A conversation with Caroline Wagner, English alumna

Caroline Wagner

Caroline Wagner graduated in 2020, English major, current graduate student at George Washington University studying Public Health, works in PR.

What is your current job/title?

I am an Assistant Account Executive at a PR agency, Ketchum Inc, where I work as a communications contractor for a few agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Why did you choose to study English at Catholic U.?

When I started at Catholic, I was undecided. I took a variety of classes freshman year and even grappled with studying biology. My whole life I’ve been a big reader and English was always my favorite subject in school, but truthfully, I think I fed a little too much into the belief that English is a path only for those who want to teach. When I took my first required intro English class on a whim (with Dr. Okuma) second semester, I realized it was the first class that I had taken so far that I actually enjoyed and looked forward to going to. Within the first few weeks of starting that class, I declared my major as English.

Caroline with her three friends

What was your path from graduation to your current job like? What advice can you give senior majors and recent grads about life after graduation?

I have a background working within the public health field and as I was preparing to graduate, I knew I wanted to combine the writing skills I learned at Catholic with my interest in public health. I found that balance at my first job working as a Communications Coordinator for a nonprofit that serves as a one-stop-shop for those experiencing homelessness; however, working there led me to take more of an interest in policy and I began to look for jobs that combined writing, policy, and public health and found that at Ketchum! As for advice, I’d say don’t put too much pressure on yourself to graduate with a job or to find the perfect job – as you begin your career, your interest areas will change and what may have seemed like your perfect job at one point no longer is.

How has your English background served you professionally?

My English background serves me daily in a variety of ways. Working in communications, I’m constantly writing - both formally and informally - and Catholic’s English department prepped me for that. Additionally, I’d say that discussion classes also prepped me in a way I didn’t expect. I have many client calls, some that I have to speak at much more extensively than others, and discussion-based classes helped make me a more confident speaker and presenter.

What do you like the most about your job?

I’m lucky to have found a job that ties up many of my interests into one. As mentioned previously, I have a background in public health, communication work, and policy and all three of those elements are a part of my day-to-day job at Ketchum. Additionally, my client’s work is very fulfilling since it involves addressing health disparities. I love supporting them and working with them in their mission to advance health equity. 

Caroline out with a friend

What does a typical day at work look like for you?

Every day is different, which is both a blessing and a curse. Working in PR I have a lot of client calls throughout the day, but a lot of my work is dependent upon client needs. I manage social media for one of my clients, so I generally spend some of my day drafting posts, coordinating the creation of social graphics, and monitoring social media platforms. I also manage stakeholder work for a different client and often write speeches for presentations and put together PowerPoints. It can be very busy, but when you enjoy the work that you do it doesn’t always feel like work.

What did you learn as an English major at Catholic U. that has stayed with you?

I think the biggest thing for me is my love for reading. I graduated in 2020 during a pandemic, moved back home, and had no job opportunities in sight, so reading quickly became a sort of escapism for me. I’ll always be a reader and I’ll always have a solid foundational background in literature that makes me a more educated and observant person because of Catholic.

Do you have any advice for current English majors?

There are so many things you can do with an English degree! Catholic University’s English program does such a good job of prepping you for your future and I think my background as an English major has been the backbone to my career. The professors are supportive, the classes are designed to help you be a better communicator and writer, and the school ensures you’ll actually retain what you learned through the comprehensive exam (not fun to go through though!). Find your interest areas and see how you can make a career of it through your English degree.

Photo credits: Caroline Wagner