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What English Majors Say about the Value of Small Classes and Interactions with Faculty

In the English Department at EIU, we work hard to keep classes small so that students can interact closely with professors and with other students.

Recently, we asked two students to share what that interaction has meant for them.

Elizabeth Marlow is an English major who spoke to us on the last day of her last class before graduation.

Thinking back to her college search, Elizabeth said that class size was high on her priority list, and a personal contact helped her realize that EIU might be a good fit.  “I was lucky to have a friend who was already a student here.  He was in another major but he was friends with some of the English faculty and he let me know what the class size was like and what to expect.”

As it turned out, Elizabeth found that her friend was right.  “Early on, I was told that I could get the same education here that I could anywhere, even an Ivy League, if I put enough into it.  So I’ve always given everything I could to my education, and the faculty have been extremely helpful, whether I came to them to talk about academic things or even personal things.  It’s been like becoming part of a new family network, and I wasn’t expecting that.”

Although Elizabeth says she has had a lot of “fantastic classroom experiences,” one that stood out for her was Professor Beebe’s section of Studies in Major Writers, which was focused that semester on the Brontë sisters.  It was a small class for juniors and seniors, and because Major Writers is offered with a different topic each time, Elizabeth said all of her classmates were equally interested in the subject. 

“Everyone in the room was committed to exploring the same ideas.  We were each doing our own individual research projects, but there was a lot of overlap, and Professor Beebe had set things up so that we could come in every week and share and discuss what we were learning on our own with the rest of the group.”

Although he’s only finishing his freshman year, English Language Arts major Akeem Forbes agrees that personal attention is an important part of the experience for EIU English majors. 

“Teachers actually listen to students here, whether it’s in the work we do in class or other discussions, like if we want to talk about the campus climate here at Eastern, or if we have personal issues to discuss.”

When we spoke with Akeem, he was just completing English 2009, Literature and Human Values, a class that he said showed him how relevant literary study can be to daily life.  “Professor Engles provokes me to think about things, issues of race, gender, sex, and even social class.  Our discussions make me think about my culture and the cultures I’m being introduced to in our readings.  It turns out that I’m learning a lot about things that I actually see in the world every day.”

As he finishes up his first year, Akeem wants to encourage other students to make the most of the opportunities that small classes provide:  “Be interactive,” he recommends.  “What you say might spark something in the classroom.”