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The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

An English Major’s Obligation and Role in Translating Education Research: The 2024 Cogan Alumni Fellowship


Dickinson alums Christopher Eiswerth ’08 and Katie Jarman ’16 spoke to English majors about their post-Dickinson careers last week during the 25th annual Cogan Alumni Fellowship. 


The event was organized by Assistant Professor of English Sarah Kersh, English department coordinator Kelly Winters-Fazio, liaisons Michaela Cosart ’25 and Julia Kelly ’24, and the English Majors Committee. 


Professor Kersh spoke about the goal of the Cogan Alumni Event: to bring alums and students together in order to demystify life after college. This year the event also celebrated Professor Wendy Moffat, who is retiring at the end of this semester. Professor Moffat spoke about Eleanor Cogan’s legacy and generosity; of the fifty-two classes Eleanor audited at Dickinson, thirty two of them were with the English department. 


When Cogan stopped attending classes in 1999 at 97 years old, it was only because she couldn’t hear well enough to continue being in the classroom. When she heard that the Cogan Fellowship was being created in her honor, she offered to fund the program. She was the original judge of the Literary Dessert Contest held at every Cogan Fellowship.


After Professors Kersh and Moffat’s introduction, the student liaisons introduced this year’s Cogan speakers.


Eiswerth is currently an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, and Jarman is now a research associate at Higher Ed Insight. Although Chris and Katie have very different careers, they both spoke about their passion for social justice that led them to following their current career paths. Because of their English majors, they both feel that they are able to translate the language of their fields into practices that are accessible to the greater public. 


Chris spoke about the three lessons he took away from his time as Dickinson as an English major, all of which he continues to apply today, mostly relating to the ways that being an English major makes it easier for him to link law to the broader human experience. 


The first is that you cannot ignore the hard questions. He spoke about realizing in his First-Year Seminar—with Professor Moffat—that any form of success comes from someone asking you the hard questions. Eiswerth entered his time at Dickinson intending to pursue Political Science, but ended up majoring in English. 


The second is that you have to meet people where they are at. Eiswerth spoke about his experience as a tutor in the Writing Center. Those critical thinking and reading skills are still applicable today; beyond that, the effective communication and ability to meet people where they are at are some of the most invaluable things he puts into action as an attorney. It helps him understand and translate a client’s issues into something a judge cares about. Eiswerth touched on this and the importance of empathy, saying that reading makes a broader understanding of the human experience. 


The third lesson is that you must be skeptical, which he related this to his relationship with former Professor of Political Science Stephanie Larson. When studying literature, he said, you learn to distrust the narrator; in other words, people are biased. “It’s important to be skeptical of your own judgements, and to be willing to review your views when you get new facts,” said Eiswerth.


Both alums spoke about the importance of empathic reading in their careers. Katie Jarman entered Dickinson with a plan. During her talk, she said that plans might as well be mythical. 


Because of her brothers’ autism diagnoses and her parent’s relentless pursuit of opportunities for them, Jarman grew up with an example of stellar educational opportunities that she wanted to contribute to as a career. In her first year at college, Jarman encountered medical difficulties that derailed her plan entirely, despite attempts to get back on track. During her last semesters at Dickinson, she ended up falling in love with the research process, and encountering opportunities like the Pennsylvania College Advising Corp that allowed her to interact with the education system. 


With her passion for social justice, Jarman’s goal has been to be an advocate for students that are victims of the failures of the educational system. Using her background as an English major, Eiswerth is able to translate statistics into a format that people can make sense of and utilize. She spoke about how important it is to marry both your passions and your skills — that it’s okay to be stubborn and create your own path when the opportunities available to you aren’t in line with those things. 


During the Q&A, Eiswerth and Jarman both spoke about the gravity of the skills that are learned in liberal arts colleges. The ability to master language and think critically is not only a universal skill but it is one that is encouraged at Dickinson. They each mentioned the way that reading with empathy allows them to connect with the people that they are trying to help, and reading critically allows them to construct language in a way that helps advance their causes. 


Following the Cogan talks, there was a reception where the Literary Dessert Contest was held. The winner of the contest was “A Portrait of a Lady Finger”; second place went to “Mrs. Dalloway’s Flowers”, and third place was “Elizabeth Barrett Brownies.” 

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