Puget Sound English Department

August 19, 2010

Thinking about grad school? Read this…

Every once in a while, The Chronicle of Higher Education takes a break from forecasting the demise of the Humanities, the corporatization of higher education, the evisceration of tenure, and the dire state of the academic job market (all of which are well worth bemoaning, of course), and offers something more tangibly useful. This time it’s offering a compendium of wisdom, entitled An Open Letter to New Graduate Students. As several commenters protest, and as the author(s) acknowledge, it’s a letter and set of advice tailored particularly towards those entering a full-time, conventional, PhD program, and is far less relevant to those undertaking professional degrees, terminal MAs, or non-traditional programs. But it’s pretty comprehensive and, based on my own rapidly receding experience, relatively accurate.

My off-the cuff (and, admittedly, somewhat tongue-in-cheek) responses to some of the items on their list follow [NOTE: this post does not reflect the official opinion of the English Department, or even very many of the members thereof. It’s offered merely in the spirit of dialogue. If you are seriously considering applying to graduate school in the humanities, please consult with faculty advisers you know and trust].

1. Don’t overdo the “networking” thing, especially in a traditional humanities field and especially when you are brand new at the game. Or, better, do make those connections to senior scholars and intellectual rockstars, but make them sincerely and sparingly, based on your real interests, reading, and scholarship. If you must be obvious that you are “playing the game,” do so with a dose of irony and a world-weary shrug: those of us committed enough to our discipline to pursue a degree that can take 9 years with only the slimmest chance of a viable career find such naked careerism annoying–especially when it’s unsupported by any proven excellence in research and/or teaching. We chose, all common sense to the contrary, to forsake the world of headhunters, year-end bonuses, and office Christmas parties, and we don’t want you turning our hallowed academic halls into some debased scholarly version of “The Apprentice.”

2. Internships? What’s that? The best preparation for a traditional academic career in the Humanities is traditional academic success: conference papers, publications (good ones), and proven teaching effectiveness or, more often, excellence. This is not to discourage you from creating your own path, or to suggest that for every faculty member who stuck to the straight and narrow there aren’t umpteen less direct, conventional routes. But if we’re talking basic Humanities faculty positions, there’s unlikely to be an “internship.” Two exceptions: first, the “preparing future faculty” program at most universities that allows grad students to teach at other institutions–even if you KNOW you are R-1 material, some Community College experience might be the best thing that ever happened to your pedagogy, or your career path. Second, an internship so intriguing that you can’t pass it up. No matter what it is. It might not help your academic job search, but it might save your soul, or identify a better route to a more viable career.

3. Keeping up with blogs and other contemporary media to the extent that these authors suggest is a sure way NOT to finish your dissertation. Yes, some of the most valuable and useful advice out there–and lots of community and support–is happening in the blogosphere. Inside Higher Ed has a set of terrific academic blogs and some great advice columns–especially for those about to go on the market. But there is invariably an inverse relationship between an ABD’s presence online (usually in lengthy responses to other bloggers) and his/her completed dissertation. Blogs and other online resources can be terrific, but use them like antibiotics: only by prescription, under professional supervision, and in recommended amounts. (Here the exception would be if your program/degree focuses on the nature or substance of electronic communication. At that point, it’s all data: Have at it!)


May 1, 2010

More on this year’s graduates, and those from the past…

Filed under: Activities off Campus,Alumni News,Graduate School — ATH @ 5:54 am

Alex Thomas (’10) will be attending the MAT program at Willamette University to pursue her Master’s in Teaching and her credential–which she is planning to use to teach high school English!

Greta Lindquist (’10) will attend the Denver Publishing Institute–an intensive, graduate-level summer course that devotes itself to all aspects of book publishing, with workshops and teaching sessions conducted by leading experts from all areas of the field.

And Kristen Proehl, (Puget Sound ’02; MA ’04 and PhD ’10 [exp] William and Mary) will join the faculty at Clemson University this fall.


March 8, 2010

Help out an alum

Ryan Honick (’09) is currently pursuing a degree in public communication at American University, and has requested our help with gathering data for his capstone project on the ways undergraduate and graduate students use social media (yup, Facebook). If you are a current student or graduate student and are willing to take a few minutes to support the continued academic endeavors of one of our own, you can find a link to Ryan’s short survey and more information here. Ryan’s hoping to get at least 200 responses by the end of March, and we’d like to show him that Puget Sound takes care of its own. In return, he offers the chance to contribute to the furtherance of human knowledge, and the possibility of an Amazon.com gift card.

Here is Ryan’s request:

As many of you know, I am conducting my graduate capstone research on the way undergraduate and graduate students use Facebook. As part of that research, I have created a survey online and I am looking to gather as many responses as possible. You may also feel free to encourage your friends to participate in the survey.

The survey should take no more than 5-10 minutes to complete. If you do decide to take it you will have the opportunity to enter yourself in a drawing for a $50 Amazon.com gift card as my way of saying thank you.

If you would like to take the survey, visit


Thanks for all of your help. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.


February 2, 2010

Considering Becoming a Teacher?

From Shirley Skeel, in Media Relations, a chance to get the real story:
The School of Education will present a discussion on “A Career in Education? Practitioners Talk about What Life in Schools is Really Like” at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 9 in Trimble Forum.

Three teachers will speak about their experiences teaching in a variety of settings. This will be followed by what promises to be a lively and informative discussion. Food will be served. All campus members are welcome to attend. The event is presented by the Teaching and Counseling Professions Advisory Committee.

September 22, 2009

Alum Earns M.A. in Journalism From NYU

Filed under: Alumni News,Employment,Graduate School — O. @ 5:45 pm
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Alum Tina Riopel has earned an M.A. in Journalism from New York University and is working in New York.  Well done, Tina!

September 1, 2009

“Where The Wild Things Are”: Preview and Fundraiser

Writer, professor, and Puget Sound alum Jared Leising has sent along information about a preview screening of the film (based on the famous children’s book), Where the Wild Things Are. Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze co-wrote the screenplay, and Eggers will participate in a brief Q&A before the screening, which takes place on October 7 (7:00 p.m.) at the Cinerama in Seattle.

The screening will help raise money for 826 Seattle, a non-profit group that provides workshops and tutorials to students (age 6-18) on creative and expository writing and on acquiring English–free of charge.  826 Seattle is always interested in hearing from potential volunteers, as well. A link:


Poet and fiction-writer Jared Leising earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing at the University of Houston after graduating from Puget Sound and before teaching in the Seattle area.

July 3, 2009

2006 Alum Completes M.A. at the U. of Oregon


Meredith Ott, who graduated in 2006 from Puget Sound with a double-major in Theater Arts and English, writes to tell us that she  “just finished  an M.A. in Theater Arts at the University of Oregon with a thesis entitled ‘Child Actor Ethics: Children in Plays with Adult Themes.’ This summer I am teaching theater at both the Northwest Children’s Theatre and at Oregon Children’s Theater.”  Well, done Meredith!


June 30, 2009

’05 Alum Pursues Graduate Degree in Mass Communications


Heather Ryder, an English major who graduated in 2005, reports that she is half-way through a two-year Masters of Science in Communications at Virginia Commonwealth University, specifically at the university’s Brandcenter.  Heather’s emphasis is in Copy-Editing,  and this summer she has an internship at the prestigious firm, Ogilvy and Mather, in Los Angeles. After graduating from Puget Sound, Heather worked at the Children’s Museum in Tacoma as well as working in Seattle.


June 9, 2009

Center For Cartoon Studies

Filed under: Activities off Campus,Graduate School — O. @ 3:02 am

keep_on_truckinYou may already be aware of this fact, especially if you’ve kept on truckin’ in the world of cartoons and graphic novels, but there is a Center for Cartoon Studies–in Vermont:


May 19, 2009

Alum Pursues M.A. at Sotheby’s

Filed under: Alumni News,Graduate School — O. @ 7:48 pm


Ashley Dowden, an English major in the Class of 2008, is pursuing an M.A. at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in New York City. (As you might imagine, there’s a similar program in London [and one in Singapore], and both programs feature summer curricula as well as graduate degrees).   The degree prepares students to appraise, purchase, and sell fine art; maintain collections; work at auction-houses; and so on.  Ashley is currently an intern with  the Bank of America Collection at the James Company Contemporary Art Project.  She also founded and helped to direct the Cascade Community Theater, which produces plays in Duval and Carnation, Washington: http://cascadecommunitytheatre.org/aboutus.aspx .

For more information about the degrees and programs offered by Sotheby’s, please follow the link:


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