My Presentation to MLA 2015, Jan. 8: “Pursuing Two Passions: On Being a Graduate Student and Something Else”

“Pursuing Two Passions: On Being a Graduate Student and Something Else” (Session #74) will be held on Thursday, January 8, at the Vancouver Convention Centre for the 2015 meeting of the Modern Language Association.

Pursuing Two Passions: On Being a Graduate Student and Something Else
Thursday, 8 January, 3:30–4:45 p.m., West 217, VCC West
Kristal Bivona, Univ. of California, Los Angeles Vice-President, the Graduate Student Caucus

This roundtable explores the challenges and rewards of pursuing another passion concurrently with graduate study. Participants reflect on what it means to be a student and “something else,” to lead a “double life,” in order to share approaches and tactics for being successful at both passions. Topics include alt-ac careers, having a family, activism, and hobbies.

Thanks again to the Graduate Student Caucus for inviting me to join this discussion. Please read the participants’ bios below and here.

Dominick Rolle is an interdisciplinary scholar and Ph.D. Candidate in English Language and Literature at Emory University. His areas of research include 20th century and contemporary American and African American literature, Anglophone-Caribbean and Afro-Cuban literatures, literature of war, and gender studies. As a former U.S. Navy sailor who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom, he possesses a keen interest in illuminating the diverse needs of America’s veterans in community-based organizations and the academy. Rolle’s intervention will interrogate the intricate ways in which his social activist background complements his research and pedagogy. Rolle will speak to his experience as the graduate assistant for the Emory-Men Stopping Violence (MSV) Initiative. Rolle’s diverse professional and personal experiences will enrich the perspectives of graduate students seeking to build intellectual strengths in community-engaged scholarship while focusing on their research goals.

Rebecca A. Lippman received her MPhil in Latin American Studies from the University of Cambridge and is currently pursuing a PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She works on the relationship between literature, technology and music in the context of 20th century Latin America and Brazil. Lippman’s intervention considers opportunities for students to engage in alternative work experiences on-campus, such as archival research, as opportunities to rethink the potential contributions of doctoral candidates who may wish to transition into the private sector upon graduation. Lippman will speak to her experience indexing collections and the unique skill set that archival research gives graduate students to promote a consideration of “professional” and “academic” career tracks as paths that are not disparate poles of a field in crisis, but instead two options that are intrinsically related to one another and can be taught together.

Julie Williams is a PhD student in American Literary Studies, with a focus on Western American literature, Native American literature, landscape and the environment, atomic culture, and discourses of health and embodiment. Williams will speak about her experience pursuing a private pilot’s license while in grad school. Rather than positioning one to be an obstacle to the other, Williams will discuss how learning to fly has actually strengthened her academic work, and vice versa.

Jessi Snider is a graduate student working on her doctorate at Texas A&M University. Her areas of research include Victorian and gothic literature, young adult fiction, and critical theory.  Her forthcoming article “‘Be the Tree’: Classical Literature, Art Therapy, and Transcending Trauma inSpeak” will appear in the Children’s Literature in Education in fall 2014. Snider, a divorced mother of four and doctoral student in English, will speak about the challenges and rewards of being a parent and a grad student, which is a topic that dominated the Caucus’s panel last year on being a graduate student.

Alison Reed is a PhD candidate in the English Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her academic work on performance and social justice movements has been published in several journals including Digital Creativity, Media-N, and Women & Performance. She was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize in Poetry. Taking seriously George Lipsitz’s call, in “Breaking the Chains and Steering the Ship,” for amplified dialogue between academics and activists, Reed’s intervention examines the stakes of being an academic and an organizer. A Graduate Fellow of the Antiracism Inc. program directed by Dr. Felice Blake of UCSB, Reed has experience organizing with the Coalition for Sustainable Communities for the prison abolition movement. Reed’s intervention argues for the impossibility and necessity of engaged scholarship that moves outside of institutional boundaries, recognition, and support—reminding us that social justice-oriented scholarship should not leave us in a place of hopelessness but should (re)invigorate our coalitional commitments.

Matthew Sherman is a graduate student of Medieval and Modern languages at St Hilda’s College, University of Oxford. He holds a master’s degree in German Studies from Michigan State University. Sherman will discuss life as a graduate student athlete, and what he calls “the baggage of (hyper)masculinities. His intervention explores a “double life” that not only competes with grad school for time devoted, but that engages with “something else” that can threaten one’s intellectual reputation.

Derek S. McGrath is the recipient of a doctoral degree in English literature from Stony Brook University (May 2014), where he specialized in nineteenth-century American literature with additional research and teaching interests in gender studies, digital humanities, and contemporary popular culture.  As he begins to revise his dissertation “American Masculinity and Home in Antebellum Literature” for publication, he has completed two forthcoming articles:  “Bad Romance:  Teaching Poe’s Women with Lady Gaga,” and “Some Assembly Required:  Joss Whedon’s Indecisive Gendering in Marvel Films’ The Avengers.”  Dr. McGrath can also be found on Tumblr and WordPress (user name:  dereksmcgrath), which he uses as online platforms for his courses on composition and nineteenth-century United States literature—and to re-blog posts onFullmetal Alchemist, Soul Eater, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, and other fandom nerdiness. Dr. McGrath will speak about his academic and personal interests in fandom, contemporary forms of cultural production that include science fiction, comic books, and animation, and how these interests play off of his dissertation topic: literary representations of masculinity and domestic ideology in the nineteenth-century United States. Dr. McGrath will share how, by cosplaying, writing fan fiction, and designing Tumblr fan sites, his involvement in fandom has been instrumental towards successful teaching, conference organizing, and publishing.

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