English MFA Alumna Molly Dowd: Putting Her Degree to Work

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Molly Dowd spent much of high school playing field hockey in tiny Fairfield, Pennsylvania, a town near Gettysburg. Her journey from that small town to advising athletes on the most prestigious college football team in the nation undoubtedly took some u-turns and last-minute stops. Perhaps the most important turn in that journey was being a Master’s of Fine Arts student at the University of Alabama.

While paving her way to Alabama at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Penn., graduating in 2002 with an English degree, Dowd also participated in intramural rugby. Her father was a high school football coach; sports were as common to her as winning is with Alabama football fans.

It was also her father, interestingly enough, that was a major factor in leading her to Tuscaloosa in 2004.

“My dad actually grew up in Alabama,” Dowd said. “I just kind of wanted to live in a different part of the country; I moved to New York when I graduated from college, so I felt like it was time to live somewhere else. And, I mean, the English department has a great MFA program, I really like the professors. I wanted to work on Black Warrior Review, that sort of thing.”

Dowd’s foray into the professional world, a stint at a New York communications firm called Kekst and Company from 2002-04, was enough for her to realize her desire to further her education and preparation for the curriculum.

“I always knew I wanted to do grad school,” Dowd said. “I just wanted to wait a few years. It was good experience.”

Hitting the ground running, Dowd worked her way up at the Black Warrior Review, a student-run literary magazine, to eventually become editor. She also added another undergraduate degree to her belt while at the Capstone, an graduate degree in library and information sciences.

It was experience tutoring young college students, however, that would be critical in obtaining her current profession.

“I started tutoring over here in the spring of 2005,” Dowd said. “And I really liked working with kids one-on-one, which is different than teaching for me…I liked the one-on-one time.”

After teaching for a short time at nearby Shelton State Community College, Dowd settled into her new role as an academic advisor for the athletic department, dealing with student-athletes from basketball and football. Dowd advise athletes on classes and helps them plan for their degree, monitors their performance in classes, and ensures the players’ eligibility with the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

A job, Dowd says, that is enriched because of her diverse set of experiences as an MFA graduate with the English Department.

“The nice thing about my graduate work was that I got to try different things,” Dowd said. “I got to try out being a teacher, a GTA, try out being editor of the Black Warrior Review, and I tried being a tutor with that being my side job, but you get to try on a lot of different hats and get a sense of where you want to go next.”

“There’s not a prescribed path to it,” Dowd said. “So, you can use [English degrees] in ways you didn’t expect to be able to use it. I think the ability to think critically is very important [in any career].”

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