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Literary Theory leads to Career at Facebook

Jan 18, 2019

By Dr. Arlette zinck, Dean of Arts

What does studying rhetoric and the world’s largest social media platform have in common?

King’s graduate Jeana Ridley talks about career success and the liberal arts...

The last bite of Rod Ridley’s lasagna went down hard after he heard his daughter’s news. Jeana sat in her usual place at the family dinner table, across from her sister and flanked by her parents. As dinner drew to a close, she announced she was changing majors from a focus on biology to literary studies, focusing on rhetoric and literary theory.

Rod is an engineer by trade and was keen to see his daughter prepare for a career. Her choice to take liberal arts made sense when the focus was biology, but rhetoric and literary theory did not seem like obvious choices. “Dad is one of my career role models,” says Jeana Ridley. “I knew he would support me in whatever I chose, but I also knew that the move to literary studies would mystify him.”

After graduating from King’s with a Bachelor of Arts in English in April of 2011, Jeana found work with the City of Edmonton and then with the Government of Alberta in communications. She was writing, but she felt her creativity was stifled. “I quit my job, managed a fitness studio for a while, then debated whether to pursue law school or a master’s degree in communications.” The master’s degree won out. She completed her degree in communications with a focus on digital media at the University of Washington.

That led her to Facebook.

She won a fellowship with the social media giant, and that turned into a full-time job in Seattle as a content strategist – a position all about rhetoric. “The way something is expressed is critical,” explains Jeana. “The right words are transformative. All we encounter in the world is text. The work with Facebook allows me to bring my full intellectual abilities to the problems that animate me.”

Bottom line? “You can do a lot with English literature,” she laughs. “Loving literary theory is a way into a great job.”

Jeana credits her King’s education with the start that made everything else possible. “I went to King’s because I had previously experienced the vast intellectual resources of the University of Alberta, but did not yet know how I wanted to live. I wanted go to a place where I could get to know people, to find people I not only respected intellectually, but people who could model how to live well.” She found all she was looking for.

She also credits the interdisciplinary style of learning at King’s for helping her excel in her career at Facebook. “We need to use language well to understand content design,” says Jeana. “We don’t treat subjects as silos, but as themes that allow us to see the world as a coherent whole. Your passion for biology can also inform your love for literature.”

How is Dad feeling about her career choices these days? “He is thrilled,” says Jeana. “I’m happy and he is happy for me.”

Happily ever after. It’s the perfect ending for an English major.

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