Dear Mr. Vander Meulen:
I would be very happy to speak with you or any member of the committee by phone. My daytime number is xxx.xxx.xxxx, and I am available from 8am to 4:30pm.
In addition, I have provided short responses to your questionnaire, below.
When were you enrolled in the program?
How did you learn of the program?
From departmental brochures and from faculty members (Profs. Ellwood, Day, and Cushman).
Why did you enter the program, and did it meet your expectations?
I entered the program because I was drawn to its interdisciplinary approach and to the enthusiasm of Alan Howard for that approach. The program surpassed my expectations.
What did you find most valuable about the program?
I found that the program gave me a number of specialized skills related to technology, which became crucial to my career, but that the most profound benefits were improvements of basic skills of reading, thinking, and writing.
Was the program different in any significant ways from your earlier education?
As an undergraduate English major at UVA, I often felt overwhelmed by class sizes and underwhelmed by the interest that most faculty took in students. Only once, as a part of a small program at Regents College, London, did I build a closer relationship to UVA faculty. By contrast, the American Studies MA program gave me the sense that my instructors, especially Alan Howard, had high expectations for my work and intended to guide my progress. The close-knit group of American Studies students also provided a sense of friendly competition and a common mission.
Did the program help you develop any of these aspects of your life?
-Thinking and communicating?
All of these. As I wrote above, the technical skills probably helped me more than these others in landing a job after graduation, but the critical thinking, reading, and research skills have contributed much more to my overall success. To what extent did your classmates affect your experience in the program? The close-knit group of American Studies students also provided a sense of friendly competition and a common mission. The very public nature of Web publishing meant that students monitored each other's work, offered criticism and encouragement. To what extent did the public venue (the Internet) for much your work affect your experience in the program? I would say that the new medium made us feel special and that it energized our work in ways that I am only now beginning to understand. I recently co-taught a course here at Washington and Lee in which students created Web projects, most for the first time. The results and the students' reactions to the medium were wonderful. There is little doubt in my mind that publishing work to the Internet enriches the learning experience. Was the course work appropriate to the goals of the program? Yes. I certainly thought so. Did you perceive yourself as part of any university department or community larger than the American Studies Program itself? I felt closer to my fellow AmStudies students than to others in the department, and I suppose I did not see that I had very much in common with many in other English department programs. At the time, I think there was also a certain amount of skepticism about what we were doing, which made me a little defensive about it. How well was interdisciplinary study integrated in the program? The content of the American Studies seminar was extremely diverse, and the program was set up such that I was able to take courses outside of English. Which I really enjoyed. Were the following resources (and any other ones) adequate for your work? -Libraries? ¯-Exceptional.
-Computers and technical support?-- Not always, but there wasn't much available anywhere at that time.
-Work space? --Yes.
-Classes? ¯ YEs.
-Faculty? ¯ YEs; David Seaman deserves a special mention for all of his advice and support to me and my classmates in the early days of the program.
-Financial support? ¯ Yes, thanks to federal loans.
-Other? During the program did you have any relevant part-time employment? I wrote features for the C'Ville Weekly. I believe that American Studies is an ideal background for a career in journalism and writing (Tom Wolfe is a prime example). Please describe briefly your major forms of schooling and/or employment since your time in the program (giving dates, name of organization, and chief activities there): I worked as an educational technology consultant for two years (96 - 97) following my graduation with a firm based in Roanoke called Educorp Consultants Corporation. There I worked on projects with large software and publishing companies (Microsoft, Apple, etc.) and small start-ups (including the New York company founded by my AmStudies classmate Kelly Moulton). Since January 1998, I have been employed by Washington and Lee University as their Instructional Technology Specialist, supervising the Media Center, writing grant proposals, and working with faculty on a variety of digital media projects. Did you find advising and placement support in the program to be adequate? Yes, though I understand that the current network of American Studies alumni in technology is much larger and stronger, that it has helped a great many graduates find jobs. Has your involvement in the program made a discernible difference in the subsequent steps of your career? Yes. How might the program be strengthened? Increased funding would allow the program greater technical support and certainly better national visibility. Any other reflections? If Jefferson were alive today, he would love this program.