WKU alumni discuss lives after graduation, give advice to students

Nicole Ziege

WKU alumni from the professional writing program gave advice to students in the program and discussed their professional lives after graduation.

The four panelists included Jessica Barksdale, who graduated in December 2017; Lauren Bunch, who graduated in December 2016; Jeremy McFarland, who graduated in May 2018; and Jennifer Troth, who graduated in May 2018.

Barksdale and Troth are technical writers at KirkpatrickPrice, McFarland is the volunteer coordinator for Patti Minter for Kentucky and Bunch works at AmeriCorps VISTA at Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Angela Jones, English associate professor, said this was the third year for the panel. She said she invited the panelists to help the students in her professional writing thesis capstone class better understand how former graduates have succeeded after graduating college. Jones moderated the event and about 25 students and faculty attended.

The panelists discussed how they were hired in their current positions and how they prepared to work after college. Some skills they said helped them when they graduated college from the professional writing program included the abilities to analyze information, communicate and articulate clearly and learn how to create a resume and cover letter.

Bunch recommended for students interested in professional writing and English to use available resources, like WKU’s Center for Career and Professional Development and other career services.

“I know you’re dreading it,” Bunch said. “I dreaded it, too, but they really did help.”

Bunch also recommended the students to learn how to network with other people and conduct interviews.

“You’ve got to get that confidence up so you can get past the place where you’re so nervous,” Bunch said.

Regarding the future, McFarland said that while he works as volunteer coordinator, he is still figuring out what he is going to do next. He said that he was open to what was going to happen next in his life, and that was how he ended up in his current position.

“There’s a lot of people’s expectation that when you graduate, you just know what you’re going to do,” McFarland said. “I had no idea what I wanted to do. I still don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Barksdale, who attended the panel as a student in fall 2017, said she accepted the offer to come and help with the panel because she remembered what it was like watching the panel as a student. She said she also wanted to give back to Jones, her former professor.

“It’s very interesting to be on the other side of it,” Barksdale said with a smile. “I knew I wanted to come do this.”

Nicole Ziege can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected] Follow Nicole Ziege on Twitter at @NicoleZiege.