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Alumni Spotlight: Kelly Underwood

What is your current position? Why were you drawn to this line of work?

Kelly Underwood, Cal Poly English Alumna
Kelly Underwood

My current position is Director of Human Resources at Allan Hancock College. When I was working as the Writing Center Coordinator at the college, I got involved as a union officer. That work (negotiating, resolving employee issues, conducting personnel investigations) is highly challenging and rewarding, which led directly to my interest in working as the college’s chief human resources officer.

What accomplishments are you most proud of in your career/life?

Out of high school, I served in the United States Coast Guard to earn money for college. I am proud of my service and of the independence, determination, and discipline I gained from that service. I am also proud that I supported myself through college working multiple jobs – usually concurrently (from delivering UPS packages to working in an art gallery). At the top of my list, I am proud of the work I do now in support of the college’s employees.

How has your English degree from Cal Poly impacted your career/life?

For me, it is not about the degree. It is about the knowledge gained through my studies and the experiences I had with friends and professors. I credit my education – particularly my upper division and graduate education – with training me to be a critical and creative thinker, to look beyond the surface, and to challenge the status quo.

Do you have any advice for current English majors at Cal Poly?

Take classes that are completely outside of your comfort zone, travel, and talk to people who aren’t like you. You won’t know your own potential until you test it.

Favorite author/book and why? (or if you can't choose, favorite genre?)

If epic poems count, then Paradise Lost and The Faerie Queene. I loved the challenge they presented in exploring the depths of those poems.

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