Welcome, all you graduate literature students, to the 2015-16 school year here at Mercy College. This is your program director, Christopher Loots, writing to wish you all well here as we embark on another year of adventuring in the fields/folds of literature and critical inquiry. At the start of this school year I’d like to continue a theme from my letter last year by encouraging you all to dwell upon, and if inspired act upon, ways in which you might reach out to one another beyond the classroom so to build up the student community, your personal/professional connections, and even peer mentor-mentee relationships. Let me talk a bit more about that last one there, and what I mean by peer mentor-mentee relationships.
Some of you have been in the program for a few years and are nearing completion of your degree. For those that are, you likely by this point know better than you did at the start how to navigate the different professors’ classrooms, know what this or that professor expects or doesn’t expect, etc. You’ve hopefully developed some tactics and techniques for (re)focusing your energies when working on readings and papers, as much as for de-stressing when you feel caught up and overwhelmed by the balance of graduate study and life. You’ve probably got some sort of routine or ritual figured out to keep yourself on track (more or less) throughout the semesters, to keep you in the groove of each class’s expectations and requirements. You’re hopefully well comfortable now in basic technical things like where you go to do online research, which academic database is the best, etc.
Well these are all things which you may not have been as sure about or familiar with when you began here. And so I encourage those of you who’ve been in the program a semester or two to keep an eye out in your classrooms for people new to the program. This is often something that comes out clearly in introductions each semester. Whether there in the introduction thread, or in an email through Blackboard, just say hello and let the person know you’re available to help as necessary. Or perhaps exchange information and get in touch outside of the Blackboard portal. Be friendly and helpful.
Now, true, not everyone needs that, or wants that. But to a new student coming into the program, a simple “hello” and “let me know if you’d like to chat, or need help figuring out the class/program” can mean a lot, both in terms of the kindness and community it shows and because he or she might really be sitting there wishing there were someone to talk to about this. Of course I am here for all of you to contact with any issues or questions (email@example.com), but this is where the “peer” part comes into play. Developing a rapport with a fellow graduate student or students can often feel a lot more casual, friendly, and fun than developing a rapport with a professor (though that, too, is a healthy thing to be doing during your time in the program, particularly as you get closer to your 599 Thesis Tutorial).
Keep in mind too that you don’t have to think of this as simply “mentor-mentee” and it doesn’t just have to be between longer-standing and new students. It’s a great idea for ALL of you to reach out here and there and develop a web of communication and community with one or some of your graduate student peers. Even people who are in their last semester can use help and encouragement from time to time. Connect beyond the classroom, is what I’m encouraging you all to do this year, and in the years to come. You all have the common bond of being explorers in the world of words, language, literature; of being adventurers of the mind and the heart and the psyche. Really, MA students are a select group, and are often misunderstood by those in the world around them. Look to your metaphoric left and right: you are among the like-minded, in the best and healthiest sense of the term. Make the most of this time in each others’ company.
As we move off now into our semester studies, let me reiterate though that you should all be well aware that as the program director I’m here to help you. So in addition to seeking out and developing some connections between your program-mates, again don’t hesitate to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’re in need of some assistance or advice. Make sure too to check out the post below this one detailing the support structure here at Mercy College. I wish you all the best as you venture forward into the school year, and as always I applaud you for keeping strong your love of literature in a world that too often marginalizes the power and significance of such. Bravo, all you graduate literature students. -CL