Category Archives: Student News

Interested in Joining the English Honors Society, Sigma Tau Delta?

If you’re interested in joining Sigma Tau Delta, which is the International English Honors Society, registration is about to open. To be eligible graduate students must be actively enrolled in a graduate program, have completed six credits of graduate coursework, and have a minimum 3.3 GPA. Dr. Dana Horton ( is the Sigma Tau coordinator this year and is the one to contact about this, but please let me know as well if you intend to join ( There is a one-time membership fee, the payment of which you would coordinate with Dr. Horton. A Sigma Tau induction ceremony takes place at the end of each spring semester on the Dobbs Ferry campus. Inductees and any families/friends are invited and encouraged to attend though attendance is not required for membership.

Call for Submissions (Creative Writing) for the Mercy College English Journal

All creative writers in the MA program take note: we’re currently accepting submissions for potential publication in a new Mercy College English journal, Red Hyacinth, which our own Dr. Keckler has been designing along with other faculty and in coordination with our college’s Arts & Design faculty. The deadline for the current round of submissions is November 15. Click here to download the submission guidelines and instructions. You can also click here to download a higher-quality PDF of the poster pictured above.

To find out more about the journal click here to visit the journal’s website.

Recent MA Student Achievements and Activity

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 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!).



Wrap-Up: W.I.T (Writing Image Text) 2017 MA English Symposium

This past Tuesday 5/16 we held our 2017 W.I.T. graduate English program symposium here in Maher Hall on our Dobbs Ferry campus. It was a lot of fun, and the audience got to hear a number of scholarly and creative works by graduate students and faculty.

Maher Hall: home of the undergraduate and graduate English programs, English faculty offices, and the office of the Dean of the School of Liberal Arts; location of the graduate English symposium.

For our first panel three graduate students presented scholarly work. Gloria Buckley read her piece titled “Virginia Woolf’s Orlando: A Landscape Love Story Transcending All Borders,” in which she discussed the love and relationship of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West as bespoken by Orlando. Lynn Leibowitz-Whitehead presented “Hemingway, ‘The Greatest Writer of His Time’; With a Little Help from His Friends: An Examination of Fitzgerald’s Influence on Hemingway’s Writing Career.” Lynn’s study traced out some of the ways that Hemingway’s success was resultant from invaluable support of others, support which Hemingway tried to obscure and erase after gaining fame. Matthew Christoff then presented his study “Symbolism in the Sierra Morena Mountains” in which he unpacked the deep relevance of events taking place in those mountains to understanding the meanings within Cervantes’ Don Quixote.

The first panel, left to right: Dr. Christopher Loots (moderator); Gloria Buckley, Lynn Leibowitz-Whitehead, Matthew Christoff.

For our second panel MA program alumna and current Mercy adjunct professor Carol Mitchell was joined by the Chair of the Dept. of Literature & Language, Dr. Celia Reissig-Vasile, and the Head of Undergrad English, Dr. Kristen Keckler, for a panel of creative non-fiction presentations. Carol read her work “On the Car Radio” in which she reflected movingly on her youth, family, father, and the passing of these things through the nodal points of songs heard on the car radio when young. Dr. Keckler then read her piece “Mixology, Metaphor, and Memory: What Bartending Taught Me about Writing,” in which she sounded out the (often hilarious) resonance between life behind the bar and life behind the the pen. Dr. Reissig-Vasile then concluded the panel by reading from her work “Where Oblivion Shall not Dwell,” as published in the collection Home: An Imagined Landscape. Dr. Reissig-Vasile’s piece involved stories of her experiences with movement, emigration, and all around change; with some of the many different referents for “home” that she’s known through her life.

The second panel, left to right: Carol Mitchell, Dr. Kristen Keckler, Dr. Celia Reissig-Vasile.

The Dean of the School of Liberal Arts Dr. Tamara Jhashi attended, as did the Associate Dean Dr. Richard Medoff and several other faculty members both from within the program (Dr. Sean Dugan, Dr. Boria Sax) and from other programs (Dr. Saul Fisher). Graduate students Tara Farber and Lynne Fortunado attended as well, and some friends/family of the presenters were present too. Overall the event evidenced high-quality scholarship and writing, and the presentations engendered much thought and good collegial conversation. On the practical side our presenters earned a line-item to include on the scholarship section of their CV which is an essential pursuit for anyone seeking a PhD or other professional path in higher education beyond the MA program.

Thank you to everyone who attended. I look forward to seeing some/all of you again next year for the 2018 symposium, and encourage anyone who wasn’t there this year to consider attending in 2018 whether to present, or simply to gather with others from your scholarly community.

2017 Thesis of the Year Award

The winner of the 2017 Thesis of the Year award is Kate Oscarson for her paper “What’s so Super about Superman? Heroes and the Quest for Perfection.” All theses completed for ENGL 599 Master’s Thesis Tutorial courses during the summer and fall of 2016 and spring of 2017 were eligible for the Thesis of the Year title this year. The final paper is selected by program faculty who have no thesis students’ papers in the running, and who read over drafts of papers from which the authors’ names as well as mentor’s names have been removed. The award allows the student to list this honor on her or his curriculum vitae (CV). A thesis of the year award is something common to MA English programs and does hold weight on a CV, particularly if a person applies to PhD programs or to jobs within the field. So congratulations, Kate! We will begin a new cycle of consideration starting this summer.

Congratulations to Kensie Poor, MA 2013, on her acceptance into University of Georgia’s PhD English Program.

It’s always good to hear from our MA graduates and find out what they’re up to. I recently heard from Kensie Poor, who completed her MA degree with us here in 2013. It’s possible that a few of our current students (those moving at a part-time pace, or who took leave over the past few years) may date back to Kensie’s years and remember her. In any case I am happy to share that she has been accepted into the University of Georgia’s PhD English program. Well done, Kensie! Anyone else, current or former students, who want to share with me and the program any similar news or announcements, scholarship activity, or other academic achievements, please do drop me a line at

Volunteers needed to share thoughts on the MA program.

The MA program is undergoing what’s called a program self-study. It’s something that all programs at accredited institutions do on a periodic basis. At Mercy we do this process every five years. It involves a number of steps, one of which is an external reviewer (meaning an English faculty member from a different graduate English program) taking a look at every aspect of our program and writing up an evaluation of us. An external reviewer usually wants to talk to a few students to get their take on their MA program. This can include current students and alumni.

So, I’m looking for volunteers to be included on a list of potential contacts for our external reviewer. If you are in the program or have graduated from the program and would like to be on the list, please drop me an email at indicating your preferred contact method (phone or email) and preferred contact info. I’m looking for as many volunteers as possible. External reviewers usually only reach out to two or three students, but the more volunteers the reviewer has to pick from, the better. Thanks in advance to anyone who volunteers. -CL

The 2016 Graduate English Symposium

On Saturday, May 14th, a few MA students, alumni, family members, program faculty, and the Dean of the School of Liberal Arts gathered together at Mercy College for the 2016 Graduate English “Writing Image Text” symposium. The symposium took place in Maher Hall, the headquarters for the School of Liberal Arts on the college’s Dobbs Ferry campus. Below are a few photos from and information about the event.


The two panels of presenters: seated, l-r, Dr. Miriam Gogol, Kit Gower, and Carol Mitchell; standing, l-r, Gloria Buckley, Nicholas Cialini, and Dr. Christopher Loots.

The MA program director, Dr. Loots, opened the symposium with welcomes and remarks, and then led the first panel sharing his research on “Entropy/Negentropy in Cormac McCarthy’s Fiction.” Gloria Buckley followed with her paper on “Whitman’s Free Verse: A Lyrical Embrace Shaped by Oration, Opera, Nature or War?” Nicholas Cialini, a recent alumnus and also now adjunct faculty in English at Mercy College, concluded the first panel with his study of “Eliot, The Eagles, Dylan, The Beatles: Modernism and Rock n’ Roll.”


Following a lunch break, Dr. Gogol led the second panel with a discussion of her forthcoming book project, a collection of essays on Dreiser and his representations of women workers, for which she is the editor and a contributor (Dr. Gogol is the founder of the International Theodore Dreiser Society and a leading scholar in the field). Kit Gower followed with her study of “The Philosopher’s Dog: How Animal Characters in Children’s Literature Act as Guides for Transformation.” Carol Mitchell concluded the day’s research presentations with her paper on “Henry James’ What Maisie Knew and D.H. Lawrence’s ‘The Rocking-Horse Winner’:The Financial Morality Behind a (Literary) Childhood.”


Below, Dean Jhashi (left) watches the second panel of presenters along with Dr. Dugan and Gloria.


Below, Kit and Carol prepare for their panel to begin. Presenting CAN be fun!


All in all, it was an afternoon filled with collegiality, ideas, good conversation and laughter. All of us here in the MA program and the greater School of Liberal Arts would like to thank all of our panelists and their guests for traveling to come together for this event. We look forward to seeing some and hopefully all of you again, as well as seeing some new faces, at next year’s 2017 symposium.

Writing/Image/Text Graduate English Symposium: Saturday 5/14

Writing Image Text 2016 Poster copy

Based on the responses that I received from students regarding availability and interest, on Saturday 5/14 the MA in English Literature program will be hosting a graduate English student symposium at Maher Hall on Mercy College’s Dobbs Ferry campus. A few students indicated that they could have made other dates/times, but 5/14 was the one that worked out for the majority of respondents. We have two current students and one alumnus scheduled to present a scholarly paper, and will have a few faculty sharing their scholarship as well. This will be a small, informal and friendly gathering to which all current and former students, as well as their friends and family, are invited. A catered lunch will be served compliments of the MA program. So if you’re anywhere within traveling distance that weekend and would like to come by and meet a few of the students and faculty from the program, please do (and please rsvp to if you plan to, so that I can get the size of the catering order correct).

Special Event: Harper Lee Book Discussion / Gathering at Dobbs Ferry Public Library, 2/25, 5:00pm.

For anyone who might be in the Hudson Valley/New York City  area on Thursday, February 25, the College’s Honors Program is hosting a book discussion and pizza dinner in Dobbs Ferry, the village in which Mercy College’s main campus is located. The book under discussion is Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. Lee passed away today, 2/19, and so this will also surely involve people sharing other reflections on their experiences with Lee’s work. The Dobbs Ferry Public Library and Mercy College have long collaborated in a “Town & Gown” series bringing together college faculty, students, and community residents. Everyone is welcome, and in particular English literature students of both graduate and undergraduate level are encouraged to attend. Click here to RSVP for this event.

Go Set a Watchman_Page_1