Dear Mr. Vander Meulen:
I received your email and I am happy to provide you with any information
that I can in regard to the American Studies program at UVa. My answers
to the questions you asked follow. You are free to attach my name to my
comments. I would be more than willing to communicate further with you
and the other members of the committee by email, telephone, or in person.
I will be in Charlottesville at some point before the end of April on a
weekday, as well as over graduation weekend, if that would be of help to
you. My telephone number presently is xxx.xxx.xxxx. I am moving to
Washington, D.C. at the end of this month, but I will update you with my
new contact information once I have it myself.
I will also contact the other members of the committee on my own. It is
my understanding that my answers to these questions should be sent to you
for distribution, but I am anxious to let them know that I am willing to
answer any questions that they may have. Although I do not know Mr.
Baker, I had the opportunity to study with Mr. Kett while I was at UVa,
and Mr. Bass was on the Georgetown faculty while I was a student there.
Finally, as you will see from my answers to the questions below, I can not
speak highly enough of the American Studies program. It represents the
most compelling educational experience that I have had, and it would be a
terrible loss, to the University of Virginia, the program's potential
students, and communities beyond, to discontinue it.
When were you enrolled in the program?
How did you learn of the program?
From a friend who majored in American Studies at Virginia as an
Why did you enter the program, and did it meet your expectations?
I entered the program because I was interested in pursuing a graduate
degree in American Studies. I majored in American Studies as an
undergraduate at Georgetown University, and always knew that I wanted to
continue my studies on the graduate level. In the course of researching
graduate programs, I found myself attracted more to Virginia's curriculum
than to that of other programs. As a by-product of this, I came to be
very excited by the computer aspect of the program.
Beyond this, I enrolled for the not less compelling reason that I believed
from the outset that Alan Howard was interested in having me there. I was
accepted into another graduate program, but Alan made it clear to me that
he thought I had something to contribute at Virginia. In the
conversations that I had with him before I enrolled, it was evident that
he had taken great care in composing the class, and that was extremely
encouraging. I was also excited by his vision of delivering education in
new and different ways.
What did you find most valuable about the program?
This is a difficult question to answer, because the program was valuable
to me on a great many academic and personal levels. But perhaps what was
most valuable about it were the new ideas and possibilities concerning
education to which I was exposed in the course of completing my degree.
Beyond providing me with a set of skills that allowed me to pursue an
academic-oriented job in a market where academic jobs are difficult to
come by, the program made it possible for me to contemplate and
participate in an emerging educational venue, one that both expands and
challenges current education horizons.
Was the program different in any significant way?we were given the freedom
to bring what we learned in those classes into the program. For example,
I took Richard Guy Wilson's 20th Century American Architecture class and I
produced my thesis on Celebration, Florida, a planned community recently
built by the Walt Disney Company. Mr. Wilson was the second reader on my
Were the following resources (and any other ones) adequate for your work?
-Libraries? Yes, they are excellent.
-Computers and technical support? Yes, excellent, although we had at least one experience where we needed help with a specific software program and it turned out that we knew more about it than the computer staff! The ETEXT Center also provided us with a great deal of technical support.
-Work space? The lab may be small, but I think that is part of the reason that the program works. When you spend uncountable hours in a very small room with other people, you get to be good friends fairly quickly.
-Classes? We were lucky to have the opportunity to take classes in so many departments.
-Faculty? Extremely accessible. -Financial support? Yes.
-Other? I will take the chance to talk about the Office of Career Planning and Placement below. During the program did you have any relevant part-time employment? No. 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 have accepted a position with U.S. News & World Report that I will begin in May. I will be the associate producer of their Web site, dealing specifically with Education issues. Did you find advising and placement support in the program to be adequate? My answer to this question can be combined with that to the question about how the program can be strengthened. In terms of advising and placement support within the program, I think that a better job could be done in defining for the students the type of jobs that are available to them following graduation, the skills that will be needed to fill those kinds of positions, and where to start looking for them. In some ways, the Web is still in its infantile stages, and its parameters will continue to be defined perhaps indefinitely. As a result, pursuing a Web career can be a bit daunting. Alan is very good at putting present and former American Studies students in touch with one another, and all the past students that I have spoken with have been extremely helpful in advising me. In terms of advising and placement support outside of the program, I found it lacking. The Office of Career Planning and Placement has not really equipped itself to deal with the needs of students who are looking for employment opportunities outside of investment banking or management consulting. When I consulted them, looking for some guidance as to how I might improve a frustrating job search, the _only_ advice I was offered was to "keep a positive attitude." In retrospect, perhaps it wasn't a big deal, but at the time it was maddening. The Alumni Office does provide a list of past UVa graduates, divided by major and geographic location, who have volunteered to speak with students about their careers, etc. Out of the fifteen or so that I contacted, I got one response. However, the one response led to a potential job opportunity. Has your involvement in the program made a discernible difference in the subsequent steps of your career? Yes. The job that I am about to start would not have been accessible to me without it. How might the program be strengthened? While most of my answer can be found above (as part of the advising and placement support question), I can offer my opinion as to how the program would not be strengthened - I don't think it should be made larger. I think that a great deal of its strength is derived from the sense of community that its current size fosters. Any other reflections? There are two other things I would like to include in my comments. First, having recently completed my job search, I can tell you that all the Web professionals with whom I spoke over the course of the past few months were greatly impressed and intrigued by the American Studies program at UVa. They had not heard of anything else like it, and felt strongly that it would be an excellent training ground for future Web professionals. Second, I came away from the program not only with a new set of skills and a broader insight into emerging educational avenues, but with a tremendous respect for the person who started this program. Alan Howard had a vision of the enormous possibilities that the Web offers the humanities, and he has worked tirelessly to make that vision a reality. Along the way, his enthusiasm has been transmitted to a group of students who are lucky to have had the chance to work with him. His excitement about education, and his determination to find a means of educating students in ways that will benefit them and allow them to serve others are unique in my educational career.