Citizen Scholar Graduate Earns Dual Degrees

a girl with short brown hair wearing a grey and black shirt

Jillian Schupbach is a Citizen Scholar who pursued two degrees in Theatre and English Literature with a minor in Musical Theatre and will be graduating this spring. As she prepares to graduate, she took the time to answer the following questions reflecting on her MSU and Citizen Scholar experiences:

How did you choose your majors?
I chose to major in Theatre and English because I’ve always had a passion for writing and performance and, at the time, I felt that combining my interests in social justice and policy with that love for the arts would be beneficial in that I could use my perspective to combine theatrical diaspora with discussion of various social justice movements. My goals in life have shifted quite a bit since then, especially in that I no longer plan to pursue performance as a career, but I still firmly believe that the arts have the means to make relevant social/political statements and change and that this work is important. 

What has been the highlight of studying your majors at MSU?
The highlights of studying my majors here at MSU have been both the literature and the like-minded individuals I have been acquainted with that I otherwise likely would never have encountered. I have also found that the perspectives I’ve been offered on said literature have opened my eyes to many systemic issues that I, as a white, cisgender person, had never personally dealt with. This new awareness has allowed me to be much more socially and politically active and has shown me just how much more I must learn even beyond my undergraduate experience from the experiences of others around me. 

Why did you join Citizen Scholars?
I joined Citizen Scholars because I love the idea of being civically engaged and aware of the cultures around me that I didn’t necessary grow up with. I think it’s incredibly important as a student (and a person in general) to learn about the cultures and life experiences of others. This knowledge allows us as individuals to be more empathetic and inclusive in our daily lives and our work and school environments. 

How has Citizen Scholars enhanced your MSU education? 
Many of my Citizen Scholar experiences took place early on in my college career. I think this was very beneficial. It showed me civic engagement and offered opportunities for learning that I hadn’t been exposed to before. I grew up in an area much less diverse than East Lansing, so learning about other cultural backgrounds wasn’t something that was offered to me very often. Being a Citizen Scholar gave me the opportunity to fill in the gaps that I had missed for most of my life prior to starting college, and I learned a lot about myself and the world around me in the process. The experiences I had have really shaped me as a person, as well as positively impacted my view of the world. 

What has been the most impactful part of the Citizen Scholars program?
The different required engagement activities that I took part in my freshman and sophomore year were super interesting and I learned a lot! I loved hearing from speakers with backgrounds much different than my own, both educational and cultural. I was really glad for these opportunities!

Did you use the Citizen Scholar funding?
I put the Citizen Scholar funding towards a study abroad trip to London, England, with the Department of Theatre. With the funding, as well as one additional scholarship, I was able to pay for the majority of my expenses prior to the trip. Without this funding, I may not have been able to partake in the experience without taking out a loan. This study abroad experience was the only one I was able to afford, but I was able to see and do so much that I definitely wouldn’t change a thing. We attended over 20 different theatrical productions, as well as visited over 20 museums and historical sites. The trip was easily applicable to both of my degrees as we visited many important literary and theatrical venues and learned about the history of literature and theatre in London as well. 

What internships and jobs have you had during your time at MSU? 
I started off working at the Wharton Center my sophomore and junior year, which was a great experience! I loved being able to usher shows and speak with patrons who were as passionate about theatre and the arts as I was. Then, at the end of my sophomore year, I started working at MSU Greenline, the alumni fundraising center at Spartan Stadium. I started off as a caller, got promoted to lead caller, then supervisor, and finally shift manager, which is my current position. I can’t recommend MSU Greenline enough; it’s an incredible work environment! My experience at Greenline – from caller to manager – helped me get a job at a company in Chicago before I finished my second-to-last semester of college. I even discovered a love for sales and business that I never knew I had before.

Were you involved with any clubs or organizations? 
My freshman year I was a member of the a cappella group, Ladies First! My biggest regret in college is not sticking with it. It was too much for my schedule to continue being a part of the group, but I loved singing with such incredible, strong women, and I learned so much about sight-reading and arranging music.

How has COVID affected your college experience? 
Completing schoolwork has been much more difficult as my homework space tends to overlap with my work and leisure space (my apartment is essentially most of my world right now, as is the case for many students). Working at MSU Greenline has been my saving grace; having Zoom shifts may not be ideal, but my role as a manager has really pushed me to continue to stay on top of things and to continue to be as social as possible under the current circumstances. 

What are your plans post-graduation? 
I will be working at an SEO company in Chicago called BrightEdge as an SDR (Sales Development Representative). Although it’s not at all what I imagined I would be doing after graduation, I am beyond excited! The company atmosphere reminds me so much of MSU Greenline, which has been so incredibly formative in my final two years of school. I’m very much looking forward to learning the ropes of sales, as well as meeting my co-workers and living in a major city! 

How do you think Citizen Scholars will help you in your career? 
I think my experience with Citizen Scholars will allow me to be a more well-rounded and aware individual, as well as allow me to empathize with others who may be from different cultural or social backgrounds. I also believe that Citizen Scholars will allow me to think more globally as opposed to only considering parts of the world that I interact with directly.

How do you feel your major has prepared you for your career? 
Although I won’t be pursuing a career in performance, I know that the skills I’ve accrued in both my English and my Theatre majors will serve me well upon entering the workforce. I have learned empathy, confidence in public speaking, confidence in my own communication skills, and other meaningful skills that will allow me to be successful. I have also, as I wrote a bit earlier, learned about perspectives other than my own that will allow me to be much more understanding of those with different life experiences that I may not be entirely conscious of. This will hopefully allow me to be a communicative and helpful co-worker and will help to foster an environment of acceptance and comfort wherever I end up. 

Do you have any advice for people who want to go down a similar career path as you? 
College is an incredible time to try new things you may not have tried and to meet and introduce yourself to people you might not have otherwise encountered. Don’t be afraid to really challenge yourself and challenge others to make new, bold choices and to take risks; you will learn so much about yourself and those around you. Don’t ever feel stuck; the moment you feel stuck is the moment you settle. I love theatre and English, but if I had continued only focusing on those two subjects without seeking out any new experiences, I never would have found my place at MSU Greenline and learned how much I love sales and business. Learn to trust your instincts and accept when things about you change. You will grow so much through new experiences and being open-minded to that shift is so important.

Do you have any parting words you’d like to share with the university? 
One thing I have learned specifically during my time working at MSU Greenline is to try to find positive aspects of everything, even when things seem frustrating or bleak. This year has been difficult to navigate as a student, but again, I have learned so much in such a short time. Even though my senior year didn’t look exactly how I’d imagined it, I was still able to prepare for a successful career after graduation, and I’m still incredibly proud of both myself and everyone I’ve worked and learned with this year. We did it!