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Keith Barnicle '02

Keith Barnicle is District Representative for the 2nd Congressional District in Massachusetts and aide to Congressman Jim McGovern. He was also an English major at UMass Amherst.

  • Please tell us your name, the name of your position, and a little bit about your job.

My name is Keith Barnicle and I’m a District Representative for the 2nd Congressional District in Massachusetts and aide to Congressman Jim McGovern. I cover constituent services and casework out of the Northampton District Office which covers 20 municipalities in the western part of the district – it’s about 158k people.

  • How long have you been in this position?

I have been with Congressman McGovern since January 2013 and spent the previous 7 years working for (now-retired) Congressman John Olver.

  • Describe some of your responsibilities?

One of my greatest responsibilities is maintaining a large caseload of federal casework. One of the many roles of a Member of Congress is to act as a liaison or ombudsman between constituents and the federal government to help resolve issues – this can range from a social security check discrepancy to advocating against a legitimate bureaucratic injustice. In addition, I manage the U.S. Service Academy nomination process for Congressman McGovern.

  • Tell us what a typical day looks like for you?

There is no such thing as a typical day for me which is a blessing! One day I might be out staffing the Congressman in the district and the other fielding calls from constituents about a big piece of legislation or national policy.

  • Describe what you enjoy most about your job?

What I enjoy most about my job is serving the public and giving back to my community and country. In addition, I really enjoy being in a position to help people and being an ambassador of sorts for Western Massachusetts.

  • What did you study at UMass and when did you graduate?

I was an English major at UMass and graduated in 2002.

  • Why did you choose major in English?

At the time, I wanted to be a writer and I figured a great place to start would be studying all the greats. I was also deeply invested in developing my writing and communications skills.

  • How has being an English major given you a leg up in this career?

Being an English major, at UMass Amherst specifically, gave me a well rounded approach to analysis, creative thinking and attention to detail – specifically with regard to communications and writing. In my career, analytic and creative thinking are paramount to addressing issues on both a local and national level. Being an English major helped me develop these skills.  

  • Did you have a favorite class, professor, or experience at UMass?

One of the first classes I took at UMASS was led by Professor Randall Knoper. Professor Knoper introduced me to writers and literature I had never known before and his coursework really helped me develop crucial writing and editing skills

  • Describe the most challenging aspects of being an English major.

I really think the greatest challenge to being an English major is overcoming the stigma of majoring in the humanities. In reality, it provides a diverse, well-rounded academic experience which should provide anyone with the necessary tools to be successful in many different careers.

  • Today, college students are increasingly pressured to major in “practical” fields of study—the humanities and arts are often not included in this definition.  How has majoring in English served you practically? 

The world will always need skilled thinkers and communicators no matter how technology or other advancements impact our lives.

  • What advice might you give to a student who was considering majoring in English, but unsure of the decision?

I would tell them to go for it and follow their passion because untimely that that is what will sustain you. Like everything in life, going to college is all about what you’re willing to put into it – for places like UMass Amherst that is especially true – that type of investment there pays back in dividends.