Graduating Seniors’ Letters to the English Department


Dear Clemson English,

Whenever people find out I am an English major they often ask me what I want to teach or comment that I must really like to read books. Nothing else. I guess there is no other connection to English but these two things. But, I could go all day listing what the English department has taught me. However, I think the biggest thing academically I have learned is how to think critically and look at the world through other people’s lenses. The beautiful thing I have learned about literature is that it can open your eyes to so many different cultures and personalities if you let it. Personally, my education at Clemson has taught me so much more than I could have ever imagined because I feel like it taught me how to be a better human, if that makes sense, in every sense of the word. Because we are what I would consider a smaller major at Clemson, I have had multiple classes with the same people so there is really a community cultivated around the English department. I love that all the students support each other inside and outside of the classroom. Even when we were all completely online, my peers connected with me and made an effort to help whenever I needed it. 

My time as an English major has worked a little differently than others because I started out as a biology major, which I quickly learned was not the right place for me. Although I was a yearbook and newspaper nerd in high school, for some reason I thought biology would be a great fit. However, two failed classes later, I finally convinced my family to let me change my major to what I loved: English and communication. And it reminded me why I fell so in love with English, design and reporting in the first place. As my education continued, I realized I could find a job in social media and advertising, something that would give me the best of both worlds of design and copywriting. From there, I was only able to better my skills and strengthen my resume through my classes and time as an intern at the Pearce Center, which helped me land my dream job: A social media manager for an ad agency based out of Florida. 

I love the creativity that is available to me as an English major. I’ve never been told “no” or “that’s not good enough” by any professor when it comes to assignments or projects. My professors have always embraced my ideas and created an environment where my ideas were welcomed and cultivated to make projects I am proud of. I don’t think I could only thank one professor. I was actually thinking about this the other day, and I really couldn’t pick out one professor that I would thank because every single professor I have had has made that positive of an impact in my life. So I guess I will list them here as one big thank you. JBF and Ashley Fisk have seen me through my best and my worst and led me through my college experience as my advisor and mentor so phenomenally, I would give them the world if I could. Other professors who I would thank are: Matt Hooley, Lucian Ghita, Maizer Faridi, Maya Hislop, ameron Bushnell, Mike Pulley, Melissa Makala, Sarah Cooper, Tharon Howard, Kimberly Manganelli, Jan Holmevik and Brian McGrath. 

My advice to freshmen is don’t be afraid to jump into your classes. I feel like a big stigma in college right now is that you can’t enjoy your classes, which is really unfortunate. For so long I thought if I pretended I didn’t care or pay attention in college, it didn’t matter because the professors don’t really care about you. But the English department really does care for their students. For example, the other day, one of my professors asked me if I wanted some of the Gumbo they made, to which I obviously said yes. The next day, I picked it up on-campus in a tupperware. Not every major would have professors who did that for their students. So jump in and try to get every ounce of knowledge you can out of your professors, they only want to help you! Clemson has given me so many great memories I could never forget, even if I tried. But I think the reason why I have so many great memories is because the students and professors have impacted my life in such positive ways that I am leaving Clemson a better person. 


Elizabeth O’Donnell


Dear Clemson English,

I think my favorite part of being an English major is the ability to expand myself intellectually and creatively. Clemson’s English department does a great job of letting you work with new forms of media and projects so that you have a chance to learn new things. So many of my professors encouraged me to write on topics I was passionate about and were invested in my progress, which was really motivating. I have wanted to work in publishing for as long as I can remember, and the English department helped with entering that field. Through my work at the Pearce Center for Professional Communication and doing a directed studies course with Clemson University Press, I was able to get hands-on experience that allowed me to land a professional typesetting and design position in Raleigh after I graduate. 

There are so many wonderful professors and faculty members I’ve worked with here at Clemson, but if I had to choose just one I’d say Clare Mullaney. She became my advisor three semesters ago and was so enthusiastic and helpful with making sure I could meet my goals. I’ve also had the opportunity to take a course with her this semester and it has been wonderful — she really cares about student outcomes and wants the class to be useful and interesting beyond the classroom. I can’t say enough great things about her! I also want to thank Jonathan Beecher Field, aka JBF, because he has been such an amazing resource throughout my time at Clemson and Ashley Fisk, my amazing mentor at the Pearce Center. I know a lot of people say this, but my advice to freshmen is to take advantage of professor office hours, advice and resources. It can be intimidating at first, but once I started asking more questions outside of class it bettered my relationship with professors and significantly improved the quality of my work. Your professors (and advisors!) are there to help you. All you have to do is ask!

There are too many classes to count that were foundational to me as an English major, so I’m just going to list some of my favorites! My favorite class based on the course material, class discussions and environment was the modern fiction course I took with Will Stockton that was focused on horror fiction. The readings were great and engaging and it was the first time I had thought about more popular literature in an academic and analytical context. Another important class that shaped me a lot as a person was my senior seminar course with Michelle Smith on performativity—it really changed how I viewed a lot of societal notions and has made me a more conscious citizen. There have been so many others though, I’ve taken a lot of really interesting English classes here at Clemson. English majors are incredibly open-minded and supportive of each other. Whether that is during class discussions or peer reviews of assignments, so many fellow students gave great advice on work I’ve done. They really promote a friendly learning environment. The highlight of my college experience has definitely been the people — my friends, classmates and professors have all been so wonderful during my time at Clemson. 


Olivia Hanline



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