When were you enrolled in the program? Respondent #10: August 1996-August 1997

How did you learn of the program?

I applied to UVA and a couple other schools in M.A. English programs. I also applied to two schools in M.A. American Studies programs. Alan Howard called me and asked if I'd be interested in UVA's American Studies program. As he described it, it sounded very interesting, so I "switched" from regular M.A. to American Studies.

Why did you enter the program, and did it meet your expectations?

I wanted to be able to study, but also wanted something with some practical application (I was a high school teacher at the time). The program was everything I'd hoped for. I also liked the fact that a) it was in-state and thus cheap, and b) that it was a one-year program.

What did you find most valuable about the program? Alan Howard.

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

It was different in several ways:
--combining the opportunity for hands-on experience with more intellectual pursuit (internships, etc.)
--a professor who was concerned about what would happen to me after I left the program (jobs, etc.)
--a program that involved discussion and thought of the ways information is presented (different media) as well as the information itself
--very collaborative (all the M.A. students working together on a common project)
--produced lasting, public results (work visible on Web site, interacting with the public)

Did the program help you develop any of these aspects of your life? -Thinking and communicating?

-Work habits?
-Research abilities?
-Technical abilities?
ALL OF THE ABOVE! I became a much better writer, researcher, organizer of conceptual information, as well as gaining valuable (marketable) skills in computer literacy.

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

Very much. I had a good experience, but it could have been strengthened with a stronger team in the year I attended. We lost several members of the group early on, which hurt our ability to work together, and then throughout the year I felt like some members of our group were more committed than were others. I would have liked a closer, more committed group to work with.

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

Tremendously. It helped me connect the work of the university with the work and concerns of the community. It made me more conscious of my writing and the way I was presenting information. It motivated me to produce polished, thorough work. It helped me get jobs because I could point to my work online.

Was the course work appropriate to the goals of the program?

Yes, although Alan's motives for course organization weren't very clear at the start. It became apparent, gradually, that Alan intended us to get a broad taste of the methodology of American Studies in the first semester and in-depth work (in our case, on the U.S. Capitol) in the second semester, but I think I got to October or November before I realized the plan. I was tremendously disappointed, however, that during my time in the English department there weren't more American Literature or American cultural studies courses offered.

Did you perceive yourself as part of any university department or community larger than the American Studies Program itself?

Not really. I don't think American Studies fits in the English dept. very well, and my course work in other depts. was scattered enough that I didn't make any lasting connections with other departments.

How well was interdisciplinary study integrated in the program?

I took courses in several departments and enjoyed the flexibility afforded me to do so. I don't think American Studies fits into the English dept. very well; it's not really about just English--could just as easily be in History or some other dept. Also, its goals seem so different than the goals for the other graduate programs in English that I never felt very comfortable in the graduate English dept. community.

Were the following resources (and any other ones) adequate for your work?
-Libraries? Fine
-Computers and technical support? Fine, although during my time there we had limited graphics/scanner capabilities, which meant that I relied on the generosity of the media center folks and the E-Text center, who sometimes weren't open when I needed to work. Also, there seemed to be little tech support for Alan when he had to replace server parts, etc.
-Work space? Too cramped! Need more room!
-Classes? More offerings in the English dept. for American Lit/ American Cultural Studies! More offerings in summer, which was tough to find classes.
-Faculty? Alan is terrific; other professors like Eric Lott seemed supportive of the program.
-Financial support? I was, and continue to be, extremely disappointed that UVA doesn't see fit to invest in its Masters students. I worked tremendously hard during my year at UVA and generated content that continues to be a credit to the institution. Why was I not afforded financial aid?
-Other? During the program did you have any relevant part-time employment? I worked as an intern with the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities in the fall and summer during the program. This was arranged through Phyllis Leffler's Public History program.

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):

English teacher, Albemarle Co. Public Schools, 1997-1998 Responsible for instructing 9th grade students in written and oral communication, introducing them to the conventions of various literary forms

Education Producer, PBS Online, 1998-present Responsible for planning content, navigation, and design of general audience and classroom Web sites for PBS; evaluating and refining online content as needed

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

Alan's advising was tremendous. I was disappointed that the Office of Career Planning and Placement couldn't be much help in the non-profit or Web world, and also that the English Dept. couldn't point me to other M.A.'s in the field (why has the English Dept. done no survey of its graduates to find out where they are, how the program worked, etc.?)

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

Without a doubt, I would not be where I am today without the American Studies program. It helps me in all areas of my current professional life; the combination of interdiscplinary humanities study and computer skills made me more marketable than I could have imagined.

How might the program be strengthened?

The program, which seems to be Alan's one man band, needs to find a home at UVA. It needs the support of other faculty; it needs better connection to OCPP (or OCPP needs to strengthen its ability to serve this type of graduate). It needs better coordination with the Digital History Center; the E-Text Center; and the Public History program. In short, it needs connection with the rest of the university world. Also (sorry Alan) the site needs a redesign and better promotion! It looks like a Web site from 1995--one might be dissuaded from the content if one didn't know better. It needs better promotion and placement in the UVA Web site.

Any other reflections?