Interview with Fordham English Major, Patrick O'Connell

What can you do with an English degree? The simple answer is, many things. But what does that mean? The Fordham English Major provides students with skills that can be put to use in a variety of different fields. One of these students is Fordham senior, Patrick O'Connell, who will be going on to Duke University School of Law after he graduates in May. Duke is one of the top ranked law schools in the country with a 19% acceptance rate. In this interview, we discuss Patrick's experience as a Fordham English major and how it prepared him to go on to a prominent law school.  -Erin Coughlin

EC: First of all, I want to congratulate you. You were accepted early decision to Duke Law, weren’t you? 

PO: Yes, that’s correct. Thank you.

EC: Of course, that’s a great accomplishment.

PO: It’s nice to know now, and not be worrying all semester. It does make Senior Slide a little bit more tempting, though.

EC: And Duke Law is a top Law School, so that’s very impressive. I wanted to talk to you in a general sense about why you became an English major, what the experience was, and how it ultimately led to your decision to go to law school. Who was your freshman advisor?

PO: My English advisor was Dr. Maria Farland and she was a great help, not only in how the English Major goes, but in drafting my personal statement, speaking with people about Law school. There’s been a lot of contact and [she’s been] very helpful. I also had her for a class. We have a good relationship.

EC: When you started undergrad, did you know you wanted to be a lawyer?

PO: In my senior year of high school, I took a couple of Creative Writing courses, mostly workshops. Small classes, 12 kids to a class, and I loved it. When I got to Fordham, I was more interested in Creative Writing. Then in my freshman year summer, I went abroad to London for a Creative Writing course through Fordham, at Heythrop College. It was called “Outsiders in London,” and it was taught by Professor Mira Nair. She taught at the Lincoln Center campus and also at NYU. That was another great experience with the Fordham English Department. I’m not sure when it switched from Creative Writing to Law. There wasn’t one epiphany moment, but I guess my experiences with college-level English courses, with more in-depth analysis and more persuasive writing techniques, and thinking about where I could apply them for a career, and law stood out. It seemed like a logical progression. As early as sophomore year, I was doing internships at law firms in various fields, and getting experience. Once I started seeing law in action, and shadowing different attorneys at different practices, it was cemented [as] something I would pursue.

EC: [Do you feel like] being an English major provided you with a malleable set of skills that could be applied to a variety of fields?

PO: Here’s a quick example. My internship for my junior spring was at a really small firm that was putting a lot of emphasis on their blog. I have a marketing minor, so when I was hired, the combination of English and Marketing was something that was appealing to them because, as an undergrad, you can’t really contribute to the legal aspects of a firm, but you can do other things. They had me do blog posts for them on a regular basis, but it was a divorce firm, and even though I didn’t know much about divorce law, the skills that my English major had given me as far as writing interesting pieces, structuring pieces, using the right type of source material, as well as basic research skills [were] key. Some of those blog posts are still out today. Generally speaking, the skills for an English major are ideal.

EC: Do you have an idea which area of law you’d be interested in?

PO: At this moment, I’m thinking Intellectual Property. My last internship was at an IP firm. In a general sense, I find that work, rewarding and engaging.

EC: Intellectual property is going to become an even bigger issue in years to come, in terms of all this content that’s available, who does it belong to, and who profits from it? I know you mentioned Professor Farland and Professor Nair. Are there any other professors in the English department who were helpful to you along the way?

PO: So many. I can’t give a shout out to all of them. Dr. Angela Monsam is wonderful. I’ve had her for two classes, and she along with Dr. Susan Greenfield wrote me recommendations for law school. Dr. Monsam knew me for all of my sophomore year and then we stayed in touch. I would go to her office hours. A recommendation from someone who knows you means so much more, and I think anyone reading a [recommendation] can tell if you’ve built a relationship with the [recommendation writer]. Dr. Greenfield’s class, “Homelessness" was a service learning class featured on Fordham’s website in Fall 2015. That was a unique opportunity, too. As part of the class requirement, you had to work 30 hours of volunteer time at Part of the Solution, which [offers] everything from a soup kitchen to legal representation to the people of the Bronx. Through that service learning class, I interned at POTS in the legal department.

EC: That sounds like Professor Greenfield. I’m not surprised she taught a class like that. Do you feel that the department in general has an approachable feel?

PO: Absolutely.

EC: I know that while you were looking at law school, you were also looking at Teach for America? Do you feel you would have equally prepared for that?

PO: Oh, sure. I found out about Duke before my interview was scheduled, so it never went through, but you have to go into your interview with a lesson plan prepared, and the one I was thinking of preparing was going to be English based. I was going to do close reading of a passage. I would likely have been an English teacher.

EC: I know law school was your priority, but it speaks volumes that you were prepared for two pretty different career paths.

PO: Definitely. I’m not so sure that Teach for America would have led to a career in that sort of work, but it would have been an incredible experience, and I’d recommend that to everyone who isn’t sure about exactly what they want to do after college, but still feel the need to give back. If I hadn’t gotten into Duke, I would have been pursuing that.

EC: On that note, what do you hope to take with you into the world that you picked up at Fordham? And also what advice would you give to students who are contemplating an English major, but aren’t really sure what its uses are?

PO: For me, the what is pretty specific and direct. As most people would assume, there’s a ton of reading and writing [in an English major], and there’s a ton of reading and writing in law school. I hope to bring good study habits, close reading, and similar skills that I’ve practiced many times. It will be ramped up, of course, but I think those skills will directly correlate with what I’m doing in law school. For people considering an English major, but aren’t sure what to do with it, law obviously is not the only route, and again, when I chose English, I thought I would be a writer. If you’re thinking English, but aren’t sure how to make it marketable, pick up minors. I’m graduating with a marketing minor and an economics minor. I completely know the feeling when you’re at a Christmas party with your family, and your uncles and aunts say, “What are you going to do with an English major?” It’s sometimes hard to explain what you’re going to do with it, but it’s a lot easier to market yourself if your academic record shows some breadth and balance. 

-This interview has been edited and condensed.



Corey McEleney on Futile Pleasures in Early Modern Literature

Assistant Professor of English Corey McEleney's just-published book Futile Pleasures: Early Modern Literature and the Limits of Utility was the subject of a piece in Fordham News. The article begins:

When you derive pleasure from reading literature, reciting poetry, and/or watching a play it must be good for you, yes? After all, it’s not time spent idly, but rather it’s time spent for the mind and the soul, no?
“Pleasure also has a dark side,” said Corey McEleney, Ph.D., who explores the subject in Futile Pleasures: Early Modern Literature and the Limits of Utility (Fordham University Press, 2017).
“It is difficult to negotiate between a pleasure that can lead to something good and a pleasure that can lead to something harmful,” said the assistant professor in the Department of English. “That’s precisely what Renaissance writers were grappling with—particularly when it came to the pleasures of literature.”
Read more.....


PhD Student's Prize-Winning Digital Humanities Project in the News

English PhD student Will Fenton was recently featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer for his Digital Humanities project, Digital Paxton. The op-ed, which draws parallels between the 1764 pamphlet war and contemporary media and politics, highlights Will’s digital archive and critical edition of the pamphlet war. Here's an excerpt from the story:

A Ph.D. candidate in English, Fenton worked over the past year to create the Digital Paxton project (, a free resource featuring dozens of the pamphlets and cartoons, as well as accompanying essays and transcriptions.
For him, the contemporary parallels are clear.
"The term elite, weaponized in the 2016 election, figured heavily in the Paxton debate," said Fenton, while "many pamphleteers stoked debate anonymously, in much the same way that provocateurs hide behind Twitter handles."
"In the context of the Brexit vote and the rise of right-wing nationalist movements across the West, [we] would do well to study this incident and to critically engage pamphleteers' zero-sum views of race, class, and cosmopolitanism," he said.

Fenton’s project also recently won first prize in the NYCDH Graduate Student Digital Project Awards, for which he’ll be giving a talk at NYCDH Week.


Click here to read the complete article.

June in London for 4 credits, Anyone?

Interested in London theatre or what's going on there in Modern Dance? How about Anne Boleyn?  Or Harry Potter? Or make-up trends in the urban UK?  Those are among the passions Prof. Elizabeth Stone's students brought with them and wanted to write about two years ago when she went to London for the month of June to teach an course in travel-writing sponsored by Fordham's Study Abroad Program.  She and her students took to the streets of London (and one day, Oxford) to eat, breathe and write about London--and earn credits that count toward the English major, minor or Creative Writing concentration.  The students reported on their passions and discovered new ones as they wrote about trends, interviewed friendly Londoners, and discovered strategies for cheap travel they wanted to share. Along the way, everyone took photos (see below) and got guidance from London residents, some of them Fordham Alums who now live in London.

          Now Prof. Stone is going back. If you're interested in joining her: read the course description (below the photo below) and then write to her at But hurry!  The deadline for enrolling is February 1st. Note that this course satisfies the EP3 requirement.  Also note, that your writing/photos/video done as part of the course assignments will be published in THE OBSERVER this summer.  If you're among those who are interested in exploring an internship related to publication, your published work from this course will make you a desirable candidate for some of the more competitive publication internships.

[Scroll past the photo to see a course description and more information]


ENGL 3014: Travel Writing in London
Elizabeth Stone
4 credits London June 1 - June 30 2017

There is a banner near the escalator in the Lowenstein building at FCLC which reads, “New York is my campus. Fordham is my school.”  For the purposes of this course, “London is your campus,” and that’s because London is very like New York.  Specifically both are among those iconic cities people just can't help writing about.  London has enthralled writers for centuries--from Samuel Pepys, Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf to JK Rowling and Helen Fielding (in Bridget Jones' Diary). Now it's your turn.  

In this course, ENGL 3014, a creative non-fiction writing course, there are four components: 

  • First, inside the classroom (in a hidden and beautiful little campus right in the middle of London, not too far from Hyde Park) we will sample how other writers have characterized London.
  • Second, we will take to the streets to explore London life—we will go to the heart of London with its theatres in the West End, its open-air markets, its historic sites, its live-story-telling venues, and its museums (including some pretty weird ones—did you know there’s a Museum of Childhood?).  Plus, with Londoners as our guides, including a couple of Fordham Alums who now live there, we will explore a couple of interesting neighborhoods off the beaten track, where the tourists rarely go—Richmond or Hampstead Heath, not to far from the Kentish Town stop on the tube. We will also travel together outside of London, to Oxford, for sure; and in addition many elect to travel abroad on weekends—to Paris, or Barcelona or Amsterdam with classmates, many of whom rapidly become friends. Those trips offer opportunities to write as well. 
  • Third, we will take what we write and “workshop” those pieces (and photos and possibly multimedia) in class. 
  • Fourth, we will curate and publish our best work with appropriate use of social media so that we reach the readers we are meant for—undergraduates with time to explore.  The last time this course was given, people found favorite subjects—for one, it was Harry Potter, theatre, theatre, theatre; for another Anne Boleyn, for another the state of modern dance in London, for another cosmetic trends in London.

 If you’re interested in writing, whatever your major, this course will result in your having some publications publically available through a campus publication.  If you’re eventually interested in applying for internships that involve writing (publishing, publicity, advertising, journalism) this course is designed to familiarize you with online publication genres and the ways social media can be used to maximize the attention your writing gets.  Anyone interested in multimedia will also have an opportunity to create and post.

The course meets Mon-Thurs--two days a week in the classroom workshopping our work and two days a week out exploring and soaking up experiences to write about. This course fulfills your EPIII requirement.

Prof. Elizabeth Stone, who is a professional writer as well as a member of the English Department and the Creative Writing Program, taught this class in June 2015.  If  you’d like to talk to her or have questions, write to her at 

Bedtime Stories: Prose Reading

On Wednesday, February 15, the Creative Writing Program will host a reading of Eduardo Galeano's The Book of Embraces. Playwright and actress, Stacey Robinson will read and lullabies will be sung by Fordham's own Hot Notes. A milk and cookies reception and reflection writing space will follow.


The event will take place on Wednesday, February 15 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Center Campus, 12th Floor Lounge.

  • Please bring comfortable clothes that you can lie down in and plan to arrive early. 
  • Because of the unique performance elements of this event, latecomers will not be admitted.
  • RSVP is required to secure your space. Please click on the below button.

Call for Submissions: 2017 Creative Writing Prizes

The Creative Writing Program is now accepting Fordham student submissions to the 2017 Creative Writing Prizes. Applications will be accepted until February 7, 2017. Click on the titles of prizes to access the online submission manager. 

Academy of American Poets Prize
Eligibility: Any Fordham student
Guidelines: Submit up to 5 pages of poetry (1 poem per page). Include year at Fordham and campus affiliation (Lincoln Center or Rose Hill). The author’s name should NOT appear anywhere in the manuscript.
Prize: 1 prize of $100

Bernice Kilduff White & John J. White Creative Writing Prize
Eligibility: Rose Hill senior undergraduate students
Guidelines: Submit up to (but no more than) 1500 words of text (fiction, non-fiction or poetry). Please identify the genre you are submitting. The author’s name should NOT appear anywhere in the manuscript.
Prize: 1 prize Cash Amount to be determined.

Margaret Lamb/Writing to the Right-Hand Margin Prizes
Eligibility: Any Fordham student
Guidelines: Submit up to (but no more than) 1500 words of text (fiction or non-fiction). Please identify the genre you are submitting. Include year at Fordham and campus affiliation (Lincoln Center or Rose Hill). The author’s name should NOT appear anywhere in the manuscript.
Prize: 4 prizes of $100

The Reid Family Prize
Eligibility: Any Fordham student
Prize: 1 prize of $500

Ully Hirsch/Robert F. Nettleton Poetry Prizes
Eligibility: Lincoln Center undergraduate students
Guidelines: Submit up to 5 pages of poetry (1 poem per page). The author’s name should NOT appear anywhere in the manuscript. 
Prize: 2 prizes of $100

Fordham University, After the Election

In the aftermath of the recent U.S. elections, Fordham President Joseph McShane, S. J. added his name to a list of Catholic educators committed to supporting undocumented students. “We, the undersigned presidents of Catholic colleges and universities,” the statement reads, “express hope that the students in our communities who have qualified for DACA are able to continue their studies without interruption and that many more students in their situation will be welcome to contribute their talents to our campuses.”

In an explanation of the statement to the Fordham community, McShane drew a parallel between the history of Fordham’s founding and our own current political climate. “Because [Archbishop Hughes] was himself an immigrant and the victim of prejudice and discrimination both in Ireland and in the United States, and because he was the bishop of a largely immigrant community that suffered from the same discrimination from which he had suffered, [he] was passionately devoted to America's immigrants. Therefore, when he founded Saint John's College (Fordham University) in 1841, he did so to create a school that would make it possible for the immigrants whom he served to receive an education that would both confound their enemies and enable them to take their rightful place in American society.” In releasing this statement, McShane affirmed Fordham’s position as a place of acceptance. “Our Jesuit identity places upon us the sacred responsibility to treat every student in our care with cura personalis,” he concluded, “that is to say, we are called and challenged to treat every Fordham student with reverence, respect and affirming love.”

In accordance with the release of this statement, a group of Fordham faculty and staff met to discuss the election’s impact. The meeting was organized by Daniel Contreras, Associate Chair of English at Rose Hill. Inspired in part by the upswing of student activism at Fordham, Contreras sent out an email that read, “I am writing to let you know that we are having a meeting to discuss and organize how best to respond to any future attacks on the university from the incoming presidential administration. This comes out of important organizing happening by and on behalf of students at Fordham. We feel it is just as vital that concerned faculty and staff gather to think about how to coordinate our energies.”

Contreras’s objective in organizing the event was to plan and spread hope. Professors attended from a wide variety of departments, and there was a strong showing from Fordham English. They uniformly expressed concern for their students, especially those from groups that are already marginalized and feel even more at risk now. Members of Quinn Library staff also attended to show their solidarity and commitment to information access and media literacy. Many had stories of witnessing increasingly hateful rhetoric first hand in recent weeks. The meeting ended on a note of unity, echoing President McShane’s affirmation of Fordham University as safe space for all students regardless of race, gender, sexuality, or personal beliefs.