Featured Students

Featured Student: Brianna Taylor


  • Name: Brianna Taylor
  • Year: Senior
  • Major: TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) & Spanish minor
  • Hometown: Marion, IL
  • Quirky Fact: Whenever I go home for the weekend, I feel guilty leaving my childhood stuffed animal Fred the Flamingo in my Murray apartment and always toss him in my car at the last minute.
  • Favorite thing to eat on campus: Fried okra in the T-Room (when they have it!)
  • Best movie you’ve seen recently: Me Before You
  • Favorite movie: Beauty and the Beast
  • Best book you’ve read recently: 1984 by George Orwell
  • Favorite book: Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • What you like to do on campus: I love to find a quiet place to read outside near Pogue Library or in the Zen garden between the Fine Arts buildings while waiting for my next class.


Tell us about yourself:

My name is Brianna Taylor—I usually go by Bri— and I am a senior TESOL student from Marion, Illinois. My family and I have lived all over the Midwest, so it’s hard to say exactly where I am from, but Marion is where my family lives right now. Living on the move took me from a big, suburban middle school to somehow ending up in a very rural high school in Central Illinois where I graduated with a class of fewer than 30 students. I came into college as an English Education major and officially changed my major to TESOL last semester. TESOL is perfect for me because there is a focus both on ESL methodology and classroom application, as well as reading and analyzing literature. I love studying both of these areas.

What made you come to Murray State?

Coming from such a small high school, I wanted to be in an environment where my professors and classmates knew me as both a student and an individual. Murray State has really fulfilled that for me. When I go up to the English department on the seventh floor of Faculty Hall, it’s impossible to walk through without seeing a familiar face. Professors are always interested in how you are doing and what you’re working on, and having that personal connection with professors is a really special and unique part of being at this university.

What made you choose the major that you did?

As a freshman, I didn’t even know TESOL was a major, let alone imagine that it was something I would later want to do. I have always known that I want to pursue something in English, so I entered college as an English Education major. During my junior year, my focus and goals shifted slightly to TESOL, something I had been considering for a long time. As a freshman, I took the required English standard usage class and was surprised that over half of the class was made up of international students. It was such a different classroom environment than what I was used to coming from an area with limited diversity. We were assigned a group project in class, and I ended up in a group with five other students from South Korea and China. At first, I was really anxious about doing an English project in a group where I was the only native English speaker. We decided to perform a puppet show, and somewhere between gluing feathers to paper bags and writing a ridiculous script, I bonded with those girls. I really go back to that moment and those friendships as something that changed me. After this, I became passionate about the need for ESL students in the United States education system to have an advocate and supporter who deeply cares about helping them find the ability to express themselves and develop a voice.


Who have you enjoyed working with here at Murray State?

I have truly enjoyed working with everyone in the English and Philosophy Department. Dr. Debbie Bell is an incredible person. She made me feel so welcome in my program as my English Education advisor and, later, one of my professors and NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) advisor.  Just seeing Dr. Bell always brightens my day because she is such a happy and joyful person. I also enjoyed working with Dr. Black last semester in his early British literature class, and he gave me a lot of encouragement to keep growing as a writer and to have confidence in my work. He sets up a classroom environment that is open to exploring students’ ideas, and he is a great discussion leader. I have a lot of respect for Dr. Black.

Who inspires you in life?

My parents continue to inspire me through their love and support. They have always been my inspiration, but, as I grow older, I appreciate them in a deeper way. Now, they inspire me to put myself completely and whole-heartedly into everything that I do and take pride in my work. They are my best friends and a constant support system. My older brother Trent, who I like to refer to as my Big Brother Best Friend Forever, inspires me to be authentically and genuinely me. He taught me that it’s okay to be crazy and nerdy at times.

Have you done any work related to your major?

During my time at Murray State, I have participated in the Disney College Program twice—first, in Spring 2015 and then again this past summer in the alumni program. Both times I worked in the Magic Kingdom as a Food & Beverage cast member. I worked at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café in Tomorrowland during my first program as a dining room attendant, mainly cleaning tables and emptying trash. Even through these not-so-magical moments, I found so much joy in talking to guests about their Disney and life experiences. No matter what role you’re fulfilling, you really are creating magic each day for guests visiting the parks. Leaving was difficult, so I was eager to go back this past summer when I got an email about the Summer Alumni Program. This summer, I worked in Full Service Food & Beverage at Liberty Tree Tavern and the Diamond Horseshoe in Liberty Square. Something really cool about this experience last summer was that I worked with many International College Program students from all over the world—Mexico, China, Hong Kong, India—just to name a few! Disney World has cast members and visitors from all over the world!


What are your future plans?

I am a senior now but will also have a second senior year before graduating in Spring 2018, so I have a little bit longer to figure out my future plans. Next fall, I will be working on my Honors thesis and will then have student teaching in the spring before graduating. I would ideally love to teach abroad for a year or two immediately after college before establishing a career teaching ESL students here in the public school system. My long-term goals are to get my Master’s degree and maybe even a Ph.D. eventually so that I can teach at the college level. For now, I am content with being a college student myself and am open to many different possibilities for the future.


Brianna Taylor is an amazing young lady who not only has high expectations in the classroom but plays an active role in a number of organizations on campus.  Her participation in the student NCTE organization has proven her desire to teach language to students here in Murray and around the world. Because of her kind spirit and willingness to help others, she makes a positive impact wherever she goes, even Disney World where she served as an intern.   -Deborah Bell

Brianna approaches reading with a rare sophistication. I’m always interested in what she thinks after reading something for the first time because it’s frequently something I haven’t noticed in a text I’ve read for years. Her paper on Christopher Marlowe’s dense and weird play “TAMBURLAINE” taught me how to think about its key interactions. She’s exactly the kind of student you hope to get in an English class – curious, serious, and energetic.  -Andy Black


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