By Rebecca Davis ’15
English majors are frequently asked, “Why do you want to be an English teacher?” Jim Scully ’87 was no exception, but he is living proof that teaching isn't the only thing you can do with a degree in English. Now the Chief Operating Officer for J.Crew, Scully returned to his alma mater earlier this semester to discuss how degrees in liberal arts, such as English, provide a “fully integrated experience” that cans open doors to limitless opportunities, even ones you wouldn’t immediately expect.
“Today, there are ever-changing expectations in any career that can be impossible to predict. Those with a liberal arts background have the greatest potential to learn new skills and adapt quickly,” Scully said.
Scully’s Siena education has helped him throughout his career. His experience at J. Crew proves the flexibility of his degree. Since starting at the clothing company in 2005, Scully said the business has grown exponentially, expanding in both sales and manufacturing internationally and he has adapted with it. Scully said J. Crew plans to add 100 new stores in the next five years, 70 of those outside of North America.
During his lecture, Scully explained how a liberal arts education builds vital connections because it provides a well-rounded knowledge of many subjects.
“Even if you are an English major, you have the opportunity to study subjects like sociology, art history, business and more. The liberal arts teach you to be proficient in communications, conceptual problem solving and analytical thinking,” said Scully. “With such a wide range of experience, this allows you to start an interesting conversation with anyone, a skill than can open doors in any career.”
Anna Vescio ’15, a double major in English and classics, was inspired by Scully’s story and the advice he gave.
“I want to be a screenwriter, so I have to have skills in many genres of study in order to be a good writer,” said Vescio. “I have been taught how to think deeply about a variety of topics. Lecturers on campus, like Mr. Scully, really just give me even more confidence in my degree and my future prospects.”
After his speech, Scully fielded questions from the audience and discussed his business plans for globalization and what his future holds.
“Recently, I’ve spent three weeks in Asia, last week in London and tomorrow I’m leaving for Chicago. It’s hard work, yet it’s easy to get out of bed in the morning; I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t exhilarating,” Scully said. “Whatever I do next, it’s going to be for an organization or a cause I feel is important. I want to make a bigger impact than just profits in anything I do.”
Making an impact is something Siena students are equally passionate about and Scully proves that a liberal arts degree can provide the skills necessary to have a profound influence on your company and community alike. With his encouraging words and story of achievement, Jim Scully showed students that what they are doing now is putting them on the path to endless possibilities.