A conversation with Veronica McGraw, English alumna

Veronica McGraw Photo

Veronica McGraw graduated in 2019 with a BA in Music and English. Outside of class, she spent three years as president of CUA Swing Kids, the swing dance club. She greatly enjoyed her time at Catholic U, particularly in the English Department, and her favorite view on campus is at night, looking into the back of the library when the stacks are lit up. Her literary loves include all things Jane Austen and her favorite literary couple is Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe.

What is your current job/title?

Veronica McGraw
I work as a Digital Media Specialist for Good Shepherd Catholic Church in the Diocese of Arlington. So I design their website and graphics, take photos, edit videos, update their app, and run their social media accounts.

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

My primary major was a BA in Music but, in order to study it, my parents made me agree to do a double major. My freshman year, I was deciding between theology, history, or English - basically the three other subjects I loved the most. Theology, I decided I could study for the rest of my life and I thought I could learn history while studying English, so that's what I landed on. It was most definitely the right choice! By the end of my junior year, I was mostly done with my music classes so the English department became the community I was closest to during my time at Catholic U. 

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 and the job market?

My first job just fell into my lap, to be honest. It was at my home parish and my pastor offered it to me before I graduated. But, when I started full-time after graduation, I discovered I didn't quite have enough work to keep me busy. After a summer spent binging the West Wing, I took it upon myself to learn how to use WordPress, design a new website for them, and set up social media accounts and a YouTube channel. During the pandemic, my brother, one of the priests, and I made a YouTube series based on the book Drinking with the Saints. The first episode, the pastor was chagrined to announce, had more views than our recorded Mass from that Sunday - so that was a brush of almost Catholic fame. I have been very lucky because interviewing with Good Shepherd is (so far) my first and only experience interviewing for a job post-college. While I don't think I can give a lot of advice about job hunting, I think my best advice would be to just be willing to learn things. Practically everything I do in my job is self-taught. I googled, watched tutorials, and called upon friends to teach me. (Side note, I almost had a breakdown when I published my first website and then realized that it isn't automatically added to google! Like, who knew?) I'm not an expert at anything, but I am good at my job, and anything I don't know, my coworkers can rely on me to learn. 

How has your English background served you professionally?

A book display in Mallory's library

My boss thinks I know how to use commas properly because I'm an English major. I just haven't had the heart to tell her I actually don't know how to use commas properly and that my English degree is literature based. On a serious note, my English degree serves me well and, even if I wasn't "using" it in my day-to-day life (like my music degree), I wouldn't regret it for a second because it was the most wonderful learning experience. Thankfully, I do use it on a daily basis. My job is all the media work that I've mentioned above, but the purpose of it all is to evangelize and help people get to Heaven, which is something I care about deeply and take very seriously. I am not a missionary type person by any means, but having a well-organized website where it's really easy to find the Mass times; social media captions that frequently include quotes from Saints, Encyclicals, and papal letters; lots of prayer resources in our app; or Instagram reels highlighting the beauty of the Faith are all forms of Evangelization to me. So much of the work that I do feels like second nature because of the writing and research skills that I cultivated as an English major.

What do you like the most about your job?

I love how much creativity my job requires, that it’s always changing based on the liturgical season, and that I get to spend a lot of time working on things that I love! I get to decide what to work on based on what I think would help me (and others) grow in faith. Our parish app has become one of my favorite things because I’ve worked hard to make it a wonderful resource for prayer and I see that people are using it every day! For Lent, I created a whole folder of videos, podcasts, prayers, and websites to help people have a really prayerful and successful season. I also decided one day that it would be really cool to make Instagram reels so I spent the day making one about the Eucharist and it ended up being viewed 4,000 times! I don’t always know how my work is affecting others and whether it’s successful, but if one person comes to church because of it or learns something new about the Faith, then I feel like I’ve done my job. 

What did you learn as an English major at Catholic U. that has continued to serve you well?

I think I learned a desire for deep knowledge. My critical reading, writing, and thinking skills all stem from my desire to truly understand and know about the subject I am learning about and it was all fostered by the professors in the English department. What has not stayed with me though...scansion.  

Do you have any advice for current English majors?

Mallory's book of poetry, Pelican
I think my best advice would be to enjoy your time at Catholic U and the English department as much as you can! I can assure you that living a life with no homework is a very freeing experience, but I do really miss the experience of learning and thinking deeply in my English classes. The friendships I have with my fellow English majors and professors are some that I hold very dear. I would also say that literature will bring you joy your whole life, so hold onto it! I love the Jane Austen niches I find on Instagram, trading books with my best friend, decorating my house with books, or organizing trips around seeing literary destinations (peep the grave outside the walls of Rome that I was more excited about than the Vatican). Your life can always feel full when you have books around you - literally and figuratively, as I am constantly running out of bookshelf space!

Photo credits: Veronica McGraw