English Major Profile: Rebecca Gonner (B.A. 2017)
As a student, Rebecca Gonner focused on professional writing and was the Managing Editor of The Mirror & the Lamp for a record three years. Before graduating, she held a summer internship with Prime Publishing in Chicago. After graduation, she worked as a Customer Service Trainer at Whole Foods, and she held an internships at Booklist Publications and Agate Publishing in Chicago. She continues to freelance for both Agate and Booklist, and she currently holds a full-time position as a Technical Writer at Abbot in Chicago.
M&L: Why did you choose to major in English at Western?
I was drawn to Western’s English program because it felt full of possibilities. The diversity in class topics beyond the standard canon-riddled curriculum appealed to me as someone more interested in contemporary literature and not entirely sure of my career goals. What I got out of my major at Western was so much more than I could have hoped for. The classes I took in Simpkins Hall not only expanded my knowledge, but helped me grow into the person I am today. The value I gained there is far and beyond the value of a diploma.
M&L: What is your current job?
I am currently a contract technical writer at Abbott Molecular. I assist in making changes to company documents such as manufacturing or testing procedures and work to document our assessments of impact in order to ensure we meet the standards of the many governing bodies we report to. It involves communication with different teams in the company, problem solving, research, and quite a lot of people-management. Each day is a little different and while some are certainly harder and longer than others, I have a great team to work with and I quite enjoy the work for the most part.
M&L: How did your study of English help you to succeed in your career?
My degree and what I learned at Western has come to play in every job I’ve had, from grocery store cashier team trainer at Whole Foods Market to publishing house intern with Agate Publishing, and now technical writer at Abbott Molecular. The critical thinking, communication skills, and time management that I honed in my time at Western have been vital in each position I’ve held. As team trainer at Whole Foods, I created documents to keep track of all my trainees, information sheets on different products we offered to help keep our team informed, and often strategized different ways to best teach each member of a team diverse in age and education/career backgrounds. With Agate Publishing, my work varied from sentence-level editing to design-focused PowerPoint creation. And at Abbott one of the most important parts of my position is clearly communicating the project’s intent from big-picture to small-detail in a way that anyone could understand. All of this I have been able to do because of what I learned earning my English degree at Western Illinois University.
M&L: What were some of your best experiences as a student in English at Western?
To be honest, The Mirror & the Lamp was one of my favorite parts of my entire college experience. Being the managing editor was not a position I ever would have sought out on my own, but trusted with the responsibility (Thanks again, Dr. Banash), I was able to learn and grow so much. From bringing together my team of editors each year to attending department events I likely wouldn’t have otherwise, being a part of The Mirror & the Lamp helped make me a part of the English Department as a whole in a way I truly appreciated. I had the opportunity to attend a book binding workshop because I was covering it for the magazine, I had the opportunity to interview classmates and learn more about them, and even for opportunities that I didn’t personally cover, I was able to read my classmate’s articles and learn about them as well. While I truly loved the classes I had the privilege to take in my time at Western (Women in Film and Television with Dr. Di Carmine, New Media Literature with Dr. Morrow, Non-Western Lit with Dr. Allison), getting involved outside the classroom was what made my time at Western truly exceptional.
M&L: What advice would you give to students considering studying English here at Western?
I feel that Western’s English department really is a space for anyone. The class diversity and department events and opportunities offer so many possibilities to learn and grow. So long as you have a love for stories (and you’re considering English, so that’s a given) there is plenty to discover and create at Western Illinois University. I personally wouldn’t trade my four years at Western for anything, and I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it. If you are considering studying at Western, I encourage you to take the chance, and you’ll find that this department gives back what you put into it. The experience is yours to make.