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English department discusses success with President DiBiasio

President Dibiasio poses with English majors and professors after tea. (Northern Review photo/Sage Caughenbaugh)

President Dibiasio poses with English majors and professors after tea. (Northern Review photo/Sage Caughenbaugh)

Dan DiBiasio is not the typical college president. He lets students and faculty call him Dan. He eats in Mac and talks to students whenever possible. Most interestingly, President DiBiasio is an English major.

The English department honorary society, Sigma Tau Delta, hosted their yearly event: Tea with the President, in the Heterick Library on Oct. 16. Tea with the president is a group discussion between the president and English department students and faculty.

Sigma Tau Delta advisor Dr. Douglas Dowland organized the tea and opened up the discussion,

[having a president who is an English major] is a remarkable thing, because many college leaders come from different walks of life. But I think it’s very useful for us and very helpful for us to get Dan’s perspective because I have the feeling that one of you hear on a regular basis that you can’t do anything with an English degree and that’s just not true,” said Dowland.  

While students enjoy tea and treats, there is a discussion with the president about English related topics. The topics of questions can range from favorite books, to ways a degree in English can be used in the future.

There was one main question that kept popping up during the discussion:  What can one do with an English degree? DiBiasio addresses this fear throughout the discussion.

One question specifically addresses the question of how students can reassure their parents after changing from a major in engineering to one in English. 

DiBiasio is candid during these discussions. He retells stories of when he was an English major, talking about his least favorite class from college or the Shakespeare festival in his town.

Dr. Dowland directed questions towards students as well. Asking them to describe what they love about the English department and having a major in English. Senior creative writing and literature major Kelley Lewis described what she loves about English:

[Being an English major] not only helps with the critical thinking and making decisions and thinking in more diverse ways. But, I think, it has helped me develop a certain empathy for other people… English has helped me learn not only to develop my argument, but I can take that and put it into Spanish. Also knowing your audience, you have to develop empathy for people.”

Some who major in English see less successful futures for themselves.  A degree in English often allows for some of the widest and brightest futures out there. There are many options available. An English major could go to a publishing company or work for a marketing agency. The need for people who write well is always in demand.

Having tea and discussions with the president gives students insight into the future. They can be anything, even the president of a university.


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