English majors at Central gain a strong academic background that prepares them for careers in law, medicine, business, teaching, music, architecture, publishing, library science and many other fields. Many students choose to go on to graduate school, and the English faculty are prepared to assist with guidance and letters of recommendation.

The English department offers a flexible curriculum that is easily paired with other majors and prepares graduates thoroughly for professional life and advanced degrees in a wide array of disciplines. By studying language with respect and rigor, English majors cultivate two of the most essential habits of successful people: self-reflection and empathy for others.

full-time English faculty are active scholars, published writers and have significant international experience
  • Central hosts award-winning writers, including National Poet Laureates and Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winners
  • English majors have interned at the British Parliament and at London magazines and publishing houses

The Real World


Successful Careers

  • Vice president of marketing and product line management, CIVCO, Iowa City
  • Owner, business consulting firm, Your Clear Next Step, Indianola
  • Newspaper publisher and owner of I-70 Publishing Co., Strasburg, Colo.
  • ESL teacher, Korea, China and Japan
  • Librarian, Iowa City Public Library
  • Attorney at law
  • Communications consultant, Microsoft Corp., Seattle, Wash.
  • Content Developer, Cognitive Arts, Evanston, Ill.


  • The Ray (student-led newspaper)
  • The Knickerbocker (literary magazine)
  • Writing Anthology (outstanding writing from across the curriculum)

Emily Rouse

Emily Rouse

Senior Emily Rouse spent a semester in London working for a Member of Parliament and preparing for law school.

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Graduate Placement

Central English majors have recently attended graduate school at:

  • Bowling Green State University, Ohio
  • London Metropolitan University
  • University of Washington, Seattle
  • Iowa State University
  • Indiana University, Bloomington
  • Minnesota State University
  • University of Pittsburgh 
  • University of Iowa
  • University of Minnesota


Students with internship experience have a proven track record in a professional environment, which often leads to employment after graduation. Central also offers distinctive internship experiences for English majors studying in Chicago, Washington, D.C., or London. Recent internships include: 

  • Writer/editor, The Iowan magazine
  • The British Parliament, London
  • National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  • One Iowa, Des Moines
  • Marketing assistant, DeMarquette Chocolate Makers, London

Courses & Faculty

English majors usually begin with the introductory course The Literary Imagination, with surveys in English and American literature, and with courses in genre and issue studies, such as Nature Writing and Environmental Literature, Literature by Women, African and Caribbean Literature, Illness and Health in Literature and Readings in Poetry. Students take two courses in advanced literary studies, one linguistics course and a course in advanced writing. English majors are encouraged to explore courses in history, philosophy or other disciplines, as well as competency in a modern foreign language. The major culminates with the senior seminar, a capstone experience which usually features a detailed look at the work of a single author.

Writing is also an essential part of the English program, and students choose from an array of courses in Short Story Writing, Poetry Writing, Personal Essay, Literary Journalism, Travel Writing and Writing for Nonprofit Organizations. The English major with an emphasis in writing is designed for students who want to couple literary and linguistic study with intensive work in creative or professional writing. 

Learn more about English in the course catalog.

English photo
Meet the faculty:
  • Walter Cannon, B.S., M.A., Ph.D., Professor of English, interest areas include early modern literature, especially Shakespeare, poetry, literary criticism, writing, civic engagement and writing for non-profit organizations
  • Joshua Dolezal, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., Associate Professor of English, interest areas include American literature, creative nonfiction, medical humanities and sustainability
  • Michael Harris, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., Professor of English, interest areas include post-colonial literature from Africa and India; Irish literature and British literature
  • Kimberly Koza Harris, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., Associate Professor of English, interest areas include women writers and feminist criticism, African-American literature and peace studies
  • David Purnell, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., Associate Professor of English, interest areas include teaching English to speakers of other languages, Chinese culture and language and the junction of language, thought and culture
  • Keith Ratzlaff, B.A., M.F.A., Professor of English, interest areas include poetry, the essay, travel literature and American literature
  • Mary Stark, B.S., M.A., Ph.D., John and Anna Poole Endowed Chair in the Humanities and Professor of English, interest areas include nature and environmental literature, literature for children and young adults and secondary education

Sample Schedule

First year
  • The Literary Imagination
  • British Literature I
  • Survey courses in American and British literature
  • Genre and issue studies courses 
Sophomore year
  • Literature by Women
  • Illness and Health in Literature
  • Survey courses in American and British literature
  • Genre and issue studies courses
Junior year
  • Studies in 19th or 20th Century Literature
  • Travel Writing
  • Linguistics course
  • Study abroad
Senior year
  • Shakespeare
  • Advanced literature course
  • Seminar in literary studies

The Central Difference

Portfolio Review

The English Department at Central College guarantees personal and thoughtful mentorship of student writing both in the classroom and in a distinctive portfolio review process. When students declare a major in English, the department requests a portfolio of at least three papers that demonstrate critical reading and mastery of style. Majors must submit a second portfolio in their senior year to be approved for graduation. English faculty meet as a department to discuss portfolios and return detailed feedback to each student on strengths and areas for improvement in his or her writing.

The combination of individual attention from professors and the collective opinion of the English Department on student writing helps our majors understand their writing process and grow increasingly more reflective about ways they may continue to improve.

ESL Endorsement

The English as a Second Language endorsement program is designed for those who would like to teach ESL in the Iowa public school system, K-12. Those seeking endorsement must take 24 semester hours of coursework in each of the following areas: teaching English as a Second Language, applied linguistics, bilingual education, second language acquisition, language in culture and the nature of language.

Those seeking endorsement must complete the ESL Practicum, which involves 45 contact hours with ESL in a combination of grades K-6 and 7-12 settings.

Writing Outside the Curriculum

The English department offers a number of opportunities for students to serve, study and write outside of the classroom including, service learning through the Writing for Nonprofit Organizations course, internships with literary magazines, newspapers, state governmental offices and local and area hospitals and businesses, independent studies in various fields including poetry writing, literary criticism and travel writing and earning practicum credit while team-teaching lower-level courses.

Study Abroad

Students are encouraged to study abroad with one of Central’s international programs to enhance their development as global citizens, or with partner programs in Chicago, Washington, D.C. or New York City. Learn more about Central’s study abroad programs.

While abroad, English majors can study Shakespeare and contemporary theater through the yearly offerings of the Royal Shakespeare Company in London, Welsh heritage, language and literature in Wales or explore internships in Chicago in writing, editing, publishing and teaching.


Central offers creative writing scholarships of up to $2,000 for students (English majors and non-majors) planning to continue creative writing at the college level. 

Central English Students


A Different Kind of Family

A Different Kind of Family

Katie Zellmer ’14 began a service-learning project with an Iraqi family during her sophomore year. Nearly three years later, she still has a second home in the Salim household.

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Q&A with Natasha Kingston
Q&A with Natasha Kingston

In New York City, Natasha Kingston '16 worked to unite veterans and civilians. Read a Q&A with Natasha as she reflects on her life-changing experience

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Service Learning in the Great Outdoors
Service Learning in the Great Outdoors

Emily Saville ’15 learned to love nature as a child, and she has not forgotten this love as a young adult. In fact, Saville has been helping children discover the wonders of their environment as a Jasper County Conservation Board intern.

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Learn More

Want to find out more about English at Central? Contact us to learn more about this major and our other strong academic programs. Visit campus to observe classes and experience The Central Difference firsthand.