English Pre-Grad Intern Carlos Morales
My experience with the IE internship has been wholly beneficial. From the onset of my undergraduate education I always questioned the possibility of graduate school, and through the program I was able to get a glimpse of what graduate school entails. Every event hosted by the IE program helped me to understand another aspect in the graduate school process. I am currently more aware of, and prepared for, the daunting task of applying for graduate school. Additionally, I was able to find new areas of interest.
Because of the IE program I've been able to have a more astute comprehension of both the field of academia, and more importantly, of myself, what I want to do, and the directions I need to take.
At the beginning, my mentor and I set up a syllabus that consisted of attending some of his graduate classes, and working on a research project. After a month, I was able to sit on a couple of my mentor's classes, one that he teaches and one that he's taking. The first class that I sat in on was the rhetoric class he teaches. What I enjoyed most about this experience was being able to hear my mentor talk about his lesson plans and then see them executed. Although it seems hard to get your student's attention, the overall process of education seems worth every bit of it. The other class I saw it on, Jake's graduate class, was in Victorian Literature. The immediate difference between an upper-division class and a graduate course is the size; I was in a room with about ten other people, and unlike some of my classes, there was a healthy amount of in-class participation. What I enjoyed most about this experience was the level and the zeal at which the graduate students talked with. One of the classes I sat in on was during their research proposals.
This one class is what helped me the most during my internship, because it portrayed the caliber of a graduate school education. All of the students had thoughtful research topics, and hearing their ideas made me think differently, not only when thinking of research possibilities, but when reading literature as well. Another thing I learned was the many facets of graduate school; there were so many opportunities and options. It seems ironic that as you specify your area of concentration that the variety of your studies increases, but that's what it appears to be like. That idea of specificity is another important area I've discovered during my internship with the IE program. So in my research I sought that specificity. The discipline I undertook was in English, and with the help of my mentor, Jake Ptacek, I was able to create a research project that sought to uncover the relationship between the literature of the colonizer and the colonized. While I always found literature to be interesting, I never really thought about researching the works, and not really focusing on the interrogatives, but focusing on the social and cultural implications that are being discussed and that are being created.
The IE events that were held, also provided me with the means of handling the application process of graduate school, and helped me better understand everything I could learn without actually having entered graduate school. For example, the Q and A session with the professors and graduate students gave me insight from those who've been through, and are going through, the process. Throughout the panel sessions and through my own interview with two UT professors, I found there to be a consistency in their testimonies; to withstand graduate school and become a professor it takes a myriad of traits: determination, perseverance, and dedication. This seems to be the main sets of characteristics needed; that, and the ability to receive criticism well, because it only helps to further your education. To, be completely honest, I never was good at another critiquing my work, so the IE program made me realize that it's something that I will need to develop and work on. In the meetings, especially the first one, it was comforting to see the varying disciplines and varying projects that everyone was undergoing. The different ideas that people were coming up with influenced me to not only think outside of the box, but to really concentrate on how to approach my research project.
Another great experience with the IE program was seeing all of the available resources for undergraduates in pursuit of a graduate education. Professor Cherwitz, Ruby Morua, and Jessica Kemp offered a multitude of resources for us undergraduates, and because of that I was able to get closer to my decision. So much more goes into the graduate school process than just saying "yes, I want to attend graduate school," or "no, I don't want to." It involves a financial breakdown: realizing how much of your income you can allocate towards school and how much in outside money, scholarships, grants, loans, you'll need. It also involves testing requirements: taking your GRE your GRE II (in some cases), preparing for these tests, and finally, knowing what's to be expected and covered on the tests. As soon as I realized all that was involved, aside from saying "yes, I want to attend graduate school," I thought I would never be able to follow through with the processes. But because of the IE program and the education sessions over the GRE, financial concerns, and graduate school in general, I feel more equipped and prepared to tackle what may come next.
Overall, my experience with the IE program has not only been worthwhile one, but a crucial component in my undergraduate education, as well. When I first heard of the program I wasn't completely sure of whether I would want to go through with it. Because of my uncertainty, I decided to read up on the program. I saw basic theory behind IE, saw the kind of work that was involved, and read the testimonies of students who previously undertook the program. All of the students interviewed got something beneficial from the program, there were no negative reactions. With that in mind, I knew the IE program would offer a multitude of experiences, and for every student the IE program has something different to offer. What I got out of it isn't necessarily what another will. That's the beautiful thing about the IE program; it recognizes the student body, undergraduates, not as a homogeneous collective, but heterogeneous one, and acknowledges that, acts accordingly, and provides a unique experience for everyone.
UPDATE (2011): "Come fall 2011 I will be attending The University of Texas at Austin for my master's degree in Journalism. But how fall '07, the year I began my undergraduate at UT, turned to fall '11 -- and just exactly how I decided to continue my education -- is a long story, so let's rewind the clock a bit. I was the typical freshman, unsure of most things; however, I knew I wanted to major in English literature. That was the first pivotal step that lead me in the direction towards the Intellectual Entrepreneurship (IE) program headed by Professor Cherwitz. In my first upper-level English course, my TA, Jake Ptacek, brought the IE program to my attention and believed that I had the capacity to undertake such a program. From there I worked with Jake on a research project and he helped facilitate the graduate school application process.
Through IE I learned not only that I wanted to continue my education, I learned that it wasn't impossible. One of the most reassuring things of IE is the diversity of the participants: The students come from all walks of life and varying disciplines. What results from this is not only self-assurance, but the emphatic belief of, "Yes, I can!" At the end of Fall '09 (the year I undertook the IE program), I turned in my last assignment to Professor Cherwitz, but I never really left the IE mentality behind -- and more importantly, IE never left me behind; it continued to help me in varying avenues of academia. Jake and I remained in contact and as my deadlines for my applications approached, he was there to help. And, sure enough, so was Professor Cherwitz and the IE Consortium. This altruistic mentality of IE influenced me to give back to the community that helped me and in my senior year I joined the nascent group, IE Citizen Scholars. Our aim is to promote IE, and extend its reach on campus, Austin, and the nation. So that's what brought me to Fall '11. What is the greatest IE experience I walked away from? Well to be honest, I don't think I can adequately pinpoint a singular moment, but rather a span of time, from when I first entered the doors of IE and until I received my diploma. IE captivated the second half of my undergraduate and like the catalyst it is, made me realize the latent potential that we all have to succeed. Sometimes all it takes is a little nudge in the right direction. In the fall, I hope to continue my ties with Professor Cherwitz and IE, and I hope that I, too, can give a young undergraduate that little push they need."