Z Eihausen: How would you describe your educational career?
Lena Shoemaker: My educational career was very arts-focused and very busy. I graduated with a BA in English – Creative Writing and Cinema Studies (double major) with a minor in applied music. It was a heavy class load, but I did a lot of summer classes and 18+ credit hour semesters, which is what allowed me to graduate in four years.
Z Eihausen: Which classes/resources at UTK were most beneficial to your success, if any?
Lena Shoemaker: Definitely Dr. Harris’s Technical and Professional Writing class (ENGL 360). For my undergrad internship (which Dr. Harris recommended to me), I did a lot of writing for a variety of audiences, often based on very dense or complex topics, and that class was great for learning how to tailor your writing for different contexts (especially if you’ve only written fiction prose/poetry or essays).
Z Eihausen: Did you complete an internship while working towards your undergraduate degree?
Lena Shoemaker: I was a technical writing intern for the University of Tennessee system.
Z Eihausen: What experience were you hoping to gain when you first started your internship?
Lena Shoemaker: I was looking to experience types of writing that were outside of what I would write for school or for fun. Technical writing had never been on my radar, and I was excited to have an opportunity to learn and grow as a writer.
Z Eihausen: What responsibilities did your internship entail?
Lena Shoemaker: I primarily worked with IT professionals to transcribe processes and website functions so that they could be recreated later when they overhaul their websites. I would schedule interviews with the IT professionals, mostly through video calls. I would record and transcribe the interviews and use that transcript to fill in the documentation sheet. It was pretty simple, but it required me to simplify the professional’s jargon-filled explanations for a non-technical audience.
Z Eihausen: How did your internship contribute to your academic and/or professional life?
Lena Shoemaker: I’m currently a science writing/video production/communications intern at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and I am using the interviewing, transcribing, and technical writing skills from my first internship almost daily. I am getting to do a little more creative writing now, too!
Z Eihausen: Did your internship introduce you to other career opportunities that you had not previously considered? If so, how?
Lena Shoemaker: My concentration was creative writing, and I never would have expected that I would end up doing science writing and technical writing. I also would’ve never guessed that I’d need to have interview skills either!
Z Eihausen: What is one piece of advice you have for undergraduate English majors when preparing for the job market?
Lena Shoemaker: I’d suggest looking for jobs in places you wouldn’t normally consider. Pretty much every company, government office, law firm, doctor’s office, etc. is looking for strong communicators. I’ve ended up writing for a university and national lab! And definitely be open to different kinds of writing! Also, If you’ve got any experience in any other fields (videography, photography, editing, graphic design, event planning, fundraising, etc.), definitely be sure to highlight that!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Lena Shoemaker graduated from the University of Tennessee in 2023 with a BA in English-Creative Writing and Cinema Studies. While at UTK, she received the Charles and Frances Mangam Merit Scholarship, the Kimberly D. Iles Art Scholarship, Captain Robert A. Burke Award for Fiction (2nd prize), and an Audience Award at UTK’s Handheld Film Festival (collaboratively). She marched in the Pride of the Southland Band all four years of college and served as president of the Volunteer Short Films club. She currently works as a communications and video production intern at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and freelance video producer. In her free time, Lena enjoys taking photos and thinking way too deeply about movies.
Z Eihausen (she/her) is an emerging writer from Tennessee. She is currently a senior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville studying creative writing and philosophy. She previously interned at Sundress Academy for the Arts and is now Staff Director. She also likes bees.