English majors and minors gathered to learn about what their English degree means for their careers at the Pre-professional Conference Thursday morning.

The event began with keynote speaker, Doug Downs, a writing professor from Montana State University, addressing the questions, “What is the verb for ‘to English?'” and “How do I do good in the world with my English degree?”

Following the keynote address, students were invited to participate in eight panel discussions aimed toward their career goals, including topics such as academic advising, navigating politics as a teacher in public school, internships and creative writing.

“People are brought in from nearby and not so nearby who are alumni or have jobs in different kinds of industries like editing or publishing, professional writing, creative writing,” said Nita Newswander, an English professor at BYU-I. “It’s a great place for students to make connections.”

A student takes notes during the keynote address of the Pre-Professional Conference.

A student takes notes during the keynote address of the Pre-Professional Conference. Photo credit: Briona McGregor

The heart of what many English students hope to achieve revealed itself as more than 70 students crowded to find seats for the creative writing panel. There, students heard from a poet and two novelists, including Wall Street Journal Best Selling author Jeff Wheeler.

“The creative writing (panel) speaks to your soul in a different way that internships and other things don’t,” said Kate Patterson, a communication major with a minor in English. “It was nice to see that it’s possible to make a living as a writer, but also that you can bring that into a bunch of different industries.”

Lunch was served and students spoke to the panelists and presenters, many of whom were BYU-I graduates.

“I think it’s really important in this day and age for our colleges to know what’s going on in schools, and for our local schools to have a great relationship with those colleges,” said Stephanie Cole, a panel speaker and the head of the English program at Career Technical Education Center in Idaho Falls district 91.

Following the break, plenary speaker Greg Fox, a copywriter for YETI and a BYU-I alumnus, spoke on the frequently asked question, “What are you going to do with an English degree?” and he spoke about how to have fun with an English degree after graduation.

Panelists speak to conference attendees in between sessions.

Panelists speak to conference attendees in between sessions. Photo credit: Briona McGregor

“One thing I appreciated about this whole conference was seeing so many other people who are also pursuing this interest,” said Geneva Hemmert, an English major. “People are very judgmental about English because it’s not a guaranteed, shaped path, but it’s great to see that there are so many people who have these passions and it motivates me to keep going after it.”

The conference concluded with student readings of previously selected works. Categories for the writing contest included fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, literary analysis and rhetorical analysis.