Alumni Spotlight: Q&A with Amanda Benson '06

by SMC Office of Marketing and Communications | September 15, 2022

Amanda Benson '06, Operations, Swift Collective Social Media & Contributing Writer PDX Local


Why did you choose to major in English? 

I was starting to get restless my freshman year — I had changed my major probably three times, considered minors that made zero sense for my personality. I was really waffling, and called my mother multiple times to ask her what I should do. She finally told me, "I'd rather be paying for a major that you actually enjoyed versus one that will probably end up making you miserable." It made my decision almost too easy.  My English courses were the ones that made me happiest: I connected with the english major's personalities more, I was constantly challenged on my opinions, I loved researching and writing more than taking tests over and over again.  I felt like I could be creative. 


Do you have a single favorite memory of Saint Mary’s?  

My favorite memory from Saint Mary's was in my senior year, after taking my third creative writing course alongside some MFA students. A faculty member eventually asked me to lead the lit magazine undergraduates publish every year. I had never been given a leadership role before, so  I ran with this task in assembling my team, and building confidence in my leadership skills while forming an editor's eye.  


Saint Mary's was recently named to the “Colleges that Change Lives” list, the only Catholic college and the only California college on that list. Do you have a story about how Saint Mary’s changed your life?

The faculty at Saint Mary's definitely changed my life. There was a lot of support that I don't think I would have found in a larger college setting. They grew to know me and what I was capable of and I felt like there was a definite kinship that developed where however much effort I gave in my classes, my teachers were also supporting my goals.  


Do you have any advice for someone considering an English major but wondering what he or she will “do with that”?  

English, I know, seems like a "broad" major. You can always toot your own horn on resumes with your writing skills, but what would probably work best is finding out what you want to build from your major. Not every person who is a science major wants to work in a lab. Not every person who majors in French wants to be a French teacher. I know plenty of people who have majors that don't suit their current jobs. Find an internship that interests you, and build work experience alongside your major. See where it takes you. If it's a dead end, scrap it and see what else is out there. Nothing is final- you can always change gears.


Do you have any advice for our current English majors? 

Find any way possible to deepen your interests, even if it seems insane. I fought my way through a lot of my life decisions because at times it didn't seem "practical." A lot of the time "practical" is what other people want. I feel like as long as you are motivated to learn what you want and have passion in it, it's worth your time. I went from receiving my major in English, to getting my MFA in Nonfiction writing. Realizing I had an interest in food writing, I moved to New York and completed culinary school. I worked in restaurants for a while and got to learn about the world of food more and I was incredibly happy doing all of it.    

Read Amanda's musings on chocolate chip cookies or her profile of Food & Wine editor-in-chief Dana Cowan