Our undergraduate majors and minors are serving in leadership positions across the university. Here, six exceptional students share what they’re up to and how their coursework in literature, writing, and film has helped them get there.

Justin Bennett: President of Associated Students of Oregon State University (ASOSU)

Justin didn’t have to mull over running for President of ASOSU for long. “I think that when you're given the opportunity, or you're given the platform in which you can enact change,” he says, “it's your obligation to attempt to make that change.” His agenda while in office includes bridging the gap between students, administrators and ASOSU representatives through more open, inclusive conversation and building more support and awareness for mental health and sexual assault resources on campus. Justin, an English major, sees the relevance of his degree every day, especially in his ability to critically think. “English teaches you to always be asking the question: why am I thinking about what I am thinking about?” he says. “That is critical when representing nearly 30,000 students at OSU. I would also say that it is essential to being both human and understanding the humanness that defines us all.”

Sydney Sullivan: Writing intern for the College of Forestry, dancer for OSU’s Ballroom Performance Team ‘Cool Shoes’

Sydney credits her study of authors like Claire Lispector, Sylvia Plath, Yuri Herrera and Valeria Luiselli with showing her how to “live fully” and how to broaden her worldview by giving her access to “the lives of others through literature.” She credits her time as an English major as helping her to “strive for bigger and better moments in life.” For Sydney, some of those big moments happen on the dance floor. She just recently flew to Disney World to dance with her ballroom team ‘Cool Shoes’ in front of a packed house. “I love my books and class lectures,” she says, “but being able to live and breathe some of those unforgettable moments you read about in novels...leaves me at a loss for words.” Sydney will continue her studies next year at the University of Arizona, where she will pursue a PhD in English Literature.

Alex Luther: Vice President of BeaverDam and Director-elect of BeaverDam Events for 2018-19, Athletics liaison to the Student Fee Committee, member of Athletics’ Fan Experience Committee, Academic Learning Assistant at Weatherford Hall

Across her many leadership roles on campus, one constant is Alex’s dedication to community building. “I feel responsible for being a contributing member of the community,” she says. “A considerable portion of my leadership experience is reflecting back the opportunities I’ve had.” She credits the enriching discussions in Dr. Ribero’s composition theory course with teaching her “the importance of...finding my voice while alternatively listening and appreciating the contributions of others, knowing that their opinions may help me grow in my thinking.” Through literature courses with Dr. Helle and Dr. Sheehan, Luther discovered a love for Toni Morrison, whose work challenged her to confront hard truths about race, gender and class. Luther hopes to get an MBA post-graduation and dreams of one day working in higher education administration. “The incredible community at this university is one I never want to leave,” she says. “It has become my home.”

Jahan Kahusi: Writing and Pronunciation tutor for INTO

Jahan found out about opportunities at INTO, OSU’s hub for international student recruitment and support, through SWLF Instructor Liz Delf’s course ENG 399: Career Prep for English Majors. Shortly thereafter, he became a tutor and English conversation group leader. Much of Jahan’s responsibilities require him to think on his feet, be it encouraging a conversation topic that his students seem to be responding to—”I want to talk about what they want to talk about,” he says—or helping an English language learner to clarify their argument in a written essay. Connecting across cultures, learning how to “read the room” and shaping prose are all skills Jahan is well-practiced in considering his coursework as an English major. When asked if he’s found his place at OSU, he smiles wide and says, “Oh definitely. No question.

Erin Dose: Current Assistant Editor and incoming Editor-in-Chief of PRISM for 2018-19 (OSU’s undergraduate literary magazine)

An English major and Writing minor, Erin considers her academic background “one of the most important aspects of my success at Prism.” The critical thinking skills she hones in her classes comes in to play in her editorial decision making. “It's important for us to fully understand each piece and the value it carries,” she says, “as well as to know when something needs to be adjusted, added, or removed.” She credits the close attention paid to her writing by SWLF faculty as being “incredibly influential.” “They demonstrate the right balance of positive and negative feedback,” she says, “ and how to respectfully approach issues in writing.” She hopes to shape Prism as a community resource during her term as Editor-in-Chief and to put inclusivity front and center. “Self-expression is for everyone, regardless of major, age, race, gender, or status,” she says. “I want to spread our beliefs, positivity, and inclusivity across campus.”