Alumni Profile: Brad Petersen, Director of Communications for LAS

As part of a series of alumni career profiles, Krystyna Serhijchuk, an English major and department intern, interviewed Brad Petersen, Director of Communications and Marketing at the College of LAS, who obtained his BA in English at Illinois in 1998.

What does your position as Director of Communications and Marketing at LAS entail?

One of the aspects of my position I enjoy most is that it has many different components. My day can involve anything from working with the media on a story, preparing a speech for our dean, promoting an alumni event, working with my team on our magazine or newsletters, or assisting with student recruitment work.

LAS is a huge college, so I have the opportunity to work with faculty and staff from units as diverse as Chemistry and Slavic Studies. It’s really a joy to have so much variety in my day.

I can most succinctly sum up my job as being responsible for communicating about our college to prospective students, current students, faculty and staff, and alumni.

What do you enjoy about it?

I enjoy the variety my job brings and the chance to work with so many people who are doing diverse and interesting work. For all of the challenges that come with working at a college and institution of our size, I’m grateful to spend my time at a place where so many incredible things are happening. It would be easy to take for granted what an amazing, world-class university Illinois is. I’m very mindful of the excellence we have here and the impact the university has on our state and beyond. I consider it a privilege to work here.

How did getting your BA in English at Illinois prepare you for your current career field?

My job is ultimately all about critical thinking, problem solving, planning, communicating, and working with others. These skills are at the core of a Liberal Arts education. My degree in English gave me a great foundation for analyzing and understanding information and communicating, especially in writing. It also gave me some serious time-management skills, skills I use every day.

What about Illinois’ English Department did you value as an undergrad?

I think of my time as an English student as a fantastic voyage. I fondly remember the time I spent with Shakespeare, giants of American literature, and Charles Dickens. I enjoyed the opportunity to closely examine some great writers and their works. I also appreciate the interesting, thoughtful conversations I experienced in class, and—believe it or not—the countless writing assignments that helped me hone my skills.

Why would you recommend the Illinois English program to prospective students?

The English and Creative Writing majors provide an excellent foundation for many careers, especially in marketing and communications. When we hire people to work in our office, we’re looking for folks who have the skills you get through one of these degrees. Contrary to what people may say, English and Creative Writing majors are in demand. For marketing and communications, the ability to develop engaging content is more important now than ever. And, strong communications skills will always be valuable.

What would you say to people who think English degrees are “useless”?

I’d say “who told you that and what rock have they been living under?” The demand for students with a Liberal Arts foundation is high. Thanks in large part to the outstanding resources in the English Department, English graduates are moving quickly into the next phase of their training or careers. The Illini Success survey shows that 90% of the department’s graduates found a first destination, meaning a job, graduate school, or service opportunity. A degree from the English Department is an excellent idea for anyone with the aptitude and passion to pursue it.

What sorts of outside experiences did you pursue as a student that helped you learn how to apply the skills you were learning in class in the “real world”?

I had an internship during the majority of my junior and senior years, and it was a critically important experience for me. It allowed me to supplement my classroom experiences with real-world work in a marketing office. I would definitely recommend that students try to find some type of opportunity outside the classroom that gives them some combination of leadership and practical experiences. This could be in an RSO, an internship, research, or any number of other areas. These extracurricular experiences also help you develop your network. In my case, I ended up working at the company I interned for after college. That doesn’t always happen, but I made some great connections through that internship that I still value today, 20 years later.

Beyond the English Building: Minors & Certificates

A degree in English or Creative Writing means flexibility, good communications skills, and, therefore, the ability to excel in many career paths. While these majors offer many options for post-grad life, adding a minor or certificate program that interests you could expand your options even farther

The English department recently invited multiple faculty members from departments across campus to speak about the minor and certificate programs they offer and how these could pair well with a degree in English or Creative Writing. Find the programs, their contacts, and their websites for more information, detailed below.

Informatics Minor, Department of Informatics

As described on their website, “Informatics studies the design, application, use, and impact of information technology.”

The minor consists of 6 classes, which includes 3 core classes and 3 upper-level electives, which can be chosen from 160 options.

There are also specific tracks that students can decide to follow, if they so choose, but this is not required. Some of the popular tracks are Business, Geography Information Systems, Web Design, and Bio Informatics.

With the 373 minors, Informatics the third largest minor on campus.

At the event, Prof. Karin Readel, Senior Coordinator for Informatics Education Programs, said that the minor is, “a way to stand out from the crowd no matter what your major is” and that this minor in particular is “highly customizable.”

You can schedule an appointment with an advisor here or you can reach out to Prof.  Readel at this email:


Bio-Humanities Certificate, Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities

 Prof. Antoinette Burton, director of Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, called this certificate a “combination of life sciences and humanistic approaches” and “the new frontier of cross-discipline studies,” so it is perfect if you’re an English department student who is also interested in seeing how what you’re learning in our department also connects to other topics in the STEM field. As certificate’s webpage says, “These courses will give students the opportunity to develop interdisciplinary thinking about the ways in which science, culture, and politics shape one another.”

This certificate is also flexible—it only requires 12 hours and has no required courses. Instead, students pick from a list of approved courses to tailor their experience to their specific interests.

If you’re wanting to learn more, you can email Prof. Burton at or read the webpage about the certificate.


Criminology, Law, & Society Minor and Certificate, Department of Sociology

 This field of study actually offers both a minor and a certificate. The minor requires 18 hours of courses, while the certificate requires 12. There are 3 required courses and the rest of the courses can be chosen from a list of pre-approved courses.

Prof. Jane VanHeuvelen, a lecturer in the Department of Sociology, said that this course of study focuses on the theoretical and practical issues regarding law and crime in society. She also emphasized that these courses use social science research methods to look at ideas such as using numbers to answer questions we may have about society.

Both Prof. VanHeuvelen and the minor’s webpage noted that this minor can be used as a foundation for law school, but is definitely open for students who do not intend to pursue law school.

If you are looking for more information, you can visit the minor’s webpage or email Prof. VanHeuvelen at


Minor in Global Markets and Society, Center for Global Studies

 This minor is newer than some of the others—it is currently in its second year and has almost 100 students in its program.

Prof. Timothy Wedig, Associate Director of the Center for Global Studies, said that students in the English department “should see [themselves] as a collection of really really marketable skills” and that this minor helps amplify those skills. He also emphasized students “don’t need business courses to be successful in business.”

Instead, you can use this minor to focus on critical thinking, analysis, and communication skills that will help you be successful in the business world.

This minor requires 18 hours of courses, 6 of which need to be at an advanced level (300 or 400 level). After these 18 hours, students pick a specialization track, which requires 9 more hours of coursework. The specialization track options include: Global Markets and Governance; Science, Technology, and Markets; and Analytical Approaches and Languages, among others.

At the end of this coursework, students then have an option to complete a capstone project through an internship, research with a faculty member, or an analytical or research paper written under faculty guidance.

For more information, visit the minor’s webpage or email Prof. Wedig at or email the global studies office at


Minor in Leadership Studies, College of ACES

Prof. Lisa Burgoon, who is the director of the minor and teaches the introductory course, said that this minor is helpful in any career field, which makes sense because most people will find themselves in a leadership role at some point in their career, and being an effective leader can make a huge impact on companies and organization’s overall performance and success.

This minor requires 17-18 hours of coursework, including 9 foundational hours from required courses, 5-6 hours of elective courses, and a 3 hour, upper-level capstone course.

This minor currently has about 275 students.

There are 26 electives to choose from and Lisa Burgoon listed these as possibly being of particular interest for English majors: AGCM 430, Communication in Environmental Social Movements; AGED 230, Leadership Communications; CMN 321, Strategies of Persuasion; JOUR 250, Journalism Ethics and Diversity; and SE 361 Emotional Intelligence Skills.

There is also a service component to the capstone course, where students are asked to pitch ideas on how to solve a community problem and then form teams to follow through on their plans. The world flags that fill the SDRP’s main, entry-level area are a result of one group’s effort to make the space more inclusive. You can read more about their efforts and their partnership with University Housing here.

For more information, visit the minor’s webpage or email Prof. Burgoon at



Geographic Information Systems Certificate and Minor, Department of Geography

This certificate program is in its first year. The certificate and minor focus on geohumanities, which considers how place matters to humans, and how to use technology to visualize humanities, both through text and through visuals, to tell a story.

The certificate requires 4 courses, with two required courses and two additional that can be chosen from a list of electives.

The minor can be built on the certificate if a student pursuing the certificate finds they want to further study in the field. To earn the minor, a student must complete 18 hours of coursework, choosing classes from specific subsets of the field. These choices allow for flexibility so that the student can tailor the program to their specific interests.

Prof. Julie Cidell, who has taught some of the required courses, talked about one project that focused on mapping written works and authors so that interested users can use the map to search either by location, seeing where written works were published or written, or by author, looking at how their location of where they wrote their texts and where the texts takes place changes over time.

For more information, visit the minor’s webpage or the certificate’s webpage, email an advisor at, or email Prof. Cidell at


Sales Certificate, College of Media 

Prof. Dionne Clifton, who lectures in advertising through College of Media, described this certificate as a “bridge to your professional life.” She said that the courses in this program read a lot of case studies that detail real world problems that businesses face so that students can discuss how to effectively solve them.

The certificate requires 5 courses, which can be taken in any order and have no pre-requisites. Below is a list and short descriptions of the required courses.

  • MDIA 270—Introduction to Media Sales, focuses on theory and marketing
  • MDIA 320—Sales Management, online & 8 weeks long, focuses on theory and problem-solving
  • MDIA 370—Advanced Media Sales, online & 8 weeks long, asks how consumers derive value from products
  • BTW 271—Persuasive Writing, focusing on principles of persuasion
  • ADV 490—Internship Capstone, focusing on applied learning experience

For more information, visit the minor’s webpage or contact Prof. Clifton at

by Hannah Downing, Media Communications Intern, Department of English


Alumni Profile: Heather Gernenz, Publicity Manager at the University of Illinois Press

We talked to Heather Gernez, Publicity Manager at the University of Illinois Press, about her experience of working at a press and the challenges she faced before starting her career as Publicity Manager. We also asked her for some suggestions for our undergraduates who want to pursue a career in the field Heather is now. This is what she said:

What is your current job? What challenges did you face to get there?

I’m currently the publicity manager at the University of Illinois Press. My primary responsibilities include sending books out to reviewers, setting up interviews and events for authors, and managing the press’s social media accounts.

I first started working for the press as student worker in the marketing department in my junior year of college. I had been working at Barnes and Noble as a bookseller since high school and knew I wanted to pursue a career in publishing. After college, I continued working at Barnes and Noble, and also began working at the UIUC library in Collection Management Services as an academic hourly. I applied to so many jobs in publishing during this time, mainly editorial positions, which is what I thought I wanted to pursue, but never had any luck. Looking back now, I think if I had been applying to jobs in publicity I would have been a lot more successful based on my previous experience. The work I did for my predecessor during my time as a student worker at UIP was definitely my favorite, but somehow I never made the connection that I should pursue publicity work! I did actually interview for an assistant acquisition editor position at the press, but didn’t end up getting it. A fact I am grateful for now, as I know it’s not the right type of work for me.

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Internships at ATLAS

Recently we had the chance to talk to some staff and interns of ATLAS about internships. The conversation provided us with valuable information about internship opportunities at ATLAS, application procedure, the possibility of continuing internships for more than one semester, and the prospect of transition from unpaid internships to paid positions.

How do you invite internship applications? Do you advertise them or do you accept applications throughout the year?

We invite applications year round, as we constantly have new positions coming in, and have started interns at mid-semester in the past. We also do specific calls for applications if we have a position that needs filled and we don’t have applicants that fit that position.

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