By Amy Matzke-Fawcett

A degree in English can set a student up for success, and students are taking notice: according to recent rankings compiled by The Chronicle of Higher Education, Old Dominion University ranks seventh nationally among four-year public institutions for graduating English majors.

According to the rankings, in the period between the 2010-11 and the 2017-18 school years, the number of English graduates across the country dropped by about a 25%. But some notable exceptions grew their programs, including ODU, where the number of students getting degrees grew by 11.4%.

A number of factors go into the growth, said Sheri Reynolds, chair of the English Department. The faculty know their students and have a hand in recruiting them despite the large size of the department, while also offering traditional classes like advanced composition, American literature and post-Colonial literature, to the non-traditional, like banned books and taboo words.

Additionally, employers are becoming more aware that students learn how to see the world from different angles in English classes.

"Students read narratives they'd never otherwise read about people they don't think they have a thing in common with - and discover that they do," Reynolds said. "So, students practice empathy through their reading. They write for different audiences and different contexts. What they learn isn't what to write, but how to write."

She added that while the report doesn't address English minors, the department has also experienced growth there due to the need for strong writing skills in conjunction with most majors.

"Recent studies show that employers look for strong writing, thinking and presentation skills, which are developed in English classes," said Kent Sandstrom, dean of the College of Arts & Letters. "Students are recognizing those skills can be applied in many careers, and the enrollment numbers reflect that. The numbers also reflect our English faculty's devotion to teaching excellence and student success."

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