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Ohio State outreach program aims to emphasize value of English degree

A new Ohio State program aims to teach high school students that pursuing an English degree isn’t something they should fear.

“The reason why I came up with the idea to do (the program) is when I was in high school, it was like ‘engineering or bust,’” said Sydney Watsek, a second-year in English and coordinator of the outreach program. “I knew I was good at writing, so I thought I should look into being an English major, and it turns out there is lots of stuff you can do with it. It’s actually a really valuable skill to have.”

The outreach program, which aims to teach high school students about the value of an English degree, is an addition to the OSU English Undergraduate Organization that aims to “provide a safe, intellectual and socially vibrant community” for those pursuing English-related degrees, according to its website.

Watsek said there are a variety of career options for those with English degrees.

“You can write TV shows, you can go to law school, you can be a grant writer,” Watsek said in a text message, listing fields including publishing, journalism, copy writing and teaching as well.

Watsek said in an interview with The Lantern the program started with three people on the executive board of EUGO visiting a school as a test.

The program’s first visit was to Watsek’s high school, Greenon High School in Springfield, Ohio, which is about an hour from Columbus.

Watsek said she felt that visit made a difference.

“What was the best thing about our visit is we had students who knew they wanted to be an engineer now considering an English minor, which is important, too, for those science-based careers to be able to have that well-rounded skill,” she said.

Some students even felt relieved after the presentation, Watsek said.

“We already had students that were interested in humanities come up to us and be like, ‘Thank you, my friends respect me and my career choices now,’ so it was great,” Watsek said.

The program hopes to make roughly three to four visits to schools per semester, as well as coordinate a day where high school students who are interested in English can visit OSU.

The outreach program currently consists of about six representatives who are passionate about English and looking to participate in community service activities to get involved, Watsek said.

Jake Hollar, a third-year in English and intern at the Department of English who is involved with the program, said getting involved was one of the reasons he joined.

“In high school, I was the kid who was involved in everything. After coming to OSU, that kind of petered off. I wasn’t involved in a whole lot my first two years, so as I entered year three, I decided to change that,” Hollar said. “I figured a good place to start was with the English department, since I am an English major.”

Hollar said the program is important for the future generation of English majors.

“Any program that doesn’t actively recruit the next generation will eventually die, so it’s just a responsibility of being part of something,” he said. “We speak English every day. Every important document in our country’s history is written in English. So to communicate effectively, we need to understand the language.”

Kelsy Hernandez, a third-year in English, said she joined the program to have the opportunity to show high school students an English major can be applied to a variety of careers.

“In the first couple years, it’s kind of insignificant (what your major is) because of the amount of (general education requirement classes), but when you become an upperclassman, it’s pretty permanent,” Hernandez said. “The English major offers so much more and this program highlights all the different opportunities that are available to you because of the skills you acquire through this degree.”

The outreach program doesn’t charge high schools for the presentations. Watsek said the program is looking to expand.

“When we grow (the program), were hoping to have T-shirts, and some nice name tags, etc.,” she said. “But right now, we are working on our marketing aspect and that’s just getting rolling.”


This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: Nov. 15, 2013

An earlier version of this story misspelled Jake Hollar’s name.


  1. Hey, I knew this 49 years ago.

  2. Having spent 21 years as a military officer and another 12 years in the federal government, I will tell you that the ability to write effectively is among the most important of skills you can bring to the workplace. Unfortunately, it is the skill I find most lacking among new college graduates. When you are hired, I expect that I will have to teach you how to do your new job. That is normal. However, do not expect me to teach you how to write. Take a technical writing class. Take basic composition classes. Take them seriously. In the real world, everything important must be “in writing”.

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