Arts & Humanities
Bachelor of Arts in English Literature
Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Language
Director of business development
Jessica Baldacchino is the director of business development at a print management company in Chicago. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature and Spanish language from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, along with a certificate in integrated liberal studies. Baldacchino’s career goals include continuing to develop sales and operations experience in her current line of work.
What drew you to the English literature major?
Honestly, I took so many lit classes because I enjoyed them that I accumulated a lot of credits in that area. I figured, “I should just get a major in this.” When you like to read, you’re automatically drawn to it.
I see that you also earned a degree in Spanish Language. How did your English literature major complement this degree?
Both of them were language-based. Having both demonstrates that I’m articulate.
What was the most enjoyable part of majoring in English literature?
The exposure to the stories and writing styles.
What was the most difficult part about your major?
Reading three novels a week and pushing out three full essays as well. We would need to include detailed examples from the books, cultural elements, and symbolic elements. Instructors would tell us, “Here’s a list of 10 topics to write on — pick one to write on.” Organizing multiple books in order to write essays could be difficult. How awful would it be if you’re writing an essay for one and using the name of the protagonist from the other? So keeping track of everything and staying organized.
What skills and knowledge did you learn in English literature that you apply in your career and daily life?
A couple of things. One is identifying a theme and knowing how it carries through. I’m in the business world now, so identifying themes and consistent elements, then seeing how they link together and corroborate when talking with different decision-makers becomes important. The writing ability and ways to organize sentences is another skill. To use good grammar when you’re sending emails, to spell things correctly — I think that really helps you in a professional environment.
How has your English literature major benefited you?
I think that it exposed me to a lot of cultures and ways of thought that would have taken me a lot more years to encounter. The stories that you read are very rich, and you run into things you wouldn’t in another field. If you just study science, you learn only about scientific principles. But when you study English literature, you’re exposed to how science plays a role in culture and literature, and how people have perceived the world over time. It’s made me more well-traveled without having to travel.
What would you say to students who are considering pursuing a degree in English literature?
I would say having an end game — something that they want to use it with — would be a wise thing. I think when you have an English literature major, or any time you do a liberal arts BA, it can be a little challenging. It can be hard to find a job that specifically calls for English literature. It would be good to get a teaching certificate alongside it or maybe take English literature alongside business classes or something else to make themselves more competitive. With just an English lit major, sometimes you go to someone that’s hiring and they don’t necessarily understand what the value of that is.
On a tangent, if I had to improve something with English lit classes, I would suggest they include business writing in addition to academic writing. I can write very beautiful flowery sentences with lots of exquisite details, but in business I want to be concise. The writing styles studied by English lit majors aren’t the same styles used in the business world. You have to learn to write in a very direct, concise manner.