Twila Papay, professor of English
Interview by Emily Beardsley '10
In the Face of Adversity
Twila Papay was raised to believe that the only available careers for women were as nurses or secretaries. Persuaded by her parents’ stance, she could only imagine herself as a nurse—until she spent a day observing the harsh conditions of the hospital. Encouraged by a Latin teacher in her high school, she discovered how to translate her passion for teaching and literature into a career. For Papay, teaching is meaningful for its opportunity to “give students power and a voice.” Despite her happiness in the job, even decades later her parents remained convinced that she would return to nursing.
In writing the college essay, it’s important to imagine your tired and overwhelmed reader. If the committee isn’t intrigued by the first paragraph, they “certainly won’t finish reading.” Since the entrance essay is “the only thing that separates you from other candidates,” originality and uniqueness are key in engaging these overworked readers with their stacks of applications.
Your school has a career center for a reason. Use it. Papay stressed the importance of exploiting all resources available to students, including professors, workshops, web portals to internships, and professional staff who can offer advice and even vet resumes. Networking is also vital to strengthening your application. Talking to professors or recent graduates can open doors to professional possibilities you may not have considered. In this vein, Papay advised envisioning oneself in different roles or careers, and doing so realistically.
For available jobs for English majors, Papay suggested the following book as a great resource:
Eberts, Marjorie. Careers for bookworms & other literary types. Chicago: VGM Career Books, 2003. Print.