Tyler Fields: How Enhancing My Degree Paved the Road to New York City

In this post, Tyler Fields, the winner of our 2013 Outstanding Senior Award, describes how his experiences and his English degree at Ball State helped prepare him for the New York Arts Program and the three internships that he currently holds at D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, Inc., at MAGGY Poetry Magazine, and at the Lauren Cerand publicity agency.

The memory is vague. My honors advisor is asking me what I think I’d like my major to be. “What are your interests?” she asks. This question seems a bit cavalier. After all, my answer could very realistically determine my future career or livelihood. I said, “books.” And with a click of her mouse, my advisor set into motion a series of events, called the Creative Writing Major, which would lead me to a number of opportunities and eventually several internships in New York City. For the next four years, many would ask the infamous question all humanities majors come to know so well: “What are you going to do with that major?” My answers would change over the years from, “I’d like to write,” to, “Maybe I’ll teach,” to, “I have no clue.” Now, as I am working at several internships in New York City and participating in the New York Arts Program, I realize that my Creative Writing degree from Ball State University is exactly what I needed to begin realizing my original desire to surround myself with books. It is because of the opportunities afforded by Ball State’s English Department that I now have a clear and confident reply to anyone who asks, “What are you going to do with that?”

About mid-way through my college career, I came to the daunting realization that I had no desire to write. At least, I had no desire to commit myself wholly to the art of creative writing. For a creative writing major, this realization can create quite the interesting dilemma. However, I quickly came to realize that the reason so many people will ask, “What are you going to do with that?” is the same reason a humanities major was my key to finding a livelihood in the world of books: it’s versatile. When I began to reevaluate my interests and skills, many of which I had acquired in just a few short semesters, I discovered that I could customize my degree to more effectively cater to my future goals.

While there are a number of persons and opportunities that contributed to helping me pursue my dream, there are a few that I feel were especially influential. The first was simple enough: I joined the campus organization, Writers’ Community. On the surface, the group may seem like a collective of hopeful writers. What I discovered, however, is that the Community caters to any person pursuing an interest in literature. The reason this was so beneficial to me is because I received a vast network of connections. By attending readings and creating contacts between other organizations in various communities, I soon found myself in the company of a number of writers, publishers, and promoters. This network of connections only grew in number and in strength after I took an officer position with the Community. In fact, I have already had the opportunity to name-drop a bit at some of my internships. I couldn’t have predicted when I joined the Community just how far a bit of initiative would take me.

Another opportunity I am grateful for is The Broken Plate, Ball State’s literary magazine. This year-long class grants a handful of students the privilege of creating an entire, printed literary magazine from its very beginnings through its final stages. This includes reading submissions, contacting authors, designing the cover and interior, and marketing the journal. As the lead design editor, I was immersed in a number of areas of the journal’s production. I accepted art submissions, developed the design scheme of the layout of the book, and helmed the team that developed the cover art. There are few schools, especially in the Midwest, which can lay claim to such an immersive opportunity. I believe it was my work on The Broken Plate which helped secure my internship at MAGGY Poetry Magazine.

As the realization that I didn’t want to write (creatively) for a living took a stronger and stronger hold on me, it squeezed out many new interests I never knew were buried deep within me. One of the fields I took a prominent interest in was design, especially as it pertains to books. In my junior year, with too few credits to graduate with a Creative Writing degree alone and too little interest in devoting the remainder of my college career to writing exclusively, I declared a minor in Digital Publishing. This minor is designed to teach students how to use and integrate design software like Adobe Creative Suite into various mediums like print and the web. I consider this minor the most influential enhancement I made to my Creative Writing degree. Not only did it help me gain a much greater understanding of design theory and practice, but it encouraged me to discover the intersection between digital design and book publishing which, it turns out, is a world lush with opportunity.

When I moved to New York in August, all I had with me was a handful of books, a short supply of clothing, and a small amount of savings. But I also had my degree, enhanced over the years by a countless number of persons, classes, organizations, opportunities, and immersive knowledge. It is with this degree that I am facing not only one of the largest cities in the world, but also one of the most daunting questions for a humanities major.

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