WHY STUDY ENGLISH?

“So let me get this straight—the Amazon is on fire, the global economy is on a knife edge, there are no decent jobs out there, and you want to study English? Seriously?”

Yeah, we’ve heard the questions, too. We’ve gotten the bemused looks, and we’ve cringed at the bad jokes (“Does your degree come with its own barista apron?”). But at the end of the day, the short answer is, “Yes, you do want to study English. Seriously.” Here’s why:

Studying English means coming to terms with the fundamental role that language and literature play in shaping our complex and fast-changing world. It means grappling with big issues—race, gender, and sexuality, ethics, economics, politics, environment, religion, and more—and also recognizing the small details, the tiny turns of phrase, that give those issues nuance and texture. It means discussing, arguing, writing, questioning; it means changing your mind and standing your ground. And yes, it means reading—it means embracing the pleasures and challenges of some of the finest literature ever written.

But studying English also means engaging with—and preparing for—the world outside the university, and this is what that the bemused looks and bad jokes miss. Students in English develop analytical, communication, and cognitive skills that are singularly valuable on the job market, skills that pay dividends in a competitive environment. Every year, our graduates enter careers in law, publishing, social media, teaching, politics, urban planning, advertising, public relations, computer science, and more. It turns out that being able to write, think, analyze, and communicate is something that a lot of employers are looking for. (If you don’t believe me, take it from the president of Microsoft.) English helps you develop skills and practices that are endlessly applicable in an endlessly changing world.

The SFU English Department boasts a faculty that has won more teaching awards than any other department, all while producing scores of scholarly books and articles, as well as award-winning fiction and poetry. We offer opportunities for our students both inside and outside SFU, including field schools in France and the UK; certificates in creative writing, performance studies, and writing and rhetoric; joint majors with Communication, Humanities, French, History, and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies; co-op opportunities; a vibrant honours experience; and courses in everything from classical rhetoric to contemporary poetry, with more in the works. And yes, with the resources of our innovative English Network, we’ll help you find a job when it’s all over.

There’s a lot more to talk about, so if you’re interested in English and want to learn more about us, you can follow the links to the left. (Make sure to check out our news and events, as well as our social media channels, for the most recent updates.) And feel free to drop me an email (david_coley@sfu.ca) or to stop by my office (AQ 6147). I’m always happy to chat.

Sincerely,
David Coley
Undergraduate Chair