UNCG, where doctoral students thrive
Medieval lit student Melissa Elmes on the benefits of a UNCG education
Melissa Elmes, a doctoral student in medieval literature at UNCG, discusses her experience at UNCG. Learn about Elmes’s recent work in the highly selective and prestigious Folger Institute Spring 2015 Seminar here.
I want to write a little about why UNCG has proven to be an excellent place to conduct my research. I appreciate the principles of feminism, the ideologies of collaboration and support that undergird not only the English department but the overall ethos of the university, contributing to a dynamic research community. I have found ample opportunity while at UNCG to engage in the acts of writing and publication, teaching, and service at both the department and university levels, developing the professional skills I will require not merely to be competitive on the job market, but to be an effective and contributing member of the intellectual community in which I will ultimately find myself.
Specifically to my experience in the English program, I am working with world-class scholars in a smaller department, which affords me one-on-one mentoring and training, and my committee members are extraordinarily generous with their time and expertise. Dr. Amy Vines, my dissertation director, has advocated for me since I walked into the program in so many ways, and I have found her to be an enthusiastic and supportive mentor possessed of a deep desire to help me achieve my goals. Dr. Denise Baker has given much time and energy to helping me work through some tricky thinking concerning my dissertation project, as well as providing a wealth of resources and support in aiding me to develop my teaching materials. Dr. Jennifer Feather has–I think, single-handedly–broken me of some writing habits that threatened to overpower my dissertation, and I have found her advice on preparing job market materials and thinking about the bigger picture of a life in academia to be indispensable. All three have spent hours reading and commenting on my writing, and their detailed, comprehensive feedback has been essential to my development as a writer-scholar.
I am unfailingly amazed and humbled at the generosity and assistance afforded to me in my research efforts, from our department secretaries, Lydia Howard, Alyson Everhart, Sarah Foster, and Anna Tysor, to the Jackson library reference and interlibrary loan officers and desk attendants. I have benefited enormously from the generous travel stipends offered through the Graduate Student Association and our department’s graduate student travel funds, which allow me to attend and present at two or three conferences each year, thus ensuring that my thinking is being considered and discussed by the larger academic community to which I hope to contribute a part.
I have, of course, also benefited from the strong mentorship of people like Dr. Christopher Hodgkins, whose advice as our Folger Institute liaison helped me to refine my application into a successful bid for a space in the seminar, and Dr. Michelle Dowd, the Director of Graduate Studies, whose counsel has navigated me through coursework and comprehensive examinations in timely fashion so that I have more time to work on my dissertation.
I am able to conduct scholarship at an exceptionally high level of quality and quantity for someone at my nascent career stage because of the combined efforts of the support staff and the professoriate. In short, my experience in this program persuades me that UNCG’s English department is peerless in its insistence on academic rigor coupled with ample support to ensure that students can accomplish their goals. Our department’s extraordinary placement record for graduate students (81.9% within 5 years of the terminal degree, compared to the U.S. average of 41.9% reported by the MLA) bears this observation out. I am very proud to be a doctoral candidate from this department, and I am certain that due to the excellent support, training, mentorship, and advice I have received during my time here, when I go on the job market, I will be fully prepared for the rigors of a professorship.
Author Melissa Elmes is entering her 4th year of doctoral studies at UNCG. She is particularly interested in instances of feasts and feasting as sites of community building and testing in medieval literature. In her spare time, she enjoys dancing, running, hiking, painting, and – she is sure to the surprise of absolutely no one – reading and writing.
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