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Literature | What Students Are Saying


Fax: 202-885-2938
Battelle Tompkins, Room 237

Burgtorf, Michael R
Sr. Administrative Assistant

4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20016-8047
MA students: Morgan Stair, Steve Beaulieu, Kara Dimitriou, Claire Conklin, Liz Dawson, Helle Slutz

Here’s what some of our past and present students say about the Department of Literature programs:


“In many ways, I am who I am today because of the support and inspiration and continuing friendship of many creative writers and literature professors and colleagues I met at AU. I am tremendously grateful to American for enriching my life.”

—Amy Stolls, MFA creative writing ’00
Author and director of literature at the National Endowment for the Arts


100% of students in the program believe that the courses in literature have substantially helped in their gaining strong written communication skills.

“All my marketable skills, I learned through the literature major: being able to read and process quickly and thoroughly, being able to write quickly, comprehensively, and cogently, and just a general analytical eye. As a literature major I learned to express myself to a variety of audiences and across different mediums, and that’s been extremely important in the political field that I’m in.”

—Rachel Tardiff, BA ’11
Senior Director of Media Relations at FitzGibbon Media, a Communications Consulting Firm


“I initially chose to major in literature because I loved reading. And certainly, my lit classes gave me plenty of opportunities to do that. But my reasons for staying a lit major evolved. I discovered that my professors were going to push me to discover how to write clearly and powerfully. They were going to teach me to formulate ambitious arguments. And they were going to mentor me with compassion. These things mattered more and more to me as I as I began to think about the kind of person and professional I wanted to be and the kind of impact I wanted to have.”

—Sue Mendelsohn, BA ’96
Associate Director, Undergraduate Writing Program at Columbia University


"As a former literature major at American University, I can attest to the strength of its literary scholars, as well as the value of the degree overall. Professors in the Literature Department encourage the highest level of intellectual engagement with their subject matter, in an environment that is diverse and stimulating. When I was a student I had two internships, one at Conde Nast Traveler in their marketing/creative services department, and one at Hearst Corp, in Cosmopolitan's marketing department. After graduating from AU, I was able to secure an editorial job at Hearst, a major New York publishing company. My literary and editorial training at AU was no doubt highly influential in my success after graduation. Though most importantly of all, studying literature at AU helped me become an autonomous thinker."

—Christina Farella, BA ’11
Associate International Editions Editor, Hearst Corporation


“The AU lit program is the most challenging and rewarding community (and I mean community—the professors are brilliant, always willing to help, and dare I say, "cool") that I've ever been a part of. Within this community, there is a niche for everyone, whether it be medieval plague lit or the cinematic slum. Our professors value all varieties of cultural texts. We take this for granted, but it's a unique and important aspect of our program. Enrolling in AU's Literature Department was the best academic decision I've ever made and it makes me strive to learn more, not only to impress my professors, but because I care about what I’m learning and creating.”

—Julia Martins, BA ’15


"When I signed up for the literature major I could not have imagined a more embracing, diverse group of professors and students. The faculty's enthusiasm for building meaningful relationships with students has not only enhanced my passion for the subject, but also opened up opportunities for me to serve on departmental committees, work as a consultant at the Writing Center, conduct university-funded research projects, and experience archival work through the Folger Shakespeare Library's undergraduate program. The analytical reading and writing skills I have gained through literature courses make me a far more confident student and better communicator in all of my classes. My experience with the AU Literature Department has equipped me with the professional and time management skills necessary to balance school with part-time jobs and internships in the publishing industry, journalism, and residential education. "

—Madison Chapman, BA ’16


The standard of excellence upheld by the staff of Literature Department and their unflagging commitment to broadening and sharpening the analytic and writing skills of each and every student were invaluable to the quality of my education and AU experience. I found a home and safe space for intellectual growth within the department that I would never trade. The critical thinking and communication skills that I developed within the AU Literature Department have proven indispensable to my success as a post-grad. Whether I'm interviewing, working at national or international nonprofits, or navigating professional relationships, my experience as a student of literature gives me confidence in my unique capacity to work strategically.

—Claire Caldwell, BA ’12
Online Campaign Organizer for Reproductive Freedom at the ACLU


If you are an English major you will undoubtedly be asked, "what are you going to do with that, teach?" As if that is the only option you will have. I have nothing but respect for those who teach, but I can tell you that I am living proof that the education you will receive from the Department of Literature can actually unlock endless opportunities. My Literature degree has helped me grow in my career every day. Writing and communications skills are always in demand, especially in the social media and content-driven digital landscape we live in today. A degree in Literature teaches you how to hone your message and reach an audience with precision and discipline. From my own experience, I can tell you that the professors at American will invest in you as an individual, and work to help you grow. I could not have asked for a better experience.

-Ethan Garr, BA Literature 1997
Co-Inventor of RoboKiller, Winner of the FTC's Robocalls: Humanity Strikes Back Competition
Vice-President of Product, TelTech Systems
South Amboy, New Jersey 


"I didn't arrive at AU intending to be a Literature major, but I took a lit class during my freshman year and then I couldn't get enough. The classes exposed me to a wide range of texts, and they showed me new ways of reading that deepened my appreciation for the exciting things that literature can do. The professors made each class unique and exciting, and I really enjoyed being a part of the Literature department's community. Throughout my career, I've worked to share with my students the things I learned at AU: how to think creatively and critically about the ways literature can shape our experience of the world."

-Timothy D. Arner (BA, 2000)
Associate Professor of English
Grinnell College