I’d like to take a moment here as July turns into August, as our summer semester comes to an end and we begin looking to the fall semester and the new school year, to congratulate some of our program’s alumni and current students on various achievements and related scholarly activities.
First we’ve had a number of MA students and alumni gain acceptance into doctoral and MFA programs over the past year:
- Amy Lou Ahava (MA 2015) was accepted into the PhD program at Marquette University.
- Angie Still (MA 2014) was accepted into multiple PhD programs and of them plans to attend the PhD program at Texas Woman’s University.
- Krystal Johnson (MA 2015) was accepted into the doctoral program at St. John’s Fisher College.
- Gloria Buckley (active student, MA 2018) was accepted into the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) MFA creative writing program and also into the Faulkner University doctoral program.
Again, congratulations! I’m always hoping to hear from all of our alumni and active students about any such news or accomplishments, and hope that anyone with anything to share will contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We want our grad students and alumni to stay in touch and keep us updated on your doings, and hope that you all always will.
Of course moving on from the MA to a subsequent degree isn’t everyone’s goal. Many of our grad students are here for the MA as the end-goal in and of itself. I talk about some of the reasons the MA is a good degree in and of itself, and of the doors that the MA alone might open for you in last year’s annual welcome letter. Many of you, particularly our active secondary-school teachers, know that the MA degree on its own can be critically important for aspects of your job.
But for those who do see the MA degree as one step in a path toward a future doctoral or MFA program, I hope that you will find inspiring this news of the success of some of our students.
Now then! For grad students who aspire to doctoral study and particularly for those who hope to eventually secure some sort of college professorship, you may want to start thinking now about the scholarship section of your CV and start engaging, as much as you like and want, in the professional flow of the academic field. You don’t have to at this point: PhD programs are where you really would start getting serious about this stuff, not MA programs. But again, you may want to start at l east thinking about this while you’re here in the MA program. The “stuff” I’m talking about is attending and ultimately reading papers at conventions, conferences or symposiums. If that sounds like fun, well read on. If it sounds like something you’d rather not bother with or think about at this point in your studies, no worries.
One easy and very low-stakes way to get involved in such professional practice is to participate in our MA program symposium at the end of each school year (in May). But academic events are taking place all year round, some almost certainly within reasonable travel distance of wherever you’re living and reading this right now. The main place where English students and faculty find out about such upcoming events, and try to get involved in ones that look interesting, is UPenn’s “Call for Papers” (CFP) bulletin board linked here.
In recent exchanges with current MA student Lynn Whitehead I learned about a flurry of such activity that she’s been involved with this summer: from attending F. Scott Fitzgerald scholar Anne Margaret Daniel’s book reading in Woodstock NY, to listening to various presentations at the American Lit. Association (ALA) annual conference in Boston, to attending the annual F. Scott Fitzgerald Society Conference in Minnesota. Lynn took the time at each event to seek out and discuss ideas with various presenters, and as a result has made a number of helpful contacts. Several scholars she spoke with encouraged her to take the next step up from attending conferences and to present at conferences, and she’s already putting together proposals to do just that.
I share with you Lynn’s activities this spring and summer as an example of how any student in the program can (and if you aspire toward a doctoral program and/or professorship should) get involved in the professional current of our English field. You can do this no matter where you live in the world: start by seeking out conferences within a reasonable drive and just go and attend them. Make a day or weekend trip out of it. See how it goes, listen to panels, get a sense of what it’s like to be at a conference. Don’t be afraid to chat with people around you. Then check out the Upenn CFP page linked above and, look for CFPs that are in the area of your interests, and send out some paper proposals. Eventually something will work out and you’ll find yourself a part of a presentation panel at a conference.
So once again congrats Amy, Angie, Krystal, Gloria, Lynn, and everyone else in the program who’s been up to something similar but just hasn’t told me about it (in which case TELL me about it so I can share it in a future blog post!).