Sequel: Jimmy Butts

Welcome to Sequel, a series spotlighting our talented alumni and the strides they’ve made in their field post-graduation.

To be an English major takes more than just an ability to write decent essays. According to alumnus Jimmy Butts, “the ability to read closely and write well paired with a thoughtful mind will always be useful out there in the real world.” When Butts first started at College of Charleston, he was not an English major, but a Biology major. And like many of us, felt the pull of English and decided to follow his heart during his sophomore year. Butts became an English major with a minor in Secondary Education, because of his fantastic teachers and passion for reading and engaging with interesting things.

Butts went on to get his Master’s in English at Winthrop University and, from there, he received his Ph.D. from Clemson’s Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design program. He had many odd jobs throughout his education, one of which was his time as a tutor in the writing lab, right here at the College, to which he says, “gave me more of an interdisciplinary lens…and it was a phenomenal opportunity to work with writers in a really positive and comfortable atmosphere.” The focus on encouraging positivity in writing has stayed with Butts since his time at the College. The now Director of the Writing Program at LSU in Baton Rouge, LA, is constantly thinking about how to help his students develop as writers. He believes that quality time devoted to reading and writing opens opportunities in every area of the field.

His best advice for students is, “just to write—a lot. Really be willing to be honest with yourself if something isn’t working. But also, be bold and willing to step out and own your own voice.” The stranger the better.

“Students don’t need permission to do interesting things in their writing, but they want someone to encourage them to go for it. We’re all so nervous about doing something wrong that some of most wonderful and unruly approaches to writing remain left at the fringes.”


Stay tuned for a feature on former Alumnus Whit Slagsvol, a former CofC English major and current lawyer!