Leah Fry '10

Ph.D. Candidate in English, UC-Santa Barbara

I entered a PhD program in English at the University of California-Santa Barbara a year and a half after I graduated from William & Mary. I've also held several jobs alongside my current one as an English graduate student and teaching assistant. I've tutored writing at a learning center in a community college and worked as an editorial assistant at a scholarly journal published through Duke. This all suggests that there are many things you can do without an advanced (post-BA) degree in English, but they usually tend to privilege knowledge about successful writing.

The honors program in English was a big plus as I applied to graduate school. It gave me a lot of training for writing long, focused papers on topics that needed to be well researched and argued. Discussion in small courses (the senior-level courses) beyond the honors seminar in junior year were also really valuable, since the ability to speak well is almost as important as writing in graduate school.

As part of my graduate training, I work as a teaching assistant for English lecture courses while also completing graduate coursework toward my MA and/or writing my dissertation for the PhD. I have led discussion sections, graded papers, held office hours, conducted research, and worked on my own papers. My work is split about 50/50: I work 20 hours or so as a teaching assistant and 20 hours as a student. I have enjoyed leading sections of undergraduates and helping them improve as writers and thinkers, and I have learned a lot about advanced literary scholarship.

English at W&M trained me to be a much more successful writer and marketer of my own skills: analytics, close-reading, distilling complicated ideas into coherent writing, the ability to focus on a task for a long period of time. I have found that an undergraduate degree in English helped train me to think critically about literary texts and movements, whereas a graduate degree is about training me to be a scholar and educator in the field. I am filing my doctoral dissertation in English Literature by September 2016 and have been interning at the Feminist Press at CUNY. I hope to use this internship as a launching pad for a career in nonprofit, leftist publishing.