[Lots of balls in the air this Fall, all of which could use input and ideas from y’all! So I thought I’d share a handful here, and also ask to hear about some of what you’re juggling for a crowd-sourced weekend post o’ solidarity and support!]
On crisis, change, and the collective contributions I’d really appreciate.
In the summer of 2006, at the end of my first year at Fitchburg State, I had the chance to teach for the first time in our Graduate English (MA) program. That was more than four years before I started this blog, so I didn’t write about that course, the first iteration of the American Historical Fiction grad class I’ve had the chance to teach a few more times since. But I hope in this blog’s nearly 11 years I’ve made clear just how much teaching in our grad program, along with advising MA theses (now more than a dozen and counting), has been a career highlight for me. I love every kind of teaching I get to do, but the grad classroom (in any version, and perhaps especially so in ours because most of our grad students are also fellow educators) is a unique and special place, and the chance to share my interests with our grad students, to hear their perspectives and ideas, and to talk together about everything from Literary Theory to 20th Century American Women Writers to Analyzing 21st Century America has been nothing short of rejuvenating each and every time.
I say all of that today because as of Fall 2021 that FSU Graduate English program is in a state of severe crisis. Our numbers have shrunk so much that the program was frozen for a year, not able to admit new students and in a state of limbo about its continued existence. Over the last couple years our Graduate English faculty worked to relaunch the program, with a key difference: it will now be offered online as well as in-person, with most classes taught in the hybrid/hyflex model (in-person but with streaming for any students who are not able to be in-person for any reason) and others taught fully online (with the goal being that someone could complete the entire program while living in another state, or even another country). We did so under the leadership of two of my wonderful colleagues: first of Chola Chisunka, our longtime Grad English chair (and one of the people most responsible for hiring me); and then of Aruna Krishnamurthy, who took over the role from Chola when he retired. But this Fall the baton has been passed, and as of this writing I am now the FSU Graduate English program chair.
Taking over a program in such a state of crisis is a challenging thing, and I can’t say I have any magic bullet for how we can move forward successfully. But I know this: my number one goal, really my only goal as of right now, is to find ways to recruit new and more (and different) prospective graduate students. Students, again, who can live anywhere, be in any situation, share nothing other than a desire to receive an MA in English Studies and learn from and with some of the best faculty (and fellow students) I’ve ever met. So I’m asking: do you know of any such students, and/or places or ways we can spread the word about our relaunched and online/hybrid Graduate English MA program? If so, please feel free to share this post, and/or to email me, with those ideas and possibilities. Thanks in advance for any and all help in keeping this phenomenal program going and going strong!
Next work in progress tomorrow,
PS. What do you think? Ideas about this work, or work in progress of your own you’d share?