When were you enrolled in the program? Respondent #7 1995-1996

How did you learn of the program? Through English Department's brochure

Why did you enter the program, and did it meet your expectations? I entered the program because I was impressed with UVa's English Department, and interested in the program's interdisciplinary approach which seemed to fit my academic background and approach (I was not an undergrad English Lit. major). My expectations in enrolling in the program were to use as it a jumping off point for getting a Ph.D. (at UVa or elsewhere). My academic experience in the program was great -- I found my classes/professors excellent (both within and outside of the English Department) and I performed well enough to move on, if I had so desired. However, thanks in part to the general lobbying by Alan Howard (that started, of course before entering the program) and by the generally gloomy atmosphere/outlook about the 'state of the profession' or possibility of finding a job, decided not to pursue a Ph.D. So, in terms of the intellectual quality of the program, I was satisfied. I really did not know what to expect in regards to the technical (web based) side of the program. At first, I found this aspect to be very frustrating, given my inexperience in using this technology and the general lack of instruction in how to use it. (Perhaps this was an intentional pedagogical move on Alan's part, perhaps it was oversight). By the end of the first semester, I had gained some comfort with the web-based approach, and by the end of the program found it to be one of the strong points of the program.

What did you find most valuable about the program? Its setting within UVa's English Department (i.e., a strong, diverse, and well regarded department); Its interdisciplinary nature; The small size and camaraderie of the group; The emphasis on using the Internet to create/present/disseminate scholarship ( I still am contacted by both laypeople and professionals who find my thesis (such as it is) on the web and who use it for their own research or link it to their own sites. And since there hadn't been a whole lot written on the subject, it's much more useful on-line than gathering dust in a basement.

Was the program different in any significant ways from your earlier education?

The emphasis integrating technology and scholarship was different.

Did the program help you develop any of these aspects of your life?

-Thinking and communicating?

Yes. The program introduced me the discipline(s) of American/Cultural studies; emphasized a clear, jargon-free writing style (in contrast to many of the 'regular' English Department classes)

-Work habits?

Yes. In general, the work load at graduate school was heavier that I had experienced as an undergrad; the program's compressed time frame and technical components increased to work load over that of typical first year students.

-Research abilities?

Yes. Using the resources of large research libraries (the Eng. Dept. introduction to these libraries was helpful) and using the Internet as a research tool were both new experiences.

-Technical abilities?

Yes. I was a complete novice in using the web/HTML.

To what extent did your classmates affect your experience in the program?

Greatly. I found, for the most part, a great deal of cooperation and camaraderie among the program participants, much more so than among first year grad students in the department.

To what extent did the public venue (the Internet) for much your work affect your experience in the program?

In contrast to the usual academic experience, it was/is strange to have to one's work read consumed so publicly, and did, at times, change the ways in which it was presented. See above comments also. Was the course work appropriate to the goals of the program? First, what I see as the goals of the program: Introduction to American Studies at a graduate level; Exploration of the effects of introducing the Internet (hypermedia) to the prevailing modes and structures of scholarship; Vocational training in using hypermedia; A critique of the system of graduate education (specifically for English Lit, but also in general). The first two goals at times were at odds with the second two Did you perceive yourself as part of any university department or community larger than the American Studies Program itself? I saw myself as a part of the English Department, though at times there was some tension between the goals/philosophy of the program and the larger department. I'm not sure this tension is always a bad thing.

How well was interdisciplinary study integrated in the program?

Very well. The reading in the core classes were interdisciplinary; the requirement that one take classes outside the English Department was welcome (and the quality and nature of the courses in the History, Religion, and Sociology departments was excellent); in addition, most of my 'English' classes were interdisciplinary.

Were the following resources (and any other ones) adequate for your work?

I thought the libraries were fine
-Computers and technical support?
I think more technical support would be helpful, especially some basic training at the beginning of the first semester
-Work space?
Excellent -- I enjoyed all my classes
-Financial support?
There was no financial support (other than loans) available
During the program did you have any relevant part-time employment? I created some web pages for the Virginia Association of Museums project

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):

Since the Spring of 1997 I have worked at the Director of Information and Outreach Services for Partners for Sacred Places, a national historic preservation organization that works with historic religious properties. I run the Information Clearinghouse (a unique collection of materials relating to the care, active community use, and preservation of religious properties) advise and consult with people around the country on issues concerning religious property preservation; write and edit for organization's publications; create and manage organization's web site.

Did you find advising and placement support in the program to be adequate?

Not really. I did not find much support for finding the type of work that I sought.

Has your involvement in the program made a discernible difference in thesubsequent steps of your career?

Yes. Work on my thesis led (more or less) directly to the line of work that I'm in now. Having an MA (as opposed to BA) degree and having web skills were helpful in finding my current position. I'm not sure that this combination is necessarily better than having a professional degree in my field, but it's worked for me (so far).

How might the program be strengthened?

I think it needs a clearer definition of what it is and why it should exist, especially in the context of a Graduate Eng. Lit. program. It has to be more than just a technical training program (it was for me, but did not seem so for some of my classmates); given UVa's leadership in the use of new electronic media, I think the program could be better integrated into the scholarly dimension of the 'web' (this occurred to some extent) and better integrated into the English Department, or perhaps the English Department and the History Department. I also think more technical training/support would be helpful.

Any other reflections?

Overall, I found the program stimulating and useful both to my intellectual and professional development. I think it is still a 'work in progress' that deserves further attention (assuming there is interest from well-qualified students).

I would be happy to speak with a member of the evaluation team about my experiences in the program.