Graduates: Sharon Tran

Queens College was where I found myself falling precariously in love with literature. This feeling of precarity haunted me in very real, tangible ways. My parents had always pushed me towards the hard sciences, where I would be able to develop a highly marketable set of skills and knowledge towards some lucrative STEM career. Studying English meant courting an unknown, unpredictable future with a diminished promise for success (defined in the normative sense of attaing a high salary, prestige, and job security). But the English courses that I took at QC were also the ones that I found the most intellectually stimulating, teaching me how to write and think critically about different texts as well as the world I inhabit. Reading Edward Said’s Orientalism for the first time in Jesse Schwartz’s class completely blew my mind and provided me with a whole new theoretical framework for apprehending gendered, imperial power relations between the East and the West. For a short while, I managed to trick my parents (as well as myself) into believing that I was majoring in English with plans to apply for law school. By the end of junior year, I knew had to come clean and finally told them that I wanted to pursue a PhD in English. They were very apprehensive about my choice but ultimately, supportive of my passion for studying and writing about literature.

Today, I am a doctoral candidate in the English program at UCLA and am in the process of completing my dissertation. I can therefore say that studying English at QC has directly shaped and changed my life in major ways. It led me to move away from New York, where I was born and raised, all the way to the West coast, where I have found new communities of wonderful peers, mentors, and friends. I have had the pleasure to learn from the brilliant faculty at UCLA and work with Rachel Lee, an amazing advisor who continues to challenge and push me intellectually with regards to my research on Asian American literature and culture. At UCLA, I also had the opportunity to teach undergraduate students for the first time. In my classes, I continue to draw on a lot of the different teaching strategies and styles modeled by my excellent QC English professors such as Duncan Faherty, Caroline Hong, and Jason Tougaw, to only name a few. I have found teaching to be one of the most rewarding aspects of being an academic and I hope to continue helping students become more critically engaged readers and writers in the world they live.

The feeling of precarity regarding my chosen career path still persists in various ways. I feel it as I meticulously budget all of my living expenses and attempt to stretch my stipend as much as I can. I feel it as I scramble to apply for various research fellowships/grants and take on extra graduate student researcher work to make ends meet. This feeling of precarity will, no doubt, increase in the following months as I prepare to go on the highly competitive job market in the fall but I have also come to accept insecurity and risk as the price for doing something that I truly love. I can say that I have become more adept at living-with-precarity, at not allowing this sense of precarity to immobilize me but to instead serve as a more productive, driving force in my research as well as my life.

Graduates: Rob Rosengarten

A small red die-cast car was dropped on my desk on day one of my poetry workshop with Professor Cooley. Each of the other students in my class received an ordinary household object like mine. Then we were told to jot down whatever ideas came to mind. Professor Cooley did not want us to think too much about what we were writing but to allow our hands to convert thoughts to ink, effortlessly and almost meditatively, regardless of errors in spelling, grammar, and logic. There was only one rule: Do not lift your pen from your page until ten minutes are up.

While my hand ran across the page, my mind ventured to odd and random places. A small car became pavement, and then stone, and then water. One thought after another unfolded into a web of loose associations. When time was up, I did what is sometimes known as “boiling down the soup,” crossing out excess words until I was left with a potent product, a poem, at the bottom of the “pot.” It was not the process of writing but process of erasing that required critical thinking.

Before this workshop, I had always thought of writing as an exercise in addition rather than subtraction. Words included in an essay demanded more thought than words excluded. But I eventually learned that absences can be as important as presences. A single added space between two lines can alter the meaning of an entire poem.

Writing with an eraser, so to speak, was one of my greatest lessons I learned as an English major at QC, and one I have found useful in the various roles I have filled as a law student. Law school has required attention to detail, research savvy, and the ability to identify textual ambiguities—whether in reading Internal Revenue Code provisions for class, drafting trial memoranda and employment agreements for a lawyering simulation, or synthesizing and applying course readings on exams. But it has also required a great degree of creativity, and attention to the white space on the paper. For example, interpreting statutes in my administrative law class involved heavy use of “canons of construction,” or traditional interpretive rules that define statutory analysis. These rules dictate that meaning may be derived from both words chosen and words excluded. Canons like noscitur a sociis (drawing meaning from surrounding words) and expressio unius est exclusio alterius (inclusion of one thing in a class means exclusion of another in that class), have almost a poetic dimension if you squint a little.

A bit about where I am now: I have recently completed my second year at NYU Law School, and this month I will begin rotating through corporate law practices as a summer associate at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy. This past academic year I was an editor of the NYU Journal of Law and Business, where I reviewed academic articles as a member of the submissions committee. In the fall I served as a teaching assistant to Professor Arthur R. Miller in his Civil Procedure course, during which time (and for the prior summer) I updated two volumes of his legal treatise on American civil procedure, Federal Practice and Procedure (Westlaw/Reuters).

As a board member of OUTLaw, NYU Law’s LGBTQ student association, I also continued some of the extracurricular work I began as an undergrad at QC, which involved creating spaces for dialogue on issues concerning LGBTQ members of the Orthodox Jewish community. For example, in October I spearheaded a panel on the groundbreaking Ferguson v. JONAH conversion therapy trial, in which a New Jersey jury found a conversion therapy organization guilty of consumer fraud for claiming it could change (mostly Orthodox) followers of its therapy program from gay to straight.

Graduates: Eileen Maguire

At Queens College I studied both English and Sociology, which has given me an advanced psychosocial perspective and the skills to write. But what is most important to me about my studies is the accomplishment of finishing the degree. I am proud of my academic achievement. I raised four children while working on my education, and I am happy to say that they are proud of me. I set a good example for them. I showed them that you can achieve anything you set your mind to. My education has made me a richer person. 

I am a residence counselor. I work with people diagnosed with mental illness. I teach skills, write service plans and progress notes. This comes very easily to me. I would like to do something more challenging. I realized that to have more opportunities, I need more education. I am in my first semester at CUNY School for Professional Studies in the Disability Studies-MA program. My studies at Queen’s College: reading, interpreting literature, and writing have prepared me for this level of course work. This semester as a final project I am preparing an article for publication. I like the idea of writing something meaningful and with the education and passion about a subject I am excited to take on this endeavor. 

Graduates: Chris Vitale

Majoring in English was the smartest decision I’ve made to date. Studying English prepared me in a few key areas that are directly translated in my day-to-day life:

  • Capturing the key details in a sea of words and being able to translate them to other people.
  • Talking about books I never read (or in this case topics I don’t know much about – know enough to talk to smarter people about it and learn every step of the way).
  • Avoid adverbs. This one’s always stuck with me (Stephen Kruger).
  • Be conscious of the ratio of other people’s ideas in your own work and leverage it to your benefit. It’s important to acknowledge the ideas of people you’re doing business with.
  • Take notes. Copious notes. Pro-Tip: Use Google Docs so they’re easily indexed and searchable at a later date.

Now I am leading a team of incredibly passionate and talented digital designers and developers. As Lead Digital Project Manager at a creative agency, I oversee the full lifecycle of mobile/web application development projects, digital marketing and content strategy engagements, and highly technical projects (that are often over my head in terms of tech, but hey, I still get to learn every day!) On top of a full-time job, I am getting my MA in Digital Humanities at the Grad Center (in the MALS program–Master of Arts in Liberal Studies). Always more to learn. Reading, interpreting, and writing about literature in new and innovative ways is my focus these days. How do we blow up the book and take it from a different angle?

Long story short, for all the paranoid English majors who have read one-too-many memes on Facebook about their imposing doom, it’s going to be okay. Just hustle. Learn. Adapt. Don’t be afraid to bullshit a little. You do it every time you fluff up your papers to hit 10 pages.

Graduates: Gauthier Giacomoni

This might sound trite, but I honestly think that one of the biggest impacts being an English major has had on me is teach me to write (a fierce editing habit is implied).

In our digital age, the written word is often the first medium in which people have a chance to make a good impression. Whether it’s building a website, sending an email, putting together a resume and cover letter, or reaching out to someone on LinkedIn, writing is imperative. There is also something to be said for developing your own voice. The way you express your thoughts “on paper” gives people a sense of who you are. Also, let’s not forget that more and more employers are also checking out applicants on text-heavy social media.

Granted, having memorized William Carlos Williams’ This is Just to Say is probably not going to make a huge difference in your day to day life (unless, of course, you derived some sort of special meaning from Williams’ poem that brings you joy). The same goes for understanding Mikhail Bakhtin’s thoughts on what makes good literature (although, I should note that name-dropping Bakhtin can be a hit at cocktail parties), but being able to wrestle the point out of complex and sometimes contrary texts is valuable. 

Those are two pragmatic skills that are applicable to jobs across many industries. 

I’ve been working for CBS Radio News since 2012. From an entry-level position I worked my way up to staff writer and now assignment editor.  My B.A. from Queens College was not enough on its own, but my experience at QC was instrumental nonetheless. 

First of all, I joined the student run radio station (yes, there is one) and fell in love with the medium. I also took media studies classes on radio and audio production. Professor Tougaw himself deserves a fair amount of credit (whether I’ve actually said this to him yet or not I can’t recall). During his senior seminar he encouraged us to submit our theses in new media formats. Since he had introduced us to Radiolab (a radio show / podcast produced by the NYC based NPR station WNYC) and I was already interested in the field, I decided to produce mine in a radio format. Despite the production classes I’d taken, this was my first experience creating a complex narrative using audio. I stumbled my way through it and I had a great time doing it. It was one more factor that made me determined to get a job in radio. 

I graduated from QC in 2009. Worked a menial job for a year while unsuccessfully applying to any radio job I came across. Finally, I decided that the experience and degree I had would not be sufficient to get me my dream job, so I applied to grad school. Some of the applications – including the one for Boston University (from which I hold my M.S.) – required samples of my work. This is where we circle back to the audio format senior thesis I submitted to prof. Tougaw. I attached it to my application and was accepted. I was able to thrive at BU because of the production / editing skills I learned as an undergrad. 

Since I work in news, there are a lot of skills I learned as an English major that I use constantly. Identifying the most important factors of a story is its own form of close reading. As a staff writer I would have to explain stories in just a few lines of text to be read on the air by anchors who may not be familiar with the story. 

Exam

The exam is this Friday, April 7 in Powdermaker 212. Arrival time is 9:30 AM Eastern Standard Time. It starts promptly at 10. You’ll do two essays, then have a break (bring or plan lunch), and you’ll do the final section after the break. You should be finished by 2:30 PM Eastern Standard Time. 

Blizzard Contingency Plans: Revised Schedule

1. Instead of class this week, I would like you all to post a preliminary exam strategy on your blogs. Post your ideas about what you will prepare for each category of the exam:

  • Which texts will you be prepared to write about?
  • Which supplementary texts will help you do it?
  • In what ways is your plan flexible and modular, so that you may be prepared for questions that ask you to discuss one, two, or three texts? Or so that you’ll be ready to discuss a particular text for a theory essay, but also for a genre or historical context, if that ends up making more sense
  • If I were you, I’d structure your post around the three categories—Genre, Historical Context, Theory—and then add another section on “Flexibility and Modularity.” Finally, you should comment on the planning posts of by people in your study groups.

Note: When you post feedback for members of your study group, be sure to do the following: 1.) Answer any specific questions they ask, 2.) Consider whether their plans include enough texts, keeping in mind that you might be asked to discuss as many as nine on the exam, 3.) Make suggestions for increasing flexibility or modularity, and 4.) Make another other suggestions that occur to you.

2. Those of you doing presentations on Brennan’s The Transmission of Affect will do them on March 28 / 29. 

3. Those of you assigned to do presentations on exam texts for this week will do those on April 4 / 5. 

The Conference!

Hi everybody. Now is the time to start talking about ideas for the Honors conference. We need a name and a theme to start. We’ll also need to decide on format.

I also wonder if anybody is interested in making a video or some other multimedia project that works with the theme.

To start, I’m listing the titles of all your theses. Use the comments section to post ideas about what themes might bring all these together–and to suggest titles for the conference. 

“The Importance of Memory and Legacy” by James Marone

“Reclaiming Space for Radical Empathy in Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things” by Sumaria Butt

“Death in Young Adult Literature” by Kelly Santana

“An Exploration of Anarchy in the Works of Ursula K. Le Guin” by Chani Rubenstein

“Self Under Siege: Pleasure in Brave New World” by Ikram Khan

“The Transcendence of Race in Contemporary America” by Tracy Kawall

The Giving Tree and Arlene Sardine: What is the Ultimate Message?” by Zainab Bhatti

“‘We Found Ourselves Veiled and Separated’; Liminality, Politics, and Representation in Bechdel’s Fun Home and Satrapi’s Persepolis” by Yazmin Estrada

“The Reality of Illusion in Dramatic Literature” by Caitlin Marziliano

“‘Mad!’ Historical Context as a Primary Diagnostic Criterion in Lady Audley’s Secret and its Film Adaptation” by Michelle Coleman

“What women? Examining the Invisible Figures of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man” by Krystal Dillon

“Teaching in the Age of Inclusion: Using Disability Narratives as a Bridge to Understanding Neurodiversity” by Brandon Hernandez

“Robotic Art and the Condition of Being an Object” by Sarah Schafer

“The Heroic Junkie: Transhumanist Theory and Neuroenhancers in the Television Series Limitless and Sherlock” by Asheka Lawrence-Reid

“The Horrors of Adolescence” by Zahava Glucksman

“Bram Stoker’s Dracula: The Connection Between Gender and its Many Euphoric States” by Radheeka Sharma

“Autistic Minds and Animal Minds in the Work ofTemple Grandin” by Lisa Lay

 

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