Category Archives: Interviews & Profiles

Student Spotlight: Alyssa Taft

alyssaHello there! My name is Alyssa Taft and I am a second year masters student in both the English Department and the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies. I am currently working towards my MA in English and my MLIS with a concentration in School Library Media and Youth Services. In spring of 2015 I was awarded a research assistantship with the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies to work on a grant-funded project titled Media Smart Libraries, in which we develop and implement continuing education programming for school and public librarians on media and digital literacy topics. I also work part time at the URI Carothers Library in the Curriculum Materials Library where I teach URI 101, co-teach EDC 102, and provide reference services to URI’s education department.

My professional interests include media and digital literacy, contemporary fiction, genre studies, creative writing, children’s literature, library advocacy, censorship, intellectual freedom, and collection development. My time in the English department has been spent working on sharpening my creative writing and exploring intersections between literature and education, and literature and adolescence. I complete my English coursework this coming spring and next fall I will be putting together my portfolio. This will be followed by a semester of student teaching in two of Rhode Island’s public schools as a school librarian before graduation in May 2017.   

In addition to my studies, I am also the School Librarians of Rhode Island (SLRI) student board member, co-chair of the English Department’s graduate social committee, a member of the English Department’s graduate writing group, and a member of the Middletown Author’s Circle. I am involved in a number of professional organizations and committees including URI’s chapter of Student ALA, URI’s Graduate Student Conference, the Society for Children’s Writers and Illustrators, and SLRI’s advocacy committee. In Fall 2015 I was awarded the RI Coalition of Library Advocates Scholarship.  

When I’m not working or studying, I can be found reading for (gasp!) fun, playing with my rescue pup Bernie, or spending time with my husband Lee.

If You Write, You’re a Writer: An Evening of Poetry

In a small library near the Bay Campus, the poets of the URI graduate program shared their work of the last semester on Wednesday, Dec. 9. As I settled in to my child-sized chair, I was just glad that I had gotten a seat, because other attendees were left to find seating between book shelves and mill around counters. The Willet Free library was packed with both books and people and the cozy atmosphere was just right for this reading organized by Alyssa Taft and Laura Marciano, featuring the nine students of Peter Covino’s seminar this fall.

After Peter thanked all the attendees for coming, the reading got started with Alyssa Taft, who gave a short presentation. Rather than sharing poetry, Alyssa, who worked on a seminar paper for the course, introduced us to how poetry and children intersect, and in particular the benefits of poetry in education. Poetry, besides increasing reading fluency and encouraging reluctant readers, creates mindfulness in children. It gives readers silence and space in which to interpret and allows them to read into others and the world, promoting a “wide awake-ness.”

Though Alyssa was talking about the benefits for children, the eight poets who shared their work after her certainly encouraged this feeling of being awake to the world for the audience. The array of poetry was vast, even within one poet’s reading. Julie Hassett started with “Forest,” which was connected to local food banks, and ended with a poem that attempted to capture the feeling of numbness after being told her sister had died, and in between were poems written in response to art, such as “Procrastination Has Already Been Sold.” Elizabeth Folke wanted to focus on the intersection of humanity and technology, how science and invention has changed our lives. Her poems, which sometimes included a bit of a science fiction flair, asked us to probe our own lives. Others, like “Creature” which considered the situation of the burn victim who was recently the first recipient of a full-face transplant, asked us to inhabit others’. We were also asked just to listen. Francesca Borrione read two of her poems in the Italian they were originally written in, sharing the translations of more. In the Italian, I could catch a word here or there, but beautiful in both languages was her line, “I inhabited the cartography of my imagination.”

After a short break, Andrew Merecicky declared that his chapbook was entitled “Pornography of Light and Flood,” and that was “all the explanation I’m doing.” With a forceful reading voice, Andrew let the poetry linger, keeping true to his opening declaration. Susan Munson offered more context, happily as her first poem was about Bob Leuci, who once asked her “Are you a writer?” Susan used her reading style to emphasize the content of another poem “Hypervent” which was about OCD and social anxiety. Alex Trubia’s poetry included sly humor in lines such as “I’ll keep it for the sequel, something holy part II,” along with more haunting lines such as “when the winters at their frigid worst draw moisture from the timber.” Laura Marciano followed with poems that had a bitingly smart feminist viewpoint, asking the important questions like “If I sleep with myself, will I be famous?” The reading ended with Luisa Murillo, who addressed domestic violence in Bolivia in her opening poem “She Never Took Back the Night.” Luisa also included more personal poems, such as about moving to Queens from Bolivia, and poems which mixed myth with reality, putting a finishing touch on the night.

The readers also shared their experiences in the class and preparing for the reading, some at the reading and others with me afterwards. Julie Hassett gave an anecdote during her reading about wanting a heart from Alyssa on her paper during critique, apparently these hearts were a hot commodity. Alyssa saw her presentation as a “mini-conference paper” and later told me that she was glad that the audience connected to her research and understood her ideas. Susan shared that poetry has made her who she is, and that the semester was more about taking herself seriously as a poet. For her, preparing included getting ready for her “Lady Gaga moment,” as Peter calls it, by singing along to the radio on her way to the reading. Elizabeth thought about reading as a different skill than writing, and tried to consider the rhythm and inflection she would use. She shared that the class had given her space to access her creativity. Andrew, of course after the reading, told me that Peter emphasized performative reading this semester and that practice had helped him, as well as a glass of wine and some deep breaths. I think the others would agree with Andrew on this as well, “the fact that a few dozen or so people showed up to listen to poetry is always a special experience,” which this reading definitely was.

Student Spotlight: Jenna Guitar

Greetings!  My name is Jenna Guitar and I am a second year Ph.D. student in the English department.  I am also working on a certificate in Gender and Women’s Studies.  As I am nearing course completion, I am actively attempting to narrow the topics of my academic interest.  However, I can broadly say that my interests lie in contemporary literature, film, television, pop culture and trans* theory. 


In the past I have presented several papers at the National PCA/ACA.  Past conference papers have been “Exploring Non-Normative Desire in Season Six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Identity as a Fluid System in Glee,” and “TheOriginals: A Pop Culture Examination of Colonialist Discourse.”  Next year I will again be attending PCA/ACA in Seattle and presenting my paper “GenX Takes the Stage: Exploring Trans* Agency in ‘90s Musicals” a paper that grew out of Professor Mandel’s ENG 590 Special Topics course on GenX Literature and Culture.  Additionally, I have published a chapter in an edited collection: Glee and New Directions for Social Change.  My chapter was entitled “Glee Goes Gaga: Queering Concepts of High School Identity Formation.”  I am the co-chair of URI’s freshly launched Professionalization Committee along with Elyse Nelmark.  The professionalization committee has been responsible for creating and curating a Sakai site that hosts a wealth of information including but not limited to: samples of exam lists and rationales, job market materials, conferences, teaching syllabi examples, etc.  The Professionalization Committee has also held two panels, one in the spring covering how to prepare for exams and summer productivity, as well as a panel this fall concerning publishing.  Both events allowed URI faculty and graduate students to have detailed and focused conversations about the ins and outs of these important career moments.

I am also the co-chair of the URI Graduate Conference for 2016 along with Serap Hidir.  The Graduate Conference Committee is currently working hard to organize an exceptional conference for the spring of 2016.  Our theme for the conference is Trans(form): New Insights and New Directions.  I look forward to providing everyone with more information as the conference grows and develops.  Last year for the Graduate Conference I served on various sub-committees as well as presented my paper: “The Monstrous Feminine: Understanding Lady Macbeth’s Body.”  I am excited to be even more closely involved with the conference planning this year.

I received my MA in English at SUNY New Paltz where I also taught Composition for 2.5 years.  Prior to that, I have two bachelor’s degrees from New Mexico State University in Theatre Arts and English.  As a native New Mexican, my time in the ocean state has been quite a new experience, water!?  In my free time, I enjoy hiking and exploring the beauty of Rhode Island with my husband Mike and enjoying as much live theatre as we can see.  I am also the proud cat Mom of two fantastic felines, Crookshanks and Moo.


Feature: Literary Treasure Waiting To Be Discovered

Graduate students long to find a treasure of original writings that may inspire a topic for a research paper, a thesis or a publication.  I was recently blessed to experience three treasures just miles away from the University of Rhode Island: the North Kingstown Free Library, Susan Aylward, and the David Plante Collection.

The North Kingstown Free Library (NKFL) is nestled just miles away from URI and kingstown libraryprovides a beautiful, scenic location for students to study and utilize numerous resources including the David Plante Collection.  A student may easily obtain a library card and have access to the incredible collection by making an appointment with the library by calling 401-294-3306 For more information about the library, please visit their web site at

Susan Aylward is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island where she completed her Ph.D. in English and wrote her doctoral dissertation on David Plante.  Susan retired after 35 years of devoted service as a Librarian and Administrator at the North Kingstown Free Library.  Due to her friendship with David Plante, he donated a collection of his aylwardwritings and books to the library.  Susan believes that this important collection “would be of interest to scholars and students focusing their research on Rhode Island Fiction Writers, French Canadian Writers, Writers with an artistic influence, LGBT Writers and Library Science.”  She is willing to share her expertise with students interested in conducting research about this important writer.  She may be reached by email at

Susan Aylward provided personal and professional insight about David Plante’s life and writings.  She believes that David Plante, “is one of our most important contemporary American writers and has not had the critical attention he deserves.  He deals with darkness in his writings but there is hope.  His work is complicated but it deals with humanity.”  Susan shared that, “David Plante was born in Providence, Rhode Islaplantend and his writings are informed by his French-Canadian, Catholic upbringing in the working class landscape of Providence.  Seven of his fifteen novels are semi-autobiographical in nature and are largely set in and around the Providence parish where he was raised.  His writings include novels, short stories, essays, biographical profiles, memoirs, poetry, and plays.  The themes of his writings are the power of love, death, grief, longing, despair, faith, and imagination.  His life partner was Nikos Stangos, a Greek writer who influenced the artistic side of Plante’s writings.  They were known for their achievements but also for their commitment to each other as partners.”

As part of the interview with Susan Aylward, I had the honor to see the entire David Plante Collection and was completely in awe of its size and beauty.  The Collection is comprised of Part One which is housed in the South County Room at the NKFL and consisfamily plantets of his manuscripts and papers which are meticulously organized into 70 boxes containing 389 folders.  Part two is housed in the library’s Conference Room and consists of 146 books that include 21 books by David Plante, 2 books about Plante, 7 books written/edited by Nikos Stangos, 100 books from Plante’s personal library and numerous other books that influenced his writings.  Susan Aylward’s organization of this collection is literally a treasure for scholars and students.  She expressed that it is a unique opportunity for graduate students to review published materials, unpublished materials, original manuscripts,  revisions, artistic images and signed book dedications.  She passionately states, “it is an amazing and varied collection of manuscripts, notes, some correspondence and books from the shelves in his New York apartment when he was teaching in the Writing Division of the School of the Arts at Columbia.  Some of the books he wrote, some he used to research his novels, many are signed editions from friends, colleagues, and acquaintances.  As a whole, the collection represents the life of the mind of this particular writer. In parts, it is a scholar’s treasure trove.”

“You Put Down the First Draft, Then the Work Begins”: Eileen James Speaks on Poetry, Writing and Process

eileenm james“No matter what side of the desk I’m on in the classroom, poetry informs who I am,” says Eileen James, a first-year doctoral student in the Writing and Rhetoric specialization. Previously, Eileen earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Brown University and has taught composition and poetry at the Community College of Rhode Island and Johnson and Wales University for five years. Her current (and evolving) research interests investigate rhetoric of privilege and power as well as writing assessment. Eileen will be a workshop leader at the URI Ocean State Writers’ Conference for a young writers session titled “Mini-zines” from 4:45 p.m. – 6:45 p.m. on Saturday, June 20th. She is a native Rhode Islander who lives in Exeter with her husband, Ken, and her twin daughters Waverly and Olivia. This blog post includes Eileen’s poem, “Nightmares”, which was published in Monsters and the Monstrous Journal: In The Blood – Winter of  2014/15. In the following Q&A, Eileen discusses her writing process and how creative writing informs her interests in the field of Rhetoric and Composition.

for Waverly and Olivia

 Listen, dear hearts:
Children disappear sometimes, slip out of their parents’ grip.
Down wells or away with strangers.
Trolls wait on enchanted stumps for little ones to play
out of the sight of love-struck grown ups bound in devotion.
The clouds in the sky can turn soft familiar shapes
into cold wicked figures.
The apologetic mother wonders if her doting hands weren’t quick enough.

And now, inhale this bedtime tale of mother-love:
Ghosts only exist in my dreams.  See, my eyes could not focus wide awake
on quick breaths that sway dead memories through the windy curtains.
The moon is always just a few hours away. I worry about the locks on doors.

 My children, I will cloak you under my bosom. Witches crunch tiny femurs
between awesome teeth.
The wolves will find you. Don’t be fooled by the house of gingerbread
piped with sweet white icing. Woodland greens seem so unsuspecting.

Clarissa: Tell us the story behind your poem, “Nightmares”?
Eileen: I think I wanted an admonition to my daughters: Be careful in the world. I thought about fairy tales. I was taking the books that they don’t read anymore off the shelves and some of them were the Grimm fairy tales and they are grim. The process of writing had a lot to do with images. I could see what was happening in my head and I wanted others to be able to see this vision in the poem. There was a lot of revision, considerations of language and deciding if there would be characters in the poem. If there were characters, who they would be and who would see them and how. I think that by the end, the way that I structured it was the way people talk to their children when they are tucking them into bed. But, there wasn’t a happy ending to the fairy tale.
Clarissa: Interesting. Why do you think you chose that ending?
Eileen: I hoped for an understanding of the crazy nightmarish world that someone could live in. Instead of a happy ending, they could leave with more knowledge than they started with.
Clarissa: You have been selected to run a creative writing workshop at the URI Ocean State Writers’ Conference this summer. Congratulations. Would you speak more about your creative writing pedagogy, in general?
Eileen: Right now, for me writing creatively is a luxury. I don’t have deadlines for it. In some ways, I don’t do it as often as I like to do because of other kinds of deadlines.

I feel that when you work with others and help them with their writing, the job is to provide helpful boundaries for people to flourish inside of. It’s important to help people find their voice. Working with language is fun. Wordsmithing is fun and can be exciting. Having a desired end and trying to get there is one of the most satisfying parts of writing. The actual construction of the poem and the revision is the most exciting part of writing to me. That’s what the work is. That’s what I like to stress when I work, especially with young writers: No one writes the first draft and expects it to be done. You put down the first draft, then the work begins.

Clarissa: You are currently a first-year graduate student earning a doctoral degree in the Writing and Rhetoric specialization. How does Eileen the Poet inform your current coursework?

Eileen: I am interested in ways that people navigate language. I know how I do it creatively, so I am interested in how other people in the world navigate language and use language. I am an advocate of the power of words. I think that what has drawn me to this field is that rhetoric is about what language can do, hopefully good things. The influence and power that language can wield in the world. Perhaps I have a Burkean optimism that the world can be a better place if we consider the words that we use.

Publishing on Pop Culture: An Interview with Jenna Guitar

JGuitarHeadshotWe are excited to announce that our own Jenna Guitar, a first-year PhD student, has recently published a chapter in Glee and New Directions for Social Change. She was kind enough to answer a few questions about her work and the publishing process. Congratulations!

Guitar, Jenna. 2015. “Glee Goes Gaga.” In Glee and New Directions for Social Change Ed. Brian C Johnson and Daniel K. Faill. Boston: Sense Publishers. 61-68.

Q: First, can you give us a brief synopsis of your chapter? A sentence or two take-away if you will.

A: My paper is occupied with examining the ways theatrical performance can help high school students understand Butler’s theory of fluid identity. The paper focuses on a specific season one moment in the television show Glee. The students are asked to “go Gaga” as they perform various Lady Gaga songs to tap into their theatrical identities. By tapping into these theatrical personas, the students learn that their identities are fluid and not stagnant. Essentially they perform Butler’s seminal argument concerning identity in the episode, which I found to be fascinating.

Q: I’d like to ask a bit about the process involved in getting this published. Was this a term paper that you found a call for, or did you find a call for chapters and decide to write this?

A: This was originally a seminar paper from a Queer Theory course I took at New Mexico State University. I later presented the paper at the National PCA/ACA in Washington DC, while I was working on my Master’s degree at SUNY New Paltz. From that conference I was approached by the editors of the book who were interested in including my essay in their collection Glee and New Directions for Social Change. The book was just recently published in January. All in all, this was a five year process from writing it to actually getting it published.

Q: How was the peer review process? Was it nerve wracking? Did you get constructive feedback?

A: My editors were very kind. They offered some minor tweaks and revisions, but the most labor intensive changes stemmed from having to change everything from MLA to APA. The book is interdisciplinary and the two editors kept going back and forth about how the book should be formatted and finally determined it should be in APA. So, it was a bit tedious changing everything to the new format, especially because I was not very familiar with how APA worked.

Q: Did you find anything about working with pop culture particularly challenging, or liberating?

A: I often work with popular culture, so I really felt in my element. I feel most comfortable in the pop culture arena and am always really excited when I get to do a project along those lines.

Q: Do you want to work on Glee in the future? Is the high school experience something you are interested in, or was the chance to talk about gender performativity the greater draw?

A: I’m not sure if I would work with the television show Glee again. I wouldn’t be opposed, but I don’t have any plans as of yet. However, I am fascinated by representations of high school students in television and would definitely like to continue research in that area at some point. Gender studies is one of my main research interests and generally the lens I adopt in my work, so that was definitely a draw.

An Interview with Bryant Fellowship Recipient, Becky Greene

URI PhD candidate, Becky Greene has recently been awarded a Fellowship from Bryant’s Center for Learning and Teaching which emphasizes creativity and creative thinking in the classroom. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Becky about her involvement in the program and how it is helping her shape her own pedagogy.

Q: How did you become involved with Bryant and this Fellowship?

A: I’ve been working as an adjunct instructor in Bryant’s Gateway Program since the 2013-2014 school year. The Gateway Program requires all entering freshmen to take four classes emphasizing critical thinking and writing skills. The students get to highlight their various achievements in the courses at the end of each semester in a portfolio. As part of a continuing (and increasing) commitment to the humanities, two of the four classes are “Introduction to the Writing Workshop” (the equivalent to URI’s WRT 104) and “Introduction to Literature and Cultural Studies” (the equivalent to ENG 110). I’ve been lucky enough to teach both classes. One of the things that’s been especially delightful is getting smart, sophisticated students — primarily business majors — to think more about literature, world events, and rhetorical analysis.

The Creativity Fellows are in their second phase now. I saw a notice sent out to all faculty late last year asking for new members. The idea of interdisciplinary collaboration and the program’s emphasis on imagination and pedagogy seemed pretty cool. I asked if adjuncts could apply, was told yes, and sent in my application as a lark. It was great to find out I’ve been selected.

Q: Can you explain the goals of the program?

A: Essentially, the Creativity Fellows are a group of both full-time (tenured) and part-time (adjunct) faculty who are interested in trying innovation in the classroom while looking at ways to borrow approaches from other disciplines. We get together monthly to discuss readings on pedagogical theory, but also splice in work from psychology, computer science, and literary critical theory with more to come. We also do a lot of different hands-on activities as a group to see what might work in a classroom setting. (Some of our exercises have included clay modelling, book repurposing, podcasting, and blogging.) While we are all weaving these techniques into our classrooms, several of us are working together now on essays about pedagogy. Due to typical disciplinary segregation, we might never have conceived some of these projects without the group! We’re basically just a friendly group of people trying to figure out ways to connect with our students, all while trying to remember what it’s like to learn something for the first time.

Q: I understand that the fellowship program revolves around engaging students in the classroom by using a theory of play and creativity. Can you elaborate on the ways in which you use play and creativity in her own pedagogy?

A: Knowing from past experiences teaching that students can sometimes be resistant to learning in a teamwork setting, I try to use some of the creative play techniques that the Fellows program has been using to get students more comfortable with the idea of peer review, for instance. Having them partner up for a peer review “scavenger hunt” exercise where they hunt for mechanical problems in a piece of writing and solutions to those problems has been a fun way to work on issues such as paragraph formation, thesis development, semicolon usage, and so on. The “scavenger hunt” idea has also been useful in Intro to Lit, where they use both the Oxford English Dictionary and their texts to try to answer questions about character motivations when we’re reading mysteries.

This semester, I’m looking forward to receiving playlists–and justifications for why the songs are included–for a Sherlock Holmes unit in lieu of a traditional quiz. Students also have the option to produce an original illustration for a novel that we’re reading together (The Prisoner of Zenda) in lieu of another quiz. I’m also adding another idea–given that the theme of the class is adventure, they will be able to produce a Choose Your Own Adventure style simple computer game featuring the cast of one of our texts for extra credit. These students are remarkably creative folks and I’m excited about the projects that they’ll be coming up with.

The best thing, for me, about all of these different multimodal approaches is that it gives a student who might have anxiety about writing or speaking a chance to indicate that they “get the text” in a different way. Plus, they get to have some fun and the chance to talk to each other! Again, the chance to work on creativity and play helps them figure out how to take risks, how to imagine, and how to creatively think. It’s been a pretty rewarding experiment so far and one that’s helped us to keep going, even with so many snow cancellations. We’re still doing the typical work of writing properly formatted research papers, of course. The benefits to this idea of creative play in the classroom is that the students are more engaged, willing to pick a paper idea that they are much more invested in after their creative project is done, and they’re willing to try harder. I feel like the percentage of “lazy” students is down.

While I was doing some of these activities before, I feel like the Creativity Fellows program has helped improve my techniques, has made me more willing to take risks myself, and has given me more ideas for my teaching toolbox.

The Unexpectedness of Beauty

In this fascinating and wonderfully candid audio discussion, URI Professors Mary Cappello and Peter Covino discuss the complex, philosophical notion of “beauty” from a variety of intermingled perspectives: the artistic, the pedagogical and the personal. Cappello, a well-known writer of literary nonfiction, and Covino, an accomplished poet, describe ways in which “unexpected beauty” surfaces in and informs their own creative projects. Sometimes in life this “unexpectedness” presents as a form of, what Peter Covino calls, “dark energy”: things like trauma, abuse, violence. Yet this “dark energy” can provide the opportunity for a cathartic form of beauty to surface. Professor Covino goes on to describe writing poetry as a challenge toward self-recognition and “self-soothing” — what he describes in a one of his poems as the “soothe-less tangle” of language. He views language as offering a medium of solace: “you’re not sure how terrible your pain is, you’re not sure how difficult your challenges are, until you start to write them down, until you start to share your stories.” This translation of struggle, the articulation and expression of it, can be beautiful.

Mary Cappello describes her aesthetic at one point as a form of “disruptive beauty.” She is interested in “jaggedness” and “interruptive beauty”: an idea she defines as emerging “out of confrontation, over and against a determination to aestheticize experience.” Further, Professor Cappello offers a very interesting way of thinking about “ugliness” less binaristically with respect to beauty; she invites us to think of it as a differential, the space between the lyrical and the jagged: “I was thinking of a beauty not opposed to ugliness…can we talk about anti-beauty, unbeauty, or create a new term altogether?” She encourages the artist to be alive to the “availability of beauty,” and to be on the lookout for “beauty in unexpected places.”

Throughout this rich and in-depth conversation on beauty, both Cappello and Covino share interesting details of their lives, their creative process, as well as read from each other’s (and their students’) work. The full audio conversation can be found here. Some shorter snippets of their conversation are also available from the links below.

Alumna Megan Sullivan Promotes Interdisciplinary Studies at Boston University

CGS Prof. Megan SullivanI had the pleasure of speaking with Megan Sullivan, a 1996 alumna of the URI doctoral program in English.  Megan is certainly a URI success story.  In addition to being an Associate Professor of Rhetoric, Megan is now the Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Development at Boston University, as well the school’s Director for the Center of Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning.  She works out of the university’s College of General Studies (CGS), which offers students their first two years of core curriculum courses before they matriculate into their majors.  CGS faculty work as a team, meeting every week to talk about what and how they are teaching.  Courses are team-taught using an interdisciplinary approach.  It is out of this approach, which has a focus on “doing undergraduate education well,” that the online journal IMPACT was born.  Now as editor of that publication, Megan explained to me how it all started, and how she and her fellow editorial board members work to promote it.

IMPACT is an online, peer-reviewed journal, which “foregrounds interdisciplinary teaching and learning.”  It has been published semi-annually since 2012.  Each issue features at least one or two articles on interdisciplinary approaches to teaching, in addition to articles that demonstrate interdisciplinary scholarship, and reviews of interdisciplinary books.  The focus of all published pieces is on thinking in an interdisciplinary manner.  The editorial board of IMPACT is currently working to get it included in the MLA International Bibliography.  Megan encourages all URI faculty and students who are conducting interdisciplinary scholarship to submit to the journal.  In fact, IMPACT hosts an essay contest each year, with submissions due by the first Monday of December.  I assured her that there were many of us thinking and working across disciplines at URI, and that she would be sure to hear from us in the near future!

Megan’s interest in interdisciplinary scholarship was already in evidence during her years at URI.  Her dissertation topic focused on women writers, filmmakers, and dramatists in Northern Ireland.  Although URI did not have an Irish Studies department, she said her faculty committee, headed by Mary Cappello, was very supportive.  In fact Megan calls Mary, “a wonderful mentor and friend,” who recognized and nurtured Megan’s talent during her years at URI.  She found it no problem to pull together a committee that met her needs.

Directly after defending her dissertation, Megan had her choice of two faculty positions at Boston University: one in Humanities and one in Rhetoric.  Though she specialized in literature during her graduate studies, Megan chose the position in Rhetoric because it offered smaller class sizes and more stability for her  at the time.  When asked how her experience at URI had prepared her for that position, Megan said she had studied Rhetoric with Nedra Reynolds, and learned to teach Composition during her graduate program.  Still, she always thought she would teach literature for her career.  She does, however, incorporate Irish writers into her courses, and every other summer teaches a graduate or undergraduate course in Irish Studies, just to “keep her toes” in that field.  Megan stressed that taking a position teaching writing has allowed her to explore a different path than she ever expected.  Her advice to current URI graduate English students is to keep an open mind about the positions we seek upon graduation.  You never know where they will lead.

I encourage you to check out the interesting work being published in IMPACT, and perhaps think about submitting a piece of interdisciplinary scholarship yourself.

Big Names Visit A Small State

June 19-21 marked the 8th annual Ocean State Summer Writing Conference. Annually, the University of Rhode Island’s Department of English brings together writers from across the spectrum of place and profession for three electric days of learning, networking and practice. From Harvard to UPenn, from RIC to Brown, from California to Florida, from Providence to Bristol, writers of all walks of life enjoy workshops, craft sessions and readings.

Besides the tremendously popular keynotes at this year’s gathering, from Alison Bechdel, Charles Bernstein and Percival Everett, certain events stood out as participant favorites.

Pulitzer Prize winner Ayad Akhtar returned to the conference (after being a keynote speaker at the 2013 conference) and was met with great enthusiasm. One of his events was a conversation with Guggenheim Fellow and Professor Mary Cappello, where they addressed the “turning points” of their careers, their drive and their practice–to a standing room-only group of attendees. Of his former professor from his time as an undergraduate at SUNY/Buffalo, Akhtar has said that Cappello played a key role in shaping him as a writer.

Elaine Sexton and Kristin Prevallet also made a tremendous impact on their attendees. A conversation between the two during the penultimate time slot of the conference addressed a subject on the mind of anyone who has attended a conference before: “What now?” Sexton and Prevallet conversed on subjects like community building, networking, getting published, being employed–important questions, especially to poets. Their insight impacted the group as they both have worked extensively in a variety of fields.

National Book Award nominee and Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, Jody Lisberger had one of the most well-attended events. Her craft session, “Writing or Wanting to Write a Novel or Book-Length Memoir–Strategies for Success” was held in the Agnes G. Doody Auditorium to a group of more than 70.

There were many talented and accomplished writers at the conference in June, and whether they were familiar with the conference from previous years or new to the University of Rhode Island, they contributed to a terrific experience for many of Rhode Island’s writers.