Heidi Bryant '99
If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me, “so what can you do with an English major?” I’d be a very rich woman right now. My response was always an emphatic “anything I want to do!”
I’ve always been a big believer in the philosophy that college is not necessarily about learning a trade or being trained for a specific job. As former dean Tom Brown told many incoming freshmen, “the job you ultimately end up doing for most of your life may not even exist yet.” College is about learning how to be a citizen of the world, how to relate to those around you and how to relate to yourself. I became an English major because I love to read, write and talk. An English major was pretty much my version of heaven. In the end though, it was about so much more than reading cool books.
I work as a sales representative for Herff Jones Yearbooks. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that sales is 100% about people and relationships. Every day I interact with dozens of different teachers, students, parents and administrators. I must be able to relate to people of all ages and backgrounds. I must be able to explain things to busy principals, distracted teachers and hyper teenagers – and never lose my patience in the process. I must listen to my customers’ concerns and opinions and show empathy, no matter how strongly I disagree with them. I have 1 shot at a first impression with a prospective customer and if they don’t like the way I present myself, I won’t have a chance at signing that school as long as that person is still there.
So, what does any of that have to do with being an English major? The English professors at Saint Mary’s taught me to think critically and to articulate my thoughts and opinions. They taught me to be open-minded, to listen to others’ ideas and to be willing to reconsider my point after new ideas were presented. They taught me to truly look at the world around me and make connections. They taught me to write effectively, concisely and without pretension. These are invaluable skills in any relationship or career a person can pursue. These are skills that don’t expire, become outdated or obsolete; they last a lifetime.
Sure, I could have read the same books at any other college, but the personal interaction, interest and dedication of the English Department at Saint Mary’s is a very rare thing. That willingness to give of oneself is what touched me and lead me to become the person I am today and I will forever be grateful those professors who were a part of my journey through Saint Mary’s.