Liberal Arts in Action
English

Nicole Hitner '10, '13g (English)

Nicole Hitner

Content Strategist at Exago, Inc.

As Content Strategist at Exago, I get to write for a living. My job is to market our business intelligence application to software companies interested in giving their customers access to reporting, dashboards, and data analytics. The blog posts, press releases, and articles I write speak to technical and nontechnical audiences simultaneously and cover a spectrum of discursive modes. When I'm not actually writing, I'm either planning future content or interviewing clients, end users, and coworkers to learn more about our technology and its market. I also assist our product innovation team in designing new features for the application.

The debate surrounding liberal arts degrees asks whether "soft skills" like explication, persuasive writing, and critical analysis--all of which I developed and refined as part of my English degrees--offer sufficient value to the prospective student. The nice thing about soft skills is that they're malleable and can be applied to virtually any industry. I started out at Exago as a support analyst but was asked to join the marketing team after only six months because they were "desperate for someone who could write a decent sentence." As an English major, you tend to take skills like that for granted, but they're not as common as you might think!

June 2017


 Joann Deiudicibus '00, '03g (English)

Joann DeiudicibusComposition Program Assistant & Instructor

As the full-time Professional Staff Assistant to the Composition Program Coordinator since 2007, I have assisted in drafting and revising first-year writing program materials, as well as co-editing and copy editing our student publication, New Voices, New Visions. I also organize, revise, disseminate, and present on instructional materials for faculty; plan and present at professional development workshops; coordinate lectures and events; perform daily administrative operations; schedule meetings and final exam rooms; assign portfolio reading partners, and maintain program assessment plans and records; help students register, and more! I love the diversity of the job.

My English degrees have been paramount to my success. My daily work requires engaging with students, colleagues, and administrators. I compose numerous emails and memos each week, write justifications for funding to support student programs and faculty development, which requires writing clearly and persuasively to various audiences. I am regularly steeped in the very rhetorical considerations and composing processes that I teach my students.

My liberal arts education has provided me with effective communication and critical analysis skills essential to my professional position and pedagogy. The opportunity to have completed General Education courses for my undergraduate degree provided me with a spectrum of knowledge, and allowed me to discover my interests and identity as a student and scholar (from poetry to cultural and body studies, creativity, mental health, and writing process, which have all shaped my course syllabi). The study of literature, writing and rhetoric essentially fosters interdisciplinary connections, and enables us to connect with anyone we seek to reach; a liberal arts education cultivates in its students empathy for others' distinct perspectives and experiences. There is nothing more essential.

Several excellent faculty members [who inspired me] come to mind, such as Dr. Thomas Olsen, and Dr. Jan Zlotnick Schmidt. Dr. Pauline Uchmanowicz, however, has inspired me since I transferred here as a junior. Her dedication to her students and their success, as well as her high standards and diligence have always impressed me. We worked together on my MA thesis; she guided me through reducing my thesis into a brief conference presentation for my first symposium; she modeled for me relentless revision to improve my academic and creative writing. She reinforced in me the confidence to pursue English and to hone my teaching. She even recommended me for my current position; as a result, I had the opportunity to assist her as Composition Program Coordinator. I am grateful to have such a mentor, colleague, and friend.

May 2017


Nicole Brinkley ‘14 (English, Journalism - Public Relations)

Director of Special Projects at Oblong Books & Music in Rhinebeck, NY, Owner and editor of YA Interrobang

I currently work at Oblong Books, where I do all sorts of nifty things as a bookseller, including managing social media and talking people into buying the best books I've read this year. I also own and run YA Interrobang, a website devoted to young adult literature and news, which I started in my senior year at New Paltz. I learned a lot of the skills that help me run the site - balancing real life / digital life, time management, working with a team - from the extracurriculars at New Paltz. I was the web manager for the New Paltz Oracle and a public relations representative for three years with Dumbledore's Army of New Paltz. There is absolutely nothing as incredible as finding a team of people as passionate as you are and working with them towards a goal. The people I met at New Paltz definitely allowed me to learn and grow while having an incredible amount of fun.

The good thing about English classes is that, for the most part, they allow you to pick something that really interests you and run with it. Even if you don't like a particular book or work that's being studied, you get to hone in on something that interests you - writing or plot structure or how it lines up to another work that you do really love. For me, that meant being able to study children's literature and young adult literature in classes, and it meant being able to structure my entire senior thesis around young adult literature. Between my extracurriculars and what I did in my classroom, I acquired a huge amount of knowledge for something I was already passionate about, and it's paid off every day I go to Oblong and every day I work on the site.

  August 2016


Rick Harnden ’10, ‘12g (English)

Rick HarndenTerritory Manager, Oregon and SW Washington, at Hubbell Wiring Device-Kellems

I am the Territory Manager in Oregon and SW Washington for Hubbell Wiring Device-Kellems, a manufacturer of electrical products. I oversee the sale and marketing of our product line through electrical distribution partnerships, and have a wide range of responsibilities: from educating electrical engineers and contractors to visiting construction sites to solve application and installation issues. Most days, I'm all over Portland to meet with professionals who need safety and reliability most, and my communication and presentation skills are used each day to help our customers understand the quality of our product.

Hubbell prides itself on products that are differentiated from their competitors; we sell on features and benefits, not just price and availability. In order to develop our brand presence, we are constantly in front of customers to communicate the significance of a safe, reliable electrical connection. This is the essence of differentiated-product sales, but it's not the first time I've been a salesperson. As an undergraduate in the SUNY New Paltz Liberal Arts program, I learned to explore a marketplace of ideas and then sell my own manipulation of those ideas to my professor and peers. The critical process I applied to complex intellectual fields like critical theory and historiography is in concept no different from the process used when I pick up a competitor's electrical outlet and try to determine how it functions in its environment in comparison to my company's product. 

 August 2016