In Episode 55 of the CSUSB Advising Podcast, Meghan McGarry chats with Dr. David Carlson, Professor and Department Chair of English at Cal State San Bernardino! What are the concentrations in the major? What are students learning in their courses? What career opportunities are there? Find out in this episode!
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Welcome to CSUSB advising podcast. My name is Meghan McGarry academic advisor here at CSUSB. On today's episode, we're going to be learning to hear about the English major. And we're gonna have a special guest and his name is Dr. David Carlson.
Hi, nice, nice to see you or be with everybody today. I guess not see, I'm seeing you, Meghan, but...
Nice to see you to tell us a little bit about yourself. And what was your path here into higher education here at CSUSB?
Okay, so, I mean, I think English as a subject was was an early interest of mine. But I don't know that I knew what kind of career path I wanted to be on early on. I mean, high school, I knew I liked writing. I knew there were, I knew there were lots of different kind of career paths I could take. Initially, I thought I might want to do journalism. But I honestly wasn't, I wasn't really sure. And, and I think, you know, I'm a first generation college student, like a lot of our students are, I guess, my sisters and I would be first generation all kind of together in our, in our family. You know, my, my parents were children of immigrants, they encouraged higher ed, they encouraged us to think about college, but they weren't necessarily kind of prepared to give us great guidance on college planning since they hadn't gone. So, you know, when I was looking for my undergrad degree, I just, I was looking for places that had lots of good offered lots of different programs, lots of different options. And that's actually one of the things I liked about English was I felt like there were a lot of different things I could do within the field of English. So, you know, I ended up going to a kind of liberal arts college undergrads on scholarship, and kind of stayed as an English major. And I was I was still, at that point, after I finished undergrad, I thought I wanted to teach, but I wasn't 100% sure, so I looked at graduate school, and I went to public university for grad school. But once again, I tried to pick a place that was an English program that did a lot of different things and would give me give me options and choices. And, you know, within my first year to grad school, I knew I wanted to teach. And then from there it was, it was a fairly to the straight path. When people are teaching in higher education, you don't, you don't always have like the first choice of where you're going to go to go and work. But I definitely wanted to teach at a public university, and I wanted to teach. I wanted to teach students who are kind of like myself, so I think in that respect CSUSB, that was my first job. And my only job at this point, I've been here for 22 years, so.
Awesome. That's very interesting. How would you describe your major? And are there any concentrations that a student should be aware of?
Um, yes, no, we actually have five different concentrations at this point. And I think I'll start off by saying that the English department at Cal State is, is really quite unique. And I think I'm actually safe and accurate in saying that, I don't believe there's a there's a university in the United States that offers the range of things that we offer in our department, you know, we have five undergraduate concentrations, we have creative writing, we have literature, we have linguistics, we have Rhetoric and Writing Studies. And we also have a kind of self directed study concentration that students motivated students who want to sort of put together a unique kind of pattern of study can do that in dialogue with a department. You know, most most English departments, or you don't usually find linguistics, and creative writing, and lit and the other things that we do kind of all together in one department, we also and I'll get to this probably in a little bit, when you ask about some other programs. We also have a speech language pathology program that we're beginning now, which again, is not typical to be found in an English department. It's housed in English here at CSUSB because we're emphasizing kind of a strong, a strong amount of training and linguistics there. So, so yeah, I think, going back to what I said earlier about my own desires for looking for places to go to school that had lots of different options for students. You know, our department has an enormous range, think of options options for students. And I think, a common core that everybody takes together. So it's not the case that undergraduate English majors have no sort of overlap, take about half of the courses all in common. And then about the other half, it would be in your own areas of specialization.
Very interesting. So you kind of touched on a little bit of a new specialty, but are there any other minors or certificates?
Yeah, actually, we do we have we have a minor in English, which is very open. Basically, students can choose pretty much any six English classes that they want to take. We've we've made that minor more flexible since the conversion to semesters a few years ago. There's a minor in creative writing explicitly. There's a minor in linguistics, so those are a little more focused. And again, those are those are those would be appealing to obviously non English majors who want to sort of take a...those are about six classes, I think it's about 18 units of English classes. So we do have the minor in Speech, Language Pathology, and kind of certificate that is a postbac certificate. The coursework is the same in those with the minor in speech language pathology, is it's a little bigger, give students the all of the prerequisite coursework that they would need to get into a master's program in speech language pathology. And you have to have a master's to work in that field. We're actually working on developing a master's program in speech language pathology, too. But that's a few years coming in a few years, we have a minor in English teacher preparation, which is designed for students who are going to go on for a single subject credential to teach high school, and then we share courses with other departments. There's a minor in border studies, and there's a multimedia storytelling minor as well. I think the the multimedia storytelling minor, there's a reasonable amount of interest in that students take courses in art and design theater, communications, courses from us, you know, for that program.
Generally speaking, what are students learning in their classes or within the major?
So, I think I'm not going to quote our mission statement, because I know that that may seem a little cheesy to your listeners. But I think our list our mission statement does emphasize that we educate the whole person, so I want to start with that point. And I think that's, that's something worth emphasizing. You know, in the present moment. We help students learn to read and to write critically, creatively, flexibly, I would say. We teach students to analyze and use language in a lot of different contexts. We teach genres, literary genres, we teach forms of public and professional writing. We teach the technical analysis of language and discourse, we have classes in grammar and syntax. All of our students take a linguistics class that's in the core. And absolutely linguistics students emphasize some of those areas a little more fully, students doing the teacher prep minor would also do a little more of that work. We teach a lot about the contexts and communities that people write in, and how they use language, we teach the creative use of our language and writing in producing texts in various media. So I think in that respect, we prepare students for a wide range of careers, and pretty much any career that involves communication, analysis of information, analysis of texts, analysis of media, I think we offer a kind of broad preparation in those in those ways.
What career areas have you seen your students go on to into after graduation?
Okay, lots of variety here. And actually, this is something that we do have a web specific web sub webpage on our main English department webpage, it's a careers page, I think it's careers in English, I think is if you Google that on the campus webpage, or if you just go to the main English page and look for careers. And that's a project we've been working on for the last few years to highlight some of this diversity of what our students do. If you actually go to that page, you'll find a list of kind of descriptions of different careers that students have gone into. But we also have profiles with specific alums who have gone on to do different things. We have interviews with some of them some video interviews, some other interviews. But some of the things that you'll find if you look at that page is me I probably the most obvious answer is teaching. And we do have a fair number of students who go on to teaching careers in high school and college. You know, we are a, we're a program that provides students with the subject matter preparation, they need to go and get a high school teaching credential. And you know, we do also position students effectively to go on for a masters or a PhD, if they want to teach community college or at a four year university, we have a fair number of students teaching English as a second language abroad as well. We have a Tehsil certificate that actually sets people up for that, both and you can do that as an undergraduate student, not just as a graduate student. But we've had a number of students do do programs, or find employment, teaching a second language abroad, particularly in Japan, we've had a bunch of go into Japan and Korea to do this. And some too, we have a couple in the Middle East as well. The speech language pathology program, obviously, that we're developing will prepare students for working in that field. I guess at this point, we're just getting started with that we're in our first year right now of offering that certificate. So I don't have any alumni success stories to share yet but in a couple of years, we'll have those. We have students working in some kind of surprising areas. We have students working in cybersecurity, believe it or not, with using their linguistics, background, journalism, editing, public relations. We have students working in politics. We have a couple of recent alums who are congressional staffers for one is a what is a staffer for Pete Aguilar and there are some other people who who work for state and local government. People go on have gone on for law human resource professionals, I have one of my one of my sort of former students that I'm in fairly regular contact with, has worked for the CDC for a number of years kind of writing and doing communications for them. So a wide range of things. It's not, you know, it's not just not just teaching certainly, although, again, I would say probably 40-50% of our students come in at least interested in teaching as a career and many, many stick with that. And it's also not not just the kind of obvious writing based careers.
Wow, that's a lot of different options for students. Um, if a student is interested in in your major, but they might be on the fence on declaring it. Do you have any suggestions for that student?
Yeah, well, I think I mean, circling back to something I just said, I would actually suggest start with a career page, because I think you will get a sense of some of the range of what we do. And I know sometimes students who are on the fence, it's it's both the student and sometimes it's their families, too, because their families are sort of asking like, well, what are you going to do with that, with that with that particular career, and I think, with that degree, and I think our careers page gives you a fairly good indication of that. We have, we have a class that we created when we convert it to semesters, English 2000, which is intro to English studies. And that's a class I think, if you're, if you're on the fence about whether you want to be an English major, taking that class early on, you can take that as a sort of spring semester, first year student or as a sophomore, what that course will do is it'll give you a pretty good overview of everything we do in English in our department. And it sort of highlights some of the some of the kinds of extracurricular and co curricular things that go on. So I mean, that's a suggestion to me, too, you could take that as an elective, and just kind of experiment a little bit, we do offer, we also we offer a bunch of lower division general education classes that are, again, they're not, they're not, those are not classes that count towards the major, but it gives you a little bit of a sense of the flavor of what some what we do in English. So what our faculty do. So we have, we have the English 1200, which is a multi ethnic American Lit class, 1210, which is the diversity literature and social justice class that a lot of students like that's pretty popular. And we have a foundation seminar, English 1300, which is the Language Society and Power is what that's called. So, I think, again, take a look, take a look at some of our career paths that we highlight. Take a look at our faculty page, to kind of get a sense of the range of some of what our faculty do, most of the faculty have done a pretty good job of keeping up information on their interests. And then yeah, look at, you know, taking English classes as part of your GEprogram to get a sense of what English is doing. And then again, think about that English 2000, Intro to English studies class, as an option. I mean, the other thing, too, is just come talk to us, you know, come talk to the department chair, come talk to a faculty advisor, just come in, come and meet a faculty member. And I think students shouldn't feel at all shy about coming in and making personal contact with with faculty, I'll tell you as a department chair through COVID, I'm literally ecstatic when a human being comes in to see me at this point do you went for we went for such a long period of time with no contact? So? So yeah, I think those would be some of my my bits of advice to someone who's, who's on the fence.
Awesome. Thank you. Do you feel that there are any misconceptions students might have about your major?
Probably, and not just not just students? I think it sort of everybody. I think as an English, as an English professor, there are certain things that you get a lot that you know, you have to correct people on. First of all, I think the first misconception would be that teaching is the primary career path for people with an English major. And I think, as I highlighted before, that's certainly not the case. And I mean, when I started here 22 years ago, we probably think we had a higher proportion of our students who were going to go on to teaching careers. But even then it was not, there was a significant percentage of our students who did other things. So that would be one which could misconception it's not just a major for teachers. I think another misconception would be people under estimating the range of what we do, I think a lot of students still kind of will tend to think of an English majors basically just being a literature major. And again, I'm a literature faculty. So I'm certainly not saying this to literature is my thing. So I want to emphasize literature's an important part of what we do, but, but it's not all of what we do. And I think I think a lot of students have never really heard about linguistics before they get to college, and that's an eye opener for them. The Rhetoric and Writing Studies concentration, which is new, I think introduces students to a lot of ways to think about writing, production of various kinds of texts in different modes and different media's have different ways of thinking about their literacy other people's literacies. It's, it's, it's not something that you necessarily had you weren't necessarily exposed to in high school or maybe even in community college. So yeah, I think I think those would be the two things that there's actually a lot more things that a lot more career paths that this leads to that some people would first assume. And also, I think people will be surprised, particularly in our department by the diversity of what we offer.
Are there any resources that your department offers?
Yeah, so I think in terms of like co curricular activities, or extracurricular activities, we do have, we have an English Club, which is quite active, and clubs here at CSUSB, they're really student driven. I mean, we have a faculty advisor, but the students are the ones who kind of set the agenda for what those what those clubs do. The English club is very active, they meet regularly, they have events multiple times throughout the academic year. There's also a creative writing club that had started up a couple of years ago, which obviously, I think focuses their activities in some other ways. But it's a nice place for students to develop a kind of writing community. Again, those are both very active. Off and on we've we've had a we've had in linguistics club that that's that's kind of ebb and flowed based on student interest. I think our students, our speech language pathology, students are developing a kind of nice sense of community at this point, though, so I wouldn't be surprised if something like that was going to reappear. We we tend to run events, usually in the spring, where we bring alumni back to talk to students about different different paths that they can go on career paths, that the primary event we do is called is called SEE strategic employability and English is the sort of term and SEE is the acronym. And so usually in spring, we'll have a kind of panel conversation with with alumni, mostly in person will sometimes zoom some people in depending upon where they are, we, for students who are working on campus, and going to school, the department does have a amount of scholarship that students are eligible for. We give that out once a year. So again, if we have students who are you got to be working 20 hours a week on campus, but we have a lot of students who are doing work study or other things who are eligible for that. I should mention this, it's really part of the curriculum too. But we have a couple of faculty members who have been working very actively on developing a prison education program. And so we're actually offering a certificate to incarcerated students at this point. But some of some components of that program, we have what's called an inside out program, where students who are interested are able to take classes where they are enrolled along with incarcerated students. So it's a kind of blended classroom. And we've had a lot of the students who have done this program have actually talked about what an amazing experience it is. And in many cases, that's also kind of, I think, tie them into thinking about other sorts of careers afterwards, or the things that they might want to do in terms of working working in rehabilitation or counseling, or even some folks who have wanted to go into like criminology, but to go into it from, from a different perspective. That's a relatively new program. And again, that's that's in that situation, students with the opportunity if they want to, to sign up for a class or two here and there where they would be able to sort of have that experience. So those are some of the things that there's probably more than I'm not thinking of right now. But those are some of the ones that come to mind off the top of my head.
Great. If a student had any question, how could they reach your department?
Well, you can call the main office, obviously 537-5824, which is on our webpage, also. You can email, the department chair, you know, we're department chairs in our department, we're, we're full year employees. So you know, we go on vacation from time to time. You know, I feel emails over the summer, I talked to students over the summer, I do a lot of I do advising over the summer for for orientation as well. We have, we do have designated faculty advisors, and that that will rotate pretty much every year different people will do that, but we we have a listing of that information up on our advising webpage. And so we'll list the faculty members who are advising and their contact info so students can reach out to them to find out what their specific advising hours are going to be. Pop by the office physically, you know, and see if if I'm not in will a staff person will be in and canceled or direct the student to reach out to me. Yeah, I think most of almost all of our faculty were concentrated in University Hall. Really all of our faculty are here. Most people were most of us are on the third floor. There are a few of us on the fourth floor. And so we're in an area where there's a lot of other students services, you know, the undergraduate advising is up here. There are EOP, a bunch of other other other programs. So we're building Students are going to be in for a lot of reason, for a lot of other reasons. So again, you know, we're easy to find. So feel free to just come in, in person and you know, try to talk to an advisor, try to talk to a faculty member, try to talk, talk to the department chair.
But again, I think we were really good about reaching, reaching or connecting back with students, current students or prospective students, if you reach out to us through email or phone, we get back to you fairly quickly with I think, you know, specific answers. And, and again, I'm happy to talk with, well, I'm happy and obviously my whoever is chair after me will be happy to talk with students, you know, even if it's even students aren't admitted, I'll greatly do Zooms over the summer with students who are coming in who have questions, you know, I'll do follow ups with people after orientation. And, and certainly, if someone's thinking about CSUSB, just earlier this semester, I had a student who was trying to decide between us and a couple of other universities and just came in and spent and spent 45 minutes within my office to chat about the program. So we're more than more than willing to do that if students want to connect with us, so.
awesome. Well, Dr. Carlson, thank you for your time, your wonderful information about this major here at CSUSB. Students can come back to this podcast and hear about all the wonderful things that the English Major has to offer. Anything else you want to add?
No, other than I think other than to say CSUSB it's a great place to go to school, you have dedicated faculty who sort of care about students who are committed to teaching. We have a great department, I love my colleagues. You know, and I'm actually just, I'm about to transition out of being chair and back into the classroom. And I'm really looking forward to getting back in working with our students and in that capacity, so So again, I think, if you if you're already a student here, you've made a great choice. If you're thinking about coming to CSUSB. It's a great it's a great place to go to school.
Thank you. Well have a good rest of your day.
Okay, thank you.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai