Written by Alexandra Carter, English Ph.D. Candidate
Because I am currently serving as the Outreach Coordinator for the Tufts English Graduate Organization (TEGO), I have been speaking to a lot of prospective students and answering a lot of questions about graduate student life at Tufts. Not surprisingly, many have asked me, “Why Tufts?” These conversations have, of course, prompted me to think back to that time when I too was a (very) nervous prospective student, and reflect on my own choice to make the move to Boston for graduate school.
Let me begin by saying that I am so glad I chose Tufts. As a graduate student, one meets a lot of other graduate students, and through these interactions I’ve come to realize what a generous intellectual environment the Tufts English Department fosters. Not only are graduate students generous with one another–with time, energy, brainpower, snacks—but our faculty are also clearly invested in our students. I always feel as if professors are interested in hearing from me, helping me, and maybe even learning from me. Doors are always open.
I went to NYU for undergrad, so I’m pretty comfortable being an academic lone ranger. I was in NYC and at a huge university, and that worked for me. Tufts, then, was an interesting transition. Our department is quite small, and when I walk around East Hall I feel like I know everyone—and they know me, too. While I loved NYU, and I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything, working in a small department has shown me how important community is for good scholarship. For example, I am an Early Modernist, and the members of Tufts Medieval and Early Modern working group (MediMod) have been instrumental in pushing my ideas farther than I could have taken them sitting by myself in the corner of a library.
Finally, I have had an excellent experience with the teaching expectations at Tufts. In the first year, PhD students are on fellowship and do not teach. This means that your first year is a time to get acclimated to the program and get used to graduate student life. In my second year I was a Teaching Assistant for the General View of English Literature survey course. This was a great introduction to teaching at Tufts and a nice window into what it would be like to have my own students the following year. PhD students in the English Department teach in the First Year Writing (FYW) program, which is great experience teaching students from across the university (as opposed to simply English majors). What I most appreciate, though, is that I felt like there was a lot of support built in to the program, especially as I began to plan and teach my own FYW class. My teaching obligations are also not so burdensome that I am unable to accomplish my own research and work. There are also other opportunities for teaching at Tufts, such as the GIFT program, that students can take advantage of toward the end of their degree.