English Major Profile: Emily Woods (M.A. 2023)

Emily Woods graduated in 2021 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and English from Illinois College. She is now in her last semester of her Master of Arts degree in English.

M&L: Why did you choose to major in English at Western?

So, my first degree was technically Psychology at Illinois College. I was really interested in clinical stuff, but I realized when I was applying to grad school for Psychology that all of my experience was English based. I worked in a writing center for three years and before that all my other jobs were working in a library. I majored in English because I liked it. So, the opportunity came, [Western Illinois] said “Hey, we need students in our program.” There was an assistantship too, so it seemed like a decent set up, another two years while I kind of figured everything else out. So I came to WIU, liked the professors, liked the class sizes and the people in my cohort. Teaching was fun too, and I found my niche. In grad school you really get to do what you want to, even more so than I experienced in undergrad. I’m specializing in English now so it’s been a lot of continuous learning that deep down, I knew I always wanted.

M&L: What is your current job?

I have been working at Barnes & Noble in Springfield since December.

M&L: How did your study of English help you to succeed in your career?

It’s given me a lot of career options. My concentration during undergrad was editing and publishing. I’m currently taking Dr. Mossman’s Editing and Reviewing course. I also took her Grant and Proposal Writing course- which is another option that I could get into. I want to finish the novels I’m working on and get them published, so I’d like to hone my editing and self-editing skills as well. My exit option is a comprehensive exam on the genres of speculative science fiction. Seeing how sci-fi, fantasy, and horror all kind of work together, because that’s what I want to write. So, just pursuing my creative interests while also giving myself a solid foundation with the Master’s degree. I could potentially teach, which I enjoyed- there are a few institutions here in Springfield. This degree has set me up for lots of different ways I could go about achieving what I want to do.

M&L: What were some of your best experiences as a student in English at Western?

I just became remote, so I was on campus for a year and a half. That first year was when Dr. Gilchrist was there, and he was kind of my first supervisor in the program. Our whole TA cohort would hang out and meet, get things done together, and check in with each other. That kind of cohort community was one of the really, really great initial positives that I experienced. Even after that first year, we still met up at the library or at Sullivan Taylor coffee shop. I was a D3 athlete, so my social life revolved around a lot of athletics. I thought of this as my second chance at college. I finally got to be an academic student socially, so I think that was one of the most positive things I got.

M&L: What advice would you give to students considering studying English here at Western?

I would say talk to someone in the grad program. I may be passing this on from something I heard from Dr. David Johnson, he was speaking more in the Ph. D. sense, but I think it’s also important at the Master’s level to go after the degree for a really good reason. I kind of went because I didn’t quite know what I was doing yet, and I’m glad I’m here and was able to figure it out, but maybe I should have been in an MFA program. I’m glad I’m here, but I’m lucky I was kind of able to turn my exit option into a critical but creative, focused project. Just make sure that there’s someone or a topic or theory or some part of literature, some part of professional writing that you’re really interested in. You don’t have to have it all figured out before you get here because you can do a lot and connect so much between disciplines. I did a little bit between English and Psychology my first semester. Make sure you get those contacts sooner rather than later is my best advice and something I wish someone had told me.