Senior Profile: Jack Stutz

Jack Stutz InterviewJack Stutz won the Jack Godfrey Memorial Scholarship in 2020 and will be graduating in May 2020. He is on the creative writing track in the English major.

Why did you decide to become an English major?

I knew I could finish a chemical engineering degree and get a job and probably be good at it, but I would hate going to work every day. So I switched to the only other thing I’ve ever really been good at: telling stories.

Now I’m an English major on the creative writing track. I think changing majors was the best decision I could have made when it comes to my education and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What clubs, campus groups, internships and projects outside of class have you been involved with?

Oddly enough, my biggest internship has been a summer government program revolving around technology. Every summer, I work for the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) and I fix computers and telephones with the Network Operations and Communications department. Additionally, this semester I am an undergraduate teachers assistant with Sabrina Islam for her Engl 391 class. I find both to be rewarding experiences, even though neither directly tie to my major as I don’t plan on being either a teacher or a technician.

When it comes to clubs and such, I am not a member of any official groups. Occasionally, I will return to my old Boy Scout troop in White Oak and teach the boys different skills. I also play DnD on the weekends with friends when there isn’t a major pandemic going around. Finally, I have participated in a few experiments on campus, though nothing official. I help my science friends when they need a subject for a project they are working on is all.

What has been your favorite class in English?

It’s honestly hard to pick. The top choices are 301, 352 and 469 C because they are the classes I got the most out of, mostly due to the professors who taught them. Each of those classes broadened my interpretation of the world in ways I didn’t notice until after I finished the course.
301 taught me that the author of a work is just as important as the work itself and that English can be what I make it, not what someone else prescribes to me. 352 taught me that self-expression is, at its core, about taking risks and trying something even when you’re pretty sure it will fail. I got a scholarship out of trying something. And 469C taught me about poetry. Simple as that. As a prose fiction writer, I never really looked at poetry until that course and now my eyes are open to its potential.

What is something you read during class that impacted your worldview?

The most influential thing I’ve read has to be “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas. This piece opened me to the idea that my writing should be honest to me. I like to write about far off worlds with magic and monsters and heroes, but almost never include me. This poem taught me that beauty is in my honesty and people will remember an honest expression of self over a façade of ridiculous prose every time. Even when that honesty is embedded in a fantasy setting.

What skills have you gotten from the major?

I’m a better writer now than I was before this major. I have better communications skills and more connections with people who can help me once I’ve left UMD. I’ve learned different methods of reading and researching and how to construct an argument. I can write a speech or a journal article or a story.
There are many skills I have garnered from this major. The most important thing to me though is the making an argument bit. English has taught me that there can be many right answers and the only way to distinguish yours is to make the case that it’s the best right answer. To do that requires a strong argument. It’s the best way to be heard in a world cluttered by stupidity and half-truths, in my opinion.

What is your dream job or career?

My lofty goal is to be a fiction novelist. I have been working on a fantasy epic for almost a year now and still haven’t finished the first five chapters, but that’s neither here nor there. I want to be a writer of stories. I want people to read what I write and have it affect them. I want people to learn something from what I write. I want my stories to matter. Doesn’t really pay the bills, but I have job plans to cover those while I write my fiction.

What are you passionate about?

So many things. The most important thing to me is I want people to read what I write and take something away from it more than “it was good” or “it was bad.” I want to help people through my writing the way the stories I’ve read have helped me.

To you, what has been the most valuable part of the English major?

The most valuable part has been the discussion. In almost every English class I have ever taken, there has been a discussion of ideas. There has been debate over right and wrong, good and bad, and not just with whatever we are reading. I’ve talked about politics, race, gender, identity, bigotry, healthcare, militarism, colonialism, history, philosophy and everything in between. Being an English major hasn’t just taught me English, it has shown me lessons to be learned from everywhere in the humanities. It has shown me the true power of literature, of stories. I hope to be a part of that someday.