“Friday Five” is a weekly short interview feature composed of five questions answered by students, alumni, and faculty. This week, we talked to alumnus Jacob Stebel from the class of 2011.
Since graduating from Stony Brook Jacob has travelled cross-country, written two feature-length screenplays, written and performed audio sketches for the PB&J Comedy Podcast, and is in the planning stages of producing a children’s TV show. He currently attends Teachers College at Columbia University and is finishing up his final student-teaching placement at The Cinema School in the Bronx, where he teaches 11th graders Film Production, Screenwriting, and Literary/Film Theory.
Tell me about a skill you learned as an English major that has helped you out in the “real world.”
The most important skill I learned from being an English major is how to find, develop and maintain my own voice while writing for a specific audience. This is an invaluable ability to have in your personal and professional lives. As you enter or advance in the workforce, you will likely need to learn how to harness all of your communication skills, creativity and other strengths in order to both complete tasks and work well with others. We’ve all had the experience as English majors of learning that some of our professors react to our writing styles differently than others. By learning to adapt, while staying true to who we are as individuals, we become versatile, dexterous assets to any organization lucky enough to have us.
Which text was your favorite to read as an undergraduate? In which class did you read it?
It’s a toss-up between The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz (read in Emily Churilla’s EGL 373 – Non-Western Literature) and Dragon’s Egg by Robert L. Forward, which I read in Bente Videbaek’s not-to-be missed Literature of Science Fiction class (EGL 394)! The latter novel is one that I doubt I’d have come across on my own, and it’s a wonderfully dense and well-written exploration of an alien culture’s development. It’s “world-building” at its finest.
If you could give one piece of advice to current undergraduates, what would it be?
If you aren’t already doing so, treat your classes like they’re a job you need to prepare and be on time for. You, via your family/loans/life savings, are paying for an opportunity to interact with the brilliant students and faculty that Stony Brook has in abundance. Get to know these people as well as you know your assigned readings; the networking opportunities and friendships with professors and peers alike are invaluable.
Which text do you suggest all undergraduates read before they graduate?
Oh, jeez… that’s a tough one! I guess that if I had to pick one, I’d recommend a deep reading of James Joyce’s Dubliners. I often come back to several of the stories in that book and remain awed by how Joyce implicitly speaks to his fellow countrymen in an attempt to rally them away from despair and passive romanticism in favor of active, enthusiastic participation in the world as free people. So many of the themes in Dubliners are reflective of the experience of young adulthood in today’s America, and I think all undergraduates can learn much from this wonderful text.
English majors are known for writing a lot of papers. Tell me about the most memorable paper you wrote for an English course.
Joaquin Martinez Pizarro’s “Epic Literature of Antiquity” course (EGL 390) was among the most rigorous courses I’ve taken. After a brief period of being wildly intimidated by both the rigor of the class and Dr. Pizarro’s expertize, I found myself relishing the constant quizzing and pressure to contribute to class discussion. The most memorable paper I wrote during my undergraduate career is the one I wrote for his midterm assessment, in which I compared the evolution of the warrior-ruler between the Ancient Babylonian Epic of Bilgames/Gilgamesh and King David in Samuel I & II. The title is “From Warrior-Heroes to Rulers: A Comparative Study of The Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh and the Old Testament Story of King David” and I’m still very proud of it!