An Interview with Karen Sheldon, DelVal’s Quintessential Librarian

By Molly K. Lichtner, 5/10/17

Being a librarian runs in Karen Sheldon’s blood.  She comes from a family of librarians:  “My grandfather was the director of the Salt Lake City public library, my uncle is the director of  the Newark public library…I never thought that I would become a librarian, because they all do.”  When she started her senior year of college at the University of Delaware, she wasn’t sure what she should do with her Bachelor of the Arts in Italian Literature.  Things fell into place (just as they often do), and Karen found herself at Rutgers University’s New Brunswick campus, studying for a Master’s degree in library science.

It turned out to be a perfect fit, especially because of her love of research.  When asked which search engine for researching was, Karen didn’t hesitate: ““…I have a soft spot for JSTOR because it has so much humanities stuff and so much weird stuff.  It goes back to like the 1700s…That’s one of the ones I flip through.  I don’t really flip through the databases all that often.”  She really loves to learn, especially about things she knows little to nothing about.  “…Every semester there’s just something that catches my interest.  Earlier I was learning all about gharials…Maggie [Ligouri] was telling me about it, so for a couple days I read everything about them that I could.”  For those that aren’t sure what a gharials are, imagine a crocodile with a long, skinny snout.  They have limited habitat and are dying at an alarming rate, but luckily because of research and databases, their existence won’t be gone for good.

For anyone that’s ever written a research paper, you know how specific some articles need to be.  Karen has also helped students with things a little bit out of the ordinary, like strawberry juice, but that’s part of the fun.  “…When I was at Rutgers I worked in the business library, and I basically only got MBA students…they always had these ridiculous projects and somebody came in and they wanted to know about the strawberry juice industry in France, but not the public industry—private companies.”  She was eventually able to find something for the student to use (it was in French, but still, that’s dedication).  Karen believes that what makes DelVal’s library special is the service they provide to everyone on campus.

“Unlike a big school, somewhere like Rutgers, you really don’t get a lot of time to spend with students.  Somebody comes up to the reference desk, you give them their article, you move them along.  Here, we can kind of check back in with the students, we see them, we know what kind of topics they’re interested in.  We buy books specifically because we’ve seen someone and see —oh, the sierra mountain frog, or the Sierra Nevada mountain frog—I know somebody wrote about that last year.  I’m going to buy this book because somebody might need it in the future. Or we’re always buying equine business stuff because there’s so many equine people.  It’s based on exactly what we see the students doing.  It’s really nice to be able to connect what you do, not just to the faculty research but to the student.”

Karen’s love of the library and its patrons is obvious, especially when it comes to ending librarian stereotypes.  She’s not one to shush, and would rather encourage students to talk and learn together.

“I hate shushing people.  At my old job, that was the worst part.  I hated shushing people.  It was  at a community college and the floor that the reference desk was on was a silent floor, but it was the only floor with big tables, so it was the only place on campus that groups could meet.  It was just bad design.”

Karen is excited about everything in the library, even the fact that it may be haunted, although she doesn’t believe those rumors.  Rumor has it that Rabbi Krauskopf’s ghost still lurks in his office and around the memorial room.  Karen has another theory for that.  “I think it’s that the air conditioning in the memorial room is the best functioning so that one gets the coldest…I figure that if he haunts the place, it’s because he loves it.”

DelVal is exceedingly lucky to have such a passionate and devoted librarian on campus.  Who knows, maybe someday Karen’s ghost will haunt her old office too!

Business Management, and Fashion Shows: My Follow-Up Interview with Tyler Wombough

A few weeks ago I interviewed my friend Tyler Wombough about his college football career. Since then my classmates have given me some other questions to ask him in a follow-up interview. This past Monday I had the privilege to do this follow-up interview with him about both his major at DelVal and the fashion show I mentioned in the post about my last interview. He laughed when I told him what the interview was going to be about.

Rachel Lyle: What year are you?

He seemed hesitant to answer this question and seemed unsure what to say.

Tyler Wombough: I am a transfer junior

RL: Why did you choose delval?

TW: Football was big reason and the school is only 40 minutes away from my house.

RL: What is your major?

TW: My major is Business management

RL: What are some of the things you do as a business management major?

He had a confused yet thoughtful look on his face when I asked this one but finally answered with this.

TW: Well, I take a lot of management courses, a lot of marketing courses, a lot accounting courses, and a lot of small business management courses. Those are some of the courses I’ve taken after I came here.

RL: What is your favorite part about being a major? Why?

He didn’t take very long to answer this one he just went right into enthusiastically and excitedly.

TW: It’s a field I want to be in cause I want to own my business. It helps me a lot with being in tune with how I manage things, how I do my own accounting, and how I run things.

RL: What was your favorite class so far? Why?

TW: Public Speaking was my favorite class because my teacher Curtis-Beaman made it fun and I don’t mind talking in front of people.

After he said Public Speaking I said that I hated that class and then he smiled and laughed and told me why.

RL: You are on the football team and you participate as a model in the fashion show. How do you your teammates react to this? Do you ever get teased or made fun of?

He laughed a little bit when I asked this question and

TW: No, there isn’t any teasing. Mostly we just laugh it off and don’t really bring it up at all. We all kind of do our own thing when we go out on stage. (He’s not the only athlete or football player who is a model in the show.)

RL: How many years have you been a model in the fashion show?

TW: I have been in it for 2 years.

RL: Which one was your favorite so far? Why?

TW: Last year was my favorite because it was my  first year participating and all the scenes were cool and fun especially the Devils scene. (For those of you who don’t know the Devils scene was an all males scene where all of the males who participated picked a girl prior to the show who they know would be in the audience and escort her to a chair waiting for her on the stage. They would then basically seductively and sexually dance for them or on them, such a lap dance or something similar. All of the males who participated were did this at the same time and they wore no shirt or wore something that made them look sexy. We got in trouble for it one of the males took it a little too far, so we won’t be doing something like that again anytime soon.)

RL: What has been your favorite scene so far? Why?

TW: My favorite scene so far was the Devils scene last year because we each got to show off on stage and go crazy and do our own thing.

RL: Are you planning on being a model in the show again next year?

TW: I will possibly participate again next year but it depends on who is going to be doing it.

Here’s when I went in a whole new direction with the interview.

RL: You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

He rested his chin in his hand with a quizzical look on his face for this one while he contemplated his answer.

TW: I would be a Firework crayon. Every stroke a would be a different color because I’m different and I don’t mind standing out.

RL: If you could be any animal in the world, what animal would you be and why?

He contemplated this on for a little bit but not as long as the one about the crayon. The answer seemed to come to him a little easier for this question

TW: I would be a dog because I would have a very simple life. I would be loved by everybody, get walked a lot, wouldn’t have to clean up after myself and would get to sleep basically all day.

So that was my follow-up interview with Tyler. I discovered with this one that we have very similar answers to the last two questions. The differences being I would choose Sky Blue for the Crayon because I’m not afraid to be different but I don’t want to be in your face about it and I would be a cat because I would get to be fat and lazy and wouldn’t have to exercise and no one would care or judge me for it. I would also be allowed to sleep for like 18 hours a day and not be judged for it.

Psychology, and Penguins: An Interview With Alison Teter

I am a brother in DelVal’s chapter of the co-ed fraternity Alpha Phi Omega. In this chapter of the fraternity we have all different kinds of majors. I am an English Literature major; we have someone who is switching his major to Chemistry; we some Zoo Science majors; we have Small Animal Science majors; we have Zoology majors; we even have a couple Counseling Psychology majors. Because of this connection of being in a co-ed fraternity and being friends with people of other majors, this past Monday I had he wonderful privilege to have an interview with Alison Teter, a counseling psychology major at Delaware Valley University. I got to interview her about being a Psychology major.

Rachel Lyle: What year are you?

Alison Teter: I am a junior.

RL: Why did you choose DelVal?

She was very enthusiastic when she answered this one.

AT: My favorite teacher in high school, my animal science teacher, was a big influence on me. She is alumni from DelVal. I went a tech school and she brought our class here for a tour because the animal science aspect is a big thing here at DelVal. I looked at other schools for the interdisciplinary aspect between Small Animal Science and Counseling Psychology but I only really found it here at DelVal.

RL: What is your major?

AT: I was originally a dual major in Counseling Psychology and Small Animal Science, but that was way too much; so now I’m a Counseling Psychology major with a minor in Small Animal Science.

RL: Why did you decide to become a counseling psych and a major?

AT: Well, um, in high school I figured out I wanted to go into Psychology. I thought was going to be a vet. According to my family my first word was dog but I don’t know if that’s actually true. When I went to tech school I shadowed a lot of Vets but I decided after that I did want to be a vet. I also have many friends with mental health issues who were hospitalized because of attempts of suicide. I was horrible to watch them and to feel so helpless. I decided that never again would I let that happen. I was original a dual major but I was not fulfilling the credit requirement for Small Animal Science. I realized that animals help me to be happy when I’m having a bad day and when I was in high school my teachers noticed and would often do things like let me hang out in the kitten room and do my homework and other similar things. Because of this I changed to Small Animal Science to a minor and I want to go into Animal Assistant Therapy.

RL: What are some of the things you do as a Psych major?

She seemed like she didn’t really know how to answer this oneat first but then she dove right in and answered with a smile on her face.

AT: I go to class. I’m doing student research as a follow up of one of the projects I did. I do a lot of learning and practicing. Psych labs are more often practicing skills of psychology rather than just doing experiments. It’s pretty fun but often it’s terrifying because of the fact that these things can be a defining moment to my career. I do a lot of learning of theories, and a lot of research. I also do introspection; one of my teacher taught me a saying, counselor known they self, it sounds silly but it’s true because if you don’t know your own weakness and strengths your not gonna do a good job of helping others with theirs.

RL:What do you enjoy the most about your major? Why?

AT: The thing I enjoy the most are the professors. They’re just really great people to put it in plain language. They’re open, and so kind.It’s unbelievable that they can be so patient, understanding, and encouraging. I have one professor, who I don’t know how he puts up with me, he is so patient. They also clearly know what their doing.

RL: What has been your favorite class so far? Why?

AT: I don’t know how to answer this because half of my classes have been my favorite class so far. Women’s Lit was great because I love Professor McCal and I loved the material. I just loved the material and the professors in like all of my classes. I love Small Animal Management because I love the material and I love the teacher. I saw her earlier today with some of my friends and she was making fun of music choices because of our pop music and how she can show us what good music is. I loved Multicultural Issues with Dr. Irving because I loved her and I loved how she taught us to think about hard topics. I loved Abnormal Psych because I love Dr. Muchler and learning about Disorders in the DSM and detail oriented it is and how to deal with them.

Here is where I took the interview in a completely different direction.

RL: If you were to get rid of one state in the U.S., which would it be and why?

She was hesitant on answering this one, and she answered it thoughtfully.

AT:If I were to get rid of one state in the U.S. I think it would be Rhode island because it’s the smallest state and the country would least effected by taking such a small amount of land out of it. Whereas if go rid of a stare like Wyoming here would be a space in the middle of the U.S., a big gaping hole in the middle of the country that would disorienting. I also don’t think people realize that Rhode Island exists.

RL: A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?

She laughed as she answered this one.

AT: He doesn’t say anything because he is a penguin and he is not capable of speech, and because Charline stole him from the zoo for that party she was planning and lost him. (For those of you who don’t know Charline is another brother in the fraternity who is basically obsessed with penguins.)

So that was my interview with Alison Teter. We had a lot of and we laughed quite a bit.

Interview with Editor of The Gleaner

By Taylor Blasko

I got to sit down with the editor of DelVal’s literary journal. If you all didn’t know, recently there was a gala for The Gleaner hosted on April 12th over in the Life Science Building. It did a great job of showcasing and having this year’s issue  make a debut to the public. I think the issue turned out really awesome and I wanted to sit down with the editor and find out more what went into making this year such a success. The editor for this year’s issue was Katelyn Lucas, a graduating senior this year.


Taylor: Can you tell me a little bit about what The Gleaner is?

Katelyn: The Gleaner is Delaware Valley University’s literary journal. We accept poetry, prose, photography, and artwork from undergraduate students at DelVal and other universities. We also host a film competition at our gala each year, which we accept both high school and undergraduate submissions for. We pick a winner and they get announced at the gala and get a cash prize. We also do a high school writing competition where the winners are the ones that get showcased in the issue. The goal of The Gleaner is to showcase undergraduate publications and expand writing among the college student community.

Taylor: What was the theme of this year’s Gleaner?

Katelyn: The theme of this year’s Gleaner was “What Keeps You Up At Night?” In the past we have gone with one word themes that have been pretty broad, but this year was unique in that we asked a pointed question.

Taylor: What kind of material was submitted for this broad/interpretable theme?

Katelyn: Like I was saying, because of the fact that we asked a question this year we got a lot of poetry and prose directly asking that question, some pieces even incorporated the exact words, “What Keeps You Up At Night?” into their pieces. A lot of the photography and artwork that was submitted was on the darker/shadowy side but overall I was pleasantly surprised with the array of ideas for photography/artwork. My two personal favorite photos that were submitted this year were titled “Paper Top, Rock Bottom” and “Nope. Thank you :).” Go check them out.

Taylor: Talk to me about the layout and design process of this year’s issue.

Katelyn: This issues concept was based off of the Rorschach test. We were going for a psychological type approach to the layout with this in mind which is why we did ink blots and the black and white theme throughout the issue.

Taylor: What was the hardest part about this issue?

Katelyn: We are always on a time crunch to put all the works in so editing always seems rushed. Once everything is put into InDesign there is a short period of time that we have to make sure that there are no typos in everyone’s pieces. One specific challenge of this year was making sure that InDesign wasn’t cutting off the text at the bottom of pages and eating up full chunks of people’s stories/poems.

Taylor: What is your favorite part about this issue?

Katelyn: Can I say my favorite part was that it all turned out well? Like basically this issue was my favorite issue design and layout wise and I think it turned out really well.

Taylor: What, if anything, would you have done differently?

Katelyn: Maybe we should have advertised the film competition better because we didn’t get that many submissions for the film competition.

Taylor: How did the gala go?

Katelyn: I think it went well. The rooms that we set up turned out really well I think and I’m really glad that people engaged in the Rorschach test room where we had a scavenger hunt type game set up where people had to look through the issue and find certain sentences in works or parts of pictures in the photography/artwork section.

Taylor: Have you decided on a theme for next year’s issue (2017/18)?

Katelyn: Yea, we have. The next issues theme will be “Where are you going? Where have you been?” Sticking with the idea of asking a question for a theme was the consensus.


Overall, it was really obvious that Katelyn was super pleased with how this issue turned out. I think the whole time she was talking about it I could tell she was happy to end her college career, and her career being a part of The Gleaner, with this issue that she is so proud of and put the most work into out of anyone else involved. So for those of you that write out there. Where are you going? Where have you been? Tell The Gleaner, they want to know. Submit for next year’s issue everyone!!

Interview: Rosaria Angela & Her Experiences as an Italian Immigrant in the 1930’s

By: Alyssa Ruffolo

Over Easter weekend, I spent some time with my family and had a chance to interview my grandmother who is first generation from Italy (full name Rosaria Angela). I have always taken interest to other cultures, especially Italian culture because it is in my family and is part of who I am/ my identity. Upon speaking with my grandmother, who I call Nanny, I was able to learn more about the details of her first-hand experiences as an Italian immigrant in the 1930s. Some of her experiences are unimaginable to me as someone who grew up in a different time period and with a different economic status; maybe you will find some of them as fascinating as I do. (I tried to reflect her thick Italian accent by choosing not to correct her grammar, so if you can imagine her speaking in a little old Italian voice, that may help)

Me: So Nanny, how old were you when you came over to America and how did you get here?

Nanny: I was six, and we came on a big boat me and my mom.

Me: Okay and why exactly was it that you came here again?

Nanny: Well, for years we were very poor when we lived in Italy. It was me, my sisters Mary and Francis, and my brother John and my mom. My dad was working over in United States, and for a while he didn’t send no money so we had nothing to eat. Then later my mom heard he was cheating on her in America, then she wanted to come over here and go with him so she took me because I was too young to sign the papers myself.

Me: When you were a little girl in Italy and you were poor without any food, what was that like for you?

Nanny: Oh it was awful! I was so skinny, I remember my knees the bone was popping out of my legs. I could barely walk. Then I got tuberculosis and I almost died at six years old. My mom took my sister to the doctor – Francis, my sister Francis – because that time she was not eating because she was sad about a boy she like. She loved this boy and my mom wouldn’t let her date him, so she stop eating! [laughs] I don’t know why she didn’t worry about me.. I was so sick that time I was dying. I remember the doctor said she’s not eating because she is lovesick. Then he saw me sitting in the corner and he said, ‘Virginia, who’s that little girl over there?’ and my mom said, ‘that’s my other daughter’ and he said, ‘that little girl is dying Virginia.’ And I was, I was dying. My mom couldn’t afford [the treatment], so the doctor said I’m going to take care of her for free. And he save my life. Sometimes I think about what would happen if my mom never took Francis to go see the doctor. I would have died.

Me: Wow… that’s crazy. What did you guys used to do about food?

Nanny: I remember one time for dinner, my sister went outside and picked grass from the ground and we boiled it. [laughs] That was dinner!

Me: Oh my god. I can’t imagine!

Nanny: That was the best part when we went on the boat over to America, I remember they had so much food! I was in heaven! I never ate that good in my life.

Me: [laughing] and so when you came over here, where did you live first? What was it like when you first got here? Culture shock, I’m sure.

Nanny: Yes, I was so scared at first. I remember one time when I first got there, someone knocked on the door and it was a salesman for the vacuum cleaner. And my mom yelled at me to get the door [laughs] I said, ‘Ma, I don’t know English either!’ [laughing] Then we had to go get the neighbor, she was an Italian lady she live here for a while so she told him, ‘No, they don’t want no vacuum cleaner!’ [laughs]. That time people were different though. The whole block the whole neighborhood was all Italian that time. People would come up to you and say how you doing today? You need any help? Now people [are] not like that.

Me: So how did you learn English? How long did it take you?

Nanny: I taught English myself you know that. I remember my friend Lina I used to ask her ‘what that word means?’ on the TV and she would say ‘you know Sarah you’re never going learn that way!’ I said ‘alright okay just tell me what it means don’t worry about it!’ and I did, I learn English all by myself from the TV. I used to practice the words again again like this until I know it.

Me: Did your mom know any English?

I knew my great-grandmom (Nunna) never learned English (although she lived to be 99 years old and lived a good portion of her life in America), but I wondered if there were any words or phrases she knew/used.

Nanny: No. I remember sometime I would ask her ‘Ma, can’t I teach you?’ she would say, ‘I’ll never learn it!’ [laughing]

Me: So you and your dad didn’t get along obviously –

Nanny: OH NO, he was so mean. Oh my god he was so mean. He had eyes so dark like the devil I swear. He was evil what he did to me. He didn’t send me to school. I’m sorry God but I will never forgive my parents for what they did to me. Didn’t send me to school, I would have been so smart.

Me: I know (showing sympathy), it really is a shame.

This is Nanny’s biggest regret, what she talks about most. She always wanted to go to school and being illiterate has caused many obstacles and issues in her life. Some of these obstacles include requiring her to be completely dependent on other people her whole life, never being able to get a good job, and never learning to drive.

Me: So how did the arranged marriage happen? Can you explain a little bit about that?

Nanny: Well, I remember that time I was in the kitchen and I saw this man come over my house and he was talking to my dad, and I said ‘Ma, who is that old man?’ [laughs] Because I didn’t know, and I thought I heard them say something about marriage –in Italian [of course], they only spoke Italian that time – and then she told me I was going to marry him. I start crying, I kneel down to her I said, ‘Please, please don’t do this. Sign the papers and I’ll go back to Italy. I don’t want to be here no more. Please!’ I beg and beg her to sign the papers and send me back. My uncle said ‘Virginia, don’t take that little girl over to that country. She is too young. Look at her, she won’t be happy over there. Let her stay here, I’ll sign the papers and I’ll take her. She can go to school, get a good education, get a nice job.’ I would have been rich! I mean really. What they did to me was awful. He sold me to that old man. I didn’t even know him. I was fifteen and a half he was thirty two. I was crying.

Me: And you got married and ended up living together in New York for a while, right?

Nanny: Yes. He used to make me take the subway. I had to work piecework. That’s very hard you know. We used to sew all day. I have scars from the stitches going into my fingers. I took the subway by myself, and I would come home and he would take all my money. He only gave me bus tokens that was it. It was awful. All the older ladies used to say ‘you look like a movie star, why you workin’ here?’ I didn’t say nothing. They felt bad. He was awful.

Me: It must have been so scary in the city by yourself! I can’t imagine. Did you miss Italy?

Nanny: Oh yes. Oh yes. I call my sisters they said ‘why mom had to take you over there? You should stay here.’ My sisters they had beautiful lives. They travel all over. Francis married a big shot – he was a director from the bank. They used to go to Paris every weekend. Mary too, she had a beautiful life. They married for love. Si I woulda stayed in Italy, I would have too. Get married around 27, 28, go to school, get a good job. My parents they ruin me, I mean really. I should have never came in this country.

Me: What was your favorite memory from Italy?

Nanny: Well, I was just a little girl that time but you know I have a really good memory. I always had a strong mind God gave to me. [smiles as she recalls the memory] I remember one time me and Francis was walkin, and we pass by a little boy (I was a lot younger than her, you know) and I saw them start lookin’ at each other like this, and I said ,’Francis what you doing?’ in Italian. And he run to go buy roses and he came back and he gave them to her and he said, “I’m gonna marry you. What is your name?’ They were very romantic that time. Not now [laughs] boys are not like that now. Francis was so happy. I was just a little girl, I thought they were crazy [laughing] I said ‘Francis, why are you looking at that boy?’

I have talked to my Nanny many times about Italy and her past, and some themes always emerge. She has major regrets about not going to school and not “marrying for love” as she would phrase it. Her parents forced her into an arranged marriage, and he was much older than her. Eventually they had three kids together, including my dad. But in the end they got divorced – they never got along very well, and from what my dad tells me there was lots of screaming in Italian in his house as a kid. Times were much different then. It is mind-blowing to me to hear details about boiling grass and eating it for dinner – that’s truly how poor they were. I thoroughly enjoy listening to my grandmother’s first-hand accounts of Italy in the 1930’s and I hope you got some entertainment out of it as well.

Advice from a Grad Student

by: Alyssa Ruffolo

I decided to interview a student in one of Delval’s master’s programs, Policy Studies. Although this student is not studying my major, I know him personally and trust/value his advice. I also find it helpful that he has experienced two graduate programs, as he is a transfer student, and so he is able to provide a comparison and better describe his experience in Delval’s program knowing what another program was like.

Interview with John Simila grad student

How many classes are you taking this semester? I am taking three classes, nine credits altogether.

What is the workload like? I am finding it fine. I’m not under stress at all… maybe once or twice when deadlines overlapped, but that’s it.

So you transferred from the University of New Mexico’s M.A. History program; how would you compare that program to the one you are in now (Policy Studies)? There was more reading in the other program (UNM), there were more time constraints, and I didn’t even have a job there – besides my graduate assistantship. I work full time now while I get my master’s at Delval. The professors in both programs are very accessible, but at the University of New Mexico I felt more equal to my professors than I do here. Like, professors at UNM would email us, “Read this article I thought you’d like it.” There was more class discussion than lecture. At Delval it’s more of a professor-student relationship.

What advice do you have for students looking into/applying to graduate programs? I would say definitely be open-minded, I think that’s very important. Think before, don’t just jump right in. Take a semester off, start looking into programs… it’s more important than your undergrad, you know? Research, visit, look into the area- you’re not going to be on campus 24/7 so the location is important as far as work and stuff.

Do you think Delval’s program is doing a good job of preparing you for jobs after you complete it? I think I have been gaining a lot of knowledge, but no hands-on experience yet. I haven’t done any legislative drafting or anything like that yet.

Does the program provide you with connections in the professional world? Yes- my advisor will email us about internships, and different professors I have are from different backgrounds so that is helpful as well.

John took a semester off after completing his undergrad, and then enrolled in classes at the University of New Mexico. While he enjoyed his experience, he decided to transfer to Delval for personal reasons. When speaking with him on this topic, he explained that location is very important because most, if not all graduate students are working part or full-time. So, considering your surroundings and securing a job is very important. At the University of New Mexico, he had a readership which provided him with free living and a monthly stipend. Now that he is living at home, he works full-time in the area during the day and takes his classes at night.

This interview was helpful to me in learning what to keep in mind once I start applying to graduate programs. It was interesting to me to learn how different someone’s experience in graduate school can be from one university and/or major to the next. Grad school (at least an M.A.) seems a lot more discussion/opinion-based, rather than lecture-based. I look forward to that type of learning and I appreciate John taking the time to provide me with some insight on this topic.

originally posted: 3/26

Guidance for Grad School

by: Alyssa Ruffolo

Dr. Maisel is a professor at Delaware Valley University with her Ph.D in Linguistics. She was kind enough to participate in an interview with me about her post-secondary education, more specifically her graduate studies and the process, her advice, and how she got to where she is today as a professor at Delaware Valley University. Through this interview I was able to gain an inside view of what graduate school is really like for someone in the humanities field, and learn some tips and tricks along the way as well.

Maisel: [I applied to several] graduate programs; one was the university of Pittsburgh and they offered me an assistant-ship and I took it. And for our assistant-ship we taught English as a second language and we taught at this language academy they called it.

Me: Did you do that during your studies, like you would take classes and do that?

Maisel: Yes they um… we would take our graduate work – I think everybody in the department did that who had an assistant-ship, so we would take I don’t know I think maybe three classes, and um… and then take our graduate classes so it was probably two of them- or three however long I was there, most interesting years of my life. It was just everything I wanted to do. People, students from all over the world were there and at the time the united states was friends with Iran so a lot of the students were from Iran.

Me: Really?

Maisel: And Thailand and Latin America so that was fun and we were young they were young so it was just wonderful.

Me: Wow that’s awesome.

Maisel: So my advice was take as many- as an undergraduate you know, explore your options you like if I hadn’t taken that anthropology class I don’t think I would’ve ever heard of linguistics and I just, I loved anthropology but I learned about linguistics through that. So I got a certificate of teaching English- it was called TOFL then, now its called ESL. [Then] I took a semester off to go backpacking through Europe…So I spent a couple months doing that, and then when I came back I was going to go to Mexico, just for a vacation and then come back and look for a job but I ended up registered with an employment agency on Friday an started working for him – he found a job for me right away I worked for the academy of natural sciences so that was also fun. But didn’t pay very well, so then I started working at a school in Philadelphia and then I went to Penn for my PhD.

Me: What made you go back for your PhD, just to…was it like an opportunity that was presented to you through the work you were already doing or did you just decide?

Maisel: No, I think I.. I don’t know I just always loved college campuses and I thought – I did take some classes – some undergraduate courses in French, but then I thought well I don’t want to keep taking courses that don’t add up to anything, so I decided to get a phd. I was working the whole time though I didn’t take off.

Me: What is your PhD in, is it in the same-

Maisel: Linguistics… So, linguistics is really interdisciplinary so I took classes in folklore and um when it came time to pick a focus, since I was working and married and anticipated children, so I thought I need to work smarter not harder and I met people that were you know 20 years after they did their dissertation and never finished it.

Me: Oh wow.

Maisel: And they would say well I’m ABD which is all but dissertation. Well that’s a big “but”, you know? So I didn’t want to be one of those people so I pretty much looked around to find a professor who was a decent human being and I thought you know I’ll work with him. And I like the notion of languages as codes, so his particular interest was Mayan languages so I thought, you know I like that and the one I did which is Q’eqchi it’s a Mayan-Indian language of Guatemala and Belize, and nobody had really done much with it so um, it was kind of fun because the whole field was open…So I had all this data and I wanted to see what interested me in it. I was just kind of looking at pieces of things in this language because nobody had done much work in it so anything anybody did was new, so it was interesting. It was like a big puzzle, which is what I like about it.

Me: How long did it take you to complete the whole thing? Then you have to write about it ,right? And then present that, right?

Maisel: It took me longer than most people because um I had personal issues and a baby so it took me longer than most people and I was working full time so, but then the school where I worked closed because of finances so I knew that I had to finish this dissertation- I was ABD you know so , but ABD is nothing when you’re looking for a job  so I knew that in order to have a job I had to finish it so um when I – it took me a long time because I had to do so much prep work in order to know what the language looked like you know because id dint know what I was looking at until we got done all that so I think that probably took a year and then um… once I knew what I wanted to do then that probably took another year.. but mine took longer than most because of my personal issues that were kind of a side rail but so..and I’m kind of glad because I probably would’ve never finished it but once my other school closed. Because I mean it was fun doing it so I didn’t – wasn’t desperate that I needed the PhD until I needed to get a job, which, nothing like like that to light a match under you! So mine was fun. [Plus] the university paid for our translator just to make sure we were translating it correctly.

Me: With a degree in humanities, like a PhD in humanities, what other options do you have – it depends on your focus but – besides teaching, what is it usually teaching and research that you do after your PhD in humanities?

Maisel: I’m trying to think… I don’t know because I didn’t look beyond that. I am very fortunate that I got the jobs that I got. I mean one of my college roommates, her daughters both were interested in traveling. And the one was a peace corps worker in Mongolia and the other one got a job with the government – both of them I think when they got their jobs just had bachelors – both she traveled all over Africa and parts of Asia with the AIDs Foundation. What I’m getting at is I think people in humanities… I think the one was an English major and the other one… I know she was in the humanities whether it was sociology or something. So I think what I’m getting at is, I think both of them found what they found by kind of following one interest after the other.

But they both work for the government and they’re both in Washington D.C., so I guess I’m thinking a lot of the humanities – people do a lot of different things but a lot of the people I know who aren’t in teaching are in government work in terms of making the world a better place. So that’s two people I know of who didn’t go into teaching. I think you have to be willing to leave your neighborhood you know. I mean I was not looking – I thought when I was younger that Id want to travel all over the world but, you know once my life turned out the way it did I needed a support system for people to watch my daughter you know while I was working. When I came to Delval I could stay in my house and just work a half hour in the opposite direction , which I was very happy about at the time because I had a support system for my daughter. But I think people who want to do the kind of work you’re talking about need to think in terms of cities and maybe even other countries you know.

Me: You went all the way up to your PhD.; would you say it’s possible to do all of that without help from your parents or loans? Just say you broke off from your parents or you’re an independent.

Maisel: Yes. I actually made money in grad school I don’t know how [laughs]. I made more money in grad school than I did with my first job. It was free tuition with the assistant-ship, plus a stipend so I didn’t suffer at all. I like to eat out a lot so I did that, I mean I was not a suffering student. When you look for a master’s program you do not want to pay for it yourself. You don’t want to study dental surgery just to get an assistant-ship, but I think, \you don’t want to pay for it yourself. I know a lot of graduate schools will tell you what financial packages they have. Some of them are research, teaching – like a basic anthropology course or something, or you might research for the instructor.

Now when I got my doctorates I was already working I already had a job so I didn’t even look for an assistant-ship. That was then, but I know they’re still handing out money.”

I learned a lot from Dr. Maisel in this interview. One piece of advice I especially liked was “work smarter, not harder”. I think this is an important message for students who plan on going into graduate school to reflect on and keep in their memory as they search for schools and later go through those programs they choose. Time is money, and the more research and knowledge a student acquires when choosing a grad school and later a thesis or dissertation, the wiser the decisions will be that she/he has to make.

I also noticed that Dr. Maisel seemed to encourage the idea of going with the flow and following your interests and what you enjoy studying most. When speaking of her close friend’s two daughters, she said, “I think both of them found what they found by kind of following one interest after the other.” When I expressed my stresses and concerns to her about choosing the right master’s program and that I was unsure what I would go for if I ever got my PhD, she emphasized to me that this process is all about trial and error. In a way you have to choose a path, and if it fails then you start back at square one and choose your next route. I like this mindset and speaking with her definitely calmed some of the nerves I have been experiencing as a junior in college who is soon to go onto graduate school.

Another important point to note here is that she says with confidence that she did not struggle financially through school. She made sure to find a program that paid well, and because the university she went to was in a city, travel was cheap and there was always something to do to stay entertained. She says “you do not want to pay for grad school”. If you do your homework, you should be able to find free programs and some that even pay the students. Many of these programs come with a teaching assistant-ship or some other job/task that each graduate student is responsible for completing in order to have their education paid for.

Hopefully these tips will be as useful to you as they were for me. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the stories and experiences of Dr. Maisel as she studied in graduate school. I hope I will find the same success in choosing a master’s program, and if I do go on to get my PhD, find a mentor and dissertation that I enjoy as much as she did. When I asked Dr. Maisel if she would change anything if she could go back, she said no. I hope I will be able to say the same thing for myself someday; with Dr. Maisel’s advice I am sure I will.

originally posted: 2/6