Gabriela Szczepankiewicz '21
In 2017, Gabriela Szczepankiewicz entered ODU as a Civil Engineering major but quickly switched to an English major after taking an English gen-ed her first semester. She yearned for a more creative route, one that would foster her love for language and her knack for analysis, and turned to creative writing. She learned to appreciate the nuances of communication between the world and the self through classes in poetry, fiction, non-fiction, digital writing, and linguistics. She takes much inspiration from talented writers such as Seamus Heaney, Lady Wilde, Tan Twan Eng, Anthony Doer, Claudia Rankine, and Ta-Nahisi Coates. Captivated by literature from around the globe and a brief study abroad trip to Ireland, she expanded her worldview and embraced the idea that a well-crafted narrative can affect change and understanding. Communication and precision remain at the core of her work and her ambition.
Gabriela is an awarded poet, winning an honorable mention and a second-place tie in the ODU Undergraduate Poetry Prize Contest in back-to-back years. Her poems have also been published in the Sigma Tau Delta Review and the Blue Marble Review. Soon after graduation in the spring of 2021, Gabriela was awarded a technical writing internship with Alion Science & Technology, now an integrated part of Huntington Ingalls Industries. Working closely with her supervisor, who hired her for her skills in creativity and editing, Gabriela quickly transitioned into a full-time position as a full-fledged technical writer.
Sean Sutherlin '15
Sean Sutherlin graduated in 2015 with a degree in English (Professional Writing) from the Batten School of Arts and Letters. He spent some time working as a customer service representative before becoming a technical writer for a government contractor in Chesapeake, VA. Currently, he lives in Washington, D.C. working as a technical writer and editor for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Furthermore, he returned to Old Dominion University in 2020 to earn his Master of Arts in Professional Writing.
"The English program at Old Dominion University really provided me a great community to join as someone who was pretty clueless when it came to knowing what they wanted to do for a career. My favorite classes were the Literature classes where we just analyzed great poems, novels, and plays for an entire semester; the communities that those classes formed could only be found in the English program. Moreover, I use the skills that I learned during my time at Old Dominion University as an English major on a daily basis at my current job, so the practicality of my degree really materialized as I started my professional life. I found it so valuable that I decided to come back to get my graduate degree in Professional Writing because I know that it will open up even more doors should I decide to pursue another career."
Megan Rae '16
Megan Rae (2016, English Literature and Secondary Education) is currently working as an International Program Coordinator for Operation Smile. As a program coordinator, she builds a surgical team, adheres to country and global medical standards, organizes all the logistics, and oversees missions on the ground to eradicate cleft lip and palate worldwide. She has run successful programs in Peru, Nicaragua, the Philippines, and Madagascar. Rae has worked as a Community Schools Coordinator to provide support resources to at-risk youth before taking a trip abroad to teach English in Madagascar with the Peace Corps.
"I was grateful to have teachers that challenged my perspectives and understanding of the world through literature and practical reality. I was involved with campus organizations and clubs that taught me about service, compassion, and philanthropy."
Josh Whitener '18
Josh Whitener majored in English (Journalism) and graduated from the Batten College of Arts and Letter in May of 2018. He's continued his work with Hometown News, accepting an editorial assistant position in the fall of 2018. Josh was recognized by Norfolk Prevention Coalition and awarded 2019 Ambassador for Change for his work alongside Archie Boone, Opioid Overdose Prevention Services Program Coordinator at Norfolk Community Service Board. Recently, Josh has accepted a promotion and is now the staff writer/reporter for Hometown News in Brevard County. Josh is the co-creator of the independent, neo-noir comic series "Trickster". The first issues won Indie Original's "Best Crime Noir" story for 2020. He is currently in production of the follow-up story with his artist and co-creator, Brian Wilson and cover artist Tim Seelig. Josh has also found a passion for filmmaking and screenwriting. Josh has written screenplays for two recent film contents: My Rode Reel, and the 48-Hour Film Contest. "Stolen Vacation", written for the Central Florida 48 Hour Film contest, was nominated for "Best Use of Prop". His latest screenplay "Losing", a three-minute film focusing on the hidden pains during COVID-19,, was written for the 2020 My Rode Reel short film contest. He also pursues acting, somewhat successfully, as well as co-hosted, "The Experienced", a podcast devoted to the current climate of the world during COVID-19, with Sean McAdams who will serve as producer for "Scotoma", a short film written and directed by Josh planned for 2021.
"My time at Old Dominion was literally a game-changer. I had attended other colleges prior to moving to Virginia, but I really found my footing at ODU. ODU helped me find my drive and determination in so many ways. At ODU, especially in the English Department, I didn't just have professors - I had mentors. My tenure at the Mace and Crown gave me the best opportunity to have my finger on the pulse of student/faculty issues and the ODU community as a whole. It was invaluable knowledge that's translated well into my career as a journalist now."
Teagan Hale '17
Teagan Hale majored in English and graduated from the Batten College of Arts & Letter in May 2017. He currently lives in Belgium as a graduate student studying International Relations and War Studies at a British university, has a traineeship with a European Union affiliated research institute, and was accepted by the State Department to proudly represent our country as an intern in the US Mission to the European Union.
"The beauty of the English major lies within the combination of its inherently versatile curriculum and worldly focus -tailorable enough to fulfill your life's ambitions while simultaneously transforming you into a multiskilled individual competent enough to succeed in any discipline.
For me with my interest in politics and government, the English Department guided me into a creative outside the box approach by centering my studies on political and historical literature from countries and cultures foreign and domestic, even enabling me to study abroad in Israel and Australia. Thanks to them, I proudly have the honor of being the first in my family to travel outside of the United States.
Furthermore, the classes trained me how to critically analyze texts from all periods of history and effectively articulate my thoughts orally or via text, enforced objectivity in all issues no matter how contentious, taught me how to traverse cultural and language barriers, and imposed all the fundamental yet tangible skills translatable to all industries. They built an invaluable foundation needed to succeed in foreign policy and I proudly say I would not be where I am now without their help.
In my life here in Belgium, I apply these foundations daily whether I am working within a multinational organization, connecting different cultural views and political beliefs to propose multilateral policy, performing research for my institution, attending debates and conferences on current political issues such as Brexit or US-EU relations, and forming significant relationships with people from all corners of the Earth.
Believe me when I say the English Department is truly transformative and will enable you to pursue any path outside of what is stereotypically attributed to it. If they can do this to me - take me from small-town rural Virginia to the world abroad - then just imagine what they can do for you."
Corbin Pangilinan '16
Corbin Pangilinan majored in English and minored in International Studies. He graduated from the Batten College of Arts & Letters in May 2016. Currently, Corbin lives in Northern Virginia and works in Bethesda, MD as a Governance and Reporting Analyst for Common Securitization Solutions, LLC.
"While education is a noble field, there's so much more out there that an English major can access as long as they have an open mind, determination, and a willingness to keep learning. I had a very broad set of courses that ranged from literature to linguistics, and I learned plenty of hard and soft skills from each: communication, document design, business writing, and even how to learn to use unfamiliar technologies. Most of all, the ODU English program taught me to be a flexible thinker and an adaptable learner, and that ability to think on my feet has been key in developing my career.
For instance, I started out in my current company as a technical writer, responsible for creating or editing documentation like policies, procedures and job aids. By working with subject matter experts on their documents, I gained exposure to other areas of the business and a general understanding of how the business operated. Within a year and a quarter of joining the company, I was able to leverage both the analytical and critical thinking skills that I honed during my time studying English, as well as the knowledge that I gained from my position as a technical writer to transition into an analyst position within the company's enterprise risk management department. I now help to create reports and charts that are consumed by executives in the company in the course of making business decisions! Even if I am no longer working directly as a technical writer, I'm still using the skills that I built back in college on a daily basis.
I am certain that I would not be in the position I am now if I hadn't studied English at ODU. My education forged a strong base for me to work from, and it taught me the importance of being able to both effectively break down and communicate information. I highly recommend taking a look into the English program!"
Jackson Keyes '15
Jackson Keyes majored in English (Professional Communication) and graduated from the Batten College of Arts & Letters in May 2015. He currently lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where he is working towards his MBA. Prior to business school, Jackson was a Senior Management Consultant at the world's largest professional services firm, Deloitte LLP.
"So, what's your major?
This is one of, if not the most, frequently asked question on university campuses across the nation. When I would respond to this question as an English major, I was often asked if I had aspirations to become a Journalist or an English teacher.
While these can be rewarding and fulfilling career paths, there are other options that English majors have across many different disciplines that are rarely talked about. I believe addressing these other areas is a core strength of the faculty of the ODU English program.
Throughout my time at ODU, my professors and advisors always encouraged me to pursue fields that interested me. Whether or not these interests fell under the traditional umbrella of English major career paths, the program helped me build fundamental skills that are applicable in a wide variety of areas. Pretty much any field you choose to dive into, you'll need to be an effective communicator. Whether that's your formal writing skills, digital communication abilities, or verbal aptitudes, all industries need talented individuals that can properly convey a message and I believe the program helped set me up for success in that regard.
In my professional life as a Management Consultant, I've been able to apply these skills nearly every day. Between developing dynamic presentations, building professional relationships with my clients, or writing intricate technical proposals—the skills my professors provided me with have been invaluable.
I definitely want to give a special shout out to Janis Smith for allowing me the opportunity to explore unconventional internship options that helped me construct a resume to be successful in consulting. I'd also like to thank Dr. Richards for helping me build a more technical skillset that I frequently rely on in my career."