This spring, as with anticipate MSU’s first virtual commencement, the Department of English is pleased to honor the achievements of our Graduating Class of 2020. In our Senior Sendoff video, our faculty and staff offer personal greetings and well-wishes to our wonderful students. And we also shine a spotlight on just some of the impressive work and accomplishments of our nearly 100 seniors graduating with BAs in English and Film Studies this year. The seniors below were each nominated by individual faculty members of the Department of English for this public recognition. Click on a profile below to learn more about these students’ time as English and Film Studies majors at MSU, their inspirations, passion projects, and future plans. They also have advice for their peers, and reflect on graduating during this unprecedented semester in MSU’s history.

Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Joshua Yumibe, Director of Film Studies:  “I distinctly remember my first meeting with Lindsey, when she was an entering freshman. Very early on that fall, she set up a meeting with me to discuss both coursework and potential internships that she wanted to pursue—The Tonight Show! What struck me immediately was her ambition and dedication, and I continue to be amazed and inspired by what she has achieved.”

Faculty Shout-Out by Professor Jeff Wray: “I first had Lindsey as a student in both Film Directing and Screenwriting. She was always ready to collaborate and her emerging writing talent was evident. In fact, she quickly gained a reputation for being a go to comic writer in both classes. When Lindsey informed me she was applying for an internship at Saturday Night Live, my immediate thought was, ‘of course’.” 

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

Since I was both an English and Film Studies major, I really had the best of both worlds during my time at MSU. I had the chance to take a wide variety of different English and Film courses and was able to use those skills in a lot of different experiences outside of class, including student organizations and off-campus internships. I loved my time at MSU and will miss it a lot!

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

I really enjoyed Film Directing with Professor Jeff Wray. The course was extremely hands-on and allowed for a lot of group projects and collaboration. Additionally, Methods of Literary History: Genre, with Professor Natalie Phillips, stood out for me. In that class we looked at the history of fictional consciousness and analyzed texts from a psychological perspective. It was such a unique way to offer an interdisciplinary class experience. Both of these classes helped prepare me to think critically and creatively about writing, both for literary analysis and for the screen.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

My advice for students would be to use your courses in English or Film Studies as jumping-off points to get involved in student organizations, and to use student organizations as jumping-off points to explore internships and other professional experiences. For English students, literary journals like the Offbeat or Red Cedar Review provide really great professional writing experience. For Film Studies students, MSU Telecasters, Film Club and Impact student radio are great ways to get involved in production and creative development.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? 

This past fall I did an independent study with Professor Jeff Wray that focused on comedy writing. I worked on creating a writing packet, creating content in the voice of current late-night hosts, and responding to topical news stories with sketches, monologue jokes, and desk pieces. I did this as a way to practice for pursuing writing opportunities in the future, post-graduation. I’m hoping this will be helpful when I pursue writing jobs post-grad.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation? 

After graduation I am planning to permanently relocate to New York and pursue work in television and late-night comedy. I don’t know what I’ll be doing right away, but I know it will be something in television. Long term I hope to become a writer/producer in the late-night comedy world.

Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

Obviously, it’s a very stressful and uncertain time for everybody. Seniors are graduating into a rapidly collapsing economy, so I understand how a lot of students might feel scared and frustrated, for so many different reasons. Coming out of a global pandemic will hopefully give us all some perspective on what really matters in our lives. I’ve found it helpful to unplug from the news once in a while and spend lots of time outdoors. I also find it really uplifting to see the ways, small and large, that people are helping one another get through this time.

Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Divya Victor: Kelsey operates like a serious poet; Kelsey is a serious poet. She is singular in her approach to what is clearly a gift for lineated forms, sensual and remarkably intelligent verse. I believe in what Kelsey has to say about our society because I know that she has what it takes to say it.”

Faculty Shout-Out by Professor Jeff Wray: Kelsey is a great example of a student coming to MSU, having a multitude of experiences and developing in many different ways beyond the classroom. Perhaps most importantly, Kelsey’s creative work has both reflected and is reflective of her overall growth. She is involved and engaged. She is an artist. She works at it. She struggles with it. She creates. She is a thoughtful and wonderful emerging young artist.”

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

Encouraging and life changing. High-school Kelsey didn’t even want to go to college. If not for my family pushing me into it, I wouldn’t have; I have no idea who I would be if I hadn’t. But, being an English Major, I’ve had the privilege of working with so many brilliant people (students, professors, visiting authors and filmmakers). I’ve been able to write and re-work several complete poetry portfolios and four feature-length scripts with my favorite professors. I’ve had opportunities to read my work in front of generous crowds, which I never would have done in high school. Also, the film professors helped me realize that creating a film is much more achievable than I used to believe, and they’ve given me the resources to help me do so. For example, I learned how to use a camera here! I’m not a Film Studies major, but I’ve been able to film and produce several short films alongside other students! Now, when I watch a show or movie, I go “hey, I know how they did that, and I can do that too.” Or, if I don’t know how, I know I can still shoot Pete Johnston an email and ask him about it. All of this to say: My time as an English major has been thrilling and motivating. I’ve grown as person, a writer and a creator, and I know I can still turn to the CAL community for help.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

First and foremost, any class or interaction with Divya Victor always stands out. I’ve worked with Divya for two years and I cannot imagine my college experience without her. I met her in ENG 200: Creative Writing Community—she was a guest speaker. The space that she created for our class to exist in for that hour was nothing like I’d ever experienced. So, when I got a chance to be in her Intro to Poetry class, I was over-the-moon.

If I remember this correctly, she once said that she felt I should have been in Advanced Poetry instead of Intro Poetry. Since I was unable to make that switch in my schedule, she used her free time to cultivate a list of poetry from diverse poets so that I could read and adopt techniques from them. Then, when I told her about a narrative-poetry project I wanted to pursue, she told me about “Diving into the Wreck,” a poem by Adrienne Rich. After class one day, at a time when I barely knew her, she sat with me in the gazebo by the library (in the freezing cold), to help me understand “Diving into the Wreck” so that I could use Rich’s techniques to approach my own project. Since then, we’ve had regular meetings to discuss poetry, Claudia Rankine, Douglas Kearney, and life in general.

On an educational level, what I love about her teaching style is that I’ve never heard her say that anybody’s work is bad or wrong. Instead, I hear her say: “This is good work and what other ways can we think about this? How can we develop this idea? What if we approach it from this angle instead?”  Unlike my experience with teachers in high school, I’ve always felt as if Divya and I are working together towards a common goal, and I’ve always felt that she has had a genuine desire to understand what I’m trying to do with my writing (or with my goals in life) so that she can find a way to help me get there. She has encouraged me to share my work with the community by applying to events like LiveLit or the CW awards. She’s helped me apply for scholarships and submit to writing competitions that I never thought I could win. She’s challenged me to consider ideas regarding identity and politics that I’ve never considered before, and, overall, she’s helped me grow and recognize my value in more ways than I can get away with explaining here.

On a personal level, I always feel seen when I speak with her (and I can only hope I return the favor). One experience that’s really stuck with me is back when I was in her Advanced Poetry class. My grandmother died over winter break and, despite returning to school as if nothing happened, I wasn’t well. I’d only known Divya for a semester by then, but she noticed that something was off with me when no one else did, and she made sure I knew that she was there for me if I needed anything—not as a social nicety, but as a way of making it clear that she cared for me on human level.

I’m crying now as I try to sum up my un-summarize-able experience with Divya, so I’ll just say that I am grateful to have her in my life, that I hope to continue to learn and grow with her, and that I’m always looking forward to our conversations where I walk away feeling more energized and inspired than did when I walked in.

My time with Jeff Wray (who, according to my mother, might be my distant cousin) stands out immensely as well. I also met him in the Creative Writing Community class where he talked about his experience writing, filming, and producing his own short film. I had no intention of taking a screenwriting class if only because I felt discouraged after my experiences in high school, but the way he spoke to us in his lecture made me feel as if I could create something as cool as his short film.  After the lecture was over, I talked to him for a bit—he encouraged me to take his screenwriting class next semester. Next semester rolled around, his class was full, but he kept his word and got me in the class. In that class, Jeff helped me work on my first feature-length script, and he said two things that I will always remember. 1. Writers are selfish, and that’s okay.  2. If the idea of writing your script about a certain topic scares you, lean into it. Write it.  Not only did the latter piece of advice help me explore my writing style as I moved into my next few years of school, but I’ve found it to be a valuable piece of advice to apply to my life in general. If an activity or an event scares me, I try to lean it—that’s led to me getting a job at a research lab, I’ve leaned into friendships and relationships I thought I would lose and I’ve made them much stronger, I began public speaking again to the point of which I’m not as anxious when I read my work to other people anymore.

That piece of advice came full circle when I ran into Jeff at the Broad Art museum a few months ago (a common occurrence as I’m sure he could tell you) and asked if he’d still be willing to help me with my screenwriting projects. I don’t have an independent study or official class with him this semester, but Jeff has been kind of enough to take time out of his busy schedule (see: the sticky notes all over his desk) and dedicate that time to helping me with my latest screenwriting project. I’m forever grateful for that. That last thing I’ll say is that I don’t like checking my emails at all. But oftentimes, when I do check them, there’s a message from Jeff with notes for my script and a phrase of encouragement or appreciation that leaves me with a day-long feel-good feeling. Jeff’s a kind and caring person and professor; I’m ecstatic to work with him again and I hope that continues.

Special mentions: Swarnavel Pillai’s screenwriting class was not only a spiritual experience that fostered a small community between the people I took it with, but it also exposed me to different avenues I could take to produce and copywrite my screenplay. Pete Johnston’s cinematography class taught me how to work a camera, edit footage, and dissect cinematography—ultimately though, his passion for cinematography sparked a newfound passion inside of me. I haven’t taken classes from Robin Silbergleid, but our conversations are so encouraging and warm—she’s taught me a lot about communication and authorship, and her support has meant so much to me. I haven’t taken classes with Joshua Lam either, but we’ve been in correspondence during my senior year to discuss the Trickster Trope, as well as other facets of African American humor. He took time out of his day to help me, a person he didn’t know, find resources so that I could further explore the trope, and he met with me during his office hours—all of this to say, he is a very insightful, kind and supportive person who I’m happy to have met before graduating.

I could name every person I’ve learned from; the people in CAL are amazing and offer so much love and encouragement.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

  1. If something scares you, try it. It might not be as scary as you think. In fact, it might be an experience that helps you grow as a person and a creator.
  2. If there is a professor you like (whether you’ve taken a class with them or not) and you want to work with them in some capacity outside of class, just ask! The worst that could happen is that they say no. But, if they say yes, you have a mentor, an ally and a friend.
  3. Prioritize yourself and your well-being. As an English or Film Studies major, you almost inevitably end up in a position where you have two eight-page papers, a presentation, a short-film, and script due in the week. I know it’s hard, but it’s necessary to find time to care for yourself. Ask for help and accommodations if necessary—again, the worst thing that could happen is that they say no.
  4. Some moments in life are going to feel so inevitably pointless. But if you can change your thoughts and frame those moments as an opportunity to learn/experience something new, you never know what might come out of that.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? 

For my capstone, I’m working on a thirty-page poetry portfolio with Divya wherein I explore my identity as a black woman, and wherein I experiment with the structure of poems. The thing I find most exciting about this project is watching it come together. Every week or so, I would go to Divya with a few small drafts and a lot of confusion in terms of what I could do with those drafts. But it was amazing to see how those drafts transformed into meaningful, heartfelt pieces over the semester. I’ve also been very interested by process of exploring what it means to be a black poet, and if blackness is still blackness when the poem is a tender exploration of a looking at flowers on a foggy morning, or if blackness is only blackness when it responds to the world’s socio-political state.

I’m also working on a dark comedy with Jeff (although, I don’t want to describe it quite yet). I’m excited by this project because it fulfills my need for comedy, and it gives me a chance to create strange characters and watch them interact which I’ve always found fascinating. Plus, I think the fun of screenwriting is being able to create these small but immersive, human moments, so I’m looking forward to that as I continue.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation? 

This is a vague response, but all I want to do in life is create. I get this rush of adrenaline at the beginning of a project when I know something’s there and I’m trying to figure out what. And I get another rush at the end, when I see my mess of ideas come together in a cohesive way.

Right now, I have my heart set on writing and directing a TV show and/or a short film. But I hope to write many poetry books, a musical, maybe even a fictional podcast. I especially hope that the things I create help people feel seen, especially black girls who don’t have a lot of good representation in art. That would be invaluable to me.

Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

At first, I was okay with the changes this situation has caused (cancelled events, online classes, self-isolation, etc.). Why? Well, two reasons: 1. Being the introvert that I am, I enjoy being alone. I thought self-isolation wouldn’t be a problem for me. 2. I’ll be honest with you: I didn’t want to attend graduation. I was going to attend regardless because I knew it would make my family and friends happy to see me on that stage, but I’ve never liked big, formal ceremonies, so I was okay with graduation being cancelled or postponed.

At the time of writing this, I think it’s my fifth or sixth week of quarantine. I cannot stress how deeply I miss being able to sit and write in the Broad Art Museum, or how much I miss the simplicity of being able to walk around the CAL office, talk with my professors, and, together, create a space with a very encouraging, exciting, and warm creative energy. I miss our in-person community, I mourn for the events that were cancelled, and I mourn for the idea of what my senior year would have been like under normal circumstances.

I know many of us have carried on as if nothing has changed except our ability to work from home, but it is okay to acknowledge that this is a weird and scary time. I’ve been talking with a few of my friends, and we’ve come to the conclusion that this experience is akin to grief for many of us. Personally, the physical sensations I experienced after my grandmother’s death have resurfaced – I’m grieving again. I think it was important for me to understand and accept that.

This is not a Sponsored answer, but despite mourning our in-person community, the resource I’ve found most useful is our community, as well as my friends and family back home. If I need anything, it’s clear that I can reach out to our community and ask for help. If nothing else, just remember: even if you feel alone, you’re not.  Or, at least, you don’t have to be.

Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Kristin Mahoney: I have enjoyed every minute of working with Gabrielle on her thesis project. She brings such joy and curiosity to the novels about which she’s writing, and our discussions are always a highlight of my week. She has worked so hard this year and produced a great project that thinks through the ways nineteenth-century novelists use Gothic conventions to convey the horror of existing within the confines of Victorian sexual and gender ideologies. I am truly going to miss working with her.

Faculty Shout-out by Dr. Tamar Boyadjian: “Gabrielle White has been my student since she started as an undergraduate at MSU, and I am honored to say that she ends her career with my English 440 Seminar this term. Gabrielle is among the first group of students I had when I started MSU, and so for this group of 5-6 students, I feel a particular type of closeness and investment. Gabrielle is hard-working, intelligent, and wonderful student whose contribution to class discussions always brought forth new ways of thinking and challenged students around her. This is because Gabrielle is a brave learner and educator, and I am so proud to hear of her well-deserved place at Oxford University. This is an incredible achievement, and I am anxious to see how she will grow and prosper in all of her future endeavors.”
  
From Gabrielle: How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

At my freshman year orientation, I found out that I had declared English as my major. I had not even realized that I had declared English as my major, rather I thought I had clicked a field I was interested in on my application. I had no idea what I would do with the degree other than be an English teacher. I went from not even being sure I had picked the right path to absolutely loving everything about my major and everyone involved with it. I have met some of the best friends that I intend to keep forever, and the professors have shaped me so much more than academically. Out of all the classes and semesters at MSU, I always looked forward to having my English classes.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

I have made connections with multiple professors during my time at MSU, and I always found myself trying to take any and all classes they taught no matter the subject. Dr. Mahoney is one professor that I have enjoyed every minute of my time working with her in class and on my thesis, as she is my thesis advisor. She has been such an inspiration for my interest of Victorian literature, and she has taught me so much about writing. I know I would be prepared for graduate school after learning about English and life from her. Dr. Boyadjian has also been an important figure in my undergraduate degree. Her and her class were the main inspirations my freshman year for staying in English and figuring out what I wanted to do with my career. I always left her class feeling inspired and proud to be her student. Both of these women have invited my peers and I into their homes and have made me feel valued and respected in academia. Both of these women have taught me so much about life and have shaped how I will go on in the next phase of my life.

The experiences that were most memorable for me were the summers I participated in Literature in London study abroad and the New York City Study Away Internship. Each program was essential to understanding what I wanted to do in the next phase of my life. In London, I gained a passion for Victorian gothic literature and Shakespeare that I had never had before, and I learned that I wanted to do whatever it takes to get back to London in my life. In New York, I learned while interning at a publishing press that I wanted to work at a publishing house after graduation. Not only did I learn so much about my academic and career paths, I gained independence and understanding of who I am that I would have never gotten without these experiences.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

I would tell future English majors the importance of building strong relationships with your English professors. The English department’s faculty has so much knowledge and experience in not just English but in higher education and life in general that they are important to your learning experience. I would also suggest to never let anyone make you feel bad or lesser about studying English because this major and its critical thinking and analysis skills that you learn are invaluable and unique to this major.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? 

This year I have been working on my senior thesis with Dr. Mahoney. The topic of my thesis in gender rebellion and sexuality in Victorian gothic literature. I was inspired to research and work on this topic based on the gothic literature that I studied while in London, as well as Dr. Mahoney’s queer studies class. I have loved working with the novels that I chose and reading them with questions of gender and sexuality in mind, and how the authors are reinventing the gothic in order to discuss issues surrounding Victorian repression and the future for gender and sexuality. The topic is a mixture of my love for gothic literature, as well as incorporating themes from my minor, Women and Gender Studies. I have loved working with Dr. Mahoney and I am very thankful to have an advisor who is so educated on this topic. I have been working on this project for a year now and I have learned so much about the process of researching and writing a large piece of work that I can use to display my talents or use in graduate school applications.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation? 

Prior to COVID-19, I was admitted to the New York University Summer Publishing Institute and was planning on completing that this summer. After I completed the program, I was going to apply to positions with one of the Big Five publishers and hopefully move to New York City by the fall. With everything that has happened in the last month, I am not sure what the next step post-graduation will be. The NYU program hasn’t been cancelled, but I am not positive that I will be able to attend this summer, therefore I have been preparing to come to terms with taking the year off and attending the program next summer. The comforting fact is that I know a lot of my graduating peers and I are in the same boat and that we will all get through this experience together.

Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

It has been an extremely sad and disheartening fact that my time at MSU has to end this way. I have spent the best four years of my life in East Lansing, my second home. It is sad to have to go out on this note and that I am missing out on so many experiences that seniors have in their final weeks at MSU. I feel bad to be upset about small events being cancelled like graduation and basketball games when there are much bigger issues going on in the world right now. Some of the most helpful resources during this time have been humor, video call apps like Zoom or Facetime, and family and friends. It is helpful to make light of a very difficult situation, and memes and Tik Tok videos have been very useful in having a much-needed laugh. Communicating with family and friends on Facetime and Zoom has also been helpful in coping and navigating life during a pandemic. I am thankful that we have these technological resources during this time to stay in touch with the people that I love.

Faculty Shout-out by Professor Jeff Wray: “Olivia has been a wonderful student from the very first moment I had her in Intro to Screenwriting. I was thrilled that she took on a big serious idea for her first screenplay. Soon into that class, I realized  she liked to challenge herself. She would write, question and re-write, and our discussions were almost always about ideas rather than just the nuts and bolts of writing. In our current screenwriting independent study Olivia is doing her thing at a high level once again. She is dedicated, producing inspiring work. Olivia continues to challenge herself, but like the best of our students, she also challenges me to be at my best.”

Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Ellen McCallum: “Olivia excelled in our contemporary film and media theory class with nimble and surefooted discussions of a wide range of challenging theoretical texts. Her writing consistently exemplified lucid thinking and expression, and her insightful and keen participation in class discussion was instrumental in the success of our collaborative deliberations. In a challenging course like this one, her peers valued her contributions as we all learned from her questions and interpretations of the texts.  I wish her all success in the road ahead. “

Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Swarnavel Eswaran Pillai: “Hearty Congratulations, Dear Olivia! You exemplify through your poignant film on Jaimie’s search for and meeting of her sibling, the uniqueness of Film at State: theory and practice informing and invigorating each other. Wishing you the very best!”

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

The past four years have been nothing but a blessing, and I’ve grown so much as a result of my time as a Film Studies major. I still remember coming into my Intro to Film class as a nervous little freshman. I was wide-eyed with excitement and thought I knew exactly what film was about: storytelling, emotions, Hollywood, and Tom Hanks—what else was there? Little did I know that the history of film was enriched with vigorous artists who constantly broke boundaries, stood against injustice, and fought against the odds for a voice of representation and artistic freedom. The faculty and staff within my program have surpassed any and all expectations I’ve had, and with the lessons and community they have given my peers, it’s clear that the history of film will continue to be written, analyzed, and appreciated by each class of graduates as time goes on. I feel honored to be a part of such an inclusive and reputable program, and I’m forever indebted to the professors and peers that have helped me to learn and grow along the way.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

My Intro to Screenwriting class with Professor Jeff Wray was a kick-starter for me in many ways. I had always dreamed of screenwriting, and his class allowed me to explore that dream for the first time (and I haven’t turned back since). His encouragement and articulate instruction made me feel supported and capable of the task at hand, and by the end of that semester all of the students had completed first drafts of feature-length screenplays—not an easy feat, but a feat that was conquered by the aid of his belief in us (because if Jeff Wray believes in you, anything is possible).

Professors Alexandra Hidalgo, John Valadez and Swarnavel Eswaran have all been incredible instructors for my minor in Documentary Filmmaking. They have provided such invaluable insight on storytelling, the creative treatment of reality, and the range of responsibilities we take on as nonfiction filmmakers. With their expertise, I not only feel prepared to take on filmmaking, but I also feel more excited and passionate than ever to record the stories that are waiting to be told and deserve to be heard. I know I’ll be using their lessons and advice with my own projects for years to come.

Professor Ellen McCallum’s instruction of my Contemporary Film and Media Theory course was also one for the books. The breadth of her knowledge was inspiring, and her passion for teaching and learning did not go unnoticed. She truly wanted the best for her students and would push them in ways that exceeded growth beyond a passive level. The content we covered in that class really opened my mind to the problems and ethics of filmmaking that have been at work since the birth of the medium, and I hope to utilize that information in my own work in order to respect representation and push for a betterment of equality, both in front of and behind the camera, on contextual, emotional, and theoretical levels.  

I cannot forget the week-long CAL Study Away program from the Spring Semester of 2019. Our wonderful faculty leaders, Pete Johnston and Kate Sonka, lead our group of eager Arts and Letters students throughout the industry in Los Angeles for a week during our spring break. Our connection with Spartan Alumni who have branded themselves within the film industry opened my eyes to the range of possibilities life after graduation held. That trip solidified my goals and dreams of working in the film industry, and because of that experience I was able to visit a company called MOCEAN, where I later earned a spot as a 2019 Summer Intern for their writing department. That week-long trip relieved any doubt or fears I had about my future, and I don’t know if I’d be where I am today if it weren’t for that experience and the people I met along the way.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

First and foremost, always ask questions! No matter the circumstance, asking questions will always lead you out of your comfort zone and allow you to grow and learn. Every person you meet will have something valuable to offer you, and their life experiences will add to your own if you’re willing to ask and accept all opportunities that come your way. This means going to office hours, the career center, staying after class… there are so many wonderful and willing people in our Spartan community that want to see you succeed, and they will notice if you’re eager to take the time to learn from them.

Another piece of advice would be to let your guard down a little bit. There will be classes and films that aren’t your typical style or cup of tea, but if you approach these things with an open and willing mindset, you’ll come to learn and appreciate the work that you’re being exposed to and the lessons they have to offer.

And last but certainly not least, create as often as you can. It’s crazy how fast these four years fly by, and I regret not making more films or projects of my own. Don’t wait until you have a class designated for this; go ahead and rent out cameras, get your hands on equipment you’re not familiar with, and go make some amazing and fun work that you can look back on and be proud of (or laugh at because of how hilariously awful it was – we’ve all been there, trust me). The point is, now is the best time to create, and you’ll learn the most through trial and error. Plus, making films with your classmates and friends can be so much fun. Trust me, you’ll never regret spending time on these side projects—you’ll make memories and build a portfolio at the same time, so there’s really no reason not to!

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? 

I’ve been fortunate enough to work on two projects this year that have given me such joy and purpose. One is my short documentary, Connecting Kin, for my Documentary Filmmaking capstone. I began working on this film a few weeks into this spring semester and am in the final stages of its post-production work now. It’s been an incredible, exhausting, and amazing journey, and I’m so glad that I’ve been able to work on it with the aid of advice and guidance I’ve received from John Valadez, Swarnavel Eswaran and my fellow MI411 classmates. It has a run time of about 12 minutes and follows a young woman, Jaimie, as she embarks on a journey to find and meet members of her family that she has never known. It’s a powerful story, and the process of filming, directing, and editing it within a matter of about 2 months has been a whirlwind of emotion. I feel fortunate to document this story, and I look forward to sharing it with audiences in the near future.

My second exciting project is a feature-length screenplay, which I’ve taken on as an independent study with Professor Jeff Wray. This is my second feature, and Jeff’s encouragement and expertise has been a godsend, to say the least. He’s helped me to really develop this story, and as tough as it is to write a feature, it’s been worth every ounce of hard work (plus, it’s been fun to see how far I’ve come since writing my first feature in his class a few years prior). The story has a mix of drama, comedy, and mystery, and revolves around a young man in a small Michigan town as he uncovers hidden truths about his family. This draft is certainly a work in progress, but I am so lucky to have a second semester under Jeff’s direction while doing what I love most.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation? 

I fell in love with Los Angeles after spending my summer working there, so my plan is to move back out as soon as I can. I’m still on the job hunt right now, but I know L.A. is where I belong for the time being, and I’m very eager to be back. As far as my specific aspirations for employment go, I would consider myself lucky to be in any part of the film or television industry. My first love is writing, so I’d love to continue to utilize my voice in a professional setting, if possible. I think my goal has always been to work my way into a writer’s room for a scripted series or to write and sell feature scripts. Trust me, I know how crazy that sounds. Although it seems like a pipe dream, everything I’ve been fortunate enough to experience so far had also seemed that way at first, so fear and doubt won’t stop me now! The only thing that will stop me is the price of rent in L.A., and that’s that!!

I’ve also really enjoyed directing and filming my documentary, so I’d love to be involved with more hands-on productions in a professional setting. I’ll continue to exercise those muscles regardless, though, and plan to do that through writing and directing shorts. I’m lucky enough to have a network of extremely talented peers and friends, and many of us have talked about working together on our individual projects to build portfolios and have a creative outlet, so I’m very eager to get together with them again to create, fail, succeed, and grow.

If you’re interested in doing so, please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

I must admit, this moment is big time sad. It’s a time when truly everything is up in the air, which is not the most comforting feeling when you’re leaving college and planning to start the next chapter of your life. I have definitely experienced a lot of grief, sadness, and anxiety in recent weeks, for not only myself but for the world as a whole. It’s a tough thing to balance, because on some level I’m extremely scared and afraid of my future, job security, and being stuck in a national recession, and on the other hand I feel completely guilty for worrying about these things when there are bigger issues and lives at stake. I’ve come to learn, though, that it’s okay to feel the way you’re feeling, and to acknowledge exactly what those feelings are. It’s important to sit in those uncomfortable moments of grief and sadness, because pushing it away will only give more power to the anxiety and stress around the situation. So, I’ve been spending time acknowledging the grief of packing my bags and leaving the place and people that I’ve known for four years without getting to say goodbye. I’ve accepted the sadness I feel toward not being able to celebrate and toss my cap to the many sleepless nights that have made this milestone possible. These feelings aren’t fun or easy to recognize, but I’m allowing them to be heard, named and felt while trying to expel the guilt I’ve wrapped around them. As the great Brené Brown put it, “Comparative suffering is dangerous. Empathy is not finite. When we practice empathy, we create more empathy.” So as hard as this situation is, I’m trying my best to live by these words and take each day as it comes. I try not to look too far ahead, or to dwell too much on the past. I’m practicing patience and gratitude and am working on maintaining faith in the fact that this too shall pass, and that a beautiful and exciting life is waiting on the other side of this uncertainty.

Thank you for allowing me to share these moments and reflect back on my time as a Spartan! It means so much to me and helps to add a bit of closure to this year that has otherwise been lost. I’m so sad to say goodbye to this program and University and am endlessly grateful for all that it has given me!

Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Robin Silbergleid: Autumn Miller comes to her literary criticism, poetry, and creative nonfiction with sharp wit and keen observations about the lives of women.  From her early analysis of Kate Chopin’s Awakening to a recent personal essay that brings together Carole Maso’s AVA, the polar vortex, and her twenty-first birthday, it’s been a pleasure watching Autumn develop into the writer capable of producing a fifty page thesis entitled “A Feminist’s Guide to Deleting Dating Apps.”  I’ve learned a lot from Autumn these past three years, including the finer points of steamed milk and the origins of the term ‘meet-cute’; thank you, Autumn, for sharing your insight and voice.  Congratulations.

Autumn’s experience: How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

Rewarding and influential. All of my experiences within the English department have helped mold me into the writer, student, and human that I am today. Whether it be an engaging in-class workshop or an essay I really dreaded that ended up pushing me to think about a topic in a different way, my time as an English major at MSU has helped shape my current self tremendously.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

I want to give a special shoutout Dr. Robin Silbergleid, director of MSU’s Creative Writing department, for being the best mentor I could ask for. I have had Dr. Silbergleid as a professor for four classes, and she is also my thesis advisor. I think she’s seen, out of anyone, my writing go through different phases the most, and she’s challenged me more than any professor I have ever had. I first met her in my Intro to Poetry course sophomore year of college, when I was in a huge poetry-writing phrase, and now she oversees my creative non-fiction thesis, compiled of personal essays— a huge genre jump! Constantly encouraging me to expand my thoughts and craft my words more carefully, I wouldn’t be the creative writer I am today without her guidance.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

Find a couple of professors who you particularly get along with or who understand you well, and stick with them during your time here! Writing is something incredibly personal, and when you have a small cohort of professors who you can go to when you need help or advice on your work, it makes your time as an English student much more fulfilling. Also, befriend your fellow English majors! They make great editors, but they’re also great people as well. I met one of my best friend’s in my AL101 course my first day of college, and she’s an English major too!

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them?

I have been working on my honors thesis with Dr. Silbergleid since late August. It’s a series of four creative non-fiction essays that simply talk about the past year of my life, and deals with topics like travel, sense of self, female friendship, modern dating, and more. I never thought I was an essayist until I started working on thesis, and the whole experience has been so rewarding (and fun). I’ve been working with two other English seniors who are working on creative theses throughout the year as well, and we’ve helped each other with our theses through edits, suggestions, brainstorming sessions, etc.  

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation? 
My plans are very uncertain as of now, but I’d love to head out to New York City and find a writing job out there. Whether it be working on copy for a brand I love, like Glossier, or writing op-eds for a place like The New Yorker, I’m very open to a lot of things. I’d also love to publish a series of creative non-fiction essays— hopefully including the ones I wrote for my thesis! In the distant future, I’d love to open my own coffee shop too.

Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

It’s been difficult, especially being such a sentimental and nostalgic person. However, the situation is what it is, and I’ve been finding that Zoom calling my professors has been helpful for my schoolwork— especially with my thesis, being so close to done on it. In general, things like calling my friends, biking, reading, writing, exercising, and spending time outside have helped a lot.

Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Tamar Boyadjian: I have known Tiffany since she started as a Freshman at MSU in my English 280 course, and we worked together almost every semester since. I am currently directing her Senior Thesis which is an incredible creative work that beautifully articulates and is influenced by works about the journey of women, their bodies, and their place in society as they constantly have to negotiate the men around them. As a critical thinker and creative writer, Tiffany’s work has always been sensitive to include the voices and perspectives of different types of women. She is a world citizen and a person who is a gifted teacher. I am so excited for her peace corps adventure in Madagascar, especially because it is so fitting for her generous and nurturing personality. 

I have had the honor to read my poetry with Tiffany and other students in an event my friend organized in Detroit. This is one of the fondest memories I have of reading my own poetry. 

Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Robin Silbergleid: A gifted personal essayist, Tiffany McIntyre carefully balances critical and creative practice in all her work.  She leans into rather than shies away from risk and vulnerability; the first project she did in English 481 on Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons took to canvas alongside the printed page as a space in which to think through the materiality of the word.  Her intelligence is quiet and fierce; I can always count on Tiffany to ask the tough questions, approach her peers with generosity, and to send me good book recommendations; I’ll miss her in class next fall.  Congratulations, Tiffany.

Tiffany’s experience: How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

Transformative. My time as an English major has been nothing less than a transformation of growth in all areas of my life. I came into MSU having no idea what I want to do. Studying English has not only equipped me with skills of literary analysis but has taught me how to look at the world through different lenses. I’ve learned how to be both introspective and how to connect to different diverse communities.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

Two professors and the classes they taught really shaped my studies at MSU and, furthermore, my title as a writer. Tamar Boyadjian (ENG 280) and Robin Silbergleid (ENG 423) impacted my life tremendously. Tamar pushed me to ask questions about literary theory and how that theory has narrated history and transforms today. She asks big questions and continues to urge me to step outside of my comfort zone and dig deeper when dealing with any piece of text. She also inspired and encouraged me to take poetry seriously. I had always written poetry as a hobby, but she sat down and had a conversation with me about being honest in my work, and that really started my dive into creative writing. 

Robin Silbergleid, the Director of Creative Writing at MSU (one of many titles she holds), is the woman who taught me the essential skills of creative nonfiction writing and introduced me to a vast canon of creative nonfiction. Her teachings, patience, and talent made the classroom a safe space to dive into creativity and develop quite the toolbox of writing skills. 

Both women have impacted me greatly and are people who I feel comfortable reaching out to for any and all questions and conversations.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

  1. Keep asking questions. This goes for inside and out of the classroom. When in class, there is always something more to unravel, a passage you can analyze further, a theory you can pull apart or even add to! Ask questions to your resources; the English Department is full of incredibly intelligent people who want you to succeed. Ask them what they’ve done, read their books, go to their readings and listen to guest lecturers they host. They know what they’re talking about. 

  2. Keep writing. Write in genres you don’t feel comfortable writing in. The more you read, the more you write, the more questions you ask people who know more than you, the deeper your understanding for literature and the importance of the arts will be. 

  3. The last piece of advice, stay humble and take peer review seriously. I cannot even keep track of the number of times I loved something I wrote only for my peers to have no idea what it means (this will happen to you). Listen to the people around you and if you have to delete and rewrite a paragraph or two or ten, it will ultimately make you a better writer and person. 

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? 

For my honors thesis, I am writing a book! I’m super excited about it. It’s creative nonfiction (something I never pictured myself writing when I first came to MSU), and it’s in some of the final editing stages at the moment. What really excites me about this project is that Dr. Boyadjian, my thesis advisor, gave me complete creative freedom over this. I started with a blank page and an overwhelming sense of what could I possibly write a book about and I now have a full manuscript entitled The Nomenclature of Heartache (I’m still playing with the title). The whole point of the book is to push words to the extent of their meaning and to evoke as much feeling with as little detail as possible. It’s been a challenging and fun project! 

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation? 

I hope to join the Peace Corps to teach English! As of right now, I was invited to teach in Madagascar for 27 months, and if I pass medical and legal clearance, I’ll be on a plane in September! 

After that, who knows! I’m planning on taking the GRE in hopes of eventually applying to grad school, but we will see where I’ll be led during and after Peace Corps. I’m open to any sort of adventures life brings.

Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

This time of social distancing, isolation, and anxiety over a virus is something that is affecting us all globally. I’d first like to mention that this is something that should be taken seriously and that the right precautions are being made at the state level thanks to Governor Whitmer. It is all of our responsibility to know and act on the fact that this is bigger than all of us yet still affects us individually. It’s important to be empathetic, compassionate, and safe.

As a graduating senior during this crisis, I’ve realized that I need to come to peace with being in the unknown. Senior year is all about the next steps, preparing to depart into professional life, soaking in the last bit of fun as an undergrad. And now, here we are, not knowing what next steps will be or look like because the world has turned upside down. It was all very abrupt and thank God for modern technology like FaceTime and Zoom to be able to still talk to friends that I didn’t get a chance to hug goodbye. This social pause is surreal because life is still sort of happening, and now even resuming “real life” is a strange concept. Some resources that I’ve found helpful are just other seniors and being able to talk and reminisce about our time here at MSU. Having access to technology and staying in communication with friends, family, and faculty through email, texting, phone calls, and video is something that I definitely took for granted before this quarantine. The sidewalks around East Lansing and nature trails have been a fantastic resource to get outside, also (with distancing, of course).

I feel for all of my fellow seniors as we won’t be able to cheer on our team at the championship or walk across the stage after finals week. There are traditions that can’t be fulfilled, but we are adjusting. I was sad for a bit, but I find solace knowing that my time here at MSU is not defined by a turn of a tassel in May, but by the growth that has happened and the reaction to these adjustments in order to heal our global community.

Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Joshua Yumibe: “I’m fortunate to have met Lindsay when she was a freshman in Introduction to Film, and then to have had her again as a senior in a film history survey. She aced them both. It’s not just that she was brilliant in her assignments, or that she loves the films and writings of Eisenstein (see her wry spotlight responses), or her always excellent contributions to class discussions, but she brings immense insight and eloquence to everything she does. In writing this past fall about the Parisian film Ménilmontant from 1926, which features a number of moving scenes around the river Seine, Lindsay concluded her brief essay with a reverie on the film’s profound sense of time: “. . . there’s no going back, there is only moving forward. This is told by the river aspect of it all; it must always keep moving, it never stops nor does it move backwards. It may hit an obstacle but it moves around it and does not let it stop the flow, it will always and forever move forward.” This seems even more timely now, in the midst both of current obstacles and also well-earned celebrations. I am so very excited to see where Lindsay goes next.

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

I would describe my time as an English and Film Studies student quite simply as eye-opening. I knew I was passionate about these topics, but the ability to study both was something I had never even considered. Once I learned I could pursue both, it was incredible to see how these two separate subjects could overlap. The opportunities that came with these classes, as well as the connections I made during them, made my experience beyond anything I could’ve asked for. The students I had the opportunity to work on projects with were always so passionate, unique, and incredible. The professors who helped me along my journey always pushed me to challenge myself and try new things, always showing me I’m capable of more than I know. This campus is such a unique place, whether it be in terms of courses and professors, or students and opportunities; there is nothing like it. I love that each student’s experience is entirely their own; I loved that I had the ability to pursue my passions in any way that I wanted.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

When thinking of instructors who have stood out to me, the first professor that pops into my head is Jeff Wray. I originally had him for my first screenwriting class, and he was unlike any professor I’d ever had. I had him again, the following year, for film directing. As I presented my projects in class, he began to praise me on skills that I was very insecure about, and he gave me confidence in my writing and acting abilities. Our first assignment in Film Directing was a monologue, a daunting task; I decided to challenge myself to write and perform my own. After I presented it to the class, and the class was dismissed, Jeff made a point to tell me how exceptional it was. His praise stuck with me because of how heavily he stressed its brilliance; it seemed nothing out of the ordinary to me. It was the first time I had gotten such a positive reaction to one of my projects. He had faith in me, which allowed me to take confidence in my skills. Instilling this confidence in me encouraged me to experiment with my acting and my writing, as he urged me to explore outside of my comfort zone. He single handedly convinced me that I was able to pursue the thing I am the most passionate about.

Another professor I would like to shout-out is Justus Nieland. I had him for one film class before he transitioned into Chairperson. In this class, he presented challenging material, but didn’t allow students to become discouraged for a second. He was so passionate about what he was teaching, his energy spread through the classroom; it was virtually impossible to be disinterested in what he was saying. He encouraged participation from us, and rewarded every response with validation that made us feel like equals, not like students. My favorite section of the class was when we analyzed The Incredibles. When we studied that film, I remember leaving class and feeling so unexpectedly inspired by him and the lesson. It was one of the times I felt validated in knowing this is exactly what I love. I remember thinking how lucky I was to be participating in discussions such as that one, learning a whole new side to films, even ones I loved as a child. I felt so fortunate to be at this university, studying something I loved so deeply, with others who cared as much as me. It was such a powerful and reassuring feeling that I won’t soon forget.

Both Jeff Wray and Justus Nieland inspired something in me. Whether it was convincing me to believe in myself, or validating my passion, they both left a lasting impact on me. On account of these two professors, I know what I love and what I want to pursue for the rest of my life. Knowing I have their belief in me gives me confidence to go after whatever I want in life.

Outside of these two professors, I’d like to thank Josh Yumibe, who is the Director of the Film Studies Program. He is insanely intelligent in his field of study and it’s inspiring to have discussions with him to hear his perspective, as well as seeing how welcoming he is of other’s perspectives. He has set up a program unlike any other.

Along with those I’ve named, I’d like to shout out my advisors and all professors I’ve had. I would not be the person I am without their unique impact. 

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

If I were to give advice to future Film Studies students, I would ask you please take advantage of your resources while you have them. There are loads of professors out there who want to help you. When you genuinely talk with them, you can build a relationship as peers. This type of relationship can open up so many doors for connections, projects, or perspectives that you wouldn’t think of on your own. Even if you don’t like Battleship Potemkin or the great and wise Sergei Eisenstein, say you do! Professors LOVE that, and someday you’ll learn to love Sergei too. You don’t always have to go to office hours, but stay after class, talk to them for a little. Ask advice on papers, projects, scripts; they want to help you. Learn to love B122 Wells, and don’t feel weird when you still have classes their senior year. It’s a golden room, debatably the best on campus. There are film labs, check out cameras, check out lighting equipment and sound equipment, check out anything you can get your hands on. Make things with that equipment! Even if you don’t plan to shoot a project, test things out, it might inspire you to make something. It’s thousands of dollars of equipment for you to borrow, like the best library of all time. Write scripts with your friends, and shoot them. Getting involved is ridiculously fun, you meet insane people who inspire you and push you and want nothing but to help you on your journey. If you think your idea is dumb, it’s not. Write it. Share it. Become yourself, shamelessly. I envy the time you have laid out in front of you.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them?

During the fall semester of this glorious senior year, I helped out a lot by acting in my friend’s projects. It was just small performances here and there, but it felt so good to get in front of the camera whenever I could. On top of this, a good friend of mine asked me to be in their final Film Directing project. For the final of this class, the students put together all their short films to create a feature length film. They premiere this feature film for anyone who was involved in the class, and any professors or fellow students that want to attend. Since I was in one of those projects, I got invited, and it was so powerful seeing myself on screen in such an environment, and afterward, the praise following my performance floored me. It reassured me that my dream of acting can be a reality.

Currently I am working with Jeff Wray on my independent study. Our plans had to change slightly because of the current state of the world, but we are working on a project to highlight my writing and acting in a series of scripts that I am to perform. I’m super excited for the final result, even if it may not be what I expected it to be; any writing and acting experience is crucial in this time of practice. I feel very lucky to get notes from such an educated professor who works in the industry that I am so passionately working towards.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

My hopes and aspirations post-graduation have altered slightly since the occurrence of the pandemic. I would LOVE to be an actress who writes — dream job. Eventually, my dream is to move out to LA and work in the industry. I know some friends who are moving out there, or some who have graduated that already made the move. Having those connections is comforting for when I take the step and move out there. I hope one day to become like Rashida Jones, or Mindy Kaling, writing complex characters and having the ability to breathe life into them as an actress. Even if I only got the chance to either write or act, I would feel so fortunate to be able to share my creativity with those around me, putting my work into the world. I yearn for the rewarding feeling that would come with my work being seen by other people that aren’t my friends or family. I love that the film industry is seeing more women becoming prominent in every role, it inspires me every day. Women taking the roles of writers, directors, and producers and making names for themselves keeps me hopeful and motivated to follow in their footsteps.

Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

This is a very unique situation that my graduating class is in, we aren’t experiencing a lot of the things that senior spring seniors do. That being said, there’s solace knowing we are all in it together, and the professors are being super accommodating through everything. They’re very lenient with us, knowing that this is just as hard for us as it is for them. I am fortunate to feel comfortable enough contacting any/all professors with questions or concerns, they have been nothing but understanding and flexible. The weirdest part is outside of academia, being away from the friends I know are moving states away from me, or friends who have years left before they graduate. I wasn’t prepared mentally to leave this early, so the abrupt eviction of everyone from campus was the hardest pill to swallow. It’s almost as if I’m stuck feeling nostalgic, as if I’m thinking about all the good times I’ve been through during my years here, but I’m not quite allowed to move on from them yet because I am still here, and I cannot walk for graduation to allow for the next chapter of my life to begin. A very interesting limbo that this graduating class is cemented in right now, but there’s an odd comfort knowing we’re all in it together. It’s hard to articulate how it feels living through history.

Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Lamar Johnson: “It has been a beautiful experience working with and learning from Nicole. She has taken multiple courses with me, and I’ve been impressed by her diligence. For over three years, I’ve had the pleasure to witness Nicole expand in her thinking about racial justice theories and pedagogies. Nicole takes onus of her learning and is possessed with the alacrity to grow socially, emotionally, academically, and professionally. Her love for humanity and passion for education is what makes her a transformative educator. Continue to soar, Nicole—this is only the beginning.” 

Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Emery Petchauer: “Nicole stands out for her openness to feedback and critique, especially on how to expand her racial consciousness. It’s common for people to shrink – even turn inward upon themselves —  when given the opportunity to grow in this area. Not Nicole. She is open, receptive, and gracious. These admirable qualities will equip her for both leading and following in schools, classrooms, and whatever sector of society she chooses to apply her education.”  

Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Tamara Butler: “As an emerging critical educator, Nicole is constantly forging connections across the English Education curriculum (which I appreciate). I admire her creativity and enthusiasm that she brings to the class. Recently, she and a classmate create a dope collage that fused the work of Bansky and Basquiat to highlight art as tools, critique and dialogue.” 

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

My time as an English major at MSU has shaped how I critically engage with the world around me and all of the content and experiences that we are all constantly taking in. It has given me the opportunity to meet and learn from many amazingly insightful peers and professors. English classes provided me with a space to participate in lively discussions on literature that ranged from the ‘classics’ to current tweets often revolving around their relevance to our world today and how we can impact it. They are the spaces that I have encountered some of the most thoughtful and passionate people, and many of those people have become supportive friends who continue to expand how I read the world.”

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

The experiences that impacted me the most were actually requirements for the English Education program. I ended up taking three English classes with Dr. Lamar Johnson, and these have been some of the classes in which I have felt myself grow the most as a person and as a future teacher. All of the classes I took with him centered around social justice in the English classroom, how to read the world critically, and how to have critical conversations with our own future students. What stood out to me the most was how rooted these classes were in reality, action, compassion, and love. We did real, relevant work in these classes which I think really prepared me to carry those same values into my own classroom.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

My advice to future English or Film Studies majors would be to take the classes around topics you know you are passionate about and excite you at first glance, but also take classes that focus on topics or genres you know nothing about. I loved the classes that I went into knowing that I would connect to the content, but the classes that I went into with uncomfortably limited background knowledge expanded my interests and perspective so much more. You may find you never liked certain genres because you’ve never read them, or you may find readings and authors you know you’ll never want to read again. You’ll probably find both.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? 

This year, my capstone course was ENG 413 with Dr. Tamara Butler which focused on critical composition also centered around English Education. What interests me about the work we’ve been doing in this capstone is the understanding we have constructed about different ways to create an impact through composition. I was always eager to participate in this capstone because it is and feels meaningful. It’s exciting when writing transitions from one individual trying to say something that may be heard to a conversation in the context of community trying to actually do something.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

Post-graduation, I have one more step before I will be fully certified in English and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. While I have no real idea where I’ll end up, after a year of student teaching, my dream job would be to teach Emergent Bilinguals in middle or high school. I would love to teach in as many diverse settings as possible, and once I get a few years of experience, the big hope is to teach abroad someday.

Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

While graduating during the coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying chaos has been anything but ideal, it has also been unique, memorable, and a bit disorienting to say the least. Zoom, GroupMe, and FaceTime have become invaluable resources for connection. What I will remember the most about graduating during this time though, is the heightened sense of community and compassion that has come out of this situation. Professors and peers are intentionally checking in with each other. More people are actually thinking about each other, and while most did connect well before this time, now, we are all accommodating needs, having “social zoom meetings”, and showing that we care about the well-being of those that we communicate with the most as well those that we may not even know. I can’t say that I prefer this experience of graduating as a replacement for what we all pictured in our heads as motivation to write yet another paper, but it has definitely made me appreciate the time that I have spent with great people at MSU even more and made me less likely to take time spent in class, with friends, in schools, or at work for granted in the future.

Faculty Shout-out by Dr. April Baker-Bell: “It was a pleasure to have Greg as a student and co-conspirator in ENG 413. Every Monday and Wednesday before class, I looked forward to walking down Wells Hall and being greeted by Greg’s inspiring talks with their colleagues about education, justice, and activism. Greg was instrumental in shaping the community we built in our class, a community built on transparency, vulnerability, truth, and accountability. Greg is a passionate leader, creative visionary, incredible writer, avid listener, and thoughtful teacher. I look forward to the change they are going to make in the world and in the lives of their students!” 
 
Faculty Shout-out by Dr. Lamar Johnson: “The freshness, rawness, and passion that Greg brings to the classroom situates them as a phenomenal and transformative educator and leader.  It has been an absolute pleasure teaching Greg—a courageous and radical educator who fights in moments of contentment and comfort but also at times of trials and challenges. Greg is committed to racial justice teaching and making a difference in the field of English education. Greg’s brilliance and presence are needed in classrooms.” 
 
Faculty Shout-out by Dr. Kristin Mahoney: “It has been such a pleasure to read and think with Greg over the past few years. They bring such curiosity to the texts they encounter, and they were a true asset to the discussions in my courses within the English Department. Greg’s thesis on queer temporality in the works of Mina Loy and Richard Bruce Nugent demonstrates their skill as an astute and thoughtful reader of literary texts. I am consistently surprised and impressed by Greg’s insights into their writing. I will truly miss working with Greg.”
 
How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?
 
From the 2016 presidential election to the movement supporting survivors to countless instances of racial injustice, being anything at MSU these past four years has been a strange experience. I often say that I’ve protested my own university more times than I’ve been to a game, but I know that I’m not alone. Often I stand in solidarity with classmates and faculty members from the English department. Being an English major has meant that I’ve had a community just as willing to change the world as I am. I’m not always proud of MSU, but I’m always glad to have been a part of this community.
 
Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?
 
There are many people I’d like to recognize, but someone would probably have to edit this response for length and clarity. Working for Dr. Jyotsna Singh for the first two years of my college experience taught me invaluable time management skills along with postcolonial critique. I carry both of these with me. I credit Dr. Stephen Carl Arch for humbling me in ENG 211H in fall semester of freshman year. Without those biweekly reality checks, some call them grades, I most likely would have continued to turn things in without reading them. I carry this along with a healthy level of sarcasm and dry humor. Dr. Lamar Johnson’s ENG 408 will stay with me for quite some time. A good chunk of that course was spent out in the community, mapping resources and interviewing members. The opportunity to spend time with some close friends learning about the growth and change in Southwest Lansing is something I still cherish. I carry with me the knowledge that being an educator brings responsibility outside the classroom. Identifying needs, becoming a part of causes, fighting for what he believes in, Dr. Johnson modeled what an educator should be. I could not write this without mentioning Dr. Kristin Mahoney who I have worked with for the past five semesters through various courses and an honors thesis. The empathy and passion Dr. Mahoney teaches with is palpable, and I hope to emulate these to some degree in my future teaching. I often explored the avant-garde under Dr. Mahoney’s tutelage, and nothing could have felt more like home. I used to meet weekly with Dr. Mahoney during the height of the sister survivors movement to discuss the importance of intellectual work in the face of crises and injustice. I carry with me these conversations and a healthy appreciation for decadence.
 
What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?
 
Go to protests with your classmates. It’s a great way to form a community and to make your future classes not feel so lonely. This is going to sound cliché, but people should go to office hours.
 
What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? 
 
My English education capstone is “Writing to Save Our Lives” taught by Dr. April Baker-Bell, and I’ve been working on an honors thesis with Dr. Mahoney for the past year. These experiences work in tandem for a wholistic approach to education. In Dr. Baker-Bell’s course, I am constantly amazed but never surprised by the vibrant community we were able to build and carry over from previous courses. I haven’t had the opportunity to write creatively much in college, so it was incredibly exciting to be able to create with such purpose and fervor. A community of writers is an incredible thing to behold. My thesis work has been able to act as the culmination of all the literary ideas I’ve had throughout my time here. I’ve been writing about queer temporality, and it’s just exciting to get the opportunity to be writing about something I chose.
 
What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?
 
My hope for the immediate future is that middle schools and high schools will be open for the next school year as I intend to complete my student teaching internship next year. Beyond that, I plan on putting all my energy toward becoming an antiracist educator.
 
Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?
 
Strange and contradictory feelings arrive every day. I miss in-person classes. I hope I’ll still be able to physically graduate at some point. Having my honors thesis be about time feels especially cruel at the moment. Time has simultaneously been given and taken. I’ve already had my lasts as an undergraduate, but at least I have some time to reflect now. My capstone has never felt more pressing than now. In that course, each student selects a topic to write about for each project. I have been writing against capitalism and thus far have written a manifesto (a scary word, I know) and a collection of poetry. It is still important to do this individual work because we must take care of ourselves during this time. There have been moments where I have questioned the purpose of these assignments or the purpose of anything at all. In those moments, I return to the conversations I had with Dr. Mahoney two years ago to find my purpose. I have been donating to the best of my ability in order to help people affected by this crisis. I’ve also been taking time to do nothing. Resisting productivity and giving myself the space to process all of this.

Faculty Shout-out by Dr. Robin Silbergleid: I met Madeline spring semester of her sophomore year when she signed up to take my Eng 353 course on motherhood in American literature.  From the first day, she stood out as one of the top students in the class–an astute literary critic, careful writer, and thoughtful class participant; yet it was a while before she revealed just how and why the topic was important to her.   Madeline‘s thesis, Unzipped, takes its title from a backwards abecedarian essay which pivots toward and away from “M–Mother.”  Over the course of three classes and her senior honors thesis she has carefully excavated the loss of her own mother unexpectedly days after her high school graduation.  The completion of this project (during quarantine!!) is a testament to her intellectual and emotional resilience.  Madeline, it has been an honor to be a part of your journey; I’m so proud of you–congratulations.

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

My time spent as an MSU English major has been a time of immense growth. It has been challenging and uncomfortable, but all the while fulfilling and necessary. The girl that entered into this program in the Fall of 2016 is not the woman that’s graduating this May—and I think that’s beautiful.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

Of all the classes, instructors, and experiences I’ve undergone during my time at MSU, Professor Robin Silbergleid particularly stands out. Signing up for her Women Writers course the spring of my sophomore year, I could have never anticipated the impact she would have on my journey as a writer. Taking as many of her courses as I could in the following year, she then went on to become my capstone advisor. Tackling a 60-page, invasive investigation about the loss of my mother would have never been possible without her soft assurance, her calm disposition, and her consistent support—both emotional and academic. I owe so many things to her.  

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

My advice to future English majors would be to write about the things that scare you. Writing offers us many things, but none more beautiful or meaningful than human connection. The classmates I’ve moved and who have moved me are among my fondest bonds created here at MSU, and none would be possible without taking that risk. You’ll surprise yourself, I promise you.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? 
 

This year I’ve tackled an honors thesis titled Unzipped, and it’s the single most important piece I’ve ever written. Tracking the loss of my mother, and spanning more than a decade of my life, the piece investigates growth. A personal testimony to human resilience, Unzipped strives to illustrate the tidal waves of grief, both the drowning and floating. In pursuit of rawness, I hoped to uncover my most vulnerable self, and to find peace in the stillness surrounding loss. But beyond that, it’s my relationship with my mother. It’s the culmination of all the triumphs and collapses of our kinship. It’s honoring her the best way I know how—in life and in death. The structure of MSU’s honors thesis enabled me immense creative freedom, and in the end, turned into my greatest emotional and academic achievement of all time.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

Post-graduation, my aspirations are to continue writing the hard stories—pieces like Unzipped. If I’m lucky enough, maybe one day I’ll be a published author, and can look back on my time at MSU as the launching pad for my greatest dream.

Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?
 
Being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis is surreal. There’s lots of grief—moments lost forever, friends you may never see again, the list goes on. Some days it’s hard not to feel robbed. However, if the journey of my life has taught me one thing, it’s to hold onto the good. I have survived the hardest four years of my life, and that is always worth celebrating, no matter the circumstances.  

Faculty Shout-out by Dr. David Stowe: Abby is one of the brightest, most motivated, enthusiastic, and well-rounded students I have encountered in more than  25 years at Michigan State. I first worked with her last spring in a class I taught on Popular Culture Studies. It was my first time teaching the course, and having Abby in the class was a real boon, as she was consistently prepared, interested, and willing to contribute in class. Other students recognized her talents and upped their own games, it seemed to me, as she modeled how to participate in a small seminar discussion. 

Faculty Shout-out by Dr. Brian Burns: Abby is a uniquely skilled individual who will be missed. Both as a curious and motivated student in ENG 280 and as a skilled and enthusiastic tutor for young writers in the gifted and talented program on campus, Abby has shown me again and again that everything she is involved in is made significantly better by her participation. Now the world beyond East Lansing will get a chance to work with her.

Faculty Shout-out by Dr. Tamar Boyadjian:I had the pleasure of having Abby as a student in the department Summer in London program, and to have her in my senior seminar this term on fairy tales, women warriors, and princesses across literature. Abby’s final project is a fascinating exploration into the Cinderella story across time. She is creating a collage using the image of the different shoes across many Cinderella representations as a metaphor for the socio-historical, political, and gendered dynamics that play across the tradition of fairytales across multiple cultures and time periods. Working with Abby and having her as a student both in London and at MSU has been a great pleasure for me!

Shout-out by English Advisor Andrew Murray: Abby represents nothing less than an incredible Spartan.  She’s really pushed herself to fully explore all that our department and MSU has to offer.  Utilizing all she’s learned, she is ready to be a trailblazer and role model in the field of higher education.  I’m excited to soon call her a colleague and I can’t wait to see what’s in store.  Congrats Abby!

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

When I came to MSU I chose English as my major purely because it was something I loved, and people always say to do what you love.  I had no idea what my experience would be like, and where I would be when it was over.  But what I found was a positive and welcoming academic community, with incredible faculty and a fascinating curriculum.  I’ve not only learned about literature–I’ve learned about life, and what kind of person I want to be.  My time as an English major has been fulfilling and inspiring, and I’m so grateful for the friends and mentors I’ve bonded with through this program. 

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life? 

My first English class that I ever took here at MSU was taught by Dr. Brian Burns, and even though that is the only time I’ve had Dr. Burns as a professor, he has been a constant advocate and mentor of mine ever since.  I learned so much in his class about how to write, how to analyze, and how to learn, but his continual mentorship and support has been invaluable.  I also went on an English study abroad to London with Dr. David Stowe and Dr. Tamar Boyadjian, and my experiences abroad with them were some of the best of my college career.  They are some of the smartest and best people that I know, and together they opened my eyes to fields I never even thought to study, like popular culture.  Finally, the English advisor Andrew Murray is the single biggest influence on my education and growth over the past years.  He is endlessly helpful and kind, and he showed me the importance of having someone in your corner.  I want to be Andrew Murray when I grow up! 

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

I would say that they shouldn’t be afraid to take a class that seems a little out there!  Not all English classes will be Victorian Literature or studying the canon–you’ll have the opportunity to take classes on all sorts of things.  I have taken classes on everything from post-colonialism and orientalism to comics, fairytales, and even music!  You will find that the classes where you step outside your comfort zone are the classes where you learn the most.  Try everything! 

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? 

This semester I am finishing my senior honors thesis, which is very exciting!  Because my major concentration is Popular Culture, I have chosen quite the unique topic for my thesis: glam rock.  More specifically, David Bowie, and how David Bowie’s legacy lives on in queer pop artists today.  One of my favorite things about being a pop culture scholar is that I have the opportunity to study almost anything!  I can choose things that interest me, things that I interact with in my daily life, so getting to dive deep while researching those topics is always really fun.  

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation? 

When I said I wanted to be Andrew Murray, I wasn’t kidding!  I will be going to graduate school here at MSU for my Masters degree in Student Affairs Administration.  I hope to become a major adviser at a college or university, so I can help other students have the best possible college experience, just like I did.  Outside of my education, however, I hope to travel!  I hope to try lots of foods, cooking and eating!  I hope to cultivate my hobbies, like painting and crocheting!  I’m really excited to have the opportunity to grow and learn not just as a student, but as a person of the world.  

Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

Graduating at a time like this has been really strange.  I thought I would get to celebrate with all of my fellow English majors in our final classes and during commencement, but instead I do not know if we will ever see each other again.  But for me, perspective is crucial in times like this.  It is sad, but we need to think about the safety and health of not just ourselves and our families, but all of the people that may be put at risk.  I am grateful for MSU and the College of Arts and Letters, for all of their continued support and communication during this crisis.  I know they all are working to make sure that all of us seniors still feel acknowledged and celebrated for our accomplishments.  

Faculty Shout-out by Dr. Yomaira Figueroa: Raisa is a quiet force. In our English Capstone “Decolonial Love & the Diasporic Novel” Raisa brought much needed insight and excitement to the discussion and her writing each week was one of the things I most looked forward to reading. I know that Raisa will excel in anything to which she sets her mind and I am grateful to have been her professor in her senior year. Congratulations, Raisa, and continue to ‘create dangerously’!” 

Faculty Shout-out by Dr. Jyotsna Singh: “I am so delighted to hear Raisa Morrison’s voice as she is a departing as a senior. I recall her as diligent, curious, and a hard worker. I am proud to be part of her journey! Good luck!”

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

My time as an English major at MSU was really impactful. The people and experiences I’ve had along the way have helped positively shape me into the person I am today.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life? 

I’ve really appreciated the smaller class sizes that CAL offers, particularly for required courses. My capstone course I took last semester with Professor Figueroa really helped strengthen my writing skills and knowledge about literature. Additionally, I took an English class early on in my studies with Professor Singh and she really challenged me as a writer and student overall. In the future, I will use both the lessons I’ve learned and challenges I’ve overcome to help me beyond my studies.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

I would advise future majors to use everything CAL has to offer and engage with others in the major. The department has events, resources, and staff committed to helping students succeed which are underutilized (especially among underclassmen). Some of my closest friends and best experiences have resulted from my engagement with the department. I definitely recommend future majors to take a class, attend an event, or join a club that the department has to offer if it interests you!

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? 

This year I completed a portfolio project as part of my capstone course that was very interesting because it allowed me to develop my work and showcase my growth as a writer. I’m also working on a final creativity quest project for a CAS/CAL course. The project is very exciting because it combines both my interest in Human Resources and passion for creative writing. 

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

Post graduation I aspire to receive my master’s in a specialized Human Resources program and enter the career field. Hopefully, I will continue to do the things that inspire me and foster the connections I’ve made at MSU.

Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation? 

Being a graduating senior during this time of global crisis has definitely challenged me and altered the plans I had for post-graduation. I’ve used this unprecedented experience to reflect on my personal situation and involvement with the world around me. Particularly, the sacrifices that individuals are making globally to contribute to everyone’s well-being. Connecting with others via social media, watching television, and journaling my daily experiences have helped me navigate through this time.

Faculty Shout-out by Dr. Steve Rachman: Maddy is a great student who can think critically, creatively and pedagogically. She did several amazing projects in our literature and technology class. She built a clever and hilarious Twine game out of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, a 360-degree immersive experience based on Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home that was so riveting we all had to wipe away tears, and a she designed another great 360-degree immersive experience based on urban murals as a tool for teaching students about social issues through street art. Maddy will be a wonderful teacher, I am sure! The students of the future will be lucky to have her!

Faculty Shout-out by Dr. Tamar Boyadjian: “Maddy is a brilliant student, who continues to challenge herself and those around her. It has been such a pleasure having Maddy in my courses and I am so excited for her future endeavors. Maddy’s final project in my English 280 course is noteworthy in the way it took initiative to transfer the ideas we were learning in class to the real world. 

Maddy chose to do a project where she searched for images/stereotypes on the Internet and wanted to track how people reacted to them. For example, she chose categories like “Muslim woman,” “the Middle East,” “Europe,” “American student.” She compared the ways in which MSU students reacted to these terms to also the way the Internet and social media represented these terms. Her final  paper on the project also reflected evidence towards the movement of her education and professional goals. Maddy not only thought about how others are represented, but the pedagogical ways in which different peoples and cultures should be addressed in the classroom. I know that Maddy pays attention to these things, because we have had many discussions about teaching styles, methods, and the role that educators play in epistemology. I am excited to see her prosper as an educator and the many lives she will touch along her journey.” 

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

My time as an English major at MSU has been wonderful. I love how every single class in the English department has a completely different topic and through various readings we are able to learn about different places in the world, points in history, and about different authors. From medieval studies courses focusing on the Crusades, to a comic book class, to a course focusing on Literature and Technology, I truly was able to get a taste of many different genres and topics within the English world.   

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

Though it was not an English course, I took a Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities course my freshman year with Dr. Figueroa. The class was set up similarly to an English class and she helped me realize that I wanted to become an English major. For the next year, she recommended that I take a course with Dr. Boyadjian. I ended up taking two courses focusing on medieval literature with Dr. B and they were wonderful! My junior year I took a course with Professor Silbergleid on creative criticism. This class helped me reevaluate what criticism could be. I also loved the texts we read. I also was able to take a class on Jewish literature with Professor Valles. This was AWESOME because since I am Jewish, it was really a great experience to read books by Jewish authors and see how Jews have been represented throughout literature in the past. Finally, this year I took an awesome class on Literature and Technology with Dr. Rachman. It was so interesting because typically the two do not cross paths, so it was very interesting to use different technologies to analyze text and make creative projects that aligned with the literature we read. I have also been able to take English Ed focused courses with Dr. Butler. Her courses are life changing and she is just a wonderful person in general! Clearly, I have had some amazing experiences in my classes at MSU! These courses have helped me prepare for my next phase in life because each class helped me become aware of a different sector of English literature. There are so many books read and projects that I did in these courses that I would love to bring to my classroom when I am a teacher!   

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

I recommend taking courses on types of literature that you do not know much about! You will leave the class with a great base knowledge of something new! I think the classes that I was extremely nervous for and did not know much about in the beginning ended up being some of the most rewarding classes that I have taken!

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? 

This year I am working on my honors thesis. In my paper I discuss the importance of decolonizing the classroom and teaching postcolonial literature in English classrooms. I also provide a book review of books I would teach in the high school classroom accompanied by lesson plans. In my English teacher education courses I have been able to put together and teach various unit plans and lessons and I have really enjoyed doing that!

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

Next year I will continue my education in pursuit of becoming a high school English or Spanish teacher at the University of Michigan in their Master of Arts in Educational Studies with Secondary Teacher Certification program.

Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

I must say I am very upset that everything has changed due to COVID-19. These few months were supposed to be filled with celebration with friends, professors, and colleagues who we have spent the past four years with. It is important to note that there are silver linings throughout everything. This is a time in which we can all reflect on who we are and what we plan on doing upon graduation. I have used this time to read lots of books I have always wanted to read, go for runs, and connect with friends and family more than I had in the past. I have also been getting excited for my future as a teacher and taking note of different activities I would like to try out in my future classroom. I cannot wait to get back into schools and work with students!

 

Faculty Shout-out by Dr. Kate Birdsall: “Katlyn is hardworking and committed to bringing her characters to life on the page. She understands how powerful the written word is and strives to communicate difficult emotions and experiences in her writing. Working with her on her senior capstone project was an absolute pleasure.”

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

My time at MSU as an English major was an amazing experience. I met many students and professors that not only helped me pursue my writing degree but inspired me to push my writing further and expand my writing capabilities. I felt as if the English degree’s atmosphere was extremely inviting and so diverse. People are open to new ideas and critiques, it was as if we were a family comfortable enough to tell each other anything.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

Kate Birdsall and Robin Silbergleid are the two professors that I can easily say have helped me the most with my degree. In their classes it was a no judgement zone. I could tell that they love their job and are eager to push their students to the limits which overall made me a better writer. Kate helped me with starting my first novel and it was an experience I will never forget. Robin’s particular field of non-fiction opened my mind up to new possibilities. Both of these wonderful women have seen me go through rough times during my years in this degree. They have helped me get through it by allowing me to write my troubles down on paper for assignments in their classes. As a writer, they have guided me in my next phases of life by showing me I am good enough, and that has led me to learn my true passions. In a personal way they have also found ways to guide me even if they don’t know it. They both pushed me to my limits and held my hand as I tiptoed outside of my comfort zone. This has already translated to more than my writing but guiding me into this scary world people call adulthood.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

I would say from an English majors perspective that this department is the most welcoming. No matter where you come from, your background or your writing skills, people will welcome you with open arms and will ride the crazy rollercoaster called college with you. I would also like to mention that it is a hard degree, but the pay off is unimaginable. You will learn things about yourself that you never would have thought of. You will find others with your passions and it will feel like walking into a family.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? 

As I am finishing up my degree, in the fall of 2019 I was completing my capstone by writing a long piece of fiction with Kate Birdsall. This piece stemmed from a short story I wrote in 2018 and I wanted to make it into a novel. The whole process was exciting because it was my first time ever writing something longer than four pages. I loved learning how to write a novel because it’s almost like a science. A writer must follow an equation to make their story successful and it was something I never knew till that course.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

I hope to find something starting off in a writing position. With not much experience and no internships under my belt, I would love to have the chance to prove I am good enough. I will also continuing writing my novel. Whether it amounts to something is still to be determined but I know it will overall guide me in writing others. My end goal that I hope to achieve is writing for a gaming company. To be writing story plots for future games is my dream.

Faculty Shout-out by Dr. Bill Johnsen: Abigail Scott has been a great student at MSU, inside and outside the classroom, but everyone knows that. I can tell you that she is a great Irish woman, for I saw Irish writers and countless hosts for our summer program respond to her buoyant and engaged interest in Ireland, happy to claim her back as one of theirs.”

Faculty Shout-out by Dr. Tamar Boyadjian: ” I am so pleased and honored to say how much I have enjoyed having Abigail as a student in several of my classes. Abigail is a passionate and dedicated learner. From my wonderful experiences with her, I will always remember that she brings to the classroom insightful thought, compassion, and a perspective that requires students to look beyond themselves to the viewpoint of others around them. One noteworthy memory I have is when Abigail was a student in my introductory to poetry course. She excelled at some of the hardest assignments in this class -one of which, was composing a beautiful poem in iambic tetrameter. I wish Abigail the best of luck, and am certain that her future endeavors will be nothing but a success. We will be proud to say that Abigail was a graduate of our English department at MSU.”  

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

My experience has been enriching and life changing. Not only have my writing and communicating skills developed over these past four years, but my studies and experiences have helped transform me from who I was my freshman year. The relationships that I formed with the English Department professors and faculty have helped me achieve goals that I set for myself, which has enabled me to grow professionally, but also personally, which can sometimes be neglected in our busy lives.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

Dr. William Johnsen has been an important figure to my education for the past two years.

I had the pleasure of being challenged in his class focusing on Virginia Woolf, and it was in this class that I learned he was going to be the faculty leader for the summer 2019 Literary Studies in Dublin program. This was a program I had dreamed of going on since 8th grade, and part of the reason why I chose to study at MSU, so I knew that our relationship would only become more fundamental to my education. Studying Irish Literature in the country that nurtured writers such as William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, and Anne Enright was an experience that I have never been able to describe as well as I wish I could. I do know though that it will be one that I am forever grateful for, as I was able to learn more about Irish Literature and the impacts it has on literature as a whole. Dr. Johnsen is also now serving as my English Senior Thesis adviser and I couldn’t be more thankful for his guidance and knowledge.

My classes with Dr. Tamar Boyadjian, Dr. Robin Silbergleid, and Dr. Margot Valles are also ones that stand out fondly when I reflect on my time at MSU. They taught courses that focused on various topics, such as the Crusades, motherhood, and Arthurian Legend, and expanded my understanding of literature and different perspectives.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

The importance of establishing relationships with your professors can’t be stressed enough. Networking with professionals in college, especially faculty members, is essential as they will become priceless resources. Not only can they offer you class advice, but they can provide you with valuable information about life and what it looks like after graduation, such as career paths to pursue. I promise they want to see you succeed both in and outside of the classroom.

Don’t limit yourself. Being an English teacher is a valuable and necessary profession, but studying English is wonderful because the skills are applicable to so many other career fields. Follow your interests and know that studying the humanities is still incredibly valuable. Eventually you will discover how the talents that you acquired through attaining an English degree can be applied to various career opportunities.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? 

After studying abroad in Ireland, I was able to use what I learned while on the program to help me write my English Senior Thesis, which is focusing on the Irish Literary Revival and Irish myth. Over the past four years, many of my class projects have focused on Irish Literature or culture, so being able to write this thesis that allows me to combine both facets is incredibly rewarding.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

While I wish I had a definite answer, my current plans are to pursue a job in the

communications field upon graduation. My time at MSU has instilled in me a passion to make change, so I hope I’m able to use the skills and knowledge that I acquired to continue doing this for a company and the community that I move to. 

I also hope to continue feeding my passion for Irish Literature, whether that be through finally finishing Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce or reading more contemporary works.

Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

I would be dishonest if I said that I wasn’t saddened that my time at MSU has ended in this way. I thought that I had at least a month and a half to prepare myself for the goodbyes that I had to say and for life after graduation. Graduating seniors are entering a job market that is incredibly uncertain, and I still don’t think I have prepared myself for the reality of this yet.  However, I have found that my weekly Zoom calls with classmates and colleagues at my internship with the College of Arts & Letters Excel Network have helped me still feel connected to MSU despite not being on campus. They’ve reminded me that we are all in this together, and it is together that we will come out of this.

Faculty Shout-out by Dr. Jordan Schonig: “I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Cassandra over two courses, and she has astounded me on multiple occasions. Cassandra is a talented and award-winning playwright, but she’s also demonstrated a flair for theoretical inquiry. She savors the challenge of picking apart a difficult passage, not only striving to understand complex ideas, but also demonstrating an intellectual generosity with those ideas. There’s also a creative dimension to her classroom contributions, be they in the form of writing or speech or visual presentation. She’s not afraid to test out a thought, to play with its possibilities.  This playful creativity is contagious. It clearly inspires her friends and classmates, and it has inspired me as well (as Cassandra knows, I’ve been moved to create entire lesson plans based on things she has written). I have no doubt Cassandra will continue to inspire people with the words she writes and the things she creates.”

Faculty Shout-out by Dr. Swarnavel Eswaran Pillai: “Dear Cassandra, thanks for shedding light through your commitment and creativity, as emblematized by your humane and wonderful screenplay Mayflower, on the possibilities of writing to overcome loss, to keep our hopes alive, and to sustain and heal. My hearty congratulations.”

Faculty Shout-out by Dr. Juliet Guzzetta: “I knew Cassandra when she was Cassie, back in her first year, and already then she exhibited more than just potential, but the realization of some of that potential. In that introductory playwriting class, I watched her connect with some of the authors whose work we read (Annie Baker comes to mind), and saw her grow and experiment in her own writing. Remembering the eager and dedicated Cassie has made knowing the confident and eloquent Cassandra all the more special. The sophistication with which she has confronted her complex and really quite daring full-length play, on which she has been hard at work all year, has been both impressive and poignant. It is a special thing to know firsthand that somewhere out there is Cassandra, writing plays and other works, thinking about universal issues from intimate perspectives, moving her audiences and challenging them too. She is in for a journey with great heights. May she soar.”

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

I have had a joy taking creative writing, literature, film, and theatre courses.  I have two majors: Theatre and English with a concentration in CW. My primary focus has been in playwriting, but I have also created profound memories and creative pieces in my advanced screenwriting and poetry courses.  I have been a three-time finalist in the MSU Creative Writing Awards in the Playwriting/Drama category. My interest at MSU has revolved around how mental illness and suicide is depicted on stage and on screen. I am currently working on a playwriting Honors Thesis, writing and editing a full length play that tackles these issues and proposes a change for how the language of mental illness will be discussed in the future of entertainment.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

Advanced Screenwriting with Swarnavel Eswaran Pillai:  This class was so memorable for me because the class was composed of a small, supportive group of students who were talented and dedicated to the craft of screenwriting.  Professor Pillai gave us constructive notes, inspirational talks, and invaluable advice that made me walk out of the class feeling supported and fearless. Not only was the focus onhow to write our respective stories, but Pillai gave us the tools and information we needed to take our scripts into the film industry after our semester.

Advanced Poetry with Divya Victor:  This class was where I learned that I was dedicated to the art of language, in all of its corruption and beauty.  Like many of my professors, Divya encouraged us to pursue and tackle topics that held the most meaning for us. At the end of the semester, we had a tearful class with Divya, where she announced what she had learned from each of us.  From me, she had learned the power of labor, effort, and hard work in writing; from her I had learned so much more, but perhaps at the foundation of her teachings was the simultaneous control and innovation that a writer can possess.

Multiple classes with Juliet Guzzetta:  My experiences with Professor Guzzetta bookended my experience at MSU, as I worked with her the first and last year I was a student.  There is so much I could say about Guzzetta, but the most important lesson I received from her was that you had to write to learn. I experienced my biggest writing blocks while writing pieces under her supervision.  I’m sure I am going to have many bigger frustrations in my career as a writer, but she taught me that to push through the blocks, you have to write to learn more about your characters, your story, and yourself.

Multiple classes with Jordan Schonig:  Classes with Jordan always turn my day around.  Not only am I learning among truly intelligent film students, but Jordan has some of the most intelligent, entertaining lessons I have attended in my time at MSU.  My classes with Jordan have been film theory classes, but often learning about film theory involves learning about important figures and philosophers that have tried to dissect the way the world operates, not just cinema.  Before taking his classes, I didn’t believe theorizing could be fun, but now I do, and it’s likely to shape how I read and research any media of art post-graduation.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

 Take classes from a wide variety of areas and professors.  

Take advantage of opportunities your professors give you.  

You will undoubtedly get critiques in your workshops and on your assignments.  But remember and cherish all of the praise and support your professors and peers give you as well. 

You won’t have the opportunity to workshop your writing after you graduate unless you seek it out.  Use your workshop time wisely. The time is invaluable (and technically, you’re paying for it!).

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? 

This year, I have been working closely with Professor Juilet Guzzetta to write a full length play of my own for an Honors Thesis in a writing intensive project.  The play is a culmination of my most important work and research I have tackled in my time here, which involves how mental illness is displayed on screen and on stage.  I often find myself analyzing controversial elements in film and theatre that are used for shock value, narrative twists, or unsupported plot structures, especially in regards to suicide, depression, and anxiety.  While depicting mental illness in entertainment is good for representation and awareness, it is not always welcome as an offensive, insensitive way to heighten entertainment value. Like many of the pieces I have produced during my time at MSU, this play,Carnations, tackles big questions about the language of mental illness, but does so through a narrative of time travelers who meet their past and future lives.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation? 

I hope to work for a theatre in the US, ideally as a literary manager for a theatre company.  For the rest of my life, undoubtedly, I will continue to write plays.

Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

I do my best writing in coffee shops, so this time has been particularly unwelcome.

However, this period has opened up more time for me to do what I have always enjoyed:  reading books, watching movies, and writing stories! As a student in the arts, it’s always beneficial to seek new forms of entertainment and find new stories that speak to you and inspire you.  Sometimes, it can be hard to do in the fast pace of a typical semester. My professors who make their lessons accessible as video lectures have been my saving grace during the past few weeks because it feels like normalcy is being maintained through them.

Faculty Shout-out by Dr. Robin Silbergleid: Claire Walsh is one of those quiet students whose first papers reveal the extraordinary intelligence they’ve been keeping mostly to themselves.  Over the past three years, Claire has proven herself with every assignment to be a sharp literary critic and delightful nonfiction writer.  With a particular gift at narrative description,she can turn the occasion of washing dishes into a thoughtful meditation on domestic labor.  Building on an essay selected by M. Milks as first place in the 2019 Creative Writing Awards,  Claire‘s senior honors thesis travels the state of Michigan on four journeys during which she explores not only the nature of “home” and family, but also memory itself.  I’m really proud of her; congratulations, Claire!”

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?
 

My time as an English major has opened my eyes to so many perspectives and ideas that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience otherwise. I’m grateful for the wide range of courses and topics that allowed me to create a well-rounded and fulfilling four years at MSU.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

I’ve been especially impacted by my Creative Writing courses. They’ve not only given me wonderful skills that I can use in my writing moving forward, but in my current writing, I can see how each course has changed my process. I feel like a more organized, intentional, and confident writer because of my time in those classrooms. I also greatly enjoyed the courses and the Honors Thesis through which I was able to work with Dr. Robin Silbergleid. Both her teaching and her kindness have meant the world to me during my time at MSU and I’m very grateful to have had such a wonderful professor to work with.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

I would tell a future English student that they should feel confident in their choice of study because an English degree is such a great basis for a lot of other kinds of work. In the months leading up to the start of my freshman year, I was embarrassed to tell people that I was majoring in English. I think there’s such a misconception that this degree can only open a few specific doors. I’m so grateful for all of the perspectives and ideas that this type of degree has given me the opportunity to experience. I’m ultimately really happy and proud that I decided to study something that I love.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? 

This year, I’ve been working on an honors thesis which has taken the form of four creative nonfiction essays. Each essay focuses on a geographical place that is meaningful to me and through the pieces, I tackle problems of memory, family, and “home.” I’ve really enjoyed working on a long-term project, especially one that has given me the space to figure out some more about myself and my experience along the way.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation? 

I don’t have any immediate plans lined up yet, but I’m hoping to utilize writing skills in my future endeavors. I have an additional major in Political Science and I’m considering the possibilities of combining that part of my studies with writing, whether that means working with a nonprofit, working in government, or grant writing.

Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

I haven’t really been able to process what all of this means just yet. There are a lot of very constant and steadfast things being taken away right now and that’s scary. One aspect of the new normal that has been comforting to me is the willingness of professors to talk with students or simply to be there for them if need be. While I know the changes taking place are necessary in the interest of safety, a nice email or a reassuring smile over Zoom can really brighten a bad day. I’m happy that the Spartan community is trying above all to encourage togetherness even though we can’t be in the same room.

Faculty Shout-out by Professor Pete Johnston: “It has been a true pleasure working with Ryan, first through having him in my FLM260 class and then having him along in our Film in Britain program. Ryan has brilliant insights about film and I always loved hearing him voice them during discussions, but to get a better sense of his personality through the study abroad experience was a real treat. I can’t wait to see where life takes him.”

Faculty Shout-out by Dr. Lyn Goeringer: “Ryan Hoppenworth was really a great addition to my class “Music and the Moving Image” last fall (2019). He really brought a lot of enthusiasm, practice, and engagement into the class. I always appreciated his contributions to cultural understanding particularly around the use of popular music in films, and he always was very thoughtful in his questions and comments in class. In particular, I am really impressed by his ability to create connections between Music and the Moving Image, Film History, and Theory as a whole. He always had really great ideas in the use of music around genre, and had really innovative ideas in regards to Leit Motif and connections to character  and plot development. It was a real joy to have him in class!”
 

Faculty Shout-out by Dr. Justus Nieland:  “I’ve been lucky to have Ryan as a student in several classes. He’s a real cinephile, a sharp writer about film. He’s also a kind, delightful, and funny human being. So it was a special treat to have Ryan as part of the 2019 Film in Britain program. One of my favorite memories of Ryan on the trip came on a day when the acclaimed British director Terence Davies visited our morning class, and read “Burnt Norton” from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets to help us understand his handling of time in his film Of Time and the City. That afternoon, waiting for the group in a park outside the Sir John Soane museum (which we were about to visit) Ryan sat down next to me on the bench. I asked him how he’d spent his early afternoon, and he pulled out a copy of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, which he had just bought in a nearby bookstore. I was quite moved by his intellectual curiosity. ‘Time past and time future / What might have been and what has been / Point to one end, which is always present.’ Congratulations, Ryan!” 

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

My time in the English/Film department has been one of considerable growth for me. Coming in to the department, I had a lot of grand ideas, and this department helped forge me into a student who could express them in a creative way. I look back on my time at MSU as the proudest of my life and I hope to take the skills I’ve learned here and apply them for the rest of my life.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

My favorite courses during my time in the department were the film classes I took during the Film in Britain program with Professors Justus Nieland and Pete Johnston. I got to experience another culture while taking some of the most interesting classes that MSU has to offer. Another class that ignited my curiosity was FLM/MUS 480 with Professor Lyn Goeringer. This class opened my eyes to the instrumental role of music in cinema and had me embark on one of the most interesting analyses of my academic career. These experiences helped me expand my creativity and find my creative passions.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

My advice for incoming students is to step outside your comfort zone. Signing up for classes that challenge you can be scary, but these classes end up inspiring you and lead to the most academic/personal growth. 

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? 

This year, I completed the final classes for my major and my minor. I also used this time to focus on growing my creative writing ability. I’ve undertaken multiple projects in this area and even explored creative areas that I’ve never experienced before. This has been an excellent time to strengthen my writing ability and further solidify my creative confidence.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation? 

My aspirations after graduation is to take the skills I’ve learned and apply them to make real-life change. I never want to stop learning and my main goal is to find a career that will assist me in this pursuit. 

Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

While COVID-19 presents the class of 2020 with an unprecedented challenge, I’ve been working closely with my academic and career advisor to finish my time at MSU strong and move on to a fulfilling career. In addition, my partner and family have been providing constant emotional support through this challenging time, and for that, I’m truly grateful.

Faculty Shout-out by Dr. Bill Johnsen: “Sabrina excelled in courses very different from each other in size, focus, national tradition, and above all, venue, writing and reading with precision and understanding in class, in Ireland on a study abroad program, and now at home. She will be a great classroom teacher for yet another reason: on a walking tour in Dublin I looked down to avoid making our speaker nervous. One pair of feet had naturally assumed first position, indicating a long training in classical dance: hers. We have learned this term how important presence is to our teaching. I wish I had her poise, I wish I had studied dance.”

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

My time as an English major at MSU is exactly what my high school self imagined it would be. I was always reading books and plays by amazing authors, writing papers and analyzing passages. Being an English major led me to meet some lovely professors at the University and learn about the many opportunities an English degree can bring me.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

The experience that stood out to me the most was my study abroad in Dublin Ireland with Professor William Johnsen. I was able to read literature in the same city it was written in and Professor Johnsen also brought in many of the authors we were reading which led me to have more of a connection with the assigned works. The study abroad experience, especially with Professor Johnsen, helped me to truly immerse myself in a new culture. He would always tell us to “Find our own Ireland.” Hearing this encouraged me to experience more things that I could have ever imagined in one summer to help me grow as a student and as an independent person.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

My advice to future students is to take every opportunity that comes your way. Each one of them brings your experiences, connections and knowledge you may never find anywhere else!

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them?

This year I have been doing my capstone project on Walt Whitman and the theme of race within his works. He is a huge influence in the world of literature to its very interesting to dig deep into his work and his life.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation? 

My aspirations for post-graduation are to get a job teaching high school English and travel the world. My biggest goal is to teach in Europe one day.

Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

The strangest experience being a graduating senior during this local and global crisis would probably be missing all of my lasts in East Lansing. While this is all being done in the best interest of students, faculty and residents, it’s still sad to think I watched my friends get the full senior year experience last year but I don’t get to do that. I have to attend lectures on my laptop from my house in Chicago and cannot go anywhere that is not deemed essential by the government.

Faculty Shout-out by Dr. Divya Victor: “As a young black poet in a predominantly white classroom and institution, Olivia’s quiet, glowing belief in her purpose as a writer was palpable in our poetry workshop—her calm manner framed an implicit invitation to her peers that they rise to a higher standard of awareness, empathy, consideration; her kind disposition and mature voice (in her work) inspired them to act on that invitation. Olivia’s work probes intersecting themes of class and race, within the context of religious conservatism that wrestles with the myths of a ‘post-racial’ United States. Even though her work did not engender easy appreciation or shallow, giddy engagement, she earned the abiding respect of the best writers in the class because she is a serious, careful thinker and because her work is distinct and voice significant.”

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

I would describe my experience as an English major at MSU as profoundly inspiring and academically intimate. Not only were my professors energizing in the classroom, but my classmates also motivated me to be excited about our work. Through my peers I was challenged to think beyond myself. My English classes also felt very personal, especially during workshops where each student brings in a piece of their own writing. My friends within the major and I likened some classes to group therapy because of how impact the experience can be. 

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

An experience that stands out to me during my time at MSU would be landing in Portland, Oregon in March of my junior year. Myself and three other interns were afforded the opportunity to travel across the country to represent Fourth Genre at AWP. And, as we taxied off the runway, I was reminded of how exciting a life can be when you’re pursuing what you love, in my case literature. 

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

My advice to future English majors would be to take classes that are outside of your comfort zone. I exclusively wrote poetry before college. However, after taking a Creative Nonfiction course that I was not particularly excited about, my passion for writing now heavily includes using creative nonfiction as a medium. My professor for this class also alerted me to the application for my internship the following year! 

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? 

As a senior I’m currently in my capstone course. Now that we have less than a month of the semester left, I’ve begun the process of formulating my final paper. I’m excited about this project because I can use the tools I’ve learned during my last four years at MSU to create something I can look back on and be proud of. 

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation? 

Post graduation, I’ll be moving to Chicago to get my Masters in Writing in Publishing at DePaul University. I’m thrilled to move to my favorite city to study what I love. 

Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

I’m disappointed that I won’t get to experience graduation as a right of passage. I’m disappointed that I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to friends, to professors, to classmates, to campus, and to being in undergrad. As I’ve had time to grief leaving MSU so suddenly, I’m less in denial about this time in my life being over. And I’m more thankful to be healthy and with my family.

 

Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Tamar Boyadjian: “I have had the pleasure of having Brooklyn as a student during her entire undergraduate career, and the pleasure of being her instructor for the English Literature in London Program. Brooklyn is an incredible writer, critical thinker, and a beautiful human being. Her growth as a writer, both academically and creatively, has been an incredibly rewarding process to watch -especially because it has complemented her undergraduate journey and the discovery of her passions and future endeavors. Brooklyn’s ability to challenge herself, to self-reflect, and to use literature and cultural studies as a means of self growth has been an inspiration to those around her. Among the many talented and noteworthy essays she has written for me is the very profound reflection on Borges’s, Borges y yo. Here, Brooklyn developed the fascinating claim that neither Borges nor his persona gain subjectivity in this piece, and that only through a created authorship could the figure of Borges  “exist” in this text. I congratulate Brooklyn for all her awards and accomplishments throughout her undergraduate career, and I appreciate all of our talks and interactions throughout the years.” 

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

Completing an English degree at Michigan State has been one of my greatest honors and accomplishments. My time as an English major always felt well spent and courses were, for the most part, greatly fulfilling. I was always able to take classes on topics that were of great interest to me, and I always felt I was being pushed as a writer and a critical thinker. The English Department — particularly my advisors — has also always felt like it had my back and wanted to support me in graduation and in planning for whatever comes next. I have also met some incredible peers and faculty in English and these bonds are especially meaningful, as English brings in a diverse group of people with different backgrounds and understandings and we all have something unique to offer.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

I was a part of the English Literature in London study abroad program, which was probably my most impactful experience through MSU. Living in London and being able to connect with my peers and professors in such a personal way really made me feel more connected to the English Department and to all of Michigan State. I have also been able to take some really fantastic ENG/WS crossover courses — like Intro to Women’s Authors and Readings in Women’s Writers — which have combined my interests in women’s studies, feminism, postcolonialism, and literature more broadly. These courses — and my experience studying abroad — have allowed me to learn a bit more about what I’m most interested in and I always felt supported by my professors and classmates in exploring these interests freely.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

My advice is to really cherish the time you have here and make the most of it by connecting with your professors, advisor, and classmates. The benefit of English classes is their relatively small class size, and so this is a great opportunity to build personal one-on-one relationships that will give meaning and life to your college experience and prepare you for future endeavors. Professors can make great role models and mentors, not just letters of rec. Advisors really do care about your wellbeing and your dreams and aspirations, not just that you graduate. Classmates can be great resources for sharing ideas and opinions, creative collaboration, and can develop into meaningful, lifelong friendships. Your time in the department is what you make it, so getting as involved as possible and being intentional about what you’re doing is crucial.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them?

This year, I was a Social Media and Outreach Intern for the Refugee Development Center, which will be serving as my capstone. I designed graphics, wrote social media posts, created informational materials (ie. an annual report, brochures, flyers, etc.), and planned for big fundraising events. I really have enjoyed my time in this position because it allowed me to use the skills I have developed from my English degree and apply them to an organization I believe in that does great work in our community. I also felt like I had a lot of creative expression when it came to content writing and design, and I was constantly learning new skills and developing the ones I came to the organization already having. 

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation? 

Following graduation, I am hoping to dip my toes into the world of editing/publishing and hopefully work for a magazine or an arts and cultural organization. I really enjoyed content writing with my internship position at the RDC, and I want to be able to continue to hone in on my writing skills and perhaps learn more about graphic design and the likes.

Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

I didn’t know I was going to graduate early until a few weeks ago, so I spent the year thinking I had more time on my clock than I did. On top of that, I spent my last moments in a classroom not knowing they were my last moments. I think it’s easy to fall into a routine when it comes to classes and our many involvements and work and become bored with it. We depend on these things staying constant, because for most of our life they have. Every weekday, I could be sure I was going to wake up, brush my teeth, go to class, and come back to my small apartment. Rinse and repeat. But this pandemic really showed that nothing is totally constant or stable, even the things we most assume to be, and so it makes appreciating even the mundane parts of our days all the more important. I have really been relying on my advisors in English, Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities, and the Honors College to make sure I have all of my ducks in line so to speak and am ready to graduate. They have been a great resource and help to me. Thankfully, this is an uncertain time for everyone and so I think we all are rightfully giving each other a little grace and wiggle room to get through this however we can.