French and Italian Doctoral Student Meredith Wright
I met Shonge last semester when she enrolled in my lower-division French course. I am fortunate to teach a fast-paced course filled with excellent students and Shonge stood out in this environment for a number of reasons. She is very hard working student who participated willingly and eagerly, asked well thought out questions, and genuinely derived enjoyment from the process of learning a foreign language. As a result, I have nominated her to receive the "Outstanding Student Award" for this course, handed out at our yearly departmental awards ceremony in May. In addition, Shonge is a highly involved student in the university community. She dedicates a good deal of time to the African Student Association, holding at least two officer positions since last September. In terms of her background, her family is from Zimbabwe and her father holds a PhD in Economics. After learning about the Pre-Graduate Internship (via emails and posters), I approached Shonge to see if this would a program that would interest or benefit her. As a very bright individual interested in graduate school, we began our work by outlining her responsibilities for the following semester.
This spring, as part of this program, Shonge has been a part of a number of activities that have hopefully given her a more practical understanding of graduate life and accompanying duties. First, Shonge attended a number of colloquia offered by the Department of French and Italian as well as other presentations in conjunction with the Center for African and African American Studies. These colloquia involved "job talks" for potential professor hires. At every one of the several presentations given, Shonge had the opportunity to see first hand how a department collaborates in the hiring process. The reactions to the various talks gave her insight into what makes a successful candidate - their poise, professionalism, and ability to respond to questions under pressure. I also filled Shonge in on my role to collect graduate student feedback to present to the chair. Second, Shonge assisted me in the running of the Fifth Annual FIGS Conference. As a co-chair of the conference, I began organizing the event last fall. This semester, Shonge attended meetings with the chairs to see first-hand the dynamics of handling the conference. Given that Shonge and I did not travel to a conference, I was pleased to have her see the behind-the-scenes work that goes into one: coming up with a concept, advertising the call for papers, arranging a space, soliciting a keynote speaker, facilitating his/her stay, organizing social events, receiving and assessing abstracts, writing a program, encouraging participation, handling breakfast and lunch for the participants, greeting the participants, and finally, problem-solving along the way. Lastly, Shonge was also able to attend graduate level classes. One of the professors on my dissertation committee, Professor Jennifer Wilks, agreed to have Shonge come to her class. I had previously taken the class I have no doubt that Shonge was able to see intense and enthusiastic discussion and witness the type of critical thinking and argument formation necessary in practically any field.
In sum, there were a number of motivating factors that inspired me to undertake this program. I had the fortune of having a perfect student for the program to be sure, and I also have come to understand and appreciate the value of mentorship in my own studies. I know that to expect solid mentorship as I write my dissertation, I need to be able to learn about how to provide that to my own students. Being a part of this program will definitely help me when seeking and providing mentorship in my future as a scholar and educator.