Senior Profile: Dylan Orr

dylan orrEnglish major Dylan Orr is on the Language, Writing, and Rhetoric track with minors in Sustainability Studies and Creative Writing.

Why did you decide to become an English major? 

Reading and writing have been favorite pastimes for as long as I can remember. I had my sights set on medical school when I came to college, but after toying with the idea of getting a Biology degree for two semesters, I realized that wasn't a path I could see myself sticking with. At the end of freshman year, I met with a number of my professors, advisors, and high school teachers, and they all more or less said the same thing: "You love reading. You're a strong writer. Why aren't you an English major yet?" Declaring English was the natural choice for me.

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

I was a part of the Honors Humanities program from fall 2017 to spring 2019. I have tutored in the Writing Center since fall 2018. This semester I was part of the editing team for The Paper Shell Review.

What has been your favorite class in English and why?

I don't know that I can pick an all-time favorite, but my favorite this semester was ENGL428I:The Rhetoric of Us and Them: The Language of Political Alignment with Dr. Linda Coleman. Although I'm on the Language, Writing, and Rhetoric track, this was the first course I've taken that was specifically devoted to rhetorical analysis. Going into the course, I thought it would be squarely focused on United States party politics, but to my pleasant surprise, the readings covered issues of othering from anti-semitism in Austria to Islamaphobia here in America. The peer-led discussions in 428I were some of the best I have participated in.

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

I'd say that virtually all the texts I read last semester for ENGL470: African-American Literature, The Beginning to 1910 with Chad Infante, especially Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, were highly influential. Slavery and its legacy are parts of United States history that have never fully been acknowleged by insitutions like the American government or secondary school system. Reading narratives written by the victims of that history forced me to question social, political, and economic realities I'd always taken for granted.

What is your dream job or career? 

I've been asking myself that same question for years and still haven't found a satisfactory response. I think I'll gravitate toward editing after graduation, but whatever career I pursue long-term I want to have far-reaching impact. Human beings have some colossal challenges to overcome sooner rather than later, and I believe my duty as a global citizen is to be part of the solution to them. 

What are you passionate about (or even curious about)? 

I'm fascinated by the rhetoric, legislation, and enforcement practices pertaining to drugs in the United States. The thesis I've just begun for the English Honors program will investigate how drug education textbooks differently portray the effects and risks of alcohol compared to those of other recreational drugs on a rhetorical level. Why do we distinguish between being "drunk" and "high," or between "alcoholics" and "addicts"? The ideologies underpinning drug education are so deeply ingrained that we rarely question seemingly innocuous distinctions such as those, but they have very real consequences for public health.

To you, what has been the most valuable part of the English major?/ What skills (professional, creative or other) do you think you’ve gotten from the major?

Liberal arts majors get a bad rap. When people find out I'm an English major, more often than not, they follow up by asking in a slightly condescending tone what it is I plan to do with my degree. I think many people have unclear or mistaken conceptions about English coursework. They don't realize that English majors can find jobs in a range of fields because they develop a variety of widely applicable skills. For me, the most valuable part of the English major has been the holistic approach to education. I've learned how to argue my own case, but also been challenged to consider perspectives other than my own. I've learned to analyze what others say, from parsing individual sentences to evaluating the legitimacy of overarching claims. I feel equally confident expressing my ideas through essays as I do verbally presenting them. In a world facing complex problems, I think there's a lot to be said for generalists. The world could use more English majors.