What can you do with English? Telling Our Stories Better

tosb bright

Supported by the Diversity Fund, Telling Our Stories Better aims to showcase success in all its forms, capturing and telling the stories of a diverse range of English alums who work in tech, business, activism, law, and beyond.  

Led by Dr Sophie Ratcliffe and Dr Ushashi Dasgupta, Stories will challenge misconceptions about who studies English and the career paths they can take, creating a gallery of 20-25 new alum photos and biographies for our website and the Faculty building (St Cross).  

Professor Ros Ballaster, Chair of the English Faculty Board, said: “As our students and alumni know from their studies, stories have a compelling power to reach across barriers and concentrate minds. This project will open our ears and minds to the rich variety of lives that have passed through and grown from studying English at Oxford University. We want more young people from diverse backgrounds to view Oxford as a university that they could belong to and thrive in. And to leave them equipped with the confidence and determination to apply what they’ve learned as well as maintain a love for that learning. ‘Telling Our Stories Better’ is an important step for us in doing so.” 

Maya Little, BA English (2017), now Communications and Events Officer at TORCH, said: “Working out what comes next when you graduate can be hard. Being suddenly without the structure of education means you have to start considering many different paths, and this can be overwhelming. Seeing the twists and turns of other people's careers has always reassured me that I don't need to have a linear progression but can spend time exploring what I might want to do and where I can be most useful.”

Over summer 2021, current English students, from all courses, will be interviewing alums about their career paths, how they’ve used the skills and knowledge they gained studying English, and why they’d recommend English to students today. The project will also build a reading list, based on book recommendations from the alums, that can help to inspire current and aspiring English students to think about the subject in new ways. 

Those stories, and that reading list, will begin to take shape here in the autumn, with the physical gallery going up in St Cross early in 2022.  

Students or alums who would like to take part, and staff from other faculties and departments who are interested in finding out more about the project, are welcome to email the Project Manager, Dominique Gracia

Stories build on the success of related portrait projects at Oxford, which you might also like to look at, including Diversifying Portraiture, and the  Photographic History of Women at Mansfield

You can also read profiles about English alums across Oxford University websites. For example, you can learn about Alice Curry (St Hilda's) and her founding of Lantana Publishing, a publishing with a mission to promote diversity and inclusion in children's publishing, or listen to Armando Iannucci (Univ) talk about adapting David Copperfield for film.