English Major

Why study English?

It is difficult to imagine a professional career that does not require top-notch communication skills in both writing and speaking. An English major ensures these skills and more; it instills in the learner a sense of oneself and of where and how one connects to the evolving culture that surrounds us all. The study of English is about history and direction of language itself, and the uses to which language may be put in a variety of social and career contexts. An English major enhances critical thinking capabilities and sharpens the ability to cut through the bunkum clogging up so much of the information we are bombarded with daily. It joins one to the best that has been thought and written through time.

At Upper Iowa a student has a choice between the traditional English major, with its emphasis on literature and culture, and a creative writing track which does more to explore the student’s own potential for contribution to poetry, fiction and criticism in the 21st century. The major is sanctioned by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs.

Emphasis areas

Traditional English

The traditional English emphasis focuses on literature and criticism with students reading, discussing and analyzing literature from many periods and genres. Students have ample opportunity to interact with faculty members about an area for specialization of their studies.  Professors also will bring their own specialty areas into the classroom. Some areas of interest include Irish studies, African-American literature, and adolescent literature.

Creative Writing

Students can opt for the creative writing track for the English major, combining creative writing curriculum with a foundation in literature coursework. Students work with faculty who are published authors, complete a craft and technique course, and participate in workshops. Completion of this option requires a thesis.

Students of creative writing gain knowledge in "Introduction to Creative Writing," "Craft and Technique of Creative Writing," and two of three advanced workshops (in fiction, poetry and non-fiction writing). A creative writing thesis rounds out the coursework. Students benefit from working closely with faculty who are published authors themselves, and have the chance to submit work for awards through the program's membership in the Associated Writing Programs. A creative writing group is active on campus.

Students may also attend workshops by invited authors and editors during International Authors Day and the Midwestern Literary Project held on campus each fall and spring, respectively. Students also have the opportunity to take part in a project-based learning experience writing, editing, publishing and publicizing the UIU literary journal, Volga River Review, featuring the poetry, fiction and non-fiction works of university students, faculty, staff and alumni.

English Secondary Education

This emphasis is a pre-professional program to prepare the student to teach English courses at the high school level. Preparation includes both literary review and criticism as well as writing skills. Students must also complete requirements in the Andres School of Education.


All English majors are grounded in classical British and American literature. From this background, they may venture into African American or young adult or film traditions; into Irish or Midwestern heritages, or into study of the voices seldom heard: the literature of disability, of the slave, of the dispossessed. Advanced workshops are offered in fiction writing, poetry, and creative non-fiction. As capstone, each English major prepares a creative or analytical thesis representing the student’s entry into the world of professional communication.

Career opportunities 

The beauty of an English degree is in its versatility. Currently, Upper Iowa English graduates occupy, or have recently occupied, the following professional positions across the country:

  • State Legislative Representative
  • College Wrestling Coach
  • High School English Teacher
  • Municipal Judge
  • Restaurant Kitchen Manager
  • Economic Development Officer
  • College English Professor
  • Chef
  • High School Baseball Coach
  • Newspaper Editor
  • ESL Instructor
  • Elementary School Teacher
  • Speech Language Pathologist


Over the last 35 years, 100 percent of English major graduates who applied to graduate school were admitted into their first- or second-choice graduate program.

English is offered at the following Upper Iowa University location:

  • Residential Fayette campus