Class of 2016
- Bachelor of Arts in English, Penn State Altoona
- Master of Arts in Composition and Literature, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, 2019
- Doctorate (Ph.D.) in process in Literature, Duquesne University
When I started at Penn State Altoona, I had zero intentions of becoming an English major. I had always enjoyed English but constantly heard: “what are you going to do with an English degree?” or “you can’t do anything besides teach with an English degree, right?” Well, a few English degrees later, I am teaching, but I’ve also done so much more.
In 2016, I graduated from Penn State Altoona with a Bachelor of Science in both English and Criminal Justice. However, I found myself wondering how I might combine my degrees as a way of intervening with some of the issues that I found plaguing the Criminal Justice system. For example: a lack of literacy being one of the highest causes of recidivism. This topic, specifically, piqued my interest as I often thought about my experiences as a writing tutor at PSU Altoona’s Writing Commons. Working at the Writing Commons had been such a privilege – I met new people from all around the world, continually learned from its directors, Jeannette Lang and Lee Peterson, and was able to build upon my writing and thinking process through this experience. It was clear that reading and writing, regardless of whether this took place in the academic sphere or the “real” world, was a place of intersection between the sciences and the humanities.
Trying to find a starting point, I decided to pursue a Master of Arts degree in English Composition and Literature at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. At IUP, I began broadening my horizons and thinking regarding how literature works as its own form of intervention for marginalized voices. I continued working at the writing center there, as well, and grew in my understanding of English as a Second Language (ESL) studies.
As I continue this journey of trying to bring the sciences and humanities together for change, I’m currently pursuing my Ph.D. in English Literature at Duquesne University. Here, I’ve had the opportunity to teach introductory English courses each semester and have been encouraged to pursue my vision of utilizing English to generate equality, equity, and awareness. Further, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Dr. Veronica Watson and Dr. Michael Williamson (former instructors and mentors of mine at IUP) throughout the past year as Dr. Watson launched the Humanities Training and Law Enforcement program. In this program, we use literature as a means of discussing and uncovering various issues such as police brutality, racism, and bias and learning how they have impacted the law enforcement and community relationship. The use of literature allows us to explore “hot button” topics together as we work to create a better understanding of these communities.
Overall, pursuing an English degree has helped me in a multitude of ways and has provided many opportunities. I got to go to London with Drs. Laura Rotunno and Doug Page as an undergraduate, I went to New York with Drs. Megan Simpson and Jutta Gsoels-Lorensen and explored African American history, I’ve met people from all around the world who have shared their experiences with me, I’ve developed a better understanding of other cultures, I’ve been able to teach some of the most incredible minds that (really) taught me more in return, and I've pursued my passion of trying to create a better and more equitable world. And this is just the beginning.