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September 7, 2021
By Dianira Piceno, Senior English Major.
Pictured above: Karreen Ghena, English Program Alum.
Karreen Ghena graduated from SOU in 2011 with a B.A. in English & Writing (concentration in Professional Writing and minor in Creative Writing). She then went back to SOU for her Master of Arts in Teaching and graduated with that degree in 2018. She is 31 years old, married to her high school sweetheart, Justin, and lives in Grants Pass.
Image above: The English Major at SOU. all purpose. The English Major: Functional. Portable. Versatile.
This ongoing featured series will explore the many career paths an English major can take after completing their degree at SOU.
In this interview-style post, SOU Alumni Karreen Ghena ’11, gives insight on how she figured out her career path and ended up as an educator at North Valley High school in Grants Pass, OR, where she teaches English, Advanced Placement Composition, and Career Development.
Dianira Piceno: Did you see yourself going into your current occupation after graduation?
Karreen Ghena: No! I never thought I wanted to become a teacher; I was too shy when I first graduated to pursue a job that involves public speaking.
DP: How did you end up choosing your career path?
KG: My goal upon graduating with a bachelor’s degree was to obtain a secretarial job, which I did fairly quickly, working as a registrar in the office at North Valley HS. Then, I moved up to work at the district office level as an administrative assistant in the finance department. After my job duties there required me to train other employees, I realized that I could, in fact, talk in front of other people just fine. I missed working with students at the high school, so I decided to go back to SOU to pursue a master’s degree and become a teacher.
DP: What did you do in order to prepare for life after graduation?
KG: I worked full-time jobs throughout both my college experiences to help pay for my education. While I was still in the English program at SOU, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with my degree, but I knew I loved writing. Thus, I spent a few years ghost-writing for an independent contractor, which involved writing product descriptions for clothing catalogues and typing transcripts of local podcasts. I also took on an internship with the Southern Oregon Historical Society that was tied to my capstone project; I started an online blog using archives from the SOHS library, which I believe SOHS still maintains to this day! Those experiences strengthened my professional writing skills and looked great on my resume!
DP: What skills did you gain as an English major that helped you navigate your career?
KG: I’ve always been passionate about reading and writing. As an English major, I learned to appreciate many different styles of writing, and my teachers exposed me to genres and authors I had never heard of before. That alone has helped me greatly as I stepped into the role of teacher. I’ve been inspired to continue to learn because I want to bring new experiences to my own students.
DP: Were there any challenges you had to overcome when deciding on your career path?
KG: Like I stated earlier, it took me a while to figure out that I wanted to become a teacher. My challenges for the MAT program were: affording tuition (solution: refinance my house to pay for the degree), long distance travel (solution: choose the two-year program so I only had classes 2-3 times a week), and juggling full-time work and school (solution: prioritize school work over social time).
DP: What is one of the biggest misconceptions about graduating with an English degree?
KG: Well, I’m not sure that I’m really helping the misconception of “All you can do with an English degree is teach.” I know that you can do plenty more with an English degree, but I do in fact LOVE my job and I’ve discovered that I’m more passionate about teaching others about English than I am about writing! I still write sometimes, but now I write for pleasure and not for a paycheck. I think one of the biggest misconceptions I’ve heard is that “You won’t make any money if you major in English.” It’s true that not every English major will end up using their degree, but the same is true for other majors, and I think the amount of money you earn is very dependent on what you value in a job and how hard you are willing to work. I will say that, even working as a teacher, I make a very liveable wage that’s over twice the median income for my area.
DP: Any advice for current students who are unsure about what they want to do after graduation?
KG: It’s okay–you don’t have to know exactly what you want to do yet! Take opportunities that arise, and see where they lead you. That’s what I did, and I’m so grateful for it.
DP: (Just for fun) In your free time, what do you enjoy doing?
KG: I enjoy reading, participating in a book club with my friends, making polymer clay earrings, and exploring the beauty of the Rogue Valley with my husband and two labrador retrievers.
A huge thank you to Karreen Ghena for participating in this written interview.
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