Some students love Wesleyan so much that once their undergraduate years are up, they aren’t quite willing to tear themselves away. This is certainly true of Max Bevilacqua ’12, Emma Mohney ’12, and Kate Thorpe ’06, who work on campus as the Shapiro Center/Russell House Fellow, Ford Fellow, and Teagle Fellow, respectively. Working closely with Adjunct Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs Anne Greene, the fellows play integral roles in facilitating the writing programs and promoting writing at Wesleyan.
The fellowships, Greene explained, were created to encourage talented students to think of pursuing careers in academia and maintain lifelong ties to university life.
“People who have held the fellowships thought [the fellowships] were invaluable in helping them rethink the role of writing in their life and in the University,” Greene said. “I think it’s enormously satisfying for both the fellows and the faculty, who have a sense that there is a mature graduate student to talk to about how to help students.”
Greene added that as the visiting writer programs have expanded, the amount of responsibility involved in the Russell House Fellowship has increased. The position offers a graduating student the chance to gain professional experience in several areas, including arts administration. Bevilacqua, who majored in religion, chose to apply for this fellowship because he wanted to find a clear direction for his post-graduate endeavors.
“No offense to anyone who moved to New York with no plans, but I was very certain that wasn’t what I wanted to do,” he said. “I wasn’t interested in an entry-level position because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I knew that I wanted to do a fellowship: it gives me another year to think about what I want to do next.”
As a junior transfer from Georgetown University, Bevilacqua also felt that he had not quite spent as much time in Middletown as he would have liked.
“I felt that I both wanted to spend more time with friends I had, but also with professors with whom I only had two years as opposed to four,” he said.
The Shapiro Center and Russell House Fellowship is a joint academic and administrative position that allows Bevilacqua to gain experience in teaching and event planning. He runs a creative writing workshop on Monday nights in the Shapiro Center, works as a writing tutor in the Writing Workshop, and manages the logistics of Russell House’s myriad events.
“It’s real-life things,” Bevilacqua said. “It’s made me feel a lot more competent.”
Mohney, who majored in English and French Studies, also chose to apply for a fellowship because it seemed to provide some direction in an otherwise hazy postgrad future.
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew that it was somewhere in education or arts management, or maybe marketing,” Mohney said. “The fellowship offers an opportunity to get a taste of a lot of different things. I still get to interact with the professors who really meant a lot at my time at Wesleyan, and I get to see the campus in a different way.”
As a Ford Fellow, Mohney works closely with both writing tutors and tutees, especially by facilitating the Ford Seminar required of all writing tutors. She is also hoping to revitalize the Writing Workshop’s blog, started by former Ford Fellow Katherine Mechling ’11. The blog consists of writing prompts, helpful grammar tips, and information about writing-related events on campus.
“Being in this fellowship has taught me a lot about what I like to do, what I don’t like to do, what I’m good at, and what kind of office dynamic works well for me,” Mohney said.
Thorpe’s position as the Teagle Fellow is slightly different from Mohney’s and Bevilacqua’s in that the Teagle Fellowship is new and was awarded to her several years after her graduation from Wesleyan. In the interim, Thorpe, who majored in English, received an Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and did a Fulbright year in Germany.
“I was in Germany when I heard about the position,” Thorpe said. “I’d done some teaching as an MFA student and taught a little bit in Germany, and I’m thinking about whether I want to go into academia. I thought it would be a really interesting opportunity to get a base in teaching and have the time to do research. In a lot of ways it seemed like a really wonderful opportunity to think about and process the kinds of questions I have, and further develop those questions.”
The Teagle Fellowship is funded by the Teagle Foundation and is a two-year-long fellowship. The Wesleyan Writing Programs website describes it as follows:
“The grant supports a collaborative initiative between Wesleyan University and Amherst College designed to enhance the teaching of writing and to develop a means of assessing the effectiveness of strategies for teaching writing.”
As the Teagle Fellow, Thorpe conducts a weekly seminar with faculty members focusing on strategies for teaching writing, in addition to working with students completing the Writing Certificate, helping to plan the Writing Program’s events, and teaching a seminar class called Creative Criticism and Inquiry: Writing Documentary Nonfiction and Poetry.
While Thorpe is considered a member of the University’s staff, Mohney and Bevilacqua are considered non-degree-seeking graduate students. As such, they are able to take one class per semester alongside the duties of their fellowships.
“It’s a great opportunity to take those one or two classes you just didn’t get to take,” Bevilacqua said. “It’s different. You’re not in college anymore. Even though you’re here, you work at a full-time job. That’s been an interesting adjustment.”
Because the fellowships only last one year—or, in Thorpe’s case, two—Bevilacqua, Mohney, and Thorpe must look ahead even as they fulfill their duties as fellows. Bevilacqua’s immediate plans entail working abroad, most likely in Israel, for a counterterrorism think tank; Mohney hopes to either teach English in France or pursue a job in publishing; and Thorpe plans to earn her PhD.
The fellows describe their experiences as a bridge between life as a student and life in the real world; the positions offer them the opportunity to gain experience—potentially more than they would in entry-level positions—in a familiar environment.
“It’s only a year,” Bevilacqua said. “It’s a learning experience.”