I am still elated about the news: I’m going to attend Ohio State University for my PhD!! This is really exciting news and I am still trying to process it all. While I was applying, I knew that while it was me writing my essays and sending my applications, it wasn’t a solo venture. It quite literally took a village. A lot of great people helped me get to this point and I wanted to write a post dedicated to them. Here are the people that helped me get here:
My studies are centered in American Literature, with an emphasis on Comics Studies. (did I ever write about this? I should write a post about this) This is THE GUY. He was my professor during my undergraduate years, and when I started to focus on Comics Studies, he did an amazing job guiding me in pursing this research interest. What made working under him so great came from my background studying comics. The thing is- I didn’t have one. I didn’t grow up reading or collecting comics. When I took his Comics as Literature class, it was like a whole world opened up to me, where I can apply any kind of theoretical approach or cultural study, and there was a comic that immediately spoke to it in a way I never thought possible. When I began doing research and studying comics, his guidance made this world accessible while also welcoming. During this process, his input helped contextualize my essays to help project my interests in the field while letting my passion come through. We’ve gone to conferences together, he introduced me to prominent scholars in the field, and my fluency in this concentration owes a lot to him. If you are a student at CSU Northridge, I highly recommend taking his class- you’ll be happy you did.
During my last year at CSU Northridge, I was awarded a really great scholarship, the California State Pre-Doctoral Scholarship (fitting, right?), that gave me the chance to study under a professor of my choice at any university in the continental US. My mentor (see above) got me in touch with Prof. Alaniz, teaching then and now at the University of Washington. At that time, he just about finished writing a book on disability studies and superhero comics. Once I started working under him, I was in awe of someone whose interests were captured so well in their studies and research. After reading his book, it really grounded me as a scholar on a path for doctoral studies. In a way, that experience paved the road to applying, and now being accepted, to my new program. What I’m most grateful for is his contact and help during the application process. He’s a really busy guy (like, it’s astonishing how busy he is), but he’s still able to make time when I needed his help. Really grateful for that.
If I wrote a sentence for every time this person helped me with something I was working on, the servers at WordPress would melt. Prof. Spratt has been one of the most helpful, insightful, even inspiring, professors I’ve had in my entire time as an English major. I graduated from my MA program about four years ago, and she’s still this really great mentor figure. It’s kinda funny- in my first year as a grad student at CSUN, I was referred to her when I was preparing to attend my first out-of-state conference. Coincidentally, it was her first year working at this university. She helped prep for that conference….and she’s been helping me since. I’m currently teaching at a community college (see below), and when I think about what kind of teacher dynamic I want to espouse to my students or when I’m in a situation testing my teaching pedagogy, I think, WWSD. (What Would Spratt Do?) She’s fantastic- I can’t stress that enough.
Have you ever seen the show Breaking Bad? Remember that scene where Jesse’s girlfriend died, and Mike went over to (literally) slap some sense into Jesse to calm him down? That’s what it’s like to have Prof. Lee give you feedback on your writing (in a kind and gentle way, and no violence is involved- she’s actually really nice). While I was working on my application letters, it was really difficult for me to comprehend the genre that is PhD Application Essays. It involves marketing yourself and writing to a group of people who will judge you based on mostly this essay and this alone. It’s petrifying. While I was racking my brains finding the right words or breaking down during this process, it was Prof. Lee that helped me speak to my strengths and focus on what I need to write that and only that. She spent a lot of time helping me come up with outlines, ideas, and how to organize my thoughts, even when I thought it wasn’t possible. Her help was integral during this process, and I’m very grateful for that.
Applying to doctoral programs while working is a really difficult process. The amount of hours you spend writing, researching, and drafting is equivalent to taking on a second job. Thankfully, my first job is a really great to place to work at. While I have aired my grievances about being an adjunct professor before, it’s very likely that I would not have applied last season if it wasn’t for working here. Almost serendipitously, the people here, the students I had the privilege teaching, the timing applying to work here, and even my commute, all contributed in some unique way that lead up to me applying last Fall, and getting accepted this year. The faculty in the English department became people I came to with questions, as well as people I enjoyed seeing in our shared offices. Also, teaching at a community college as a student who went through the community college route became a kind of mirror when I thought of where I came from and what to think about when writing about my academic career. My students helped ground me as I saw them work diligently to pursue their own educational goals as they sat in chairs I sat in not too long ago. I’m proud of my time here and will genuinely miss this place.
Alycen Ritchie- The Fairy Godmother of Essays
(phew- I owe this woman an island) One of the small life lessons you learn when applying to doctoral programs (if you haven’t before; in my case, I have not) is learning how to ask for help when you need it. The first time I applied, I was really hesitant asking others for help. My applications were my cross to bear, and mine alone. This year, I did the exact opposite- I asked for help whenever I needed it, taking it from anyone who offered. Alycen’s helps during this process was monumental- she helped edit my essays during the application process. All of them. With drafts and hours stacked together. She earned the nickname “The Fairy Godmother of Essays” after getting feedback on my drafts. I felt like a helpless individual, trying my best but feeling futile about the whole process. Then she came and waved her magic wand, and suddenly, magic was on paper. The comments she made were so clear and made so much sense. I strongly feel that my writing would not be where it is now if it wasn’t for her help.
(last but not least) Ray Sadri- My BFF
This is Ray Sadri- we met in community college and have been friends since. We have absolutely nothing in common, don’t have any of the same friends, we live horrendously far from each other, and I can’t figure out how we became friends in the first place. All of that……….and she is one of the best people I know. During this whole process, she was the voice that told me exactly what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it- good, bad, supportive and inspiring, or brutally honest. Transferring to a university, getting my first teaching gig, taking steps towards my career goals- it felt like I was in the ring, taking one hit after another from an unbeatable opponent and she was there every time, rooting for me from the sidelines. I couldn’t count how many times she was there for me during this whole process, and I’m never going to forget it. She is a Ray of sunshine, and I would move a mountain for this girl.
There’s a whole list of people I want to thank, but these are the ones that deserve special recognition. I’m about to set off into a career path where I can honestly state that I have no idea how this will go. But, at a spoken word event a few years ago, rapper/activist Talib Kweli once said “Your Day 1’s is your A1’s”. If these are the people that helped me get to where I am, it doesn’t matter where I’m going, because they helped lay the groundwork for whatever this new chapter throws at me. Thanks to them, I think I’m going to be okay.