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UConn’s Translation Minor Offers Multicultural Opportunities

Starting in the spring 2020 semester, the University of Connecticut began offering a minor that allows students to explore literary translation while learning how to interact with people from other cultures or those who speak different languages, according to the minor’s website.

The literary translation minor is interdisciplinary, incorporating many majors outside of its own department.

Translation classes, currently capped at 90 students, will allow for a hands-on environment in which students can work closely with professors and classmates.

The prerequisite for the minor is knowledge of a non-English language well enough to read literature and translate it. Most students in the program can be divided into three categories: fluent in their first language, intermediate to fluent in their heritage language and American students studying a foreign language.

The literary translation minor requires a minimum of 15 credits at the 2000-level or above, with two required translation courses (TRST 3010 and 3011), two literary or cultural courses from areas like Japanese or German, and one creative writing or related genre course from English (ENGL 3701, 3703, 2407, 4407W). Students may count up to six credit hours in independent study in the place of courses in literary and cultural or creative writing.

Peter Constantine, the director of the literary translation minor, said the program is popular because of its low pressure and enjoyable environment, where students have the opportunity to take classes they wouldn’t normally take.

“I was surprised at how many students come from outside literatures, cultures and languages, and I think that’s because we’re fun. It’s enjoyable, not high intensity; it’s like a writing course without some of the pressure,” Constantine said. “There seems to be a lot of students who were passionate about things like mathematics but are also passionate about literature or culture, and this is one way of really exploring that in a way that’s useful academically.”

“There seems to be a lot of students who were passionate about things like mathematics but are also passionate about literature or culture, and this is one way of really exploring that in a way that’s useful academically.”

Peter Constantine, the director of the literary translation minor

The purpose of the required courses is to have students engage with literature and have the opportunity to gain experience in fields like publishing, translating or editing. Constantine described the minor as a whole as a “gateway to world culture and literature.”

Constantine added that having international cultural understanding is a unique skill and opens doors for many areas, but specifically international relations, business, diplomacy and education.

Literary translation involves the utilizing one’s knowledge of a particular language and/or culture, in order to translate a series of text. These skills allow students to gain international cultural understanding that opens doors in many areas, but specifically in international relations, business, diplomacy and education. is the Photo by Matej on Pexels.com

David Lassy, a junior UConn student double majoring in Chinese and history as well as pursuing a literary translation minor, said he’s been taught relevant skills he can utilize post-grad. He plans to teach English as a foreign language as a career and continue his current contemporary Chinese poetry translation work, and this minor helped him to improve both his Chinese and English understanding and translating abilities, whether it be reading comprehension or writing.

“The minor not only gave me a better understanding of Mandarin idioms and cultures, but also developed my English writing abilities as I worked to create accurate and colorful translations,” said Lassy. “Literary translation gave me an avenue to improve my reading comprehension in Mandarin. I’ve found it to be one of the most helpful skills to combine with language learning because the study of one compliments the other.”

“Literary translation gave me an avenue to improve my reading comprehension in Mandarin. I’ve found it to be one of the most helpful skills to combine with language learning because the study of one compliments the other.”

David Lassy, a junior UConn student double majoring in Chinese and history as well as pursuing a literary translation minor

Professor Brian Sneeden, who will be leaving UConn for the University of Manchester, UK in the spring of 2022, also said the global connectivity of the modern world requires knowledge of other cultures and the ability to interact with those who are different from us.

“As our world becomes increasingly connected, it’s more important than ever for students to gain skills for navigating multilingual texts and settings,” said Sneeden. “UConn’s Literary Translation Minor is designed to offer students comprehensive instruction in the major theoretical approaches to translation — while putting those theories to practice creating our own literary translations.”

Sneeden emphasized the importance of having a skill for translating.

“Often our students find that the skills for translating works of literature carry over to other types of translation,” Sneeden said. “If you can translate a nuanced text like a poem, for instance, you’ll also likely be able to translate a speech from a politician, or a report for the United Nations.”

Students interested in pursuing a minor in literary translation should contact program director Peter Constantine.

From From the Daily Campus

In memoriam: Professor Laurietz Seda Ramirez

Many have heard about the sad news that our dear colleague, Laurietz Seda Ramirez, passed away on December 7, 2021.

Her trajectory as a researcher was, and will continue to be, a source of pride for our Spanish section and the department of Literatures, Cultures & Languages. Those of you who have read her books, such as Teatro contra el olvido (U Científica del Sur 2012), La nueva dramaturgia puertorriqueña (Ateneo Puertorriqueño 2003, 2007), Travesías trifrontes: Teatro de vanguardia en el Perú, Trans/Acting: Latin American and Latino Performing Arts (Bucknell UP 2009) and Teatro de frontera 11/12 (U de San Marcos 2008) understand this statement perfectly. She was internationally renowned, as one of the most prominent figures in the field of Spanish American theater.

Her work as editor, critic, and scholar of dramaturgical theater leaves a significant mark. She always interpreted textual theater together with dramatic practice, ritual, and human presence. Pre-pandemic, this perspective forged an itinerary of remarkable travels and residencies. She had an adventurous spirit and this led her to seek fearlessly out theatrical life in unexpected places: in abandoned factories, in urban ruins, in squares and streets, in destitute neighborhoods, in mountain ranges and tropical jungles. Her journeys informed her academic writing; she was able to understand the intimate relationship between globalization and theater, particularly in late capitalism and liquid modernity. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she studied synchronously performed virtual theater and managed to teach her last graduate seminar while facing a grueling illness. Despite this, her conversations with colleagues and students stemmed from a need to understand how these forces were reshaping the lines of an art form she knew intimately.

Above all, she taught us in the classroom and through her publications.  We celebrate the traces she has left in the history of our section and in our department. The study of Spanish American theater was of great importance in our curriculum.  Her graduate students found themselves acting and directing as a way of investigating theater as a bodily practice, a social event, a live act. The importance of her contribution to Latin American theater and its presence in the United States can be gauged by the LATT (Latin American Theatre Today) conference in 2005, in which Storrs turned into the epicenter of Latin American theater for a few days. The hemisphere’s main voices in criticism and dramaturgy, as well as renowned actors and theatrical collectives, collected for the gathering. It was one of the most successful Latin American theater conferences and festivals held in the northeastern United States. Laurietz seized on the occasion of this intellectual and artistic meeting to create the prestigious George Woodyard Latin American Theater Award in an effort to celebrate the achievements of Latin American playwrights.

In addition to her academic work, she was a great mentor, colleague and friend. We will remember her humanity: her professionalism, her camaraderie, her ability to work in a group, and to listen and understand students and colleagues. Laurietz was kind and creative, elegant.  She was a reserved and loyal friend, with an endearing and cordial manner. She made her home in several countries and continents from her beloved island, Puerto Rico to Peru, from Connecticut to Granada (Spain).

We have lost not only a member of our Spanish section,  but someone who has marked our lives in countless ways over the last twenty-four years. One way to honor her memory is not only to continue reading the works she bequeathed to us, but also to keep her in mind as an example of the best that our profession has to offer.

 

Upcoming Events in the Decolonizing Area Studies Language Teaching Project

Last summer, LCL’s Professors Anke Finger, Professor and Manuela Wagner along with Graduate Student Isabell Sluka won a grant in an initiative sponsored by CLAS in order to develop anti-racist courses, to enable insights into racism on college campuses, and to facilitate direct interaction with anti-racist activists.

The focus of the grant, called Decolonizing Area Studies: Towards Intercultural Citizenship and Social Justice was to de-center whiteness in language education and help uncover the oppression that minoritized students often suffer and that dominant groups perpetuate. This project involves different complementary activities and was designed to solicit participation by active language teachers, including graduate students through a series of lectures, a symposium, and a graduate student working group. The participant-driven project aimed to develop a plan for implementing theories, approaches, practices, and assessments that would help decolonize language curricula by taking a hands-on approach.  The organizers hoped that students and faculty could work towards actually implementing new curricula and developing learning materials and teaching methods that truly reflect the diversity and cultural variety of modern-day societies.

Upcoming Events

March 16, 2021, 4:00 pm-5:30 pm.

Double Lecture with Q&A

    • Nicole Coleman, Assistant Professor of German, Wayne State University

“‘We are all more alike than not’: Moving Beyond Universalism for Anti-Racist Pedagogies in the Literature Classroom”

    • José Aldemar Álvarez Valencia, Professor, School of Language Sciences Universidad del Valle, Cali (Colombia)

“‘Doing Research with University Indigenous Students: From ‘rationalizing the decolonial to feeling the decolonial’”

(You can register for this event by following this link:)

 

 

COMING In May 2021.  Two-Day symposium

More information about this even coming soon!

 

_______________

For more information about the Decolonizing Area Studies initiatives, please visit https://sites.google.com/view/decolonizeareasstudies/home?authuser=0.

Read the whole article on the CLAS Anti-Racism pedagogy grant project in UConn Today at https://today.uconn.edu/2020/09/new-clas-programs-support-anti-racist-teaching-research-community-engagement/#.

Upcoming Symposium: The Translation of Letters and Ideas in Cuba’s Republic

This symposium brings together important scholars in the area of Cuban studies to analyze the Cuban period between 1902 and 1959. The presentations will investigate translations and the exercise of translation in relation to the formation of various humanistic or scientific disciplines on the island, such as anthropology, medicine, political science, literature, and psychoanalysis. The symposium will allow, on the one hand, to expand critical studies on translation in Cuba, and on the other, to implement the concept of translation as a vehicle to investigate the racial, gender, or post-colonial constructions put into practice in the Republican period.

Organized by Jacqueline Loss, Professor, Literatures, Cultures & Languages and Reynaldo Lastre, PhD Student and Jorgensen Fellowship Recipient

March 2-March 5, 2021

Co-sponsored by:
Department of Literatures, Cultures & Languages
Humanities Institute
El Instituto Seed Grant
John N. Plank Lecture Series
Global Affairs

Registration is obligatory. To obtain program information and conference links please visit us at: https://s.uconn.edu/ogx7qvfhpj.

 

 

Corona Virus Leads to Transatlantic Course Initiative

When the pandemic struck, few of Ana Maria Diaz-Marcos’ 50 students in her Span 3232: Literature of Crisis in Modern Spain course imagined that the spread of a worldwide virus would lead to a meeting with a living Spanish playwright over Zoom. Yet when the crisis hit, Professor Diaz-Marcos, an expert in contemporary Spanish theater, saw an opportunity for learning on many levels.  She contacted Gracia Morales, author of the play NN12 that deals with historical memory and the drama of the “desaparecidos” (missing people) to invite her to create a special event for her class. Gracia Morales also happens to be a professor at the University of Granada (Spain).  On April 15th both professors joined online to lead a virtual discussion on the importance of historical memory during and in the aftermath of any crisis.  Graduate students and faculty along with other students in LCL, many majoring and minoring in Spanish, joined Diaz-Marcos’s class for the virtual meeting.  Students were given the opportunity to ask Prof. Morales questions about her dedication to theater, her academic life, and her thoughts on the current crisis. The event turned the challenge of the pandemic into an occasion of transnational teaching, learning, collaboration, and hope. Gracia Morales concluded on a positive note when she commented that “art is deeply human (…) This pandemic is going to change society as we know it. Hopefully it will bring about a more lucid society.”

Fulbright Contributes to Dynamic Irish Program at UConn

UConn is lucky to host Sinéad Murray as this year’s Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant in Irish (Gaelic). Sinéad is a passionate advocate for the Irish language and for Irish Studies both at home, in Ireland, and among those here abroad who are interested in the history, language and culture of Ireland.

There is a political and cultural battle to keep traditional Irish culture alive within Ireland but the omnipresence of English makes the effort of integrating Irish more difficult. Sinéad explained that an Ghaeilge (Irish) is an official language of Ireland along with English and that all students learn it and over 70,000 use it in their daily lives, but these live mostly in rural areas. She also points to the traditional class politics surrounding the Irish language, which has complicated the status of an Ghaeilge even more, since it has historically been associated with the rural poor. This being said, at the primary-school level, many children in Ireland today are educated in Gaelscoileanna (Irish-language Schools) schools. This was also Sinéad’s experience; her family was committed to transmitting her Irish cultural heritage to her, and her dad especially considers Irish culture indissociable from the spoken language. The development of Gaelscoileanna has helped spread a working knowledge of the language beyond rural counties into urban areas like Dublin, where it has become more fashionable among the highly-educated middle class. Despite these efforts, there has been a slight decrease in the number of people who use Irish in their daily lives over the last few decades, but this trend has been variable since with every generation of parents, teachers, and students new cultural investments become apparent which have turned the tide in other Celtic-language communities in Europe, for instance in Wales or Brittany. Sinéad who is a primary school teacher, plans to return to teaching Irish language to elementary school children in Dublin and it was this commitment to Irish education that prompted her to pursue her MA and venture to the US to fine-tune her experience by teaching Irish at the college level thanks to the Fulbright Program.  She just completed masters in ‘Scríobh agus Cumarsáid na Gaeilge’ at University College Dublin in December.

 

The Irish program is helmed by two very distinguished Irish specialists, Professors Brendan Kane from the departments of History and Litetatures, Cultures, and Languages and Mary Burke of the Department of English. The prominence and reach of the Irish language within the Irish Studies Program at UConn is something that sets it apart, since it is one of the rare places in the US where students can study Old, Early Modern and Modern Irish language and culture. In fact, thanks to the initiatives of Brendan Kane, UConn is now leading an international, multi-institutional effort to recover and codify the Irish language as it evolved in the mediaeval to early modern period. Irish has the distinction of being one of Europe’s oldest, extant written vernaculars and there is an abundant written record of Old (and Middle) Irish documents dating from the sixth to the thirteenth centuries. This distinction earned the attention of nineteenth and early twentieth philologists who longed to trace the origins of Indo-European languages and cultures in Europe. For this reason, Old Irish has been available to scholars in a way that the texts from the period that follow it, the thirteenth to seventeenth centuries, have not been. After the tenth century many European vernaculars began to crystalize and in the geopolitical story that Europeans began to tell themselves, the new languages—English, Italian, French, Spanish, Dutch, Polish, and German—began to take center stage, although this period continued to be a remarkably rich one in terms of Irish cultural production. Scholarly attention moved on, leaving Irish without the supports that help reproduce any language: dictionaries, guides and grammars. Professor Kane has mobilized an international effort partnering with many key institutions in the US including the Universities of Notre Dame and Harvard University as well as many of the major universities in Ireland including Trinity College Dublin and University College Cork, to create a web-based platform, Léamh.org, to develop an online dictionary, grammar and reading guide using texts from the period. Undergraduates, graduate students and Irish specialists have spent thousands of hours scanning and categorizing period manuscripts with software designed to help specialists sort through the data. Thanks to these efforts to introduce people to the language, this year the first Early Modern Irish grammar game will be beta-launched through Greenhouse Studios. This project has had the corollary benefit of creating many links for our graduate and undergraduate programs: a new exchange program with the National University of Ireland, in Galway, coming online that has a strong emphasis on Irish language learning, and Emmet de Barra, an Irish national who did his undergraduate degree at Trinity College, Dublin, is here pursuing an MA degree and working on the Léamh.org platform.  Besides teaching introductory Irish here at UConn for a couple of years to help shore up the program, Professor Kane will be co-teaching a course on Irish language and its historical contexts at Harvard University next fall.

 

Professor Burke, how specializes in Modern and contemporary Irish literature and drama, Irish identities and Irish material history and culture, anchors the literary side of the Irish Studies program.  English majors may pursue a concentration in Irish Literature by taking four courses focusing on Irish Literature, Language or History. Every semester, courses in Contemporary and Modern Irish Literature are offered, alongside more specialized courses that touch on subjects like the theater, poetry, and the history of Ireland across three campuses and two departments. The Fulbright Program at UConn has been instrumental in ensuring that Irish language courses are also available every semester (Mary Burke actually sits on the Fulbright National Screening Committee).

 

The graduate program is prestigious and fairly large for such a specialized program. It is typically home to as many as seven students at a time preparing dissertations in Irish literature or history from the medieval era to the eighteenth-century to the contemporary period. Recent alumni of the program include a current Director of Irish Studies at Villanova, and Heads of the English Departments at Miami University, William Paterson University, and University of New Haven in Connecticut.  Most recently Matthew Shelton, a Ph.D. candidate in Irish poetry, was awarded the Krause Research Fellowship for his translations of contemporary Irish-language poet Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh at the American Conference for Irish Studies. The Irish Studies Alliance, a graduate organization sponsors a Working Paper Series and works with faculty to coordinate conference participation at regional and national Irish conferences.  An average of three to six public talks or readings related to Irish literature occur every semester at UConn, usually through the English and History Departments.  The Gerson Reading, organized by Professor Burke, is a premier event in Irish Studies at UConn. The Gerson Reading has hosted most of the best-known Irish writers of recent years including Colm Toibin, Edna O’Brien, Colum McCann, Paul Muldoon. This year’s reader will be Emilie Pine on March 31 at Alumni House. Emilie Pine is the author of bestseller Notes to Self which is considered the most important Irish memoir in decades.

 

A variety of extra-curricular societies contribute to keeping the Irish community at UConn vibrant. There is An Cumann Gaelach (Irish Language Society) that serves both undergrads and graduate students; the UConn Irish Club, just for undergraduates; UConn Gaelic Football; UConn Irish Dance and Husky Hurling also for undergraduates. Meanwhile, Sinéad Murray and Dr. Kane run a UNIV course on Irish Culture and there are plans in the works to establish Irish Studies as a minor.

For information for classes next fall, please follow this link

Spotlight: Stefan Bronner

Dr. Stefan Bronner, Assistant Professor in Residence of German Studies, obtained his PhD in Germanistik at the Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg and has published on a wide range of topics including German literature and culture, postmodernism, continental philosophy, spirituality, and the contemporary world.

Bronner’s work is deeply rooted to his passion for literary scholarship. Bronner has become increasingly invested in the concept of “passion” itself and recently he has been collaborating with an international group of like-minded thinkers to actualize new intersections between literature and different ideas about passion. Together, they are at the forefront of a conceptual movement that he calls “Passionate Humanities.” Passionate Humanities is about getting away from stale modes of scholarship and teaching in the traditional academic system. Bronner is interested in “Literaturvermittlung” or the “mediation of literature for the real world.” The group is interrogating subjects like how the widespread availability of media such as Netflix affects the role of literature and reading more generally in everyday life and whether, given this changing context, literature can stay relevant for new generations. At their first gathering in Munich, Bronner and his colleagues brainstormed creative ways of bringing literature to life. The conference focused on strategies for reinventing the humanities and increasing passion for study in today’s corporatized world. Presenters explored ideas for re-thinking the traditional dissertation and for finding ways to engage the importance of irrationality, and the value of Eros and body to teaching and the classroom. The collective is currently drafting a manifesto, planning a US gathering for 2020, and archiving their discussions in an audiovisual blog that can be accessed at https://untiefen.blog.

Bronner’s ideas about passion stem, in part, from his own experiences as a student and teacher. In his teaching and his research, Bronner is interested how personal relationships, impulse, and affect can motivate students to study and to learn. Bronner affectionally refers to Dr. Klaus Post, a “fairytale uncle,” whose lectures were more like epic orations than passive presentations of knowledge. He studied continental philosophy with another professor he admired intensely who has been equally important in shaping his interests. There was also the German professor whom he loathed: Bronner remembers working equally hard for that professor because he would not let that person ruin German studies for him. Bronner would like to create what he calls an “Academy of Passions” which would involve projects like creating a belletristic and liberal humanities curriculum for inmates or survivors of trauma. Another initiative would be the development of a “spiritual university,” a reading program focused on global works of scripture or theology that give readers a break from the contemporary world.

Bronner is not sure he will be a “professor for life.” Working as a professor in residence at UCONN, however, has given him a great opportunity to advance his research and connect with both grads and undergrads. Whatever he ends up doing, he knows literature and culture will be constants in his life. In his hometown, Augsburg, he founded Literaturhaus, or “Literature House,” a creative, virtual space for the enjoyment of literature and the arts. Literaturhaus is mainly a virtual space, but Bronner’s family residence in Augsburg-Oberhausen, a working-class neighborhood, sometimes becomes an actual space for hosting literary events, exhibitions, and readings. Bronner decorated his residence with plastic letters and he photoshopped famous German authors attending the opening of Literaturhaus —with their permission, of course—blending the virtual and the actual in unexpected combinations. In another example, they hosted a book launch for Eckhart Nickel and recreated a “scent bar.” Visitors could smell the peculiar odors that Nickel’s characters had smelled in his novel. Bronner and his colleagues also furnish the Literaturhaus to model specific literary settings.

Augsburg is known for its reserve and even a tendency toward grumpiness, but the city nonetheless remains indispensable to Bronner. He divides his life between Storrs and Augsburg, and being a German studies professor has made it possible for him to travel back and forth frequently. The in-between very much shapes who Bronner is, always in transit between Storrs and Augsburg, between professional and passionate intellectual, between literature and the real world.

His dissertation was on the popular Swiss novelist Christian Kracht and was published as a full-length monograph in 2012. The book analyzes what he calls the “spiritual turn” in German culture, and he reads Kracht alongside an eclectic range of popular works from the films of David Lynch’s to Confucius’s Book of Changes or I Ching. Recently, he co-edited a collection of essays on Kracht, all of which examine the topographical breadth of Kracht’s literary settings and the theme of living the “in-between” space. He also co-edited a collection of essays that explore the symbolic dimension of terrorism in 2012.

By Simone Puleo

Spotlight: Verena Aschbacher

Verena Aschbacher, a new Ph.D. student in German Studies, grew up in South Tyrol (Südtirol in German), Italy. Verena’s small hometown lies at the border of Austria and Switzerland and people from the area speak regional dialects of German and Italian. This borderland zone combines Mediterranean and Germanic languages and cultures in the midst of dazzling mountains.

She attributes her love of books to her parents’ habit of bedtime reading when she was young. When she looks back on her childhood it seems that if she was not reading, she was swimming. When she was seventeen, she was asked to give swimming lessons. Coaching kids about how to swim was how she discovered that teaching was something she found extremely fulfilling.

This experience stayed with her and she eventually decided on a teaching career. Once she had completed her master program in teaching, she moved to Switzerland to teach German to migrants and refugee children and adults. Her classes were made up of students from around the world, all of whom spoke different languages. Many were traumatized and she was often confronted by students who had never been to school. The parallel between teaching language and teaching swimming helped her to stay focused on what is satisfying about the learning process for both student and teacher. Aschbacher observed that “teaching a language and teaching how to swim have quite big similarities. At first, the kid would not be able to swim a meter. Then, by practice and graded exercises, the kid is able to swim ten meters, and a hundred then. Learning a language is quite similar.” This perspective gave her the tools to encourage her students through the process and rewards of moving forward despite the challenge each of us encounters while learning something new.

After teaching refugees and migrants for two years, Verena became a secondary school teacher, still in Switzerland. While working at the secondary school, she took an extra class intitled “Giftedness, Creativity, and Talent Development” which provided teachers with methods to help students identify and develop talents about which they might not have been aware. That is where she understood the importance of creativity to students. Creative investment had to become a regular part of students’ re-engagement with a subject in order for the learning process to be effective. The program she took happened to be designed by the Swiss professors of Education Salomé Müller-Oppliger and Victor Mūller-Oppliger, who designed the program after learning about it at UConn. This was how Verena learned about UConn.

After three years as a secondary school teacher, Verena decided she was ready for a new challenge. While she was exploring graduate programs online, she discovered that UConn—a University she had already heard so much about—was recruiting graduate students for its the German Studies Program. A crucial motivation was that she would continue to develop her work in teaching German literature, language, and culture.

Her current interests are for writers such as Juli Zeh and Ferdinand Von Schirach. Verena also enjoys graphic novels including Nick Sousanis’s Unflattened (2015), a work she is hoping to translate into German. She is in her first year of PhD at UConn and is still thinking about a dissertation project.

—Lodi Maresescu

LCL Professor Shines Light on Massacre of Herero and Nama People

Katharina von Hammerstein, Professor of German Studies, and a member of UConn’s Human Rights Institute was interviewed by Courthouse News about a lawsuit being pursued at the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York against Germany. The lawsuit concerns the massacres of the Herero and Nama people in what is today Namibia (Africa) by German troops between 1904-1908. This less-known genocide was the first genocide of the twentieth century.

 

Documenting the treatment of the Herero people at the hands of German colonists has been a focus of Professor von Hammerstein’s research for the past several years. She has published on testimonies surrounding the Herero genocide by survivors and the statements of the descendants of victims as well as on sources documenting the views of German colonists describing these same events.

 

We are providing a link to the fascinating story about the role of U.S. Courts in mediating claims for reparations here:https://www.courthousenews.com/for-victims-of-a-little-known-genocide-a-long-journey-to-justice/

The Practical Side: Equipping Graduate Students for Jobs

The Department of Literatures, Cultures and Languages welcomes a mix of Masters and Ph.D. students in German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Comparative Literature (which includes a Chinese Studies Program). Graduate students in programs in the humanities are well aware that the employment landscape has shifted decisively in the past twenty to thirty years. This said, MA and PhD students have very different goals and needs. MA students tend to come to the program to explore an interest in advanced studies and to take time to chart a career path while studying, working, and upgrading their credentials. As a result, they tend to be fairly comfortable using their degrees as steppingstones for a broad array of non-academic careers. Although some still come with the intention of using their degrees as springboards for language teaching careers (a well-compensated sector which has recently seen an upsurge in demand) our MAs graduate and work in fields as diverse as politics, university administration, translation, publishing, artifact conservation, and business.

 

The level of specialization that is the hallmark of the Ph.D. poses more challenges, but also potentially more rewards, when entering the job market. Most students enter doctoral programs with the idea of pursuing a career in education, academia, government, or in a wide range of fields that require an advanced understanding of the intersections between culture, language, media, and the arts. To this end, LCL offers doctoral students hands-on preparation for teaching, doing research, and also for identifying and communicating with researchers who are the lifeblood of any field and which, in many cases, form a global community. The good news is that the proficiencies students will need for the academic market involves an impressive range of skills. The practical flexibility and the excellent communication skills that PhDs must hone for their teaching and writing make them extremely valuable contributors in a wide array of professional environments.

 

In 2016 LCL developed a specialized course to prepare doctoral students for the different arenas that PhD candidates have to navigate—conferences, grant writing, publishing, teaching—if they plan to prepare for academic jobs. This course, Scholarship and the Profession, was taught for a second time last fall. It was designed by LCL’s Director of Graduate Studies, Professor Jacqueline Loss. The course is recommended for all starting PhD candidates. Students are given the full picture of the steps students must take to build an academic career. One of the strategies Professor Loss uses to help students manage this challenge is to ask them to develop a five-year plan for their graduate studies, charting the benchmarks they would like to hit for each year.

 

The first step for incoming Ph.D.’s is to develop a compelling topic for their project. In a structured series of collaborative workshops, Professor Loss teaches students how to recognize good research topics, how to perform in-depth literature reviews, and how to devise methods for conducting research that are appropriate to the topic. The rest of the course is devoted to preparing students with the hands-on experience that is necessary for actually getting that research done, i.e. by writing abstracts and grant applications, learning how to identify venues (and thus by extensions audiences) for publishing their work, and, towards the end of the course, gaining some hands-on practice in the unwritten rules for the preparation of academic CVs, job letters, interviews, and job talks.

 

Loss also adopts a practical approach to prepare students for the job market. For instance, she shows that writing job documents (whether a cover letters or a teaching statement) requires a familiarity with the conventions of technical writing: ideas need to be articulated with precision and clarity. By working through multiple drafts, doing peer-review sessions, and getting constructive feedback at each step, students learn how to create their own job documents. This exercise is also lesson in genre writing since the conventions of professional writing are distinct from other genres of academic writing in which there is more space to develop ideas. The course also helps students in a number of other practical ways, training them to navigate standard academic job databases, use reliable online sources for academic job support like ChronicleVitae and Higheredjobs, and provides them with a first-hand taste of what it means to interview for academic jobs.

 

Senior graduate students in different phrases of their projects are frequent guests in Loss’s course. They coach younger Ph.D. students on how to present their work in conferences, to write prospectuses and to share their strategies to manage time and the pressures of graduate school as productively as possible. International students in the program help provide perspective on the nuances of the style and structure of the American academic system. While this process can appear daunting for new PhD candidates, it is helpful to gain a realistic picture of the pressures on the horizon. Gaining confidence in the various skills that will eventually make for a well-rounded professional help PhD students feel that they equipped to apply for talks, grants, and jobs.

 

Overall, graduate students see this course as a much-needed opportunity to not just think about how to make the most of their degrees, but also how to strengthen their overall academic profiles. Michael Pfremmer, a second year Ph.D. student in German confessed that taking the class was an eye-opening experience. While he will only be entering the job market in a few years, he found the course invaluable in making him think about the next steps in preparing his profile. Xiaoqiao Xu, a second year PhD student in CLCS found it useful in making her aware of the many opportunities that graduate students have in strengthening their academic portfolios. “Before the class, I was not aware of the importance of conferences for graduate students.” Taking the course helped her polish practical skills like writing an abstract or identifying conferences for which she should apply and reinforced the importance of such extra-curricular activities at the graduate level. She has now applied for two major conferences. Although it brings up certain fears students have in confronting the job market, it also prepares them to address them systematically in productive and fruitful ways.