Alumni Spotlight

Catherine Faris King ’12
Assistant Teacher in English

Majors: French, English with a Creative Writing Emphasis.

Activities: I was very active in AOKP, the Artorian Order of the Knights of Pendragon, from my very first semester all the way to my senior year, serving in a few leadership positions. I also was inducted into Sigma Tau Delta, the literary honor society, in the service of which I assembled the 2012 Literary Review, and in my final semester of senior year I was appointed president.

What first attracted you to Whittier College? Two college counselors recommended the College to me. I had done well at a small, private high school, so I thought that a small, private college (liberal arts, of course) would be a good fit for me. Whittier had all of these qualities, but it was the Admitted Students’ Day, when I got a feel for the College itself, and the people there, that I really began to feel it was the place for me.

Why did you choose to study English? All my life, I loved reading – absolutely adored it. My addiction was enabled by supportive, challenging teachers and a mother who was just as voracious a reader as I was. I knew by the time I was in high school that English was the path for me. It was an excuse to closely and passionately study novels, poems, and nonfiction for four years straight!

Describe your experience at Whittier College. What is your favorite memory? There are so many good memories, good in many different ways. In my mind’s eye, I keep returning to Game Night at Dezember Alumni House, hosted by professor Sean Morris. There I could share a new literary insight with the professor in the living room, nibble on pretzels in the kitchen, and sit down to a game in the dining room with my friends.

What are you currently up to? How has your Whittier education benefited you professionally? Since October 2012, I have been working as an assistant teacher in English in a small French high school, a technical school that specializes in refrigeration, air conditioning, and renewable energy. I live in a small dormitory on campus, in a tiny town, and plan trips to faraway European cities to stave off cabin fever. My close familiarity with the English language lets me offer up a lot of advice and suggestions for the simple phrases that the students work with day-to-day. I’m also gaining an appreciation for the flexibility of the English language, not to mention the simplicity of our conjugation! If it weren’t for Madame Chirol of the French department, I would never have heard of teaching assistantship in France, and I would never have gotten my first job here.

In my spare time, when I’m not globe-trotting or updating my blog called the Picard Newsletter,I’m working on my first original novel and on various short stories. This fall, I will be looking into graduate schools for creative writing. I’m grateful to the faculty at Whittier, both those who instructed me in writing, helped me explore style and discipline, and those who introduced me to new ways of thinking about literature, new movements, and new books, of course!

How did Whittier College help you determine your career path? I knew I wanted to be a writer since elementary school. However, working with the professors of Whittier, taking creative writing courses, and courses that involved the modicum of creative writing, all prompted me to think outside the box and stretch the limits of my creativity. It helped me to really think about the sort of writer I wanted to be, and what method of writing worked for me, personally.

What advice would you give to graduating English majors? Laugh at the “English majors can’t get a job” jokes, but don’t take them to heart. In this economy, what major you have is more or less irrelevant to your chances of getting a job. To pursue what you’re passionate about is worth it, absolutely worth it. I wrote my thesis paper on Harry Potter fanfiction, and I had a blast. It’s one of the efforts I’m most proud of in my whole college career. The ability to communicate clearly and read closely is one that always pays off, especially in an age where punctuation is becoming endangered.

Finish this sentence: I am a ‘Poet for Life’ because… the creative, inquisitive, bibliomaniacal, sesquipedalian spirit I found among my fellow Poets is one that I hope to carry with me for the rest of my life! 

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