Maybe we should call him “The Social Poet.”
For English and linguistics alumnus Aaron McClaskey (’16), an IPFW education in poetry led to a surprising destination—social media giant Facebook.
"A degree spent studying Allen Ginsberg and Jack Spicer led to a career in the tech industry,” McClaskey said. “But now that I'm here it all makes a strange bit of sense. Writing is writing is writing, after all."
McClaskey started in fall 2005, but struggled to find his direction and stay focused.
“I did all the things you weren’t supposed to do,” he said. “I took time off. I went full time some semesters and part time for others. I changed majors, and changed back again.”
Once he discovered his love of writing, McClaskey also found his focus.
He took an on-campus job as an editorial assistant in Marketing Communications, which introduced him to the world of copywriting. “Creative writing and copywriting aren’t mutually exclusive,” he said. “They’re more like siblings that only get along some of the time.”
Graduating, Then Staying
McClaskey graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in writing fiction in spring 2014. A month after walking the Commencement stage, he joined the Marketing Communications team full time as a creative copywriter.
In his new role, McClaskey’s words became IPFW’s voice in print and digital outlets, on TV, and over the radio. He also collaborated with the social media team to share stories of life as a Mastodon. “Whether you’re writing a novel or building a brand, you’re still telling a story,” he said.
After spending his undergraduate years in the fiction workshop, he moved his graduate studies in a new direction by taking master’s courses in poetry with Professor George Kalamaras, former Indiana state poet laureate.
“Professor Kalamaras helped me understand what poetry makes possible,” McClaskey said. “How language is sometimes a negotiation, how images build energy, and how to see through and engage with the experiences we take for granted.”
Interning at Facebook
While finishing his graduate degree, McClaskey’s longtime mentor, English Professor Mary Ann Cain, referred him to a highly competitive internship opportunity with Facebook in Menlo Park, Calif. He applied, and the company chose him for one of its positions.
Working at Facebook headquarters that summer, he learned the strategy and art of crafting messages for multiple platforms and environments. Along the way, he discovered surprising ways to apply his knowledge of poetry. “You’re writing for an audience. You’re inventing a creative solution,” McClaskey said. “Writing is writing is writing.”
When his summer internship ended, Facebook said they’d have a position for him once he finished his master’s in the fall.
Going West (and Graduating Again)
McClaskey completed his master’s degree in writing studies with an emphasis in poetry, graduating with honors in December 2016, and began writing his next chapter the following month. He's now a content strategist in Facebook’s Seattle offices.
“I’d been at IPFW, in some role or another, since 2005, but it wasn’t until grad school that I really felt connected to campus,” he said. “It became a second home—something I wanted to invest my time and energy into. I saw IPFW in a way I never had before. And nowhere else could have brought out the best in me the way IPFW did.”
Exploring Your Path(way)
Finding the right major takes a bit of looking around and a willingness to explore. That’s why IPFW launched the Pathway Program [link to https://www.ipfw.edu/offices/sst/PathwayProgram/).
This program gives students the opportunity to explore several majors inside a broad subject area, such as business and leadership, engineering and science, and visual and performing arts. Students work with a Pathway Advisor, taking assessments and discussing career exploration opportunities.
This experience encourages students to identify short-term goals that will help them find their major and put them on the right road to their degree!