What do you do with a degree in English? 'Anything,' says this IUPUI student

IUPUI student Eden Rea- Hedrick standing near a shelf of stacked books.View print quality image
IUPUI student Eden Rea-Hedrick gives her professors and her experience at IUPUI a lot of credit in shaping her future. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University

Eden Rea-Hedrick always knew she wanted to study English literature. She began directing her academic path from an early age as a homeschooled student. "I was keenly focused on the things I was passionate about," said Rea-Hedrick, whose early preparation for college allowed her to test out of six 300-level English courses.

When it came to selecting a college for her undergraduate education in English, IUPUI was her top choice. She was excited about the university's robust study abroad programs, as well as the affordable tuition and scholarship opportunities that made it possible for her to spend an entire academic year studying at St Anne's College, a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. While there, Rea-Hedrick explored her passion for 20th-century British literature and solidified her decision to pursue higher education with a goal of joining the ranks of academia.

During her undergraduate studies in the School of Liberal Arts, Rea-Hedrick completed multiple internships, including one at the Indiana Repertory Theatre, where she served as a dramaturg -- a kind of literary editor -- and conducted research for productions under Richard Roberts, IRT's resident dramaturg and internship supervisor. The experience allowed Rea-Hedrick to take the lessons learned in the classroom and apply them in the working world.

"My favorite thing I got to do was something Richard calls text elucidations, which is where you take the script of a play we're working on or about to produce, and you go through and pull every term that anyone might not recognize or might want to know more about, and you make a glossary for the actors and the directors," she said. "I felt like the work that I got to do there was immediately relevant to what I was studying and what my aspirations were."

She also worked on campus as a writing tutor for the University Writing Center, getting a behind-the-scenes look at academic publishing.

"The most exciting thing about studying in Indianapolis is the wealth of opportunities the city offers outside of the classroom," Rea-Hedrick said. "Living and learning in a cultural center like Indy can provide so many personally and professionally enriching experiences."

Rea-Hedrick credits her educational success to her professors. She said their continual guidance was instrumental in her education, from the way they supported her and pushed her to aim high to their willingness to let her take the reins in her own educational direction. She noted fondly one professor in particular, who had technically retired but still agreed to serve as advisor for her senior thesis through the Honors College.

"My favorite part about studying at IUPUI was making faculty connections, working with them and getting to do lots of really cool one-on-one honors projects with many of them," she said.

It was with her professors' guidance that Rea-Hedrick made the decision to apply to a number of prestigious postgraduate programs, including the Yale Ph.D. program in English and women's, gender, and sexuality studies -- which she'll enter in fall 2021. The combined Ph.D. program is new for Yale and will allow Rea-Hedrick to incorporate another passion -- LGBTQ studies and themes in literature -- into her doctoral work. She will be one of only four students in the inaugural class. But Rea-Hedrick said she feels perfectly prepared for this new opportunity, thanks to the creativity and flexibility her undergraduate experience provided.

"What was amazing about being an undergrad at IUPUI was the communal support and flexibility -- the professors' willingness to be open and flexible about letting me try creative things," she said. "I was always getting excited about different ways of approaching things, and the people I encountered in my department were not only willing to be flexible but were excited about it, too. That was the most important part."