Profile by Ryan Calamia (’19)
What is your favorite memory?
Favorite English department memory? Running around outside of Dr. Conlogue’s classroom crowing, “WENDELL BERRY! WENDELL BERRY!” with Dr. McMillan. He was a good sport about it. I enjoyed that a lot about Marywood; the department felt like a crazy family.
What was your greatest personal accomplishment?
In the spirit of keeping this Marywood related, keeping Bayleaf alive! When I was in school there weren’t too many people involved with it, but I saw on social media the other day that there’s a Bayleaf Live event now. That’s great! It’s really important for the artists and writers of MU to be recognized.
What did you want to do when your graduated Marywood?
My goals now are very different from what they were when I graduated. Fresh out of school I was showing paintings and drawings at a lot of galleries, sold a few pieces, wanted to be a freelance illustrator. I started working in clothing retail to have a more stable source of income and ended up falling in love with the visual side of the business. I honestly had no idea what visual merchandising was when I was in school and had very little interest in fashion, but that’s changed a lot over the years!
What are you currently doing now that you are out of Marywood?
I am currently working as a Visual Manager for UNIQLO, a Japanese clothing company. I actually got my degree at Marywood in Fine Arts; English was my second major. I had an amazing English teacher in high school and AP tested high enough to not have to take any required English classes. But I missed it! Within my first month I was signing the paper to take on English as well.
Where I’m at now is a marriage of my experiences thus far, including my time studying English and Illustration at Marywood. Visual and verbal communications are the core of my work, much in the way that an illustration is a visual response to a written question. People will often wonder what the two have to do with each other, but they have everything to do with each other! I wouldn’t last very long if all I could do was make things look pretty; I need to express an idea or concept without words, but words are where it starts. The composition of a story, the composition of a painting, and the composition of a room aren’t all that different from each other if you’re willing to spend the time thinking it through. At the end of the day I think of myself as a visual problem solver.
More recently I’ve been taking on more responsibilities with networking and local marketing for our Philadelphia store, and I can certainly thank studying English for that! Building relationships and communicating in a positive way grow from my learning.
What is your life outside of work?
Honestly I love my job so much that it’s kind of bled into my outside life. UNIQLO offers a lot of opportunities for employees to get involved with community outreach and charity. No matter where your career path takes you remember what you can do for others. If you’re succeeding, try to pull others up with you.
What is your advice for English majors?
Don’t just read what pertains to your own interests. If you love nonfiction read a fantasy novel. If you’re into art, read some science text books. You’ll be surprised what kind of inspiration you find in there! Read business theory and contract composition. I swear it’s useful for everything; everyone should know how to write up a contract. Read fairy tales, children’s literature, and picture books! I have stacks of children’s books. There are a lot of complex ideas in there.
Also don’t get discouraged when you graduate. Your experiences outside of school will greatly influence your path in unexpected ways. I had no interest in fashion in school, and just last month I styled for a major spot at Wharton’s Charity Fashion Show. You’ll be a very different person in five years than you are right now. Don’t scoff at the jobs you might have to take right after school. I swear you’ll be able to apply anything you learn eventually.
What are you reading now?
I recently wrapped up a huge Terry Pratchett binge. That was followed by a Margaret Atwood binge. I’ll probably hop back on the Haruki Murakami train next. I also have some books on business management that were written by the founder of UNIQLO, Tadashi Yanai, and some that he recommended. He challenged us to read 100 books a year, not just on business but any topic. He knows that great ideas come from unexpected places.