Ambassador Emphasizes Value of English Degree

Friday, March 31, 2017
by Sarah Darwiche, Digital Media Intern

Fast forward to young adulthood, where Ward is a junior majoring in English at Duke and one of only three “Ambassadors” for the Duke Department of English.  Along with the other two ambassadors—Elizabeth George (T’17) and Alexandra Bratton (T’17)Ward plays a critical role promoting and contributing to the Department of English’s work.

Ward’s physical presence this year alone in the Department is contagious:  reading for Department marathons of Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, as well as distributing literature-themed Valentines outside the Bryan Center in February. Ward values these events as a time for students, professors, and members of the larger Duke community to come together outside the classroom as part of a living and ever-breathing literary community.

Ward also speaks with prospective and new majors and minors about the value of a Duke English Degree, at events that range from Blue Devil Days to student discussion panels for newly declared majors.   

At these events, Ward attempts to put the intangible components of the degree into words, laying out its deeper and more strongly- rooted benefits.  

“The English degree teaches you to be very detail-oriented, to be very observant, and to carefully analyze texts in ways that allow you to form your own argumentsand to read the spaces around you, and understand what’s going on in them in a really powerful way.”  

As many young students and their families are teething through worries about the future, Ward hopes to assuage these worries. She emphasizes the value of an English degree within the professional world, without forcing the degree to function as only a professional tool.  

“People presuppose that there’s this triviality to English, and they presuppose that this triviality is ultimately negative,” Ward says. “But I think there’s something beautiful about being able to study these texts even though people do think it’s trivial because it teaches you how to think in a really valuable way, and that thinking ability is translate-able to any profession.”

Indeed, Ward can leverage her own story. As a student focused on “outsider” stories in literature, politics, and socio-cultural contexts, the Duke junior has plans to pursue a profession in migration and immigration policy.    

“I am personally interested in pursuing law school. So for me I know that it’s important that I can think in a really critical way, and through the balance of critical and uncritical that I have found through my English study at Duke, I feel like that’s a powerful skill I have developed.”

The end of this year marks the end of Ward’s second year as an Ambassador with the Duke Department of English. The English Ambassadors next event is “Pizza & Panel,” an all student event for both current and new majors on Monday, April 3, from 6-7:30 PM in Allen 314. Ward will be there, eager to share her enthusiasm for English with her peers.