Alumni Spotlights

Our Alumni are doing great things! From business, to teaching, to non-profit work, our English graduates are finding many ways to use their skills and experience gained while studying English to work. Scroll down to see what some of our Alumni are up to and how they use their English major in their professional lives.

rovak_headshotMeet Our English Alumni: Angela Rovak, PhD

Angela Rovak, PhD., is a 2019 English Graduate alum who finished her doctorate with a specialization in Politics, Culture, and Identity as well as a Certificate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her research focuses on the intersections of race, gender, and reproductive science in African American Literature to consider the ways reproductive justice is always speculative and always requires a multifaceted interrogation across disciplinary methods. She was awarded the “Excellence in Composition Teaching Award” in 2019, and was named a finalist for both the “ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award in Humanities/Fine Arts,” and the “Excellence in Undergraduate Advising Award” at the University of Oregon.

After graduation, Dr. Rovak joined the Clark Honors College (CHC) at the University of Oregon as a First-Year Academic Advisor. Her work as an advisor, much like her research, requires a multifaceted skillset to address the needs of both her student advisees as well as CHC. In her position, Dr. Rovak collaborates with colleagues across campus and within the CHC to serve the incoming cohort of students and provide consistent support during a student’s first year of undergraduate study. She develops advising resources and programming targeted at first-year student success, is an active partner in the CHC Academic Residential Community, coordinates the CHC’s Peer Mentor Program, and helps provide weekly updates of advising tips, deadlines, and opportunities for honors college students. In addition, Dr. Rovak serves as a member of the First-Generation Student Support team, a working group dedicated to helping first-generation students find resources they need and celebrate their community at UO. 

Recently, we asked Dr. Rovak to reflect on how her decision to pursue the Humanities, and how her advanced degrees prepared her for a professional life after grad school. Here is what Dr. Rovak had to say:

 

(Read more about Angela here)

picture of Hoang Michael LeMeet Our English Alumni: Hoang Michael Le

Hoang Michael Le is an English alum that graduated in 2013. Since graduation, he’s pursued a few career paths and ultimately settled in a sales position at a Seattle tech startup. Today Michael uses the skills he acquired in his undergraduate study in English and applies them to his current position through communicating with co-workers and writing and editing sales related materials. We interviewed Michael to see how his undergraduate English studies prepared him for his current professional path, read Michael’s responses and suggestions for current undergraduate students below!

Q: What drove you to pursue your current professional position? Was it a natural progression to go from your studies as an English major or did other interests lead you to your current job?

A: My current position is Inside Sales at a well-funded startup in the Enterprise Data Storage industry. It wasn’t quite a natural progression since there were so many sales positions out there in various industries. Fortunately, I narrowed it down a bit and wanted to do tech sales and Seattle happens to be a huge hub for it.

Q: How did studying English help you prepare for your current position or previous positions you’ve held? How do you use the skills you developed throughout your undergraduate study in your current job or previous jobs you’ve had?

A: English has helped prepare me for my current position because it has given me the skills needed to articulate complex ideas and connect it to the needs of organizations. Emotional intelligence is one of the key traits of a skilled salesman and there is no greater place to gain understanding of that than in literature.

(Read more about Hoang here)

 

 picture of Alec Cowan

Meet Our English Alumni: Alec Cowan

Alec Cowan is a graduate of the UO English program’s class of 2018, having earned Bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in Philosophy. He currently works in journalism with a focus on audio storytelling, and has worked on a variety of news and documentary projects with NPR and public radio stations in the Pacific Northwest. In this interview, Alec discusses his experiences with the intersections of the English major and journalism, both in and out of UO.

Q: What initially drew you to study English as an undergraduate?

A: I started college as a biology major with the intent of finishing in pre-med. Why I chose that, I couldn’t tell you— I’d reached college and that felt like the pinnacle, like I’d finished a journey built up over 12 years of schooling.

I had no real idea what I wanted to do until an English professor at Colorado Mesa University fostered my creativity and recommended I write for the school paper. CMU didn’t have a journalism program, so I made a choice: I could either pursue journalism or become an academic in the English field. I transferred to Oregon so I could study both, but ended up sticking with English as my primary field of study. I enjoyed reading, writing, and analyzing texts— a skill that drove me to write creatively and functionally as part of journalism organizations on campus.

(Read more about Alec here)

 

picture of Katlynn Nicolls

Meet our Alumni: Katlynn Nicolls

 Katlynn Nicolls is a graduate of the UO English program’s Class of 2015, having earned Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature with a minor in Business. She currently works as a Senior Publicist for Timber Press in Portland, OR. Our interview with Katlynn highlights the versatility of the English major both within an academic and professional perspective.

Q: What initially drew you to study English as an undergraduate?

A: There is a great deal of important history told through the lens of literature. Knowing these stories, evaluating them as part of a constructive learning environment, and discussing their significance was exciting to me as a student.

Q: After graduation, what paths did you consider or pursue with your English degree?

A: After finishing my undergraduate degree, I went on to receive a Certificate in Publishing from the University of Denver. I knew as an undergrad that I wanted to try to break into the publishing world, so I added the minor in Business to my degree to help prepare for my post-graduate job search.

(Read more about Katlynn here)

 

Moulik D. Berkana, Cultural Affairs Officer, U.S. Consulate General, Chennai, India. UO English alum, class of 2000. Mr. Moulik D. Berkana arrived in Chennai in August 2018 for a three-year posting as the Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate General.  He oversees a range of cultural and educational initiatives throughout south India that are supported by the U.S. government, with the goal to foster stronger bilateral and regional ties through diverse public diplomacy programs. Previous assignments include: Washington, Islamabad and Peshawar, Jakarta, Kolkata, Brussels, and Libreville.  Prior to joining the Foreign Service in 2002, he graduated cum laude from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor of Arts in English and studied at Columbia University in the City of New York. Mr. Berkana speaks French, bahasa Indonesia, and is studying basic Tamil.  He is married to and has two sons.   

Ian Geronimo: UO English and creative writing alum, class of 2011.  Ian is an AAPI writer from Mesa, Arizona. He is a recent graduate in fiction from the Institute of American Indian Arts as well as a former student of journalism, English and creative writing at the University of Oregon. His work has been published in Unbound Magazine (University of Oregon), Two Hawks Quarterly, and his story "Island Healing" will be featured in the upcoming debut issue of One Grand Journal, a new literary magazine by Aaron Hicklin, former editor-in-chief of Out. Geronimo has been honored with fellowships at Vermont Studio Center, Arizona State University's "Rising Stars Desert Nights," and he was a semi-finalist for Sundance Screenwriter's Lab 2018. He currently lives with his partner in Eugene, Oregon, and is at work on his first novel.   

Melissa McGlensey: UO English alum, class of 2013. Melissa is a comedian, writer, and filmmaker. Melissa has studied and performed improv and sketch comedy with a number of theaters all across the world including the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater (both LA and NYC), Reckless Theater in New York, Impro Melbourne, The Improv Conspiracy Melbourne, Laugh Masters Academy (Sydney and Melbourne) and Second City Chicago. Melissa is currently a company member of Soothplayers: Completely Improvised Shakespeare and the director of Completely Improvised Potter. In 2018 Melissa graduated from the Harold Ramis Film School at The Second City in Chicago and in August 2018 Melissa wrapped on her first short film which she wrote, directed and produced. It stars David Pasquesi of VEEP, TJ & Dave and Angels & Demons. Melissa also writes for Reductress.com, The Betoota Advocate, The Huffington Post, The Mighty, Refinery29, The Onion's former site Starwipe, Ms., and Today.com.  

Laura Coffin: UO English alum, class of 2004.  Laura grew up in semi-rural Oregon in a large family.  After high school she took a year to nanny and lived in a castle in France while caring for five children.  Laura was an English major at the U of O, where she graduated magna cum laude in 2004.  After a year of work and training with a coach as an Olympic hopeful distance runner, she attended the U of O School of Law.  During her first summer in law school Laura attended Cornell's international law program in Paris; during her second summer, she interned at the district attorney's office in Bend; and during her third year, in addition to her studies, she participated in the defense clinic run by Eugene's public defender.  After graduating law school in 2007 Laura worked for a brand-new public defense office for four years.  After that, she was hired by the Appellate Division of Oregon's public defense services in Salem.  She works there still, and lives in Eugene with her son.  She has thought and read a great deal about the crossing paths of career development, self-growth, professional group dynamics, and contribution to the world, particularly for women.  She still uses the critical thinking and close reading skills developed as an English major.  She finds her literary education enduringly relevant, and, according to her, “refers to it more than to my law school education.” 

Doug Badger: UO English alum, class of 1991. Brian is a co-founder and Managing Partner of a strategic communications firm based in Portland with an office in Seattle. He’s done some work with SOJC over the years and have hired many of their students as interns and entry-level professionals. He has also been on the University of Oregon Alumni Association board for last 8 years, serving as s President for 2017-2018. Doug is co-founder and Managing Partner at Quinn Thomas. Doug describes himself as a "passionate storyteller who is inspired by finding common ground in people's disparate values and backgrounds; recovering politico with a strong record in brand marketing, issue advocacy, and crisis communications."