American Studies MA Program Questionnaire

Respondent #23: When were you enrolled in the program?

I was enrolled August 1997-August 1998

How did you learn of the program?

When I began looking at graduate programs, the only criteria I had was that the program allow me to study Poe. I searched the MLA database to find out who was writing about Poe. I then sent for program information from the universities at which these people were faculty members. At some point in my search process, I realized that Poe had himself attended the University of Virginia. I then sent for program information and discovered the American Studies program.

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

The American Studies program seemed to offer an opportunity to not only continue the study of literature that I had enjoyed in college but also to place that literature in a context. I had done some of this; I had read Jefferson and Lincoln, but in a class with a literary bent; I had only read about Toqueville. I wanted multiple disciplines without being overwhelmed, and the American Studies program was a compact unit that had the potential to ask, and answer, questions on many levels. My expectations were met.

What did you find most valuable about the program?

Most valuable to me was working closely with a small group to achieve a collective objective of investigating American culture, history and existence.

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

In college I worked very independently, I did not consider my work to have an audience outside of my professor, my parents and a classmate or two, and I did not focus on social/cultural topics. In the American Studies program, I worked on my own but always in the context of the program as a whole, I understood that our work would be "published" on the Web site, and I dealt more with social, cultural and historical considerations.

The program helped me develop all (thinking and communicating, work habits, research abilities, technical abilities) of these aspects.

To what extent did your classmates affect your experience?

My classmates significantly affected my experience. They created an environment that was supportive and demanding. I knew that I could not go too far off on a "frolic of my own," and I felt pressure to keep up especially with regard to the technical aspect of the program.

To what extent did the public venue for your work affect your experience?

The public venue of the Internet was both an intimidating and exhilarating place to work. I gained an appreciation for the need to devise one's own standards and to constantly strive for good content in a speedily evolving medium.

The course work was appropriate.

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

I did develop relationships with students and faculty outside the "immediate family" group of the American Studies program. To an extent I felt part of the University community, though I think I would have felt a stronger connection had I tutored or served as a teaching assistant.

How well was interdisciplinary study integrated into the program?

This was left largely to the individual. I personally used this freedom to take classes outside the department that did not mesh as well with the American Studies program as other classes probably would have.

The resources were very adequate.

I did not have relevant part time employment. Since October of 1998 I have been serving as a member of AmeriCorps in a program called Project FIRST (Fostering Instructional Reform through Service and Technology). In a ten-month period I am providing 1700 hours of service, the majority of which are to a public elementary school located in a public housing community. By working closely with the school system personnel, the administrators, and the school faculty, staff and students I am facilitating the process of technology integration and helping the school system to carry out their technology initiatives.

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

I can't comment on this except to say that although I knew about the resources I did not seek our this support.

My involvement has made more than a discernible difference in the steps of my career.

How might this program be strengthened/Other reflections?

Graduate programs are always going to be taking in students who have a lot of angst about their place in the world and how it all fits together. When I reflect back on my year in American Studies I can't say I wouldn't do anything differently; I would. But this is not due to a weakness in the program. My world view came crashing into quite a few unfamiliar forms and took some blows. Even after a few months I don't feel far enough away to say with complete authority what my Graduate Experience was. I hope that it brought me closer to wisdom. I feel that in its totality it did.

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