Natalie Herman – Writer, Teacher, Human

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

Being an English major at MSU has always felt like the right path for me. I declared my major prior in my initial application to MSU and have not looked back since. I have always felt a deep connection to the study of English and wanted to continue to deepen and grow my knowledge throughout my time in college. During my time at MSU, I have been able to do just that! Overall, my time in the program has been enriching and exciting, and I cannot wait to apply what I have learned in the “real world!”

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

Many of my classes and instructors have stood out to me during my time in the program. I was lucky enough to take two classes with Dr. Lamar Johnson, and in these classes I was taught to look more critically at the world around me. While I am an English major, I am also studying to be an English teacher, so I found that Dr. Johnson’s classes helped me to look critically at the systems in place in our society, and how those seep into the classroom. I was also able to begin to look at literature and the classroom through a critical race perspective. In my senior year, I was able to build on this learning by taking three classes with Dr. Hui-Ling Malone. In these classes, I was able to develop my critical consciousness even more, and conceptualize what I want my future classroom to look like. Dr. Malone’s classes instilled a sense of knowledge and responsibility to my students in me. Beyond my English Education coursework, I was able to take two classes with Dr. Tamar Boyadjian during my time at MSU, where I was able to grow my critical analysis skills, while delving deeper into topics that were unfamiliar to me. Dr. Boyadjian’s classes created a clear link between literature and history, and this is something that I want to continue to highlight for my future students.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

My advice for future English or Film studies majors is to get to know your professors and the people in your classes. This group of people will become your support system throughout your four years, so it is vital that you begin to create these connections as early as possible. I recommend being as vulnerable as you possibly can be, so that you can create an atmosphere of trust and respect between you, your professors, and your peers.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? (capstone courses, honors thesis, independent studies, etc.)

My capstone course this year focused on teaching writing in the Secondary English classroom. I really have enjoyed this course, as we have gotten to explore many different genres of writing in general, as well as both researching and creating techniques to teach them in our future classrooms. We also are expected to submit one of our writing assignments for publication, which is something that I have never done before, so having that opportunity handed to me has been pretty exciting. I have been able to dip my toes into my different types of writing in this course, and in doing so, have learned more about myself as a writer, teacher, and human.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

Post-graduation, I plan to complete my student teaching year in the Lansing area. I am looking forward to being able to immerse myself in the classroom and am really hoping that there will be a return to in-person learning. I hope that my classroom can be a place where students feel safe enough to be vulnerable, their experiences in the world are accurately represented and appreciated, and radical love is centered. After completing my student teaching, I plan to apply to masters programs focusing on education and curriculum development. 

If you’re interested in doing so, please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during COVID. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

Being a graduating senior during COVID has definitely been an interesting experience. I did not expect to spend the last year of college, as well as part of my Junior year, learning in front of a computer screen. While it has been unexpected, I feel like I have learned a lot that I would not have otherwise, specifically the ability to adapt no matter the situation. I would have loved to have an in-person relationship with my professors and my peers this year, but I feel as if we are all still very close and able to learn from each other, while also leaning on each other for support in these difficult times. When it comes to resources that have been the most useful for me, I feel as if my professors being communicative and empathetic has been the best overall resource. It is nice to know that I have had a support system throughout this strange experience.