Comparative Literature Doctoral Student Amena Moinfar
My advisor, Dr. Lisa Moore brought the program to my attention. She introduced me to Kelle Martin who became my intern. I was very enthusiastic at the idea of offering guidance, advice and support to him. I did not have a mentor when I was an undergraduate in France. Being from a mixed-heritage background it was not always easy to feel included and accepted. By being part of the internship program this semester, I tried to think of all the questions I had myself as an undergrad and never had answered. By embarking on the journey of the mentorship, I always remembered what I had lacked as an undergrad in terms of support and encouragement.
My intern Kelle Martin never hesitated to ask me questions about my experience as an undergraduate. I was constantly impressed by his determination to go to graduate school and to find the best suited experience he would need to keep on studying theatre and apply his passion to give it back to his community. Early on during the internship and inspired by Dr. Moore, Kelle sent me an essay on how he saw himself as an undergraduate and what he was seeing himself achieve in the future. In a beautiful prose, he achieved a strong sense of determination and stamina. During our regular meetings, Kelle was always eager to learn about my experience as a 4th year Ph.D. student. He came to observe the class I teach twice.
Thanks to the generous support of the IE program, Kelle and I were able to go to the ACLA (American Comparative Literature Association) annual meeting in Puebla, Mexico in April 2007. It was wonderful to be able to travel with Kelle and he had the opportunity of meeting other scholars at different levels of their scholarship. They were all of course former graduate students now professors. They were impressed to learn that he was an undergraduate doing such an internship, and at several occasions they expressed how fundamental this internship was. They also wished they had had a similar opportunity when they were undergraduates themselves.
The diversity of panels offered at the ACLA was not only impressive but also extremely encouraging. Indeed, it showed a growing scholarship and genuine interest in fields and topics that until recently were marginalized and relegated to minor subfields. I honestly think that it was amazing for any undergraduate envisaging Graduate School in Literature to actually be a primary observer of what the field offers in terms of scholarship and interest. The conference was divided into "seminars" that were composed of panels taking place over at least two consecutive days. I was to present my intervention "Que de sang dans nos mmoires! A Notebook to Remember in Daniel Maximin's L'isol soleil" in the session entitled "Re-thinking and Re-writing Slavery" that began on Friday, April 20th and ended on Sunday, April 22nd. My paper dealt with the Guadeloupean slave uprising led by Louis Delgrs against the enforced reestablishment of slavery in French Caribbean by Napolon the first. Discussing L'isol soleil provided a very encouraging Q/A session and triggered deeper reflections on the issues Maximin develops.
Kelle attended the seminar with me. I think this presented an amazing opportunity to observe how graduate students professionalize themselves. Because the seminar was so collegial, we were also able to socialize with the scholars in it. To attend such a conference in such an atmosphere of respect and collegiality contributed to the success of the internship since it presented the rewarding aspect of graduate school: knowing people in your field outside your program, establishing human and humane rapports.
By traveling to Mexico, discovering a beautiful and rich culture, speaking Spanish on a daily basis Kelle had the exceptional experience to broaden his already open mind. More importantly, by meeting other graduate students and scholars eager to share their experience as former graduate students, Kelle had the wonderful opportunity to learn about different experiences on graduate school. I could see how we both learn a lot from each other: Kelle definitely has an even more self-confidence and presence that blossomed in Mexico where he was always proud to affirm he was part of an internship; I because by mentoring Kelle felt useful, rewarded and even more confident in my desire to become as much a teacher as a mentor and advisor.