Interview With UMF English Major Vanessa Brown

By Robert Drinkwater

Vanessa Brown is a senior English major here at UMF. She is currently one of the leaders in Clefnotes, and plans to be taking a travel course to Paris, France in May as her last elective course here at UMF before she gets her degree. In this interview we discussed her passions as an English major, why she chose her concentration, and her role in Clefnotes.

Every English major has a concentration. What is your concentration?

My concentration is Race Studies in literature and music. Mainly because when I made my proposal I wanted it to be something that had to do with my own personal identity as well as music. Growing up I had a white mom and a black dad so I’m biracial and I thought that race studies in general is something that always interests me and in the future I hope to write more stuff on mixed race children and mixed raced literature as well, and just contribute in that aspect. The music part is just that I grew up in a very music oriented family and I joined Clefnotes so I do a lot of singing. My dad also did a lot of music when he was growing up, so I wanted to incorporate music in that aspect. It has always been an important part of my life.

In May you’ll be taking a travel course to Paris. Can you elaborate on your decision on taking this course?

Kristen (Case) actually reached out to me last semester during a New Commons course because she thought that it would be a good fit, and I was like ‘yes!’, not only because it’s going to Paris, but it was an opportunity for me to learn about English language writers and their influences in writing stuff that is either based in Paris or has Paris influences, and I’m not completely familiar with and I thought it would awesome to go on this trip for, as well as find more writers, or artists, or musicians that were influenced by France or Paris specifically, and learn about that more. It’s also my final four elective credits, and it’s one of the opportunities that if you have the chance to travel, take advantage of that because you’ll never know how many of those opportunities you’ll get again.

This year you’re leading Clefnotes. Can you decribe what that’s like?

Leading Clefnotes has definitely been a new experience for me, it’s music so I’m very interested, and it’s also a student run group so you’re also dealing with people that are of your own age or slightly younger, so at times it can very difficult, but for the most part, it’s a great experience, it’s something I’m learning from. I’m learning leadership skills from it and being able to communicate with my peers very well as well as talk with not only people inside my group, but so people outside this group, about music and performance. This year we lost a lot of good people so we’re really looking for more people to join our group. Clefnotes was the first group that I joined on campus, so it holds a very special place in my heart because it was one of the things that helped me connect with the community. A lot of people can connect with music even if they think that they’re not musically inclined. A lot of people enjoy watching it or performing it. I’m also not the only one leading Clefnotes right now. Kate Graeff is also leading it. She is a sophomore and she is awesome. We’re doing our best to lead the group, and as of right now things are going really well.

Do you have any plans on what you’ll be doing after graduation?

The goal right now is to take a gap year and then look into graduate school. I want to look more into African American Studies. It’s really where my central interests are and in terms of career wise, I will always hope to do something that’s in that field. I don’t like to limit myself in what I can do, but if I can do something that’s either African American studies based or music based, that would be the best, but the hope is grad school.

How would you describe your experience here at UMF as an English major?

Enjoyable. I do enjoy being an English major, a lot. I initially came to UMF as a theater major. I knew I was always good at writing and reading, but I never had the confidence in believing that could be an English major, but second semester of freshmen year I changed because I realized that I have a passion for writing and I have passion for so many different things that can go along with reading and writing and we have so many passionate and great professors at this school that are so interested in what you bring to the table. Even if it’s something they’ve seen before, they want you to bring yourself into it, and I admire that so much. As an English major too, it’s been good because I’ve been able to stylize it in a sense so that I can be true to myself. Most majors, it’s hard to find yourself in it. You have an interest in something, but it’s not, like completely what you want to do, but having the opportunity to make your own concentration and being able to take classes that suit to your interests, or even taking an independent study. I haven’t had the chance to take that yet, but having that opportunity as an English major is amazing.

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