Our featured student in this issue of IMPACT is Jessica Slayton, a candidate in the Master’s of Arts in English program.
IMPACT: Jessica, tell us a little about yourself — where are you from, originally, and what was your area of study as an undergraduate?
JESSICA: Hi! I'm originally from Wethersfield, CT, but I’ve been living in Burlington for the past eight years. I went to UVM as an undergrad (as a proud member of the Honors College), and got my B.A. in English, Spanish, and Art History, and am now getting my M.A in English. I've always loved reading and writing, and ultimately decided to pursue English given the wide range of analytical and communicative skills that one gains through doing so. Writing my Honor's thesis allowed me to tie together my interests and build a good foundation for my Master’s work. I wasn’t sure of a career path during my time as an undergrad, so the widespread applicability of the English major set me up perfectly for what I did decide to do. Also, I loved getting to spend my time exploring all different types of literature.
Additionally, I studied Spanish because I believe in the power of languages. It felt like a natural supplement to my studies in English. My interest in Art History was one that came by chance and a fine arts requirement of the liberal arts college at UVM. This minor, though initially just one that I found interesting and enjoyable, essentially became a supplement to all of my English graduate work.
IMPACT: That's an impressive array of undergraduate degrees! What inspired you to go to graduate school at UVM?
JESSICA: After receiving my B.A., I worked as a compliance consultant at a health care company for two years. While this was excellent experience, it showed me that my future did not lay in law, which upon graduating, I thought might be an option. I decided to go back to school to get my M.A., in order to both increase my academic credentials and possibly gain the experience needed to begin a teaching career. UVM offered me the chance to not only work with wonderfully supportive faculty once more, but additionally, the English Department offered me the Buckham Teaching Fellowship, which gave me the opportunity to teach English 001 to undergraduates. This allowed me to investigate whether or not teaching was the right career path for me by giving me real-time teaching experience. I’m extremely grateful for this, because it has shown me that teaching writing and literature is what I do want to pursue.
IMPACT: Tell our readers about your experiences in grad school, and what it is like to work with faculty members and to work on your own scholarship.
JESSICA: I love doing my own scholarship! I feel like I’ve really been given the chance to carve a niche out for myself in the academic world, and should I pursue a Ph.D., I know exactly what areas I would continue working with. Over the course of the many seminars I've taken, I’ve been pushed to hone my skills, and have worked to fit my interests into a variety of literary fields and topics. I tend to gravitate towards writing about the intertextuality that occurs between literature and visual art, so I've found myself exploring the way that visual art works alongside text through the lens of American Romanticism, cultural theory, and Joycean modernism. I've even gotten the chance to work with visual art inspired by the Book of Mormon, which turned into a paper that is getting published.
Additionally, teaching English 001 has really been fantastic. I have somehow gotten SO lucky with every single one of my classes, and feel that I've gotten the chance to work with so many brilliant undergrads. They're creative, entertaining, and have made me think differently about the world. Each and every student I've worked with has so much potential. I hope they enjoy running into me around campus as much as I still love seeing them.
IMPACT: Are there any faculty members in graduate school that have been particularly important to you and why?
JESSICA Dr. Anthony Magistrale, my thesis advisor, has been a huge support to me throughout my time as an undergrad and graduate student. Not only did he provide me with a great deal of help and counsel during the decision and application process, but he's been a continual source of support through my graduate learning. His seminar on Edgar Allan Poe, one of the first classes I took, sparked what would eventually become my thesis project, and with his help, I’ve pushed the topic to a place that I would otherwise have not believed possible. It's become a project that I hope to continue working on even after receiving my M.A. degree. My time as a graduate student would not have been nearly as successful, challenging, or even as fun without the help of Dr. Magistrale.
Additionally, Dr. Jean Bessette has been a huge support, and working with her has been absolutely wonderful. She is my advisor for the teaching portion of my graduate degree, and with her help, I feel I've become a really successful instructor. She conducted the initial training for the role of ENGS001 instructor and helped me to gain confidence in my abilities. Throughout the past two years and six sections of ENGS 001, she has continued to be an unwavering pillar of support for me. She's brilliant, helpful, and is always on my side, simultaneously inspiring me to be the best instructor I can be, while also making me feel that I’m completely capable.
I'm also extremely grateful to have gotten the chance to work with Dr. Val Rohy, Dr. Mary Lou Kete, Dr. Liz Fenton, Dr. Tom Simone, Dr. Anthony Grudin, and Dr. Sarah Alexander. Truly, they have all made my time as a grad student both incredibly rich, and incredibly fun.
IMPACT: Tell us where you are in your graduate education and what you plan to do after graduating.
JESSICA: I'll be finished with my graduate degree in May — just a few short months to go! Right now, I'm in the thick of my thesis project, which deals with the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe and the canon of Aesthete and Modernist illustrations surrounding his work, particularly those done by British illustrator Arthur Rackham. I hope to continue working with this material after finishing my thesis as well. After graduating, I plan to continue teaching, perhaps at the high school level. I may eventually aim to get my PhD and teach at the college level, but I’d like to take at least a year or two to try working with high school students. Taking a few years between my B.A and my M.A. was perhaps the most valuable choice I made in my academic career, so I think it's wise to repeat the same before pursuing more education.
I might leave Burlington at the end of the summer because it has been eight years, but it'll be really difficult to do so. Burlington is my second home, and has been nothing but wonderful to me over the course of my six years of education with UVM.
IMPACT: Finally, please tell our readers what you like to do in your spare time.
JESSICA: In my spare time, which there really is not much of, I love to cook, paint, read (yes, I still read books just for fun!), spend time with family, friends, and my wonderful boyfriend, and travel. In the past two years, I've seen Iceland and Ireland, and expect to travel to Italy and Germany this year. While I am truly very sad that grad school is ending, I am extremely excited for all of the adventures and pursuits that will come with the next chapter of my life.
IMPACT: Thank you for your time, Jessica. And best of luck to you after graduation.