Jennie Vaughn: Ph.D. Candidate

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How did you get you decide to attend UA?

I was finishing my Masters in Secondary Education at Jacksonville State University when I decided that I’d like to pursue a PhD. Working in middle and high schools made me realize I wanted to try teaching at the university level. I enjoyed teaching high school and middle school, but I also enjoyed having time for my own research and writing. A PhD in English was more appealing than a PhD in Education which often requires a few years of classroom experience beforehand. A combination of factors influenced my choice to apply to and attend UA. First, I have a family, a husband and three children, and we couldn’t move for me to go to grad school. UA was close enough for a commute. Second, but of equal importance, I really wanted to study and teach various forms of writing.

How did you pick the CRES (Composition, Rhetoric, and English Studies) program?

I love literature, but writing and research are where it’s at for me. The CRES program seemed like a good option because of its diversity. Writing and rhetoric are expansive fields. There are scholars studying and writing about everything from video games and hip hop music to writing program and writing center administration. Folks are studying ancient, classical, modern, and virtual rhetoric. There really is no limit to what you can study in this program!

What do you plan to do with your PhD?

I hope to teach and continue my own research. I love teaching! Working with students is invigorating, inspiring, and fun. It’s also hard work and a big challenge, but I honestly love it.

What would you tell someone who is looking to study CRES?

Do it! The field is exciting and growing. Plus, there are jobs. Unlike many academic fields (especially in the humanities), there are teaching jobs in composition and rhetoric. And, teaching isn’t the only option.

 Did anyone try to discourage you from this program?

 No, not at all. My family has been so supportive. I have had friends wonder why I’d ever want to go through all the work to earn a PhD and some people thought I should stick with teaching high school, but no one has ever tried to discourage me. Maybe they knew it was a waste of their time? I don’t know. I’m pretty stubborn.

What is the most rewarding part of working for the Writing Center and as a teacher?

 Working with students is awesome. I learn so much from my students. I guess the most rewarding moments come when I see someone who has worked really hard succeed. I love it when students who say “I can’t write” at the start of a semester put in the time and work and find by the end of the semester that they, in fact, can write.

What is the least rewarding part?

Like any other job that involves working with people, there are conflicts and challenges. Teaching is hard work. When I started teaching I was surprised at how physically and mentally exhausting it can be.

 Is there one class that you think everyone should take as an undergrad or graduate student?

Honestly, I think everyone needs at least one academic writing course. I majored in English and Journalism as an undergrad, but because of my AP scores I never took 101 or 102. As a result, I never really had instruction in crafting or analyzing an argument. Those are important skills for writing in the university and beyond. I’ve learned those things now. But, I wish I’d had that foundation.

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