“Friday Five” is a weekly short interview feature composed of five questions answered by students, alumni, and faculty. This week, we talked to alumna Katie Amella, from the class of 2001.
Katie Amella graduated with a BA in English in 2001, and an MA in English in 2003. She is currently the Undergraduate and Graduate Program Coordinator for the Department of Philosophy at Stony Brook University, and a lecturer in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric.
Tell me about a skill you learned as an English major that has helped you out in the “real world.”
As an English major, I spent years carefully reading, studying, and writing about other people’s writing. That immersion in literature strengthened my writing and editing skills, and those skills have helped me to land jobs out in the “real world” on more than one occasion. My first full-time job after grad school was working as an Editorial Assistant for a biology journal – a job that I enjoyed, despite the inevitable culture shock I suffered upon realizing that spending one’s days reading manuscripts about genetics and bat flight mechanisms is a vastly different experience from reading Shakespeare and Irish poetry! Even in my current job as an administrator with the Philosophy Department here on campus, my writing and editing skills are put to good use every day, whether I’m writing letters for students or composing reports for my supervisors.
If you could give one piece of advice to current students, what would it be?
Don’t limit your education to what you are taught in the classroom. This is advice that I was given by a professor as an undergrad, and I’ve kept these words of wisdom in the back of my mind ever since. As students, we sometimes forget that we’re responsible for our own education. The knowledge that your teachers impart to you is only part – albeit a very significant part! – of the equation. What we learn in class should be a springboard for further exploration outside of class. For instance, say you take a class on Shakespeare’s history plays, and you find it very interesting and enjoyable. Once class ends, don’t end your study of Shakespeare! Explore the Bards’ tragedies and comedies! Keep learning!!
Which text do you suggest all students read before they graduate?
Hamlet. After all, Hamlet was a college student, was he not?
Which text was your favorite to read as a student? In which class did you read it?
James Joyce’s “The Dead,” from the short story collection Dubliners. I didn’t become acquainted with Joyce till college, but I took an Irish literature course as a sophomore in which we read Dubliners, and the melancholy beauty of “The Dead” really captivated me.
During your time at Stony Brook, who was your favorite professor and why?
I’m afraid I can’t limit my answer to only one professor, as so many had an impact on me during my time as a student at Stony Brook. Paul Dolan, now retired, was a brilliant professor with a mischievous sense of humor. The shear amount of knowledge floating around that man’s brain was remarkable! The late David Sheehan was a warm, gentle presence in the classroom, and he sparked my interest in Native American literature. Bente Videbaek and Clifford Huffman are both still teaching here at SBU and will forever be dear to me for all their advice and encouragement in guiding me through my Master’s Thesis. Professor Videbaek’s teaching is always infused with a playful sense of fun, and Professor Huffman introduced me to a wonderful world of Renaissance literature outside of the Shakespearean realm. And they are both two of the kindest, loveliest people I’ve had the privilege of working with at this university!