Loyola University Chicago

Department of English


Thinking about applying to Loyola's MA Graduate Program?  Here are some testimonials from recent graduates:

Emily Spunaugle, graduated 2013

I’m currently an MSLS student at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. I’d always pictured myself as an English professor, so it’s definitely a career change from the humanities to a cross-disciplinary professional degree. Before I began at Loyola, I knew I enjoyed literature and scholarship, but it was working as a graduate assistant at the reference desk in Cudahy Library that clarified my career goals. Even so, I can’t emphasize how integral my coursework and experiences at Loyola have been to refining my skills for reading texts, analyzing arguments, and asking deeper questions.

I truly appreciate that Loyola combines MA and PhD students in their seminars, which isn’t always the case with some graduate programs in English. Throughout classes, I’ve learned tools for critical analysis from the more experienced students and have sharpened my own questioning nature in turn. This combined model creates a more rigorous class environment that helped me discover new ways of reading texts and consider aspects of a text I’d never considered before—sensitivities that are best learned by immersion.

The seminars also equipped me with a vocabulary for critical engagement, which has been particularly useful at UNC in working with graduate students and faculty at the reference desk, as I’m able to better discern their resource needs and make suggestions for their research (there’s nothing quite like grappling with sources for your own seminar paper to help others with theirs). The depth and breadth of classes at Loyola also opened the door for opportunities to stay engaged in English even now in my new discipline, such as volunteering as a field bibliographer for the MLA International Bibliography and providing the keywords and subject headings for secondary literature.

The required pedagogy course at Loyola—supplemented with a teaching internship at a local community college and volunteering in Loyola’s writing center—confirmed my love for working with students, giving me invaluable experience interacting with English language learners and a better appreciation for differences in logic and structure in research and writing. Now at UNC, I teach library instruction to first-year composition students, underserved high school students, and anyone needing help navigating the library holdings of a research university.

Aside from its fantastic assortment of coffee shops, bars, music venues, museums, and options for ethnic cuisine, Chicago also holds incredible opportunities for employment, internships, and field experiences. Knowing my next stop was library school, I was able to intern as a writer for the Public Programs Office of the American Library Association last summer and work at their annual conference, conveniently hosted in Chicago.

Perhaps most important, though, is the sense of community Loyola offers. Even now, a few thousand miles away from Chicago, I’m still in touch with professors, librarians, and most of my classmates I met at Loyola. It’s a small enough program to facilitate one-on-one interaction with professors and also help you complete the coursework sequence with fellow students as a close-knit cohort.

Deirdre Littleton, graduated 2013

My career goal of teaching high school English is falling into place nicely, and I owe a great deal of my success to Loyola University Chicago. I graduated with a Master’s Degree in English from Loyola in August 2013 and have since begun work as a graduate assistant in Teacher Preparation at National Louis University, while I complete my high school observation hours and student teaching internship. I plan to be working full time as a high school teacher in the upcoming academic year.

The support I received from my professors and colleagues at Loyola was invaluable throughout my year of studies, and has continued even after my graduation. I appreciate the sense of community and professional support that characterizes the atmosphere in the graduate English Department. Loyola’s career office and the professors showed strong interest in my goals and did what they could to offer guidance and resources for my success.

The sense of community at Loyola also translated into the seminars. The class sizes were small and the discussions were lively and personal, with several valuable “breakthroughs” that have altered my perspectives on literature, theory, and learning in general. I will be utilizing these newfound perspectives in my future research and lesson planning, and I hope to create a similar learning atmosphere, conducive to independent discovery, in my own classroom.

Our research of specific literary genres and theories at Loyola, both in and out of class, was always thorough, detailed, and relevant. My experience in current research and innovative academic writing has left me feeling bold and competent as a scholar, confident in my future as a teacher and guide for my students, and enthusiastic to continue my own studies as a lifelong learner in the professional style I was trained in at Loyola.

Megan Moore, graduated 2012

Thank you for the opportunity to describe the ways in which my MA in English from Loyola assists me in my current position as account executive at Northwest Strategies (NWS), an advertising agency in Anchorage, Alaska. NWS is a full-service communications firm that specializes in branding, strategic marketing, public relations, graphic design, web design, media planning and placement, and event planning. As an account executive, I interact directly with clients to understand their communications needs, and I work with a variety of people, including media buyers, graphic designers, and various contractors, to ensure those needs are met.

Fundamentally, my work depends on communication. In most cases, before I even begin a project, my first question is, “What am I trying to communicate?” The response to that question informs the language that I use to draft an advertisement, press release, or script, etc. The majority of my courses at Loyola emphasized the power of language—how we use it, how it can affect our understandings, and what it can compel us to do or feel. Though the advertising field is sometimes criticized for seemingly taking advantage of this information, I feel that my deeper awareness of language allows me to communicate openly and clearly to my desired audience.

Much of what I do involves interacting with various demographics of people. NWS clients include a local housing authority that assists mainly low-income families and individuals; an Anchorage hospital; a statewide airline; and an institute that seeks to further the initiatives of Alaska Native cultures. I also work with pro bono clients, such as an abused women’s shelter and a local charity. Organizations such as these demand specified attention to the varying customers they serve. My studies at Loyola helped reinforce the understanding that different groups of people interact with words and images in different ways. Today, this knowledge enables me to articulate particular messages to varying audiences in ways that reflect awareness of and sensitivity to circumstances that may be distinct from my own.

In addition, my graduate studies at Loyola involved intense research, through which I gained valuable skills that translate to the work that I do now. For example, before I speak with a new or potential client, in order to be as prepared as possible, I research them. I review elements of their history, what they do, who they serve, how they operate, etc. My work also requires excellent writing abilities—a skill that was sharpened by each paper I was assigned to write during my time at Loyola. Lastly, graduate school can at times feel like an extended exercise in managing stress and deadlines. I feel that my MA degree is solid proof that I can handle just about anything the professional world throws at me.

Alex Christie, graduated 2012

I am currently a doctoral student at the University of Victoria, where I hold Teaching and Research Assistantships, in addition to attending two seminars and one colloquium each week. I teach a discussion section of an introduction to literary studies course, which focuses primarily on the teaching of critical thinking and composition skills. I also work in the ETCL (Electronic and Textual Cultures Lab) and the Maker Lab, where I conduct research for the MVP (Modernist Versions Project) and INKE (Implementing New Knowledge Environments); part of my work for these projects includes researching and implementing emerging DH methodologies and using text encoding to produce digital editions of modernist texts.

The training I received through the Master’s curriculum at Loyola has been invaluable as I complete my doctoral work here at UVic. Loyola’s departmental focus on textual studies (particularly as it relates to DH) has benefited me greatly as I complete work for the MVP; Peter Shillingsburg’s textual studies course provided me with an excellent set of skills in this field. Additionally, Steven Jones’s Games Studies and Digital Humanities course provided me with a strong grounding in DH to draw from for my lab work; I am currently using knowledge from that course to contribute to a paper on critical game theory. Loyola also provided me with a strong theoretical and practical grounding in pedagogy, which I draw from daily in my teaching. The course on pedagogic theory and practice taught by Melissa Bradshaw was extremely helpful in this regard. I also continue to draw from the training in critical theory and modernist studies I received in English 400 and your “Class Acts” course.

Loyola’s focuses on professionalism, time management, and group building have been highly useful as I manage multiple projects and collaborative efforts at UVic; I would identify these necessary elements of graduate work as professional skills that I acquired during my time at Loyola. I would also identify the writing workshop, the EGSA conference, and the Textual Studies Symposium as excellent professional opportunities,  which taught me how to present the results of my research in a public and professional forum. There is no question that the support I received in preparing conference papers contributed directly to my success as a continuing graduate student.

The English Master’s program at Loyola offered me a supportive and rigorous environment in which to develop these professional and academic skills, which I continue to use daily as a doctoral student. The strong sense of community and excellent faculty support are two elements unique to the departmental cultural at Loyola that I believe contribute directly to the success of its graduate students.

Brett Beasley, graduated 2012

I'm working in publishing at the American Library Association (50 E. Huron--not far from the water tower). We publish books for librarians and library school students in addition to American Libraries Magazine and Booklist.  Mostly I work with reviewers, write press releases, and that sort of thing. Hopefully soon I'll be writing reviews for Booklist regularly, which I think I will really enjoy. It's not my dream job, but it is a paycheck (and about three times as much as I made when I worked in a bakery just over a year ago!), so I'm happy with it for now.

It is interesting that you asked specifically for "skills" because that is often the tough question, isn't it? And even though my knee-jerk reaction is to say that what I learned isn't reducible to "skills," I think Dr. Jay is right in contending that we need to talk about the skills an English degree has to offer, even if that is somewhat reductive.

Before I was offered the job I had to go to an official skills testing session at an independent testing agency. They tested my typing speed along with my clerical and grammatical proofreading ability. I know that the countless hours writing and editing I put in over the last year helped me in all of these areas. Also, my writing more generally, including my vocabulary, word choice, and style, has dramatically improved over the past year.

My job requires me to make arguments on a daily basis; to recommend a course of action in a meeting, or just to make a point about sales data, etc., and I am certain that my M.A. improved my ability to wield data and make an airtight case.

There are two more things I appreciated about the program, but don't quite fall under the rubric of skills: 1.) I think that Loyola has a strong attitude of professionalism. From my first few days of 400--and reading Semenza certainly helped with this--I knew that I was at Loyola not just to continue on as a student but to begin building my career. 2.) I benefitted from Loyola's emphasis on new approaches and methods. In my job it is important to understand the crisis in the higher education and the digital representation of texts, which both have an impact on both libraries and publishing.

Erika Claich, graduated 2012

I'm pleased to announce that my Plan B is working out quite nicely, and I'm currently working on 2 internships in non-profit development - one with Erie Neighborhood House (grant writing) and the other with Young Chicago Authors (event planning).

Erie Neighborhood House is a Chicago non-profit similar to the Jane Addam's Hull House, and about as old. Erie works in the West Town, Humboldt Park, and Little Village neighborhoods, and their main focus is on strengthening low-income Latino families. At Erie, I work in the development department as a grants writer, but I'm also getting to do some communications assignments here and there as well. I really, really love this job because it allows me to use my writing skills to support the achievement of Erie's mission. When I was a child, I personally benefited from programs very similar to those offered by Erie - free preschool, free breakfasts and lunches, health and dental clinics. I remember how important these services were to my own family, so I feel incredibly honored to be able to give back now to support these programs. Additionally, Erie has a program that provides legal services for low-income immigrants, so I'm getting to use my background as an Immigration Paralegal to help the immigration department raise funds as well.

My other love, Young Chicago Authors (YCA), is a Chicago-based non-profit that works in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and community centers to bring educational arts programming to students, primarily in creative writing. I'm currently working with YCA to coordinate their upcoming annual fundraising event, the proceeds from which they'll use to supplement their operating budget for next year. During my past two months working with the organization, I've met many, many amazingly talented CPS students/poets. Honestly, I have to keep reminding myself that they are just teenagers - these kids are that amazing!

If you're interested in seeing these kids in action, you should check out the Louder Than A Bomb documentary, which chronicles YCA's annual performance festival, Louder Than a Bomb, at http://www.louderthanabombfilm.com/.

If you're really interested in checking out YCA in action, I'd like to invite you to attend our upcoming fundraising party @ the Metro on December 6 - The 2012 Chicago Annual of Style: Movement Edition. This year, the event will be more like a concert, featuring YCA poets, local musicians, and dancers all performing pieces on the theme of movement - from tap dancing, to stepping, to break dancing, to the daily commute. For more info and tickets, please visit: http://metrochicago.com/shows/the-2012-chicago-annual-of-style.

Linda Louis, graduated 2012

This year I am continuing my graduate study as a PhD student in the Literature Program at the University of Arizona. I take two graduate courses, teach two sections of ENGL 101 (a composition class for freshmen), and participate in two (mandatory) weekly colloquia: one about teaching and one for first-year graduate students in the program. I think Loyola prepared me extremely well for my work here. In fact, I think that Loyola’s one-year, intensive approach, which gave all of us focused practice in the kinds of research and critical writing that is necessary at the graduate level— not to mention stamina for the many requirements academics face— prepared me much better for graduate work than the drawn-out approach that the MA students at my current institution experience.

The aspect of Loyola’s MA that I appreciate and use the most is definitely your ENG 400 class. In that class I learned graduate-level research skills: MLA conventions, the ins-and-outs of WorldCat (which didn’t exist when I was an undergraduate), database search techniques, and so on. I use these skills daily. While I do not use literary theory daily, at least right now, I cannot say enough about the thorough education in theory I received in this course. I had had no theory instruction as an English undergraduate major, but I cannot imagine how I would pursue a PhD now without the familiarity with the names, schools, concepts, conflicts, and history of literary theory that you instilled in our class. This foundation not only made me successful in my pursuit of the MA at Loyola, but, I think, makes me successful in my work here at UA. I see that the MA students here at UA are not provided with anything like this, and I am grateful for Loyola’s (for your) rigor in 400.

The one-year MA was overwhelming at times, but I feel that I left Chicago with a focused direction for continued scholarly work. Loyola’s emphasis on textual studies, and in particular the classes I took with Peter Shillingsburg, have been invaluable to me as I narrow down my direction for my dissertation. More generally, training in textual studies also made me a much better critical reader. For instance, it has prompted me in my Symbolist Poetry course to mine multiple versions of a work for significant variants, and for evidence to support my own arguments (or to bolster/undermine others’ arguments). My professor appreciates the comprehensiveness of my research, and I know I was trained to work this way in ENG 413.

I also greatly appreciate the small, professional community of professors and graduate students at Loyola, who are so supportive of each other personally and academically. My department now has hundreds of people, few of whom I know. There are no department welcome meetings, get-togethers, brown-bags, writing groups, or other professional/social events at my current institution (that I know of). The sense of community at Loyola was integral to the confidence I felt, and feel now, to actually get through graduate school.