ETS Student and Alumni Profiles
"English as a discipline trains you ... to seek out systems and understand how they operate ..." — Sawyer Kemp, '11 Our majors have gone on to successful careers in publishing, journalism, education, law, academia, management, writing, and more. To read about how we prepare our students for life after graduation, click here. To see more about careers for English majors, click here. Read success stories from some of our recent alumni below:
"English as a discipline trains you ... to seek out systems and understand how they operate ..."
— Sawyer Kemp, '11
Our majors have gone on to successful careers in publishing, journalism, education, law, academia, management, writing, and more. To read about how we prepare our students for life after graduation, click here. To see more about careers for English majors, click here.
Read success stories from some of our recent alumni below:
Noelle Hedgcock ('16)(+)
Noelle graduated summa cum laude in 2016 with distinction in English and Textual Studies, as well as a degree in Public Relations, and she was the recipient of the Jean Marie Richards Memorial Prize (2016). She will start the MA in English program at Syracuse in the fall of 2016, where she will study Victorian literature and popular culture. Noelle has appeared in multiple Syracuse-area live theater productions, including most recently the Central New York Playhouse’s Macbeth.
What was your distinction thesis about?
My thesis was titled False Convictions: The Issue of Convincing Narrative in Wilkie Collins's The Law and the Lady. It focuses on ways Collins's novel self-reflexively uses Victorian critiques of sensation fiction as a vehicle for political discussion surrounding trial by jury, circumstantial evidence, and narrative in the courtroom. Specifically, I argue that the novel is able to capitalize on the tools, tropes, and even the common critiques of the genre of sensation fiction to interpolate the reader into the role of a juror as it seeks to reveal the inherent similarities between readers and jurors.
What groups were you involved in on campus?
I was an executive board member for the Public Relations Student Society of America (Syracuse University chapter): Vice President of Finance and Co-Director of Development.
How has an ETS major helped you succeed?
When I committed to an ETS dual major, I couldn't imagine the skills, insight, and personal growth I would gain in just three years. Being an ETS major has taught how to think critically about problems and to approach scenarios with an open mind — to understand that there is always something else to learn and another story to hear/tell. The major taught me how to clearly and thoughtfully articulate an argument or problem and how to present an argument in an impactful, audience-specific way. I have been able to develop and hone my writing skills and was given a place to express my thoughts, ideas, and concerns.
A Jersey girl at heart, Noelle has made Central New York her home away from home. She enjoys hiking, going on road trips, and being outdoors.
Anastasia Selby ('15)(+)
Anastasia graduated in 2015 with an ETS major in the Film Studies track after completing her Renée Crown Honors Capstone Project, titledThe Open Curtain: A Novel. Her project won both the Best Capstone Project (Creative) and the David Orlin Prize for Outstanding Capstone Project, and her research for the novel received funding from the Crown/Wise Capstone Award; she was also named a Remembrance Scholar. A transfer and nontraditional student with a background in wild-land firefighting, Anastasia worked for Literacy Corps during her studies at Syracuse. She is currently earning her MFA in the fiction track of the Creative Writing program at Syracuse University, where she is finishing revising her novel, and working on a handful of essays and short stories.
Tell us a bit about your experience as a non-traditional student.
I was 32 when I came to Syracuse as an undergrad and it was a shock, because of my age and my economic position. I arrived in the city with $600 in my bank account and the only job I could find was as a minimum-wage hotel housekeeper. I didn't have any family support and was totally on my own, so when I started school I felt like an outsider (I was an outsider) and during my first year I adjusted by embracing my weirdness (that's what I call it). I worked really hard in my classes and also worked as a tutor for Literacy Corps. In my junior and senior years, I worked 25 hours a week as a nanny and waitress while taking on full credit loads and holding a 4.0 GPA. I had a hard time socially but luckily I made friends in some of my classes as well as in the wider city community.
What was your Honors novel project about?
During all this I was writing my novel, which is about a 29 year-old firefighter named Calli who is struggling with her relationship with her mom and her own sense of identity. The book is a meditation on what it means to be a woman in a male dominated field, what it means to grow up with and endure trauma, and how our pasts must be reckoned with in order for us to move forward.
How has your ETS major helped you succeed?
My ETS major helped me to look at things more critically. I think it's especially helpful for navigating the world now, with news that is so biased. I find myself asking questions and thinking critically rather than taking things at face value. My ETS major has also given me the confidence to write essays, which I had never really understood before. I do everything differently, and better.
Anastasia currently lives in Syracuse and enjoys going for long walks around Green Lakes State Park, reading books, riding her bike, and hanging out with her friends. She also writes, which is less about liking and more about needing to.
Matthew Fernandes ('15)(+)
Matthew Fernandes graduated in 2015 with degrees in English and Textual Studies and Television, Radio, and Film. He held an internship at the Los Angeles production company Atmosphere Entertainment, and after completing his degrees, he worked as a paralegal at Fragomen Worldwide, a law firm in his home town. He currently teaches English as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Malaysia.
Rachael De Orio ('15)(+)
Rachael De Orio
Rachael graduated in 2015 with distinction in English and Textual Studies and a minor in Political Science. She is currently studying for her J.D. at the Suffolk University Law School (Boston, MA), where she is Program Coordinator of the International Law Students Association, Secretary of the Black Law Students Association, and Secretary of the Patent Law Students Association. She is especially interested in public interest law and business law.
What was your distinction thesis about?
My thesis was titled Female Agency: Rewriting the Individual to Reform Society in Evelina, Pride and Prejudice, and Belinda. Specifically, I analyzed the ways in which female power and agency work to reform the institutions of patriarchy and aristocracy within the novels. In turn, this reformation on a microlevel serves as a sort of instruction for the external world of the reader. Although the complicated interplay of powers at times seems to suggest female complacency within these institutions, the novels nevertheless promote a worthy ideal and strive for its actualization.
What groups were you involved in on campus?
I was editor for the Verbal Seduction literary magazine.
How has your experience as an ETS student at Syracuse helped you succeed?
Majoring in ETS prepared me for the rigorous work load of law school. The courses I took during my time at Syracuse University helped me develop my analytical and writing skills. I became efficient at reading and synthesizing large amounts material, which is very beneficial to my studies now as a law student. The various courses I took in areas of pre-1900s literature and literary theory, covering works from authors such as John Milton, Laurence Sterne, and Frances Burney, to name a few, improved my critical thinking and challenged me academically. I am very grateful for education I received and for all the dedicated faculty of the English Department who have helped me get to where I am today.
When not buried away behind stacks of textbooks in the library, Rachael likes to explore the city of Boston and visit museums. She is terrified of riding a bicycle in the city, so she is happy to travel on foot, taking in the sights along the waterfront. She loves living in New England and is “wicked” pleased to study law in Boston. (She apologizes for referring to herself in third person.)
Nancy Taylor ('15)(+)
Nancy Taylor graduated in 2015 from Syracuse University where she studied Art Photography and ETS with a concentration in Film and Screen Studies. She currently works in the Motion Picture Literary Department at United Talent Agency in NYC, focusing in Book to Film/TV adaptations. During her senior year of college, she formed Ghost Rain Pictures, an independent film finance and production company.
Margaux Deverin ('14)(+)
Margaux Deverin, 2014 Syracuse alumna, earned a degree in both English and Textual Studies and Education. She works at Solvay High School as a 10th and 11th grade English teacher, where she continues to develop student literacy, introduce innovative classroom methods via use of technology and promoting student empathy, and make creative writing opportunities through Solvay's new "Write Club.”
Tress Klassen ('13)(+)
Tress Klassen is a dual major in English and Textual Studies and Magazine Journalism who will graduate in 2013, and a Rossman Scholar in the Humanities. Tress interned at the Syracuse University Press during the spring semester in 2012, after spending her fall semester abroad in London. Both of these experiences allowed her to explore the many academic opportunities that the ETS major allows.
In London, Tress took four ETS courses, including an Independent Study course that allowed her to enroll in the ETS Distinction Program and still study abroad. The range in ETS classes at Syracuse’s London Center allowed Tress to make progress towards her ETS degree and enjoy a semester-long abroad experience.
In London, the ETS courses ranged in topic vastly, and it made me realize just how much I could do with an ETS degree. I took a course that combined literature, anthropology, and sociology, and another that was just as much about art history and museum visits as it was about close reading and critical theory.
Because I had several British professors, I had the chance to experience a different style of teaching and interpretation, and though their academic standards were certainly rigorous, I still found I had plenty of time to explore London and other countries in Europe.
Students interested in studying abroad can find more information at the Syracuse University Abroad site.
When she returned to Syracuse for the spring semester, Tress began an internship with Syracuse University Press, working with both the marketing and acquisitions departments.
From the very start of my internship, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my supervisors allowed me to take on plenty of responsibility. On my first day at the Press, I was writing promotional materials and contacting authors about the status of their manuscripts.
In addition to promotional work, interns at the Press read and monitor manuscripts being considered for publication, contact potential reviewers, and write up proposals for accepted manuscripts.
This level of hands-on work that I was able to do allowed me to learn a great deal from the experience. I not only gained knowledge about the publishing industry, but I also learned how to apply the writing skills I’d gained from my ETS courses to the more business-oriented writing that is needed in an environment like the Syracuse University Press.
Find out more about internships through the ETS department's opportunities page.
Emma DeMilta ('12)(+)
Emma DeMilta, who graduated in 2012 with Distinction in English and Textual Studies, is currently enrolled in Syracuse’s M.F.A. program as a first-year creative writing student, studying fiction. As an undergraduate, Emma explored her interests in creative writing by enrolling in many of the workshops that the ETS program offers, developing her skills as a writer of both fiction and poetry.
I took all the creative workshops I could as an undergraduate. I loved these courses. The workshops were all about focusing on student work, where the texts seem alive because you know someone sitting right next to you or across from you put a lot of emotion and hard work into what you read for that day.
Emma’s positive experience with the ETS program as an undergraduate made Syracuse’s M.F.A. program an obvious choice. The program’s outstanding faculty and funding further contributed to her decision to stay at Syracuse for an additional three years.
Syracuse has one of the best M.F.A. programs in the country. It also has great funding and I already knew I liked the vibe of the place, and that I loved the creative writing professors that I had worked with as an undergrad. To me, the M.F.A. started to seem like a magical idea—essentially an opportunity to work on my own creative writing projects for three years, with expert help and guidance and among a community of writers who are also serious and passionate about writing.
Students interested in creative writing may want to consider the Creative Writing track for undergraduate ETS majors.
Janel Sullivan ('12)(+)
Janel Sullivan is a 2012 graduate of Syracuse University currently living and working in Shanghai, China. She teaches literature and writing at SUIS Wan Yuan U.S. High School. In her free time, Janel writes and performs with International House of Poets spoken-word group.
Eric Vilas-Boas ('12)(+)
Eric graduated with a double major in English Textual Studies and Magazine Journalism (Newhouse) in 2012; for his work in the English, he received the Newell W. Rossman, Jr., Scholarship in the Humanities. He is now Associate SEO Editor for Thrillist in New York City, and also writes about animated films and television for The Dot and Line on Medium.
What was your first major job after graduation?
I got hired as Assistant Editor for Esquire in New York City.
How has an ETS major helped you succeed?
It's safe to say I've used the close reading and critical analysis skills I first formally learned in the English department on pretty much every professional writing or editing task I've undertaken since college. Being a successful writer is one of the most competitive life tracks you could undertake because it involves not just writing pretty sentences, but ensuring your thoughts and conclusions are sound and that you can engage with an editor with a degree of emotional maturity and discipline. It's never easy, but English classes can provide you with a very workable foundation to help you get there.
Eric didn't know exactly what he wanted to be when grew up until eighth grade, when every kid in the class had to pick a profession to go with their yearbook photo. Facing existential ruin and surrounded by a future "doctor," "firefighter," and “astronaut” — he wrote the only thing he thought would always be true: "writer."
Sawyer Kemp ('11)(+)
Sawyer graduated in 2011 with distinction in English and Textual Studies, as well as a degree in Women’s and Gender Studies and a minor in Latin Classics. They received the Newell W. Rossman, Jr., Scholarship in the Humanities (2010), the Nu Sigma Nu Essay prize (2011), and the Jean Marie Richards Memorial Award for Excellence in English (2011). They are currently studying for their Ph.D. in English at the University of California, Davis, where they study Early Modern theater. They are involved in several major digital humanities projects with the UC Davis ModLab, an interdisciplinary game studies lab. They also participate in dramaturgy and recently co-chaired the UCD English Graduate Student Association.
What groups were you involved in on campus?
I was involved in WhAT Theatre (Warehouse Architecture Theatre), an interdisciplinary theater group for non-drama majors. I acted, directed, and produced with them all four years. I had a few admin positions in SASSE (Students Advocating Sexual Safety & Empowerment), a feminism club that puts on the Vagina Monologues every year! I also participated in Pride Union, and wrote for Out Crowd Magazine, Medusa Magazine, and Verbal Seduction.
What do you plan to write your dissertation on?
My project is about contemporary Shakespeare performance, and the way that the many roles of “accessibility” create new epistemologies of the plays. “Accessibility” gets a lot of mileage in the Shakespeare theater scene, and comes to mean practices that supplement physical disability as well as describing attempts to emotionally affect audiences with education outreach, changes to language, re-locating the production in various time periods or political situations, etc. I’m really interested in what theaters do when they say they are making a play ‘accessible,’ and how these practices accrue over time and become part of certain plays. Methodologically, my goals are to combine performance studies with affect theory to dig into the audience as a meaningful part of the play. For a concrete example, I’ll say that my first chapter is about Titus Andronicus and The Taming of the Shrew and the use of trigger warnings or disclaimer content in programs for those particular shows. My next chapter is about representations of cross-dressing and the integration of gender neutral bathrooms in theater spaces, but that one’s a little more wildly speculative at the moment. I do have an article coming out! It will be in Shakespeare Quarterly and is co-authored with my advisor, Gina Bloom. It's about our work with Play the Knave at the UCD ModLab.
Tell us about some of those related projects you’re involved in.
I’ve just finished a two-year graduate-student researcher position with the UCD ModLab working on a Shakespeare motion-capture video game called “Play the Knave.” Because my research deals with audiences, I’ve been doing a lot of the beta testing (user-experience type stuff) and lately shifting into pedagogy applications. I have a lot of feelings about the game, but to be brief about it — I think it fills a valuable niche by helping students who may not necessarily be interested in acting to really conceptualize the interpretive range that performance brings to a drama text. I oversaw major installations at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, and at the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s youth Shakespeare Competition. Another ModLab project I work with is the Queer Game Studies cluster, a digital archival project (including collaboration with Adrienne Shaw’s team at Temple University) about the history of queer representation in and production of video games. I’m also doing dramaturgy for the Big Idea Theatre’s production of Antony and Cleopatra, which goes up in August in Sacramento! That’s my first dramaturgy gig and I’m pretty excited about it.
How has an ETS major helped you succeed?
I might be biased, but I still believe that an English major is the best major. Obviously, in grad school in an English program I’m working on articles and essays analyzing literary texts, which Syracuse prepped me for with the Honors thesis workshop and the patient mentorship of several professors who let me regularly invade their office hours (sorry/thanks/sorry!). English as a discipline trains you to make critical or interesting connections between materials, to seek out systems and understand how they operate, and to articulate those findings in direct, clear ways. This is an amazingly transferable skill set. I’m also teaching courses and mentoring undergraduate interns, and using those connections and systems to find ways of making new material relatable, or making familiar material interesting. I’ve also done part time work in promotion, game design, and brand outreach — this is all English! (Always already English?) A couple of years ago, Margie Ferguson (whom I adore) described the project of the humanities as “teaching ourselves to communicate about the things we value” and I’ve tried to get really earnest about that.
Sawyer lives in Sacramento with their partner and two cats, and has completely converted to West Coast lifestyle by volunteering at their queer yoga studio and eating an average of 1.5 avocados per day.
Christen Brandt ('10)(+)
Christen Brandt graduated in 2010 with BA degrees in English and Textual Studies and Magazine Journalism, and a minor in Political Science. She is currently the co-founder and Chief Programs Officer of She’s the First, a non-profit supporting girl’s education and empowerment in low-income countries around the globe. She is a member of New York Women in Communications (which gave her her first scholarship and connected her with her co-founder) and the Newhouse 44, an alumni group based in NYC — two groups she describes as the closest to her heart. Since graduation, she has been named among the 21 Leaders of the 21st Century by Women’s eNews, a Global Laureate Fellow of the International Youth Foundation, and a Leader in Local Innovation by the United Nations.
What activities were you involved in on campus?
I was a Founders Scholar, editor-in-chief of 360 Degrees magazine, and editor at the Student Voice. In 2010, I received a Chancellor’s Award for my work with She’s the First — which was then just a small side project.
How has an ETS major helped you succeed?
So much in life comes down to this: Can you figure it out? If you're skilled in analysis, research, and perspective, the answer is almost always “yes!” That’s what my ETS degree at Syracuse taught me: How to evaluate problems through multiple points of view.
Christen is often on the road, visiting international partners for site visits across Latin America, Africa, and South Asia. But if you catch her at home in Brooklyn, you can usually find her in the kitchen, whipping up some of her famed mac and cheese.
Mariel Fiedler ('10)(+)
Mariel Fiedler graduated from Syracuse University with degrees in English and Textual Studies and Broadcast Journalism in 2010. Now, she works as the office coordinator and podcast producer for “LIVE” from the New York Public Library (NYPL).
LIVE is a conversation series out of the library that hosts creative types, most of whom have recently written a book. I came to them in January of 2011, proposing an idea for a podcast since the program already releases full video/audio and animated/live video shorts. I worked as an events intern and developed the podcast, and was offered a job as the Office Coordinator in August. Now, I help event set-up, manage the office and social media, and pretty much fill in wherever needed.
Mariel’s work with the library is engaging, creative, and in line with her academic background and interests.
I love, love, love the NYPL's agenda and philosophies, and my love for 'zines and queer lit is something that's prized here (there's a 'zine library housed in the building I work in!) … I think what ETS has given me is a sturdy basis in … literature. Books like Middlemarch or people like Nabokov are talked about with as much enthusiasm here as pop-culture celebrities are outside the library, so I thank my education for allowing me to actually be hip in this setting.
Mariel’s position now draws on skills honed in her undergraduate work, like her talents in research and editing:
My favorite part of the job is listening to past programs and picking out the bits I think are most compelling and get at the core of what the guest(s) had to say. A big part of why I love audio work is the amount of emotion someone's voice can carry. Sometimes that emotion is separate from what they're actually saying.
Adrienne Garcia ('10)(+)
Adrienne graduated in 2010 with an ETS and Political Science dual major, and went on to graduate from our MA program in English. Read her profile on our graduate-student alumni page.
Sara Yablonsky ('10)(+)
Sara Yablonsky, a 2010 graduate of Syracuse University with a dual major in English and Textual Studies and Education, is teaching English at a NYC Public School for students aged 16-21 who are working towards both their GED and HS diploma. The dual ETS/English Education program prepared her both intellectually and practically for the classroom. The English Education program is dedicated to hands-on training in the classroom, as well as a nuanced investigation of pedagogy.
Taking both ETS classes and Education classes is a huge advantage. You are being exposed to different types of literature and being shown methods to teach the literature. […] The combination of ETS courses and EDU courses allows you to practice your trade.
In addition to her work as a teacher, Sara recently completed her Master’s degree in Literacy K-12, where she drew on her undergraduate education with both ETS and EDU courses. She says both her majors vastly helped her teaching.
I was already comfortable working with students in a one-on-one setting (due to my Education classes) and felt that I had a wide knowledge of age/level appropriate literature to draw from as a result of my extensive ETS background.
I took a wide variety of English classes at Syracuse, including courses focused on the English language, genre, author studies, and critical theory. I felt confident entering the classroom that my breadth of knowledge was extensive, allowing me to teach all different types of literature. I felt prepared to enter the workforce as a full-time teacher immediately after graduation, and that is an invaluable feeling.
English Education students have the benefit of two College’s worth of faculty mentors, as well as a close cohort of peers. Learn more about the dual major in English and Education here.
Meredith Hale ('09)(+)
Meredith graduated in 2009 with honors in English and Textual studies and a second major in Illustration. Currently she is working as the Kress Fellow in Art Librarianship at Yale University. She is a member of the Art Library Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) and has presented the findings of her information-science master's paper at the 2016 ARLIS conference in Seattle.
What was your honors thesis about?
It was titled "Governing Boyhood in the Novels of George MacDonald and Robert Louis Stevenson." My capstone let me delve deeply into theory on children's literature and masculinity. In addition, I really enjoyed reading the novels I studied, particularly MacDonald's At the Back of the North Wind (1871), and the project helped me discover a few new illustrators who are now among my favorites. Completing the project also prepared me for research and writing at the graduate level.
What groups were you involved in on campus?
Some of my favorite memories of Syracuse include participating in the short-term study abroad class on Jane Austen, going to New Orleans with the Alibrandi Center to work with Habitat for Humanity, and being part of the running club.
What graduate programs did you go on to?
I have completed graduate degrees in nineteenth-century culture, art history, and information science at the University of Sussex (Brighton, UK) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My work particularly focuses on increasing accessibility to digital collections.
How has an ETS major helped you to succeed?
It has helped in both my academic and professional careers. My English courses greatly improved my writing and critical thinking skills. I also really appreciated the flexibility of the program and the interdisciplinary nature of the department. Studying art in addition to English was important to me and the department was very supportive of double majors. The variety of "texts" considered, from canonical novels to more popular images and films, made classes both engaging and innovative. I think the openness with which cultural products were approached in ETS made it easier for me to transition to studying art and also encouraged me to embrace works with popular appeal.
Outside of her interest in the written and visual arts, Meredith is addicted to running marathons and exploring nature.
Adam Blechman, J.D. ('08)(+)
Adam Blechman, Esq., graduated from Syracuse University in 2008, and has earned his Juris Doctorate at Northeastern University School of Law. He is now working as an AmeriCorps Fellow for Massachusetts’ Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee. Adam found that his degree in English and Textual Studies lent itself to his study of law.
Being able to read and digest large, complicated material in a timely manner is invaluable. I did plenty of close reading for my ETS classes, which certainly helped in that area.
Adam also noted that his writing intensive undergraduate work helped prepare him for the process of writing and formulating arguments.
When doing a research project for an English class, a student might have to pull facts, theories, and arguments from a variety of complex sources. The skills involved with that type of work are similar to those law students must draw on when writing memoranda, briefs, and other legal documents.
Adam encourages English majors interested in pursuing law to do plenty of research to find out if law school is right for them. For more information on law school and the application process, contact a pre-law advisor in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Katie Laurentiev ('08)(+)
Katie Laurentiev graduated from the ETS bachelor's program in 2008 and completed a Masters in English Literature with the Syracuse English Department in 2012. She has worked as an editorial assistant for the academic publisher Routledge on monographs in a variety of humanities fields, and is currently an assistant editor at Garland Science, working on textbooks in immunology and microbiology.