Graduate Student and Alumni Testimonials
Selecting a graduate program that best fits your personal goals is a challenge. As you consider which programs to apply to and ultimately which university you will attend, you will no doubt consider many factors. In the graduate student testimonials below, a few of our graduate students share who they are and why they ultimately chose to join the Comparative Literature Program at UC Davis. Our Alumni also share a bit about their Life After Comp Lit.
Graduate Student Testimonials
James Straub (entered UC Davis Fall 2013) Q&A:
- Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school before Davis?
- I grew up in the South and East bay areas. I studied French and German as an undergraduate at Sacramento State, where many of the language faculty are Berkeley or Davis alumnae. After completing the B.A., I moved to San Diego to work in translation and tech support for a German company, then decided I wanted to pursue my academic interests further and wound up at Davis.
- Why did you choose to attend UC Davis for graduate school?
- I came to Davis for the faculty – several faculty members in the German and Comp Lit department have research interests that overlap with my own, and I thought it would be a good environment in which to pursue my studies. It was also nice to be guaranteed funding for 6 years, which is something some of the other schools I was accepted to were unable to do.
- What is your favorite thing about living in Davis?
- I love being able to leave my car in its parking spot for weeks at a time. I have always liked cycling, but never gotten to live anywhere where I could commute on a bicycle every day. There’s also a great craft beer scene in Davis, especially since it’s a relatively small town.
- What is the topic of your research?
I am working on the political engagement of artists, writers and other intellectuals during the European mobilization of troops in the First World War. My work will explore how economic, political and social factors contributed to intellectuals’ support for the war effort, as well as if and how that changed over the course of the war.
I will hopefully also complete a master’s degree in German looking at the response of the medical community to shell shock in the First World War, with an emphasis on how war neurosis impacted the development of psychoanalysis in Freudian circle.
Zhen Zhang (entered UC Davis Fall 2012): Transcript of videos below
Chris Tong (PhD awarded in 2014): Q&A:
- What was your favorite thing about living in Davis?
- What Davis lacks in comparison to larger cities such as Berkeley and San Francisco, it makes up for in abundance with its small-town charm and high quality of life. Some of my favorite memories of Davis include meeting friends at the Farmer’s Market, jogging on the green belt, visiting the University Farm on Picnic Day, and cooking with vegetables grown by UCD students. If you work in Sproul Hall, you will have one of the best views in Yolo County.
- Do you have any advice for current students? What should they make sure to take advantage of while they’re still here?
- UC Davis supports its grad students very well in terms of academics and services. Consider getting a Designated Emphasis. Learn a new language (or how to teach one you already know). Build a teaching portfolio. Get to know the faculty in Comp Lit and other departments by taking their courses or reading their scholarship. Attend workshops organized by the University Writing Program, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and the Internship and Career Center. What is the topic of your dissertation? My dissertation focuses on the emergence of environmental ethics and aesthetics in early 20th-century China. My secondary languages were German and English, so I was able to discuss German philosophy, British Romanticism, and critical theory in comparison to the Chinese materials.
- Where are you headed now? (Job title, location, responsibilities)
- I am currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at Washington University in St. Louis. I chose this position, because I wanted the opportunity to teach both undergrads and grad students and time to work on my publications.
- Do you have any advice for your colleagues who are beginning their job search now?
- It will feel like working three full-time jobs in Fall quarter when you apply, so you have to manage your time very carefully. Start preparing your application materials in the summer, especially if you have to teach and finish your dissertation during the school year. When you write your cover letter, remember that you are applying as a potential faculty, not a grad student. Your tone should be professional and factual, as opposed to enthusiastic and inspire
Daphne Potts (PhD awarded in 2012)