Communications Major Named HSS Valedictorian

Published: April 18, 2023 | Author: Abbie Cochrane | Read Time: 6 minutes

College of Humanities and Social Sciences valedictorian Aspen EnglishAspen English has been named the 2023 valedictorian for Southern Utah University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences. She is graduating with a double major degree in English with an emphasis in rhetoric and writing and strategic communication.

“Aspen has been a delight to have as a student: she's creative and thoughtful and asks great questions about the different topics we study,” said Dr. Rosalyn Eves, professor of English at SUU. “As a dual communications and English major, she has a knack for seeing cross-disciplinary links and approaching ideas with an open, curious journalistic mindset. She helps facilitate powerful conversations, both by being willing to ask questions but also by inviting others to share what they think too. I have no doubt she will do amazing things–I’m just sad I won’t have her in my classes anymore.”

English comes from a long line of T-Birds; her grandfather and her mother are SUU alumni. Additionally, her high school took yearly trips to the Utah Shakespeare Festival, leading her to fall in love with the campus and culture of SUU.

English was born in North Carolina and her family slowly moved west as she grew up, moving to Tennessee and then to Utah when English was 12. She attended middle and high school in Monticello, Utah. English has always loved reading and writing, but picking a major proved slightly difficult for her.

“If you look at my name, there’s a little bit of a destiny aspect there,” said English. I’ve always been good at English, so it was fitting. When I came to college, I actually was undecided for an entire year, because I was interested in so many different things. When my advisor suggested I double major, I immediately jumped at the chance. I love English, but I wanted to add communication to get a more full scope of writing, marketing, social media and journalism.”

In high school, English put her skills to use as the editor-in-chief of her school’s newspaper. She was also very involved with student government, which led to her continued involvement in college as a part of the SUU Student Programming Board for two years, spending one of those years as an event director, and serving on the Student Advisory Board for HSS.

She also spent some time in Student Involvement and Leadership (STIL); however, her passion for journalism compelled her to step away from STIL and into roles at SUU News and the University Journal. She was the life editor for a little over a year and is now the editor-in-chief.

Since settling with SUU News, English has helped publish eight University Journals, a bi-semesterly publication produced entirely by undergraduate students. She considers it one of her key accomplishments from her time at SUU.

“Printed publications are an under-appreciated art, but our team of incredible writers, photographers, editors and designers have created a whole collection of Journals that I am proud to have contributed to,” English said.

One of the things English is most passionate about is connection. These connections have helped her prepare for her future career through internships, involvement opportunities, and implementing real-life skills in the classroom and in the field.

“I think that one of the greatest gifts SUU has given me includes the people I was introduced to and now consider my friends, mentors, peers, and advisors,” said English. “Through the network of this school, I have found some of my closest friends and loved ones, even outside of an academic setting.”

When it comes to being valedictorian for HSS, English is honored, but rejects the idea that representing her peers at commencement means that she’s the best the college has to offer.

“Our college is full of incredible students, scholars and researchers who have and will continue to change the world,” she said. “I am here because of my peers, classmates and friends who have supported me, worked with me, and cried with me in the library in the late hours of the night. I like to think that being valedictorian gives me the opportunity to represent every single HSS graduate and all we have accomplished in our time at SUU. I couldn't do it without them.”

English would especially like to thank the professors and staff members who have contributed to her education.

“I will never forget Dr. Dib, who has single-handedly taught me to love literature classes, Dr. Eves, who taught me the power of rhetoric; and Dr. Coombs, who encouraged me not only in journalistic pursuits but also during really stressful moments during my college career. Every professor I have taken a class from has shaped me in some way, and I have them all to thank for that.”

There are countless instances where SUU’s English Department has helped English build her career, but she also left her mark on the department.

“In the multiple literature classes that Aspen has taken with me, what's stood out the most about her work and work efforts is their level,” said Dr. Nicole Dib, assistant professor of English at SUU. “I have written ‘graduate level argument’ on multiple of Aspen's essays, because it's simply the truth: as an undergraduate student, she is already thinking, writing, analyzing, and researching at a level that would be representative of a graduate student. Her curiosity, passion for communications and literary study, and eagerness to put in the work necessary to produce outstanding research has been present throughout the years I have worked with her. Aspen's poise and sense of humor have always contributed to making my classroom spaces engaging, productive, and fun, and it's been my pleasure and privilege to work with her during her time here at SUU.”

Along with overcoming obstacles alongside her peers and friends, English feels the most challenging part of college hasn’t been academics, balancing responsibilities, or working jobs on top of classes–it’s personal discovery.

“The college experience is a journey of figuring out who you really are, and although it's a really difficult one, it is also incredibly rewarding,” she stated. “Find your people, and find your passion. Find friends who you truly care about, and passions that you can devote your time to. And always, always, always, get help when you need it.”

Following graduation, English will be accepting a job in Salt Lake City, Utah in the communications field.

In addition to being named HSS valedictorian, English will be representing the entire Class of 2023 as one of three student speakers at Southern Utah University’s Commencement Ceremony on Friday, April 28, 2023, at 8:30 a.m. in the America First Event Center. The Commencement Ceremony is open to all graduating students and their guests. Tickets are not required, but graduates and their families will be given priority seating.

Visit SUU’s graduation website for a full schedule of events.

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