Guest Post: alumnus Alex Wenning on finding a career within the university environment

About halfway through my master’s program in the Department of English at Ball State, I realized I didn’t want to pursue a Ph.D.—or a tenure-track faculty position.  I know—this conclusion is just about one of the worst realizations an English graduate student can have.  I was not passionate about teaching or research, but I did enjoy the higher education environment and knew that I wanted to pursue a career at a university.

So, I finished my M.A. in English in 2006, and I came to work at my undergraduate alma mater, Wright State University, located in Dayton, Ohio, in December of that same year.  I’ve held various academic advising jobs at the university since then, rising to my current position as the Associate Director of the University Honors Program.  At Wright State, the University Honors Program is a challenging, academic undergraduate program open to students of all majors; there are approximately 900 students enrolled in the program.

I do some pretty cool stuff in my job:

  • Advise honors students
  • Provide overall leadership for honors student development, from recruitment and orientation to graduation
  • Manage the competitive honors scholarship program for incoming, continuing, and transfer students
  • Develop the quarterly honors course schedule
  • Work with faculty and staff on special projects and programs
  • Administer the WSU National Scholarship Resource Center for students who apply for competitive and prestigious (inter)national awards
  • Attend meeting after meeting!
  • Talk on the phone a lot!
  • Read and write thousands of emails!

Secretly, I suppose, the last three bullets above are the favorite parts of what I do.  (Shhh—don’t tell my boss!)  And I’ve decided that my training in the English discipline has greatly enhanced my success as a member of the professional staff at Wright State.  Namely, it has increased my ability to:

  • Think broadly and creatively about solving a wide array of challenges
  • Fully research the history of any given topic, examine where we are currently, and envision what lies ahead
  • Take into context the interdisciplinary nature of higher education, including the connection between all fields of study
  • Interact, communicate, and work with a diverse population of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members

As I think about giving advice to current and former English students who are preparing to pursue programs of study, begin internships, or enter the job market, I offer this reflection from Friedrich Nietzsche:  “You have your way.  I have my way.  As for the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”  By the very nature of the English discipline, there are immeasurable career opportunities—all with varied and unique means to a countless number of ends.  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my own career path, shaped, of course, by a love for the humanities.  If you’d like to contact me, please feel free to send me an email at alex.wenning@wright.edu.

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