An event hosted by GCC’s English department called “English Major Tea” was held April 28. The in-person and remote event was organized to focus on the potential job opportunities an English major could have access to and connect students with recent GCC English alumni. El Vaquero interviewed the English division chair, Sarah McLemore, to understand some of the initiatives and resources in her department.
Q: Can you tell us about how you got your start at GCC and your current role?
A. I started at GCC as a full-time faculty member about 17 years ago. I was in the process of finishing my Ph.D. at UCSB (go Gauchos!). I realized I was much more interested in teaching than in pursuing a more research-oriented position. I was very lucky to be hired at GCC which was a much better fit for me in terms of my interests in helping students and helping to make institutional changes.
I was elected by my colleagues to be the English Division chair in Spring 2018. Prior to that, I’ve held several positions on campus including serving as the college’s Curriculum Coordinator, SLO Coordinator, and Writing Across the Curriculum Co-Coordinator. I’ve also collaborated on college efforts around program review and accreditation. I also collaborate on the development of the Faculty Diversity Mentorship program. Within our division, I’ve served as the division’s senator, SLO representative, and assistant division chair.
Q: What are a few of the career pathways someone majoring in English can choose from?
A. There are so many pathways that someone majoring in English can choose! We have [a lot] of info about major pathways on our website which can be a good resource too.
Besides being a teacher or a professor, we have recent graduates who have pursued successful careers as lawyers, professional writers/content creators, journalists, and academic counselors. An English major is a great major for anyone who likes to write and think critically about the world around them.
Q: What do you believe are skills students are provided with from the English division?
A. Our division provides students with skills in communication and critical thinking. The structure of our classes also emphasizes group collaboration and teamwork. Professors work hard to include readings and materials that help students learn about other perspectives than their own. I think our division has faculty who encourage students to think beyond a single story about literature and life in general.
Q: How diverse is the English department and how does the department try to promote diversity in the department itself and its courses?
A. In my time as chair, I have tried really hard to hire faculty who have really diverse backgrounds and experiences. I often work with students who email or call asking for instructor recommendations and information about the kinds of readings or approaches faculty use and it’s always exciting to be able to match students up with an instructor who I think they’ll connect with. Maybe a student is more interested in creative writing or in reading full length novels or is looking for an instructor who will really push them to go beyond in terms of academic research. I like that our instructors have so many approaches to teaching writing and literature. We also work hard as a division to share ideas about what texts we are teaching and how we are teaching so that we can continue to make our courses more diverse in terms of materials and approaches.
In terms of diversity around gender and ethnicity, I would say that our division is growing more diverse. Our division has been leaders on campus in terms of pushing for action around making hiring more diverse. Allyship and support for diversity isn’t just about what you teach or how you teach it. It’s about sustained action and efforts around making things at GCC more equitable and transparent.
Q: What are some resources the English department has for GCC English majors to start a career?
A. The English Division has a wonderful academic counselor liaison, Nare Garibyan. Nare is also a GCC graduate and an accomplished writer herself. So within our academic counseling office students have a great ally and resource there. Beyond that our website offers a lot of information about the degrees and certificates we offer as well as the Language and Communication Learning and Professional Pathway at GCC and related careers.
Chelsea Corry can be reached at [email protected]