Why Study English?

The Department of English, one of the oldest departments at VCU, is a community of students and faculty dedicated to the skillful reading and writing of texts in a variety of genres, both creative and expository.

Classes are small and our faculty members pride themselves on the excellence of their classroom instruction and the lasting relationships they make with their students.

High-quality instruction, internship opportunities, and the opportunity to tailor the major to your intellectual and professional interests are only part of the story though. Students studying English at VCU choose their major with the following truths in mind:

  • English is foundational. The skills gained through the study of English are called upon every day in most work environments. In an information economy, even engineers and accounts need to read perceptively and write convincingly. In most workplaces today, everyone writes. English majors write well.
  • English is versatile. To use a metaphor (something of which we are fond in the Department of English) some degrees make students into knives. Sharp, honed to a fine edge, and well suited to one particular task: a bread knife or a filleting knife. The English major is a multi-tool. An intellectual Gerber or Leatherman ready to tackle a variety of problems; problems which, to the English major, become opportunities.
  • English is ubiquitous. The city of Richmond is overflowing with alumni from the VCU Department of English working in a variety of fields. Graduates of VCU English are teachers, authors, editors, executive directors, content managers, marketing directors, journalists, poets, and entrepreneurs. They work for themselves, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and both large and small businesses throughout the region.
  • English is a joy. The student who studies English at VCU does not hate their major. They may not have liked the most recent set of readings; they may be annoyed that they have a paper due on Tuesday; but they like their major. They like reading, and writing, and thinking about how other writers wrestled with the great issues of their time, and our time as well. Through both creative and expository writing, the English major experiences the joy of creation, of developing an insight or and idea into a fully-realized text ready to be shared with an audience.

In a world resounding to the continuous drumbeat of “STEM, STEM, STEM,” to study English is to strike out on one's own. Writing in similar circumstances, Henry David Thoreau asked of his readers, "Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."

Follow the drummer calling you to major in English. It leads both to joy and to success.