Tess Halpern '19
Tess Halpern is a senior English major, pursuing a specialization in the Study and Practice of Writing (SPOW) and minoring in political science and sociology. She writes for the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, tutors at the Writing Center, and interned at MassLive this past summer. View her LinkedIn profile to learn more or to connect with her!
What made you want to become an English major, and how did that decision come to be?
When I first came to UMass, I was undecided about my major. I am actually pretty sure that I didn’t declare the English major until the spring of my sophomore year! I just knew that I loved to write and wanted to keep practicing and pushing myself as a writer. If I’m being honest, I was originally hesitant about declaring a major in English because of the common idea that it’s impossible to get a job with an English degree but once I realized that just wasn’t true, I made the decision and never looked back. I also decided to pursue two minors—political science and sociology—to round out my education.
Are you pursuing any specializations? Which ones and why?
I am pursuing a specialization in the Study and Practice of Writing (SPOW). When browsing English classes to take, I realized that a lot of the ones I was interested in were geared toward that specialization, so it seemed natural to pursue it. The classes I’ve taken for SPOW are some of the best English classes I’ve taken, and they have definitely given me the most marketable skills. Pursuing a Specialization in SPOW pushed me to take classes like English 379: Introduction to Professional Writing where I wrote a 20-page grant proposal and English 391D: Writing and Emerging Technologies where I am making a professional website—two marketable skills that will hopefully help me in my job search post-graduation. I also took English 491AC: Working Yourself Up—Career Exploration for English Majors (a class I would recommend to everyone), where we learned resume and cover letter conventions, networking skills, and interviewing techniques.
So you write for the Daily Collegian, correct?
How long have you been writing for the newspaper and how did you hear about it?
In the spring of my freshman year, I was taking an introduction to legal studies course and a student came to our class to encourage us to write for the Massachusetts Daily Collegian. I had never written for a newspaper before, but I was interested in joining some extracurricular activities and I thought it could be a fun way to practice writing and even meet new people.
What is a typical meeting for the Collegian like? What are your usual responsibilities, whether they are day-to-day or week-by-week?
Every week, the editors of the Collegian meet to discuss our weekly goals and any major announcements. I also run the OpEd meeting every week on Thursday at 7 p.m., where our writers come to pitch their article ideas. Besides that, my weekly responsibilities as OpEd editor include managing our email account, editing a portion of our articles, and making sure everything is published correctly. As a Night Editor, I am the last set of eyes on all the articles that are published once a week. I usually end up editing 12 to 15 articles that night and I also check the pages for errors if we have a newspaper coming out the next day.
What kinds of articles do you like to write? How has this journalistic-type experience writing for the Collegian shaped you as a writer, English major, and soon-to-be professional?
For the Collegian, I have written opinion columns, which I have found to be a great way to express my thoughts and get my voice out there. This type of writing has also been a really good complement to my English major—I was able to practice the type of writing I do for my classes consistently, but I was able to write about political topics or campus issues (or really anything else) instead of Shakespeare or Steinbeck. For my internship this summer, I also wrote a lot of news features which are long-form stories on one topic. I got experience interviewing people, transcribing, and also taking pictures for my own stories.
What advice would you give to people who are looking for opportunities to get their writing out there, but don't know how? Can you speak about the opportunities the Collegian has to offer students?
That is the beauty of a big school like UMass! There are always ways to put yourself out there. As I mentioned before, the Collegian accepts writers from all skill levels and will work with you to ensure that your writing is published. A lot of people think you need to be a journalism major to write for us but, at least in the OpEd section, none of our editors are actually studying journalism. Writing for a newspaper also doesn’t just mean writing news articles: We have sports writers who cover our Division I teams; we have arts writers who write movie and book reviews, fitness and fashion tips, and more; and we have opinion writers who just write about their thoughts! At the Collegian, there are also editing positions that open up all the time so if you’re looking to get more involved, that’s a great way to do so. If you’re interested in any of the above, you can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can you speak about your MassLive internship a little bit? How has this internship complemented your English education?
My experience at MassLive this summer truly exceeded all expectations. Interns at MassLive aren’t getting coffee, they’re doing the same work as everyone else and working on their own stories every day. In two months, I published 22 stories which received over 1.7 million online views. MassLive also gave me the feel for a smaller organization while also introducing me to the larger parent organization. The company that owns MassLive owns digital media companies all over the country, and they paid for all the interns to meet in NYC for a two-day summit. We met in the corporate office in the World Trade Center, ate meals with the CEO of the company, and even were able to present content ideas to the president of the company and the head of content development. They really want their interns to succeed while they are working with them.
What's your favorite part about working for the Writing Center?
I love helping my peers reach that “Aha!” moment in their writing. A lot of my job is just talking with people about their writing and asking them questions about it, and encouraging them to think deeply about whatever they’re writing about. Sometimes writers will come in thinking they have nothing to say and then after our conversation, they see that they are bursting with ideas. Seeing someone excited to write when they leave the Writing Center makes me feel like I have done my job.
What's next for you (professionally?)
I’m not sure! I’m looking forward to applying to jobs that will allow me to keep writing, editing, and using all the skills I have learned through my education and my previous work experiences.
Interview by Cayli Armstrong, Digital Communications Intern