Johanna Lyon

Why did you come to Willamette—and why major in English?

When I was looking for universities, I narrowed my search down to three: University of Portland, Lewis and Clark, and Willamette. So obviously I was looking for a small liberal arts college in Oregon. In the end, my decision came down to which campus felt the best to me. Willamette’s open, beautiful campus and its old buildings felt comfortable and like a place I could call home. English literature has also been a place I can call home. I’ve loved reading and writing for as long as I can remember, and there was never any doubt that English would end up being my major. Literature and literary analysis are comforting, and they just make sense to me. I wouldn’t choose anything else.

What's your favorite English class been so far?

My favorite English class has to have been Introduction to Literary Theory. I loved all the different modes and manners of interpretation it provided me to further delve into literature. In particular, I enjoyed studying psychoanalysis and had a lot of fun applying that to Calvino’s Invisible Cities in a reading that posed the cities Marco Polo visited as uncanny versions of Venice. The class pushed all of us to explore a wide range of theoretical approaches and to understand them the best we could. I feel that I learned the most in this class based on the readings and in depth discussions. I also feel I saw the largest improvement in my academic writing.

You’re part of the campus Dis/Ability Awareness and Accessibility club, right? What does the club do, and how did you come to be part of it?

Yes, I am a co-leader of this club and founded it. Essentially what we do is provide an outlet for students with disabilities and their allies to come together and discuss disability on campus and in life in general. I have a chronic illness, and when I arrived at Willamette I found it very challenging to navigate Accessible Education Services on my own. It’s an isolating experience, especially being away from home for the first time. In the end, our club is attempting to make having a disability on campus less isolating. We’re trying to construct community and conversation.

How have you been spending your summers?

This last summer, after my sophomore year, I had a marketing internship at Bend Research, a pharmaceutical company back in my hometown. My responsibilities were doing research on the social media pages of competitors, managing client records for salespeople, and participating in the integration of a newly acquired company. It was a great experience seeing the potential job opportunities available to English majors. For this coming summer, I’m applying for the Learning by Creating Grant where I hope to do both journalistic reviews juxtaposed against personal essays in an examination of disability aesthetic in performances. Additionally, I plan to work at Tokyo International University of America as a tutor to continue exploring my English opportunities and see if teaching is a direction in which I would like to go.

You’re also majoring in Spanish, right? How do you see that intersecting with your English major?

The way I see it, literature is literature no matter what language it’s in, and I love literature. Both majors have lent themselves to each other, expanding the way I think about words and grammatical presentation. My Spanish professors show just as much passion for literature as my English professors, and I love being able to spend all my class time talking about poetry and books. Additionally, learning Spanish has allowed me to read authors like Lorca and Neruda in their original language and how they were intended to be read. That feels very empowering to me and makes me feel like I can understand all of literature better with that insight.

So what’s the future got in store? Where do you see yourself five years from now?

I’m trying to be flexible with my future ideas, because I don’t really know what’s in store for me. I could see myself doing a lot of different things. However, given my Spanish major, I’m hoping I can get a job doing some form of translating post-college or something along those lines. From there, I would like to save up a bit and go on to a good graduate school. Right now, I’m thinking I would like to become a professor of English, so I would pursue my PhD.