Last night marked the inaugural reading of the annual Visiting Writers Series, put on by the MFA Creative Writing Program, the English Department, and a slew of sponsors whose aim is simple: Share good writing. I have been to several of these readings in the last couple of years, all of them worth attending, but I was particularly excited to hear Ansel Elkins share her work.
Allow me to geek out for a moment: Ansel graduated from the UNCG MFA program in poetry in 2009 and immediately went on to gather accolades for her writing. Not only has she been published in various journals, magazines, and collections, she has received prestigious fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the American Antiquarian Society. Oh, and she won the “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize. The woman has mad skills.
At yesterday’s reading from her first book, Blue Yodel (which won the very impressive Yale Younger Poets Prize–didn’t I mention?), Ansel proved that, at the heart of things, she loves what she does. She read with sincerity and poise, her eyes on her audience and her chin uplifted as she gave voice to a range of female speakers embracing their innate sensuality, wildness, strength, and vulnerability. The poem “Ghost at My Door” took on the haunted grief of a mother whose child goes missing; “Real Housewives” was a humorous and biting depiction of female rivalry; “The Girl With Antlers” shook the audience with its majestic assertion of power and beauty.
Ansel herself, when not captivating her audience with her poems, proved bright, cheerful, and excited to return her old stomping grounds at UNCG, where, as she noted, she began her career as a writer. She joins the MFA program this year as a visiting assistant professor, completing a cycle of engagement with the UNCG writing community that highlights not just how immersive and impactful the culture at this school is, but also how supportive and successful its graduate degree programs can be.
Several times this week I’ve read tweets from students who call UNCG home, and I’ve seen the phrase “Spartan Pride” over and over. Until today, I didn’t think about what those words–“home” and “pride”–actually mean.
Don’t get me wrong–I have been waiting years to return to UNCG and continue my education. I graduated in 2011 with my BA in English, and I’m back now for an MFA in Creative Writing. Obviously I love this place. I worked on campus during the interim, so I never really forgot what UNCG was like, particularly in August during the simultaneous peak of summer and start of the new academic year, with its attendant swell in heat and student life. In the last four years, I knew all this was still going on, but it was an intellectual sort of knowing. I was still proud of my alma mater, but it was a peripheral affection instead of a true sense of community.
Now I once again roam the halls (and the pedestrian crosswalks) as a student. Simply put? It changes things. As an employee I didn’t absorb the frantic energy of a Monday between 11:50am and 12:00pm, when classes change over and all the students pour into and out of buildings just as the driving population of greater Greensboro unfortunately chooses Spring Garden Street as a through-way on their lunch breaks. That energy didn’t fuel me on my way across the campus, bumping elbows with everyone bustling around me. But now it does. A simple identifier–student–changes the way I carry myself, the way I notice quotidian details, the way I connect to my surroundings.
Becoming a student again hasn’t magically changed UNCG into Narnia for me. The class schedules, the inconvenient traffic patterns, the ebb and flow of students trying to make or escape class on time–these are all the same as they’ve always been and probably will always be. But they hold meaning for me now in a way they haven’t for years. The very essence of who I am has been tied to UNCG since I was a freshman in 2007. I’m almost afraid to think of what my world will be like when I finally do step off this campus for the last time.
But this is a beginning, and I’m not worried about that yet. For now, I’m proud to be a Spartan. And for now–for the first time in years–I’m home.
Michelle Rosquillo, GA
In her opening address this morning at the 124th State of the Campus Address, UNCG Provost Dr. Dana Dunn enumerated the highlights of the past year, including groundbreaking expansions such as the construction of Spartan Village on Lee St, a dormitory built specifically to accommodate the rapid increase in freshman numbers. She also made special mention of the downtown Union Square Campus project–a partnership between UNCG, NCA&T, Guilford Tech, Cone Health, and others–that is slated to become a state-of-the-art medical facility and training ground for nursing education and healthcare professions, including the Doctor of Nursing Practice.
Dr. Dunn presented an outpouring of state and national rankings in which UNCG made prominent appearances, among them (for the 17th year in a row, as she pointed out) Princeton Review’s list of best colleges in the nation; US News and World Report, ranking UNCG’s School of Education program in Counseling and Educational Development as #2 in the nation; Ohio State University’s recent report which puts UNCG’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies at #7 nationally; and Bloomberg’s 2013 ranking of the Bryan School of Business at #13 in the country. Perhaps the most impressive number thrown out, however, was $1 billion–that is, in a statewide study conducted last year, UNCG’s economic impact on the Triad area was estimated to be around $1 billion.
As prestigious and renowned as UNCG has become among our local and national communities of higher education, it is imperative that we feel secure under the guidance of a strong leader, a figure whose vision for the students and faculty is limitless and unequivocal. This past year began the search for a successor to former chancellor Dr. Linda Brady, which culminated in the appointment of Dr. Franklin Gilliam. When Chancellor-Elect Gilliam took the stage, he spoke of “the legacy of opportunity, of engagement with our community, of commitment to social justice” that he sees as hallmarks of UNCG’s history dating back to its infancy as the Woman’s College in the early 20th century.
Dr. Gilliam’s passion for higher education and keen awareness of the challenges faced by the institution was evident in every word he spoke. He acknowledged the growing crisis of student debt and the impact of debt on students’ choices of profession, pledging to “seek external support” for student tuition in the form of fellowships and scholarships. He also spoke on the very real phenomenon of states reducing support for public education, citing a 23% decrease in North Carolina funds per capita between 2008 and 2015. His quirky, upbeat nature signaled his intention of tackling the statistics head-on in a bid for greater investment in public and higher education.
The audience responded well to Dr. Gilliam’s humor and articulate observations. As he stepped away from the podium, joking that he’d been advised not to do so, the assembly laughed in appreciation while he launched into what was no less than a lecture–kinetic, emphatic, and worthy of any anthropology instructor–on the culture of higher education.
Calling culture “the most important component of any successful organization,” Dr. Gilliam explored his most treasured cultural values, such as collaborating for the benefit of the “shared fate” of the university, holding a common standard of excellence, remaining accountable and innovative (“Think like we’re working at a start-up…without the ping pong tables,” he advised), and maintaining a level of transparency (a point met with an immediate round of applause) and inclusion from the top down.
His last point? To have fun. Addressing the question of how to maintain a work-life balance, Dr. Gilliam grinned and declared to much laughter, “We’re in college! We should get joy out of this.”
He closed his speech by returning to the podium and, simply and sincerely, asking for the help of his colleagues, the faculty, the staff, and the students in addressing the challenges presented and continuing to achieve and promote the outstanding quality of education that has become synonymous with UNCG’s name. Pointing to the main screen which advertised the title of the assembly, Chancellor-Elect Gilliam stated, “One hundred twenty four years. We’re not going anywhere. We are here. We’re part of this community.”
To watch recordings of Dr. Gilliam’s speech, click here.
After weeks of registration, two qualifying rounds, and one grueling finale, the Three Minute Thesis winners have finally been announced:
First Place ($1,000, plus travel and accommodations to New Orleans in March 2015 to compete in the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools regional competition representing UNCG):
Matt Marshall, Biology: “The Genetics of Thermal Plasticity in Plantago Lanceolata”
Second Place ($500):
Rachel Bowman, English: “The Embodied Rhetoric of United States Marine Corps Recruit Training”
People’s Choice ($250):
Derek Shore, Chemistry and Biochemistry: “The Unprecedented Therapeutic Potential of Biased Agonists”
On November 18th, the ten finalists met in the Alumni House’s Virginia Dare Room to present their research as succinctly and coherently as possible while five judges took notes and a timer showed each precious second that passed. The room was full, the weather was cold, and even though I served merely as a spectator, I couldn’t help but feel nervous each time someone’s name was called on stage.
Throughout the competition, the contestants not only showed a tremendous ability to speak in public but a full understanding of their research. As Dr. Laura Chesak, who moderated the event, said: “I wouldn’t want to be in the judge’s shoes.” Everyone performed to the best of their abilities, and ultimately, Matt Marshall, was awarded the top prize.
I got in touch with Matt to find out what the award means to him. Not only was he given $1,000 for winning the 3MT, but the Graduate School will pay for his way to the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools regional competition in New Orleans next March.
Although he made it look easy, the task of cramming an entire dissertation into just three minutes proved, at times, as difficult as it sounds.
“Condensing my dissertation into a three minute long presentation with just one slide was a challenge. Before I came to the final version of my presentation, I went through several drafts of both the slide and the talk. The comments and questions I received from the preliminary rounds and practice were helpful in that they highlighted gaps in my presentation and places where I lacked clarity.”
While there, he plans on using his free time to experience the culture, listening to live music and checking out the Gulf Coast.
“I haven’t visited New Orleans before, but I have many friends who have,” he said. “I plan to use some of the $1,000 to explore the cuisine, and the rest to buy an iPhone 6!”
Thanks to another successful run, the Graduate School will host its third annual Three Minute Thesis competition next year in the fall. All doctoral students will be eligible, so if you’re inspired by what this year’s competitors accomplished, keep your eyes and ears open.
As for advice, Matt poses a simple question:
“What is the point of your study and why should I care? If nothing else, after you give your 3MT, the audience should have a clear understanding as to how you would answer this question.”
Until November 26th, the Gatewood Gallery will feature artwork by eight first year MFA in Art candidates in an exhibition called the “Drawing Marathon.” I had a chance to attend the exhibition when it opened on November 13th and have spoken to a few of the artists about their experiences. Throughout this blog you will see some of the art on display, and for those who want more information or hope to see what others have done, the Gatewood Gallery is hosting a reception, open to the public, between 3 and 5 p.m. this Wednesday, November 19th.
Artist Alex Soler explained the “Drawing Marathon” process and how the work was completed. (Note: it does not sound easy.) During the first month of their time at UNCG, all first year MFA art students met for “full eight hour drawing sessions on all Fridays and Saturdays…the ‘Marathon’ refers to our push to draw the entire time up until the group critique at the end of the day.” But if drawing for eight straight hours wasn’t grueling enough, the artists conducted their first several meetings inside the steam plant, a “hot and steamy” place “to warm up our observational skills.” For the last couple of sessions, they were allowed to choose where they drew but within the same eight hour periods.
While it may sound like a lot of time, the artwork they produced appears to have taken months, not hours, to complete. I asked Alex about one of her paintings on display, entitled the “Stable View.” She told me: “My fascination with the piece, to be honest, comes from what others see in my marks. I invite everyone’s individual interpretation of my lines and encourage people to share with me what it is to them.”
Inga Kimberly Brown described her piece entitled “Scatter Box,” a series of pen and ink drawings on canvas and linen: “There was no concept fully in what would be the end result…The drawings were a reinforcement of my spontaneity in my new work.” The pieces, which form a square, or box, had caught my attention the moment I walked in.
“I want people to see visions of the artist mind and eye,” Inga said. “I think the viewer will see many different works in the exhibit.”
Carmen Neely, whose work appears several times throughout the exhibit, explained her thought-process behind two of her pieces: “Incorporating text in paintings and drawings is something I’m constantly playing with. Its appearance can create a feeling of intimacy and a confessional quality in the work.”
Similar to Inga, Carmen sees a wide variety of art on display. “I really hope that the show reflects our range of exploration as a group. I personally believe it is successful in that way.”
Each student is working extensively on future projects, but they look forward to answering questions and speaking to the public about the Drawing Marathon exhibit. At the reception on Wednesday, they welcome others’ interpretations and will describe their process in greater detail.
“Each of us worked extremely hard this semester pouring our experiences onto our media,” said Alex. “I hope to share that struggle, learning, and longing with viewers from all walks of life. I am very much into the idea that art is to be shared with others and I am excited for this opportunity to do so.”
In my last blog, I described some of the most important reasons you should sign up for the Three Minute Thesis (3MT). Now that the competition is underway, I’m here to convince you of a similar, yet less anxiety-inducing task: to simply attend (not participate in) the 3MT’s final round on Nov. 18 from 2:30 to 4:30 in the Alumni House, Virginia Dare Room.
On Nov. 5 and 6, the Graduate School held qualifying rounds where participants delivered their theses and dissertations in under three minutes, with some clocking in at an even shorter 2 minutes and 30 seconds. A panel of three judges took notes between speakers and assessed each person on a number of criteria, including comprehension and engagement. At the end of both rounds, students had a chance to ask each other questions in order to learn more about disciplines they may have been unfamiliar with beforehand. I, for one, was unfamiliar with all of them.
For instance, could you explain how exercise affects one’s memory? Or how the U.S. Marine Corps uses embodied rhetoric to recruit new members? Do you know what biased agonists are? Or could you tell me about thermal plasticity in Plantago Lanceolata?
Unless you’re Watson (the talking robot who appeared on Jeopardy a few years ago), you probably can’t answer many of these questions. And while I’m no expert, I’ve begun to think about biased agonists in a whole new way.
Now that the participants have received feedback and time to practice, finalists will be more than prepared to deliver their research succinctly and for all of us to understand. Think of it as the fastest and most efficient way to learn how your fellow classmates have spent the last few years of their lives. Rather than reading their dissertations from cover to cover, hear them tell you what they’ve learned in 180 seconds.
Plus, those of you who attend will have a chance to vote for the People’s Choice Award winner ($250), depending on which presentation you enjoyed the most. The other awards, for first and second place, will come with $1,000 and $500 reward respectively, where the winner will be sent to New Orleans next May for an all-expense paid trip. Winners will be announced at the end of the competition.
So whether you come to learn, to vote for one of the winners, or to see your classmates present years of hard work, be sure to mark it on your calendars: Nov. 18 at 2:30 pm. In the meantime, you can check out last year’s finals here, and we’ll see you in the Alumni House!
Student Perspective by Matt Barrett
Graduate Assistant for Communications
UNCG’s Three Minute Thesis competition is officially open for registration for PhD candidates, and if you can’t decide whether or not to take part, I’ve compiled a list of pros and cons to make your decision easier.
• You can win up to $1,000
• The winner goes on to compete in New Orleans
• It’s free to enter
• You will sharpen your presentation skills and become better acquainted with your thesis
• It’s a chance to see what other graduate students are researching
• There are no cons
Now that you’ve made up your mind, click here to register.
If you aren’t familiar with the Three Minute Thesis, I’ll provide some history: In 2008, The University of Queensland held a competition where students had to present their thesis or dissertation in three minutes or less. After 160 students participated, universities from around the world began adopting the Three Minute Thesis as a way for students to hone their presentation skills. Last year, UNCG got on board, and after several rounds of competition, Connie Albert, a PhD candidate in Information Systems and Operations Management, was ultimately declared the winner. She went on to compete in the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools where she missed the final round by a single point.
Just like last year, there will be three ways to win money. First place will win $1,000; second place, $500; and a People’s Choice Winner (chosen by the audience), $250. Plus, the winner will go on to compete in New Orleans, home of this year’s Conference of Southern Graduate Schools. For more information about the conference, you can access the website here: http://www.csgs.org/.
While it may seem intimidating to condense years of research into just three minutes, try and think of it as an opportunity to present your work to scholars from various backgrounds. Just about everyone who competes is nearing their graduation date, and the Three Minute Thesis offers each department a chance to come together and celebrate their students’ research. One of the best ways to get a sense of the competition, and to see how students present their research in just three minutes, is to watch last year’s final round: http://grs.uncg.edu/3mt/.
Registration will close next Wednesday, October 15th at 5:00 pm, so be sure to sign-up now. We have room for 60 students, and we hope that each and every slot is filled. So what are you waiting for? Will you be this year’s winner?
Last month, I attended a reading by Lee Zacharias, a retired UNCG professor, and I couldn’t help but feel inspired by the artistic atmosphere around campus. Zacharias, who recently published a collection of essays called The Only Sounds We Make, has had her work featured in several literary journals, including some of the most prestigious, and has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the North Carolina Arts Council.She has obviously accomplished a great deal as a writer, and while I don’t want to be self-serving by discussing the MFA program, I think it’s worth noting how professors, alumni, and students are using their time at UNCG to help propagate the arts.
For instance, Ansel Elkins, who graduated with an MFA in poetry and attended last week’s reading, has quickly become one of the literary community’s rising stars. After winning the Yale Younger Poets Prize (which I featured in a blog last semester), she was asked to do an interview with The New Yorker, arguably the most respected literary journal in the world. The interview illustrates how Elkins used the prize to further her career while also highlighting her creative process. Just about every writer dreams of getting their work published in The New Yorker—let alone being featured in an interview—and yet there is little doubt that Elkins’s career will only continue to grow. For the poetry fans out there, be sure to keep your eyes on her.
As for current students, Jim Minick recently gave me a copy of his beautiful memoir, The Blueberry Years, which won the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance’s Best Nonfiction Book in 2011. To put that award in perspective, some of the recent nominees included David Sedaris and Pat Conroy.
But Minick, who is a second year fiction candidate, hasn’t stopped there. He’s written three other books, mostly of poems, which you can find on his website. I even saw a copy of The Blueberry Years at Scuppernong Books in downtown Greensboro, so if you’re looking for an enjoyable read that will also teach you something, head on down today.
Second-year poets are also getting their work published (and at a pretty alarming rate). For instance, Courtney Hartnett, has been featured in several literary magazines, including Burningword, which you can read here. Similarly, Michael Pontacoloni has had his poetry published in at least three journals over the last couple years. One of the poems that truly moves me was accepted by Flyway.
And if you’re so inclined, second-year fiction candidate Matt Barrett just published his first story a few weeks ago in Timber Journal. (See how I slipped that in?)
Anyway, I guess the point I’m trying to make is that the arts are truly flourishing around campus. On September 6th, for instance, the UNCG School of Music, Theatre and Dance presented the annual Collage Concert at 7:30 pm in Aycock Auditorium. The event kicked off “a year-long celebration of William Shakespeare and Galileo Galilei on the 450th anniversary of their births.” Throughout the year, composers, authors, historians, and scientists will present lectures at UNCG regarding the two men, and on October 2nd, the Theatre department premiered “Twelfth Night.” But even if you’ve seen this play before, you’ve probably never imagined it like this: Theatre professor Jim Wren will somehow, someway infuse the timeless comedy with…jazz. For more information about Wren’s vision, you can find it here.
In upcoming blogs, I will continue to highlight the Shakespeare-Galileo performances, so be sure to check back. Also, if you’re looking for a way to stay up-to-date with events around campus and the community, follow The Graduate School on Facebook and Twitter. There, you will be notified of workshops, presentations, lectures, performances, and the list goes on.
Student Perspective by Matt Barrett
Graduate Assistant for Communications
Each year, The Graduate School offers a series of workshops to prepare its students for their thesis/ dissertation while also providing the necessary tools to successfully approach the job market. To attend a workshop, students must sign up ahead of time, and some events have already reached maximum capacity.
With more than 3,000 graduate students enrolled on campus and only 25 – 30 seats available for each workshop, it’s important to note which of these meetings interest you ahead of time. I’ll preview a few of these events throughout this blog, and if you’d like to sign up for any along the way, you can visit the website.
The first workshop I’d like to mention will be held next Friday, October 3rd at 12:00 pm in EUC Dogwood. Called the “Slippery Slope Series,” attendees will discuss what is truly meant by an academic “conflict of interest” when collaborating on research. Many of us are conducting research with our peers, and by doing so, we’re developing our expertise in a given field. Yet there are rules regarding research integrity, and this presentation will attempt to clarify any questions regarding this “much misunderstood concept.”
In a little less than a month, The Graduate School will host two workshops geared specifically to academic fields. While both of these meetings will be led by Dr. Risa Applegarth and Dr. Sarah Daynes, the focus will shift. Those who are pursuing jobs in Human and Social Sciences are encouraged to attend the meeting on Monday October 20th. Sciences should sign up for the one on October 22nd website, and the workshops are meant for those who wish to pursue faculty positions, no matter how many years you have left in your program.
Some events have already come and gone, and attendance has been high for most. One of the most popular meetings, the “Electronic Theses/ Dissertations Workshop” was held twice in order to accommodate the number of students who registered. If you notice this workshop again in the future, I highly recommend attending. Anyone who plans to write a thesis or dissertation, regardless of program, will receive a “step-by-step review of the online submission process” as well as formatting tips and hands-on exercises to create a “Table of Contents, PDF conversion,” etc. As if the prospect of writing a thesis or dissertation wasn’t already stressful enough, you’ll have to closely follow several formatting requirements when submitting your research. Thankfully, this workshop will clarify any questions.
More workshops will arise as the semester goes on, so be sure to check the link periodically. These events are meant for everyone and are intended to provide attendees a “leg up” on the competition. If you have any questions, feel free to email the contact person for a given workshop, and start registering!
Hot Topic: Redefinition of Full-time Enrollment for UNCG Graduate Students — First Thursday: Sept. 4, 2014
Student Perspective by Matt Barrett
Graduate Assistant for Communications
On September 4th, The Graduate School will host its first First Thursday in Room 574 of the Jackson Library. During the meeting, Dean Wiener will lead a discussion regarding the “redefinition of full time enrollment from 6 to 9 credit hours and its implications.”
For those of you who attended last year, you may remember these events as “First Friday” held in the Graduate School, Forest Building. While the place and times have changed, the reason for getting together has not. I went to a few First Fridays last year, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who enjoys interacting with graduate students and doesn’t mind free pizza. Does that sound like you? Good. So here are the logistics:
When? 12 to 1pm on Thursday September 4th
Where? Jackson Library, Bates Collaboratory Room 574
(For more information on the Bates Collaboratory, check out another UNCG blog: http://uncgfol.blogspot.com/2014/07/collaboratory-on-fifth-floor-of-jackson.html)
Currently, a graduate student at UNCG is required to take 6 credit hours in order to be considered a full-time student. Beginning next year, however, full-time enrollment will increase from 6 to 9 hours and half-time from 3 to 4.5. How will that affect your program? While some departments will be unaffected (due to the number of credit hours they require per semester) certain programs will have to consider adding courses for its students to be deemed full-time. Additionally, Federal financial aid often varies depending on a student’s enrollment status. As Dean Wiener informed me, all of the following points will be discussed in detail:
1. How this change will affect graduate assistants
2. How this change will impact student financial loans
3. What changes might result in course scheduling due to this change
4. How to plan for the upcoming changes
If you would like to participate in this discussion and hear other implications, First Thursday offers the best opportunity for you to do so.
One of the best aspects about an event like this is the chance to meet students from other departments around the Graduate School. If you read my blog post on First Fridays last year I’ll start to sound like a broken record, but it’s often difficult to meet students from other departments. That’s why events like this are so important. You’ll have a chance to share your experiences with people who come from entirely different backgrounds and who are pursuing careers you may not have even heard of. Essentially, you’ll have an opportunity to learn about the graduate school in a way that doesn’t involve the pressure of applying for admission. When I first came here, most of the information I knew about UNCG was from my application process, when I anxiously sent in writing samples. Thankfully, First Thursdays offer a chance to learn about the Graduate School on a personal level, and without the added anxiety. So stop by, even if it’s for a short time, and make sure to bring your questions and your appetites!