Student Stories: John Kurpiel

John Kurpiel

Major: English

When John Kurpiel first attended College of DuPage after graduating from high school, he initially wanted a degree in fire science.

He soon realized that it wasn’t a good fit and decided to take a semester off. However, that one semester turned into seven years.

“I always planned on returning to school, but the fear of failing held me back,” he said. “After several years in the working world and soul searching, I came to the decision that it was time to go back.”

Kurpiel decided to pursue a master’s degree in Library Science, which did not require a particular major to enter a graduate program. He chose English, an area he knew he would enjoy, and returned to COD.

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“English has always been a favorite subject of mine,” he said. “Once I began taking college-level English courses, my passion for it grew. Not only did I love reading the literature in each class, but I also thoroughly began to love the critical thinking, close reading and process of constructing arguments that go into the discipline.”

After earning his Associate in Arts degree, Kurpiel transferred to North Central College (NCC), a move that initially concerned him. He was worried that he would feel unprepared and be behind other students.

Thankfully, his academic development at COD made for a seamless transition.

“I was able to hit the ground running in my classes without the worry of feeling like I needed to catch up,” he said. “COD not only has faculty that care about their students, they also prepare their students to be successful at the next stage of their academic careers.”

Kurpiel earned a Bachelor of Arts in Literature and was named Outstanding Major in Literature. As his passion for English continues to grow, and with the encouragement and tutelage of the English faculties at both NCC and COD, he decided to continue his studies at West Virginia University. He has been admitted as an MA/Ph.D. student in English and plans to focus on postcolonial and Anglophone literature, with an emphasis on gender and sexuality and critical race. 

COD not only has faculty that care about their students, they also prepare their students to be successful at the next stage of their academic careers.

John Kurpiel

“Admittedly, as an English major, one of the most frustrating questions that I get asked is, ‘What are you going to do with that degree?’ Sometimes it can become a bit worrisome,” he said. “However, a degree in English carries with it a wide range of skills that are highly sought after in the working world outside of academia. You learn to think critically, write clearly, problem solve and communicate effectively. If you are passionate about the area of study, don’t let other people’s opinions stop you. A degree in English, whether a major or a minor, is valuable and practical.”

While he would enjoy working as an English professor and continuing his research, Kurpiel understands the challenging job market may make this difficult. He would like to stay in higher education, perhaps seeking out a role in administration or academic advising.

“Through the bumpy road of my academic career, I have developed a genuine affinity for higher education and working with students,” he said. “There are many wonderful things in the field of higher ed, but a lot of work needs to be done to make it better. I see myself working toward helping students in some capacity in the future, whether as a faculty member or in another role.”

Because of his experience at COD, Kurpiel understands the importance of taking time to explore the many available academic options. 

“If you are like me when I first attended college and don’t have a clear idea of what you want to do, don’t be afraid to try classes in several different areas,” he said. “One of the truly awesome things about COD is the massive number of courses offered in many disciplines. Additionally, allow yourself time to grow and develop. If I had said to myself when I was 19 that I would eventually be an English major on my way to graduate school, I would have laughed. COD is an institution that allows you to find your niche, so let yourself find out where you fit in.

“When I decided to return to school later in life, I chose COD because I knew I would be learning from top-notch faculty who would help prepare me for my future educational goals. They are wonderful, knowledgeable and deeply devoted to helping their students succeed. COD is a place where you can gain a high-quality education and save money doing so.”

Learn more about the English program at College of DuPage