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Jessica Furtado

What kind of professional work have you been doing since graduation?

“My career path is a bit varied and non-traditional. While in college, I started my small business All You Need is Pug, a handmade line of pet accessories. I intended for this to be a way to make ends meet while I was an undergraduate, but it took off and I have continued developing this business. Since graduation, All You Need is Pug has appeared in InTouch Magazine, Daily Mail, and Fortune, among others. Aside from my work as a fashion designer for pets, I am also a freelance photographer and writer who publishes under the pseudonym JJ Lynne. I am Co-Editor of Poetry for the literary magazine Paper Nautilus, and I also work part-time as Early Literacy Librarian at Middleton’s Flint Public Library. I will be opening my second small business as a photographer later this year.”

To what extent has the English major helped you do this work?

“Being an English major taught me to be creative and analytical, both of which are valuable skills in any field. Above all, studying English made me an effective communicator and marketer. The skills I garnered while studying at Merrimack have allowed me to create strong branding for all of my business endeavors, and to convey my ideas in a way that engages potential customers. As a creative writer, I particularly value my background in English. The professors at Merrimack were incredibly encouraging, but they weren’t afraid to show tough love when they knew that I could produce better work. I was at Merrimack before the Creative Writing concentration and Writers House were available to students, but the English Department faculty still managed to push me in the right direction and help pave the path for the published writer that I am today.”

Have you earned any advanced degrees since your undergraduate graduation? If so, what are they? If not, do you plan to pursue graduate study in the future?

“I had hoped to pursue my MFA in Creative Writing. I applied to and was accepted by several graduate programs, but after a lot of thinking and seeking advice from mentors, I decided to turn these opportunities down. I was surprised when several former professors told me that I was better off not adding more to my student debt. The best advice I received was from former Merrimack adjunct professor Daniel Bosch. When I called him panicked over which decision to make, he basically said that if I have the drive and talent, an MFA may not be necessary. He recommended that I continue to write, attend readings and retreats, and find fellow creatives to inspire me and keep me accountable for my writing. I am grateful for this advice. While I still toy with the idea of entering an MFA program, I will only do so if the education system evolves and provides better financial support for individuals seeking to further their education.”

What did you like best about the Merrimack English major?

“Having the opportunity to read and discuss so many formative books. Class discussions taught me to be a better listener and gave me the confidence to open up about my own perspectives.”

What advice would you give current English majors?

“Don’t underestimate the value of your own creativity. Where you imagine yourself in 5 or even 10 years may not be where you end up, and that’s okay. Rely on your intuition and imagination to lead you in life and in your career, and know that what’s right for your peers may not be what works for you, so don’t bother to size yourself up against others. Your happiness should be your only gauge for success!”