Monday, January 19

Statement of Purpose...

So, school starts tomorrow. Yup. That's right. I'm going back to school. It's been more than a year and a half since I have sat in a classroom, and I have to admit that I am a little nervous. Not necessarily nervous about school itself, but more for myself and getting back in the mindset of going to class, studying, etc. Being my second time around at an institution of higher learning, I think I am more focused and determined now, but I am still me. Meaning, I become easily overwhelmed and I have the tendency to completely check-out of reality instead of working on things little by little. I'm hoping that with the help of all of my prior experience and wisdom, I will be successful this coming semester.

To kick-off my return to the hallowed halls of higher education, I thought I would share the Statement of Purpose essay that I submitted with my application. It explains exactly why I wanted to go back to school and why I wanted to study English Teaching. Enjoy!

As a high school student, I loathed English classes. Dreaded, despised, detested. The thought of reading, analyzing and discussing yet another so-called “literary classic” was the least appealing scholastic activity to my young and untrained mind. I could not understand the intrinsic value of knowing how to recognize imagery, irony and in media res in works of fiction. Upon starting college at Brigham Young University, I considered myself lucky that my high school AP English credits meant I did not have to take the freshman English course. I was a Communications major, so it was with much satisfaction – and smugness – that I severed all ties with my formal English education.

I thoroughly enjoyed my studies as a Communications major at BYU. With an emphasis in Public Relations, I became involved in my classes and extra-curricular activities. I made the decision to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about halfway through my university education. I was fortunate enough to be called to serve in the Spain Málaga Mission. For a year and a half I lived as a missionary in Andalucía, mastering the language and teaching and serving the people who I had the privilege to meet. The focus of our message was religious in nature, but it was during this time that I began to find real joy in teaching others. My time as a missionary came to an end all too quickly, but I was eager to return to BYU to finish my education.

In August 2007, I secured an internship with a prestigious public relations firm in Los Angeles in order to fulfill graduation requirements for my major. As a wide-eyed young professional, I held a very romanticized view of how my first real-world work experience would unfold. I was certain that I would excel as an intern, be offered a full-time position with the company and continue to happily live the American Dream in California. Little did I know then that not only would I dislike living in Los Angeles, but I would also realize that my self-chosen career and life plan would encounter a major roadblock: the realization that I did not want to pursue this career any longer. I did not enjoy the work I was doing as an intern and, in a word, I was unhappy. I finished the internship after six months, and with determination and a new-found understanding of the “real world,” I pointed my truck back to my home state of Texas in June 2008.

During the summer, my less-than-enthusiastic efforts to search for full-time employment in the public relations industry and thereby attempt to again secure a career path in my chosen field of study made it clear to me that I needed to take a step back and reevaluate what I wanted to do with my life. After much thought and self-examination, I settled on three things I know to be true about myself.

First, I love teaching. As a missionary and through other experiences and leadership roles I have held, I find that I am most animated and energized when I am helping someone understand a difficult concept or arrive at their own conclusion about a particular topic.

Second, I love reading. My father would call it a “voracious reading habit,” which is not far from the truth. I can devour an 800-page book in a single sitting. I will read and reread my favorite books until the bindings are broken. I appreciate the ability of books, both fiction and non-fiction, to transport a reader to a different time and place, to introduce fascinating characters and peoples, to create intriguing storylines and mysteries, to present themes and situations that make you think and consider your own values and beliefs. Without consciously acknowledging it, I analyze the books I read for flashbacks, foils and foreshadowing. I even find that I have an increased interest in reading the so-called “literary classics”…

Third, I love interacting with the youth. My youngest sister, whom I love and admire greatly, recently graduated from high school. She was able to stay true to herself and rise above the pressures and negative influences that so many of her generation face. I have had the opportunity to observe and associate with other adolescents who, like my sister, are striving to do their best and make a difference in the world. I see a lot of potential in their generation and always feel energized after spending time with them and witnessing their efforts to do right by themselves and those around them.

The three truths about myself I have just described – my love of teaching, reading and interacting with the youth – led me to an obvious but unexpected conclusion: teaching high school English would be a much better career path for me. My elation at finally realizing this has brought me to my current position of applying for acceptance to the College of Liberal Arts Department of English program at the University of Texas at Austin. My previous university experience did not include any formal English education instruction, and my desire to learn as much as possible in order to prepare myself to become a high school educator will make me a valuable addition to the university. I am now more focused and determined than I have ever been. I want to help high school students develop an appreciation of English literature, and a love of learning and reading. And, who knows? I might even be able to help some of them learn not to dread, despise and detest high school English classes as much as I did…once upon a time.


  1. Hi Katie,

    Just wanted to wish you the very best in your next adventure in higher education. Much of life is finding what we really enjoy doing and then spending the rest of our life doing that. Some people never find this and their work costs them much rather than gives them meaning. I hope you will find that joy in your next steps.

    I loved my brief career in public relations, but I believe there is much more potential for the purpose of the practice than there is in the actual practice of the purpose. Maybe that is why I drifted into higher education, because the passion I hold for the value of effective public relations— building relationships, communicating truthfully in ways that benefit others, resolving conflict through communication—is something I can inspire in future generations. I also recognize that some of the practices don't live up to those purposes and ideals, and that can cause frustration and stress.

    Wishing you the best to help others discover what you so much enjoy.

    Dr. Brad Rawlins
    BYU Dept. of Communications