Mentors Light the Way for English Majors

Pat Brady (r) with mentee, Emily Klode (l) on a beautiful day on State Street.

Emily Klode is an English major who dreams about becoming a lawyer. Pat Brady is a lawyer who majored in English. We asked Pat and Emily to talk about their mentoring relationship, and to reflect on the skills that English majors can bring to a variety of professions after college. Mentors can provide a birds’-eye perspective for students to help them identify their transferable skills, and take an active approach to building a meaningful career.

Q: Emily, what drew you to Pat?

A: I was able to connect with Pat at the English department welcome dinner last fall. I sat next to her and immediately it was clear that she and I had plenty to talk about – she went to UW-Madison and got an English major just like the one I’m pursuing, and then went onto law school just like I hope to do. She was so easy to talk to.

Q: What three adjectives describe your relationship to Pat?

A: Supportive, constructive, inspiring, and (really) appreciated!

Q: (Emily, that was four adjectives and an adverb. Emphasis noted!) Moving along: how has Pat’s perspective shaped your goals and aspirations?

A: Every time Pat and I meet I’m reminded of all the things I hope to accomplish one day. She is an incredible role model. Hearing her talk about working as a lawyer while also having a family has shown me that I don’t have to sacrifice one dream to accomplish another – I can be a lawyer, a mother, a wife, and maybe even a mentor to someone else one day all at the same time.

Q: In what ways have Pat’s insights shaped your identity as an English major?

A: A lot of times when I tell people I’m an English major, they think teaching is really the only route I’ll take. Pat reminds me that an English major opens so many more doors than just teaching. For example, she connected me with a marketing internship this summer, which was something that I wouldn’t have even considered until meeting Pat. The internship ended up being something that my English background surprisingly qualified me to do. She is so smart and sees opportunities where I wouldn’t have thought to even look.

Q: What words of wisdom stick with you?

A: Pat has really taught me to keep an open mind about my future. She helps me remember that sometimes things might not go the way I want them to, but to keep working hard just like she has. I am so lucky to know her!

Q: Pat, what inspired you to take on a mentoring role for Emily? 

A: As a member of the English Department’s Board of Visitors, I was familiar with the mentoring program and aware of the importance of mentoring as a source of guidance for English majors, who are often concerned about the career opportunities they will have on graduation. I had served as a mentor previously and enjoyed the experience, so I wanted to continue participating in the program. I met Emily at the Department’s 2016 welcome dinner, where we quickly discovered our shared interests in literature and law. I became a lawyer after graduating from UW-Madison with a degree in English, and Emily hopes to follow the same career path. I was impressed by her serious interest in a legal career, and was happy to be her mentor.

Q: What three adjectives describe your mentoring style? 

A: Helpful, encouraging, responsive, fun (I hope!).

Q: (Four adjectives! Your affinity with Emily is evident!) Finally, what challenges do English majors face in these times? How will Emily’s special qualities serve her in the future? 

A: Unlike students who major in fields like business and STEM, English majors have fewer well-defined paths to professional careers, and this is can be a challenge when they start considering employment options. Emily, though, has already established her career goal, and is actively pursuing it. Her preparation as an English major has given her the fundamentals of critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and effective communication that are essential for law school. In addition, she has the strong interpersonal skills, confidence, and tenacity that will bring her success as a lawyer.

Are you interested in helping a current English major prepare for a career in business, teaching, or communications? Please contact Sunny Chan, our career advisor for more information about becoming a mentor for a student matched to your expertise, like Pat and Emily.

You can also join Badger Bridge, an initiative of the Wisconsin Alumni Association, an online network that connects UW alumni with students.