Haley Guion - 2012

Position title: Healthcare Attorney

Pronouns: she/her

What career pathway have you pursued since your time in the UW-Madison English major?

I pursued a career path in the legal field directly following my undergraduate education at UW. I received my JD, with a health law focus, at DePaul University College of Law in the spring of 2015. Two experiences I pursued while a student at UW — a courier at the law firm Stroud, Willink & Howard and a clerk at UW’s Health and Hospital System Carbone Cancer Research Center — primed me for this career trajectory. I didn’t know it at the time, but the opportunities I had in these two roles planted the “seed” that grew into my interest in how the law improves, limits, and generally impacts our healthcare delivery system.

What did you enjoy about the English major?

I look back fondly on the English Department’s graduation ceremony in Helen C. White Hall in spring of 2012. It was a small and intimate gathering, in contrast to the larger ceremony at the Kohl Center, and a warm sendoff into the post-graduate world (with yummy cake). I also carry a deep appreciation for the instruction I received as a young adult from Professors Cyrena Pondrom and Aida Hussen. I’m not sure if they are still teaching. They built and then shepherded students through a discussion-based setting that unpacked and exposed interpretations of texts on significant matters to our shared humanity. At times, it was the first time a student had the opportunity to give an opinion on such topics. This approach and their leadership significantly expanded my knowledge and fine-tuned my education as an English major. The class taught by Professor Lisa Cooper on Chaucer was also memorable. One assignment I recall having was to recite a passage from The Canterbury Tales from memory. It was hard! I recall staring out my apartment window on Lakelawn Street reading and reciting the words, over and over, line by line, and getting the pronunciation just right. The skills I used to learn and memorize that passage were probably the same ones I employed when studying for graduate school and licensure exams. At its core, being a lawyer is, in many ways, the commitment of a new language to memory. UW’s English program taught me how to do that.

Other majors, certificates, or key points of involvement during time at UW:

Religious Studies certificate; European studies certificate

How did your time as an English major prepare you for your current work? What skills do humanities students bring to your industry?

I think the study of humanities sets you up for success in the legal field because it exposes you to life experiences that are different from your own. Being exposed at a young age to others’ victories and tragedies, whether fictional or lived, is humbling and eye-opening. Having this awareness translates into a natural ability to build trusting relationships; one who studied humanities can seamlessly identify commonalities with clients and colleagues. Studying a major in humanities also puts one a cut above the rest for a career in the legal field because the study requires critical thinking and the close reading of texts. A lawyer has to continuously advocate for a client’s interest based on reliable sources. The humanities teaches one to search for the bases of a conclusion, be it the purpose of a piece of art or the driving message in a poem, and interpret the meaning. That way of thinking is similar to performing a legal analysis of a set of facts.

What is one piece of career advice you would offer our English undergraduates?

One piece of career advice I would give to English undergraduates is to prepare a 3-year plan that sets out your professional goals. Ask yourself where you want to be and what you want to achieve, professionally, 3 years from now. Dream big! After you have those goals, identify the milestones you need to hit in order to achieve those goals. For example, if a goal is to run for public office, the milestones might be to volunteer on a local campaign, lobby for a cause you care about, and grab coffee with your local representative or their staff. Taking the time to pin down these milestones will keep you focused on what is important to you for your career; it’s time well-spent. Also, I’ve found that having a reference point of your professional priorities is an effective anchor when you feel like you need direction.