“Studying English is one of the best decisions you can make”

woman in professional attire with short hair and glasses stands in front of BART sign
April 18, 2024

Michelle Robertson (English ‘16) describes the path that led to her current role as BART storyteller and explains why an English major will give you an edge in the workplace. 

What does a BART storyteller do, you ask? Scroll to the bottom of the page to see how Michelle has used her role to organize a teen poetry contest, launch One Book, One BART — a moving book club — and profile people who are using BART to reach their dreams. She has also written a book of poetry in her spare time.  

In addition to this written overview, Michelle shared her experiences with students in person at the Arts & Humanities Creative Careers mixer on April 2, 2024.

"I remember well when I was an English major and everyone constantly told me “You’ll never make any money! You won’t find a job!” It turned out that was totally untrue. I was actually the first of my friends to find a job!

My path to working on the BART Communications team has certainly been winding. I’ve worked in many fields in the decade since I entered the workforce — reporting, fact checking, copywriting, editing, social media, and now communications and marketing. Two of those years I spent in an English lit masters program at UCI — the literature bug will never leave you.

Sometimes the twists and turns of your professional life give you whiplash, but once you’ve finally landed in a career and at an organization that feels right to you and values your skills, you realize it was all worth it. The skills you gain studying English are invaluable in the professional world. Writing, critical and creative thinking, problem solving, interpretation, translating complex information, editing, grammar –  these are surprisingly rare in many workplaces, and in every context I’ve worked, they’ve made me an essential employee. I use almost all of these skills every single day in my current job at BART.

You might end up working with people who studied journalism, business, communications and marketing, or even engineering, city planning, finance, and graphic design (like me at BART!). But you will gain skills as an English major that your other colleagues won’t have, and it will make you a crucial team player wherever you end up working.

Some wisdom for when you’re first starting out: At the beginning of your career, you may not have a job that you’re both passionate about and that pays you well. But if you put in the work, learn from your mistakes, and keep an open mind to exploring different industries and workplaces, you will eventually land at a place that feels right for you and aligns with your values. Own up to your mistakes and help your colleagues out when they ask for it. Workplace karma is real, and I’ve found the best way to get your resume noticed is to know someone who already works there and can recommend you.

I know my younger self would be surprised by where I am today, but proud too. Now, it’s gratifying to have the opportunity to tell students that studying English is one of the best decisions they can make as they prepare to face the sometimes-tempestuous waters of the workforce."

Storytelling in action

A few samples of Michelle Robertson's work 

woman in peach-colored dress stands on BART platform

BART Connects: BART takes a second-year college student to her dream school

In August, Kassandra Santillan started her second year at San Francisco State University, her dream college where she studies microbiology, her dream major. If she couldn’t take BART to school, she wouldn’t be able to attend. “BART made it happen for me,” she said.

a person standing in a BART car reads aloud from an open book while other passengers smile

A novel approach: Why book lovers are making BART their next reading destination

Retired librarian Mardi Veiluva is a member of BART's first-ever moving book club called, One Book, One BART. All one has to do is show up at a particular platform and hop on the last car. Michelle Robertson, a member of BART's Communications Department, said the idea is to remind people that taking the train is not just good for the planet but also for the soul.

a person takes a printed poem from a dispenser in a BART station

BART Lines Teen Poetry Contest 2024

The BART Lines Teen Poetry Contest is a celebration of the region's youth, their expansive imaginations, and their immense capacities for compassion and creativity... The 31 winning poems, written by local youth ages 13 to 19, are now available in BART's free Short Edition Story Dispensers.