In 2011, I decided to return to the University of Michigan-Flint for a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies. It was difficult choosing between a Master of Arts in English and the Liberal Studies degree. What I really liked about the MA in Liberal Studies, however, was that it would allow me to pursue different areas of research than I had as an undergraduate in the English and History programs. The Liberal Studies program is truly interdisciplinary, with coursework options in Political Science, Women’s Studies, Linguistics, Sociology, and more.
I was able to take a range of fascinating courses, including “Women and Work,” “Discourse Analysis,” and “Multicultural Women’s Literature.” The former two expanded my research interests, while the latter provided me with a theoretical framework for my current research in postcolonial literature. Specializing in American Studies was not only advantageous for my teaching career, but it also grounded my work on race and gender in speculative fiction in a critical consideration of race and gender in the United States.
Initially, returning to university studies was a challenge. I had been teaching and raising a family since graduating in 2006, and going to school part-time while teaching and tutoring part-time was hard. What made the transition easier was the guidance of Dr. Jan Furman, one of my favorite professors from undergrad, and the director of the Liberal Studies program. Soon I began to consider full-time coursework, and applied to various scholarships available through both the University of Michigan-Flint and the Rackham Graduate School, of which the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies is a part.
The support of Dr. Furman and other professors with whom I had worked, as well as my increasing dedication to developing a sound plan of study through the encouragement of the faculty, resulted in the success of my applications. Dr. Alicia Kent was particularly supportive of my application to the Center for Education of Women fellowships. I also had the opportunity to apply for and receive the Frances Ann Frazier travel grant to present a paper written for the Liberal Studies program at a national conference, and to complete a research assistantship with professor emeritus of English, Dr. Tom Foster. Furthermore, work study allowed me to gain valuable experience in postsecondary student services with Financial Aid and the Student Success Office, which I have applied to my work in the Centre for Career Action and Student Success Centre at the University of Waterloo.
Additionally, my peers in the program came from various fields, so I was taking courses with and learning from others employed in secondary education, as well as University of Michigan-Flint student services employees.
The experience I gained through the rigorous coursework and thesis option, as well as the scholarship and travel grant applications, gave me confidence to apply for PhD programs. Dr. Furman worked with me closely in examining the strength of various programs and in applying to scholarships and fellowships. I began my PhD in English Language and Literature at the University of Waterloo in 2014.
Since then, University of Michigan-Flint professors and mentors have advised me on matters from selecting an area of focus for my comprehensive exams, to diversifying my experience for post-PhD employment.
I am truly glad to have completed my Master of Arts in Liberal Studies degree at the University of Michigan-Flint.
-Meghan Riley, Liberal Studies (MA) Graduate