Whitney Pratz
Operations Manager, The Planetary Society
BA 2007, MFA 2010

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How did your major prepare you for the job, the life you have now? How did you get from your major to the work, the life you have now?

Majoring in English for both my undergraduate and graduate degrees helped me hone my communication skills and I would say this is how I got to where I am today. My time in the English department helped me develop in all ways.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments (both personally and professionally)? How did your experience in the English Department help you with these achievements?

My biggest personal accomplishment so far was getting rid of everything I owned and moving to Los Angeles. I didn’t have a particular goal in mind by moving out here — I was looking for a change and oh boy, did I find it.

Professionally, my biggest accomplishment is certainly taking another leap and applying for the job at The Planetary Society. I found the job listing 5 days before application materials were due. They asked for a video intro, a cover letter, writing sample, and resume. I collected my team, got the video recorded and edited revealing my true awkwardness and submitted everything on time even though I thought I had no chance: I don’t have a science background and nothing on my resume spoke about my love of star gazing and dreaming about what’s out there.

My time studying in the English department helped me with my writing ability and, especially grad school, helped me become a master learner, organizer, and communicator.

What did you like about the English program? Why did you choose to study here?

I chose CSU for no remarkable reason: it was close to home and a lot of my friends decided to go there as well. And when I took my first creative writing class in the department, I knew it was my home. My favorite part of the English program were my professors. They were an amazing group of people and I wouldn’t be the same without their support, encouragement and critique.

Was there a specific class, professor, advisor, or fellow student who made an impression on you, helped you, or inspired you when you were at CSU in the English Department? Do you still keep in contact with your classmates or professors?

Oh there are so many. I made many great friends during undergrad and grad school, many of whom are still close friends.

So many of my professors made such a difference for me that I’d like to list them all, but I’ll mention a few who always went above and beyond: Steven Schwartz, my thesis adviser; Stephanie G’Schwind, my life and school mentor through grad school; Leslee Becker, a fantastic writer and just all around amazing person.

What would you like to tell prospective CSU English Department students?

Major in English because you love reading and writing and you want to tell the world about something. And minor or double major in a science that you find interesting. The world needs people who can communicate science as much as it needs scientists.

What advice do you have for current CSU English Department students?

Don’t rush. There’s no time like college and I know everybody says that but we say it because it’s true. Enjoy the ride. Don’t worry about grades as long as you’re learning. Play hooky. Join clubs and communities outside of the English department. Have fun. Get to know your professors. They’re rad people.

Also, take science classes.

What was the last piece of writing you read or wrote? OR, What are you currently reading, writing? 

I just finished Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. It changed this introvert’s whole way of thinking. I’m currently reading Brain Maker by David Perlmutter and Kristin Loberg. I’ve been on a nonfiction streak for years now but an amazing piece of fiction I recently read was Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior.

What are your hobbies or special interests, what do you enjoy doing with your free time?

I spend a lot of time outside in sunny Los Angeles with my dogs. I have a big piece of land I’m working to turn into a community garden. I see live music every chance I get. And I spend a lot of time thinking about how my generation will change the world.

Whitney (on the far right) surfing with Bill Nye, Chief Executive Officer of The Planetary Society
Whitney (on the far right) surfing with Bill Nye, Chief Executive Officer of The Planetary Society