Alumni Profile: Eli Chen, NPR Science Reporter

If you missed last week’s outstanding Alumni Career Panel or just want to hear more from English and Creative Writing alumni, you’re in luck!

As the first in a series of Eli Chencareer profiles featuring recent English and CW alumni, Eli Chen (Creative Writing, 2011) talked with us about her work as a science reporter for NPR member station WDDE. Our graduate assistant, Valerie O’Brien, chatted with Eli last week about her work as a reporter and her experiences as a UIUC undergrad.


VO:  What did you major in at U of I, and what year did you graduate?

Eli:  ‪I double majored in Creative Writing and Earth Systems, Environment and Society. I was initially supposed to graduate in 2012, but ended up being 2011. Saving on one year helped with having enough to attend graduate school the following year.

VO:  ‪What graduate degree did you pursue? Continue reading

Alternative Paths to a Job in the Classroom: Why and Why Not?



If you chose NOT to major in Teaching of English, and you’re now second-guessing that decision as graduation looms, several organizations can give you another path to a teaching job: an intensive summer-long training, followed by placement in a school for the fall. There is a competitive and lengthy application process for these programs.

Teach for America is advertising its Oct. 30 application deadline in signs around the English building, and the local chapter is holding recruiting events this fall.

The Indianapolis Teaching Fellows Program just emailed us to encourage us to tell students about their Nov. 9 deadline.

City Year Chicago, associated with Americorps, does not recruit as aggressively as TFA, but it’s a similar program with a Nov. 15 deadline.

Programs like these are controversial.  Detractors say that the quick training they offer cannot adequately take the place of standard credentialing and that placing under-trained teachers in classrooms further undermines the low-income schools and communities such programs are meant to serve. Supporters say that these programs serve a real need in bringing excellent teachers to the schools that need them.

Before you commit your time and energy to the application process, research the particular program that interests you and know both sides of the debate. As you should in any job search, use, LinkedIn, and your own network to learn as much as you can about the organization.  Talk to classroom teachers and find out what they think.

Assess yourself, as well.  Teaching can be rewarding, but it is also grueling and all-consuming.  If your long-term plans don’t include working in the education field (that is, if you’re only considering these programs because you don’t have many other ideas), there are easier ways to earn an income while figuring out what you want to do next.  Make an appointment with Kirstin Wilcox, Director of Internships, at 333-4346 to discuss your options.

Things We Learned at Last Night’s Alumni Career Panel

  • “If you can look someone in the eye and say, ‘I’m good at marketing,’ and they believe you, then you’re not lying.”
  • “You will fail at things. It’s okay.”
  • “Don’t worry about the job title–read the job description and qualifications.  You’ll be surprised by what you’re qualified to do.”
  • “English is pretty much always a ‘related major.'”
  • “If you’re only motivated by money, you won’t be happy no matter how much money you make.”
  • “Get involved.”

Thanks to everyone who came out to hear our awesome alumni talk about their experiences!  All the panelists are participants in our alumni mentoring network, so you can contact them directly if you’re interested in learning more from them.

Haven’t yet joined the alumni mentoring network?  Call 333-4346 and make an appointment with Kirstin Wilcox to get signed up.

If You’re Not on I-Link, You Should Be!

I-Link, not to be confused with LinkedIn, is the University of Illinois’s job database, managed by our own Career Center.  You should know about it because many opportunities for U. of I students (like these upcoming on-campus interviews with the PR firm MARC USA) are ONLY posted there.  If you’re not logged into I-Link when you click on a link to it, you will not be able to see it.

You can log onto I-Link with your NetID and password.  The first time you log on, you will have some questions to answer, but once you’ve answered them, you won’t have to again.  You have the option of uploading a resume and more detailed information, but it’s probably a good idea to hold off on doing that until you know you’re applying for a job that will require it.

Once on I-Link you can find lots of things, but you have to know how to look. Scrolling through the list of jobs is NOT the way to do it!  Using the “Advanced Search” bar to locate entry-level jobs or internships in particular fields that interest you is much more effective. I-Link is vital when you prepare for a career fair on campus:  you can get detailed information about who will be there and what kinds of positions they are seeking to fill so that you can tailor your resume and elevator pitch accordingly.

Not sure what to do with I-Link? The Career Center offers “I-Link Drop-In Hours” where you can learn more about how to use it effectively