world. Danger lingers more heavily here, but yet people still decide to take the path.
Is this nonsensical? Not in the least, it is just a recognition that education is not just a tool for finding a place within the world, but instead a tool for the development of vision. Vision shapes experience, molds identity, and establishes the depths that can be seen within the world. The difference between these two loci of thought turns on a question of whether to preserve pre-existing vision, building or preserving the known by ways of calculation, or whether to diverge and multiply vision, taking wayward paths with no visible end which refuse to respect or impose any sort of borders or boundaries.
It is in that second mode where I locate the Humanities and which my place is. Why? Because of the emphasis on the development of vision for the sake of experience within the world and the primacy of experience in living. The purpose of safety is only to preserve experience, to be able to live, and with literature and philosophy I am doing exactly that; expanding the horizons of my sight, learning how to collect and synthesize heterologous fields of thought. It is this ability to abstract through variate elements which introduces adaptability in the world; the ability to understand and replicate new strains of phenomena, making it easier to learn and excel in more than a single specialization. My studies in the humanities have done this for me, making it instinct to find myself interested and exploring an infinity of things within the world. From life to intellectual interests to professional development, the Humanities have not closed my life down, but only opened up entire worlds for me.”
- Omar Ibarra
Omar is a double major in Philosophy & Literature at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a primary interest in theory and all the forms it takes, from film theory to literary theory to queer theory to….
“Although it was the most challenging course of my college career, Development of Western Civilization (DWC) also proved to be the most rewarding. The class combines studies in history, art, literature, philosophy, and theology to provide a well-rounded understanding of humanity. Of course, extensive understanding does not manifest itself in merely one semester. Even those who study the humanities all of their lives are left with questions! So, the course spans four semesters with hope that it will answer some questions and inspire many others. Many students celebrate the course’s long-anticipated end, but I did not. Over the course of two years, DWC transformed my educational experience, introducing me to texts that would never have made it on my personal reading list. Now, I cannot imagine going through life without having read Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Plato’s Republic, or St. Augustine’s Confessions. These pieces of literature, along with many others, became the center of class discussions each week, but I was surprised to find them creep up in other conversations too. The insights and values that I gained from DWC inevitably influenced my personal opinions, world views, and beliefs.
In my daily life, I now consider a much bigger picture thanks to DWC. I cannot help but question how historical events, religion, and ethics affect a friend or family member’s personal ideologies. I know that in order to understand their perspectives, I also need to learn about the many contributing factors behind them. Just as I asked complicated questions to better understand my studies in DWC, I need to ask difficult questions of the people I interact with every day because it is these important questions that lead to a better understanding of their personhood. Furthermore, I not only question others, but also myself. Before taking DWC, I had never considered my own religious beliefs or ethical standards, but my studies in theology and philosophy naturally inspired me to question how I felt about the ideas I was studying. I started exploring my own spirituality and ethical standards and although I am still searching for answers, I am grateful that I am now committed to a lifelong journey toward truth. If it were not for my studies in the humanities, I would not be the inquisitive critical thinker that I am today and I encourage others to explore the humanities so that they too can gain a greater understanding not only of our world, but of themselves.
– Jacquelyn Kelly on Humanities and the Search for Truth
Jackie is a senior at Providence College studying English and creative writing. She enjoys travel, wordplay, and strong coffee.
“Professor Sklar walked in carrying a pile of worn books in one arm and wheeling his bicycle in with the other, enthusiastically announcing to the class, “Welcome to Intro to Creative Writing!” It was the first writing class I would take at Endicott as an English major with a concentration in creative writing. I took classes with Professor Sklar nearly every semester, appreciating the class discussions, writing ideas, workshops, and his wacky sense of humor.
While many of my friends were conflicted about whether they picked the right major, I never doubted my choice. The scornful reactions of others when I discussed my major were as predictable as canned laughter in a sitcom. Their responses to my English major status were either a) “Wow, my parents would never let me major in English; they wanted me to major in something more practical” b) “What are you going to do with that? Do you want to teach?” or c) “How are you going to find a job?”
Professor Sklar’s running joke was that we should just tell anyone who asked that we were finance majors– “It will make things easier.” And we English majors laughed with him because, like keepers of the best secret, we knew the value of our choice, even if outsiders didn’t.
I was an English major because I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. There were times when I debated becoming a forensic scientist (I watched a little too much CSI) or a graphic designer. But, ultimately, I loved reading and writing more than anything. There was a sense of support and positive energy in writing classes that weren’t present in most others. I wrote poetry, fiction, and nonfiction which, to some, might sound like a waste of time. How could a fun assignment like writing about a supposedly fun thing you’ll never do again (David Foster Wallace inspired; I wrote about mini golf) be useful?
There is power in writing. English majors can learn about not just their own lives, but thousands of others. Hearing other people’s stories allows one to develop a sense of empathy and become open to new ideas. Professor Sklar always reminded us, “Nothing bad can happen to a writer.” It was true–anything negative in our lives acted as a source of inspiration for our writing. Creative writing provided a different way of thinking about the world and enhanced my appreciation of everyday life–pick up any well-written book, and you’ll know that writers can make the ordinary extraordinary.
In a more practical sense, being an English major led to many opportunities. If you can write, you can persuade, inform, and express ideas clearly. If you can write, you can also help others. I became a writing tutor my freshman year and encountered many students who were intimidated by the thought of an essay or claimed they were terrible at writing. Being able to help students develop strategies so that they could feel confident about their writing ability was rewarding. I was also able to apply the creativity, critical thinking, and communication skills I honed as an English major to a number of internships–a small press, a library, a magazine, a literary agency, and Wiley. So, no, you aren’t limited to teaching. In fact, you aren’t limited at all. Majoring in English may not be perceived as the safe or steady option like accounting or nursing; it doesn’t lead to a direct career path. However, I find that this opens up possibilities, rather than restricts them.”
– Kimberly Pavlovich on “Typical Responses English Majors Receive and Why She’s Happy with Her Degree”
Kimberly Pavlovich recently graduated from Endicott College with a BA in English and is now an Editorial Assistant at Wiley. She is the author of the poetry collection “You Carry the Woods” (Ibbetson Street Press). Her writing has also been published in FamilyFun, the Endicott Review, and as part of the Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene blog.
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