Category Archives: Grad Students

Experience MAPACA

Skyler Gibbon and a group of fellow graduate students attended the Mid Atlantic Popular and American Culture Association conference last November. Read about Skyler’s experiences below! 

Skyler Gibbon at a panel discussion.

As graduate students, we get fun opportunities outside the boundaries of this university… or county… or state. These opportunities often come in the form of conferences — a gathering of students and professors coming to share their work. This often means creating connections and building relationships with people of similar area interests. 

This past November, several English graduate students left for Pittsburgh for a three day trip to the Mid Atlantic Popular and American Culture Association (MAPACA) conference. This took place at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center, which is at the heart of the Cultural District (and also has the best taco restaurant around). We all went bearing different ideas to share, from play pedagogy to hip hop poetics. I presented ideas from my thesis: The Rhetorical Influence and Hermeneutics of Hip Hop Culture. I talked about how “Holy Profanity” and hip hop artist use the sacred to express authentic experiences. I have presented on this topic before, but this was on a larger scale. It was not only helpful to hear audience members provide insights for my work, but to also hear notions of using my work in their curriculum.

There was an array of presentations up for viewing, all organized by specific areas of study – lgbtq studies, film studies, religious studies, game studies, etc… Unfortunately, the presentations overlap with each other, so it was impossible to go to as many presentations as I wanted to. However, I was intrigued by all that I did see. I watched presentations from the beginning to end of day, each day. 

Because a number of the people I traveled with are invested in game studies, I found myself watching presentations in this, which I don’t do traditionally. I am usually to be found in studies involving a typical social justice connection. I am not so familiar with game studies and play pedagogy, so this was a good opportunity to get more informed. I watched professors dress up in superhero costumes in a skit to demonstrate the value of comic book pedagogy. This fed my curiosity while also being quite entertaining. I went in with the hopes of catching my professor looking like Spiderwoman. I was disappointed that this didn’t happen, but she promises that there will be a costume for both of us next year. 

Jason Hertz presenting at the conference.

There was quite a bit of play, actually. As a person who is really interested in looking for ways to build bridges through vulnerability, I was really intrigued by one of the gaming presentations we saw together. The presenter showed us three different games that use love and sex themes to build intimacy and vulnerability between players. Afterwards, Dr. Nicole Pfannenstiel co-led a “parlor games” session, where we played a card game that she and another graduate student co-created. This game was a really fun way of practicing rhetorical skills. The simplest way I can describe it is as a creative Apples to Apples with rhetoric. 

There were a few chances to socialize, as well. There was a graduate student social, where participants played “MAPACA Jeopardy.” Winners received Starbucks gift cards (because what would a graduate student want more?).  There was also a reception and a formal dinner, where leaders were recognized for the labor they put into creating and organizing this conference. As a little outing in the city, I went to see a play production of The Scarlet Letter, which was really impressively done.

Overall and looking back, this was a really great time. It exceeded my expectations. Getting to travel in a car with others to a different place brought adventure to our academia (and laughter). I got to explore a bit of the historically and culturally rich, old city of Pittsburgh. Also, every conference I go to is a reminder of how my work connects with the work of others. I look forward to applying to MAPACA next year (which is in Princeton, NJ), as well as any other conferences that come my way!

If you are interested in participating in MAPACA, do get in touch with either Dr. Nicole Pfannenstiel or Dr. Caleb Corkery. They  will help guide you through the submission, travel, and presentation aspects if this is your first conference.

Skyler Gibbon

Presenting at Boundless: American Lit & Superhero Comics

English graduate student Clark Fennimore presented at the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Conference: Boundless. Read more about his experiences below! 

Clark Fennimore at Boundless

In Mid-October, Millersville University hosted the Boundless Conference in cooperation with the other universities of the PA State System of Higher Education. It specifically involved the Humanities departments. Many panels included presentations by students from these universities, including our own. I was placed on one of the first panels to present. I presented with two other students on topics related to popular culture.

I spoke for about twenty minutes. My own presentation was about American literature from the 1920s and 30s that influenced the later development of superhero comics. Because it was based on research I did for a much more extensive paper in a class I took, I had to narrow down the topic. The paper itself had sections about characters as influences and about genre characteristics developed in the era. I limited my presentation to the characters. Most famous among the characters were Zorro and Tarzan.

This was a rewarding experience in public speaking. I consider it as a short introduction to the format of lecturing. I enjoyed it and hope to have much more experience of this type. I believe that conducting and presenting research are important skills worth practicing, particularly since I am in graduate school, studying English. I consider them important for people in any kind of graduate program. They increase professional credibility.

Something else worth mentioning about the conference is that I listened to many presentations on different topics. This shows great academic diversity within the humanities. There were topics from literature and history among other areas. A major theme of the conference was the interest of humanities in many areas of life. I am honored to have presented in a conference advocating unity within such an area of academics.

-Clark Fennimore

Having and Presenting a Research Regimen in Graduate School

Graduate student William Artz discusses how to utilize a research regimen in graduate school. Read more about his experiences below! 

If one is going to graduate school, especially in the humanities, it is never too early to begin thinking about, and developing, a research regimen. What does that mean? What does that entail? It is really less intimidating than one might, at first blush, think. There are two key points that I would like to make, and ideas that I have followed for some time. Those are: never follow a recipe; and never be condescended to. These have served me well.

All scholars in post-secondary educational institutions have a particular emphasis in their given field of study. This sounds very pedantic, elitist, and just plain scary. It really is not, because if you are in graduate school, you are one of those very scholars. Use every opportunity available to you, to talk with faculty about their academic work, and you will soon realize, not only the true nature of knowledge acquisition, but also, just how addictive advanced research can be.

Though I am currently working on the Master of Art’s degree in English, given my interests, and my thesis research, I align with comparative literature and cultural studies, more than any other aspect in the field of study known as English. At the graduate level, one is able to start focusing in on specific interests, in a particular discipline. To be a bit more explanatory, in English studies there are any number of subfields, from literature, composition and rhetoric, to creative writing, film, and digital media.

Always remember to never allow yourself to be underestimated. If there is anything about which you do not understand, ask. Aside from the vacuous platitude about no dumb questions, there are no dumb questions. You should never feel at all intimidated by any institution of learning. Should not be at all scary or off-putting. If it is, determine why, and then talk with faculty; trust me, they love to talk, especially about their academic work. As you advance in your own academic career and life, it will become second-nature to use every waking moment thinking about ideas for either research articles, or professional academic conferences. At the post-doctoral level, that shifts a bit, in that one adds in the need to write monographs, i.e. scholarly books. All of this is just part of the process, and no matter what your level, there are always any number of support systems available to you. Yet again, none of this information is beyond one’s level of aptitude.

This type of scholarly endeavor should, in essence, lead to either the thesis, or dissertation; guidance and advice from faculty, however, is not only a necessity, but a must. It sounds like I am repeating myself, but is worth repeating: Aside from one’s graduate adviser, any faculty member is interested in talking about their own research interests, as well as, finding ways of optimal navigation through the maze of academic scholarship. It is a process with which to become familiar, and to use to your advantage.

The other aspect of academic scholarship, is presenting that work to others, on campus through colloquia, workshops, roundtables, and Chautauqua-like discussions, as merely examples. It is never too early to start presenting one’s research endeavors, as responses, both good and bad, are all constructive, present as often as reasonable, until you complete the program. If you have an interest in doctoral work, believe me, you will quickly come to realize the value in this endeavor.

-William Artz

A Bloody Good Time

In February, a group of English Majors attended a performance of Macbeth at the Ware Center. Andie Petrillo, graduate student, wrote a summary of her experiences. Check out the Ware Center’s Upcoming Events page for more opportunities to see shows, screen films, and hang out with English major friends!

Millersville English students were given the opportunity to attend Macbeth at the Ware Center free of charge on February 15th. The actors and director also gave a pre-show talk back session to discuss the show with students and Dr. Craven. The People’s Shakespeare Project, sponsors of the show, never fail to produce a great performance. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the costumes created a fresh take on the play. Andie Petrillo, a graduate student in the English Department, attended the show.

I’m no stranger to the People’s Shakespeare Project’s biannual shows. I’ve attended many over the years and I’m astonished every time at the quality of each production. The sets are usually pretty minimal which allows for more focus on the actors and the plot. The amount of talent in the cast of local actors always astounds me as well. What I love most though are the time periods or themes they choose to set the shows in.  This show’s post-apocalyptic theme provided for some interesting costumes that were a blend of period-specific pieces and avant-garde pieces. The actors also brought the play to life. A favorite amongst our group was definitely the drunken porter who brought some necessary comic relief to the show. All in all, I had a great time seeing the show with other English students and I’m grateful for the opportunities like this that are afforded English students!

Andie Petrillo

2019 Northeast Modern Language Association Conference

Millersville Professors and graduate students traveled to Washington D.C. for the annual Northeast Modern Language Association Conference. Maria Rovito, in collaboration with the other Millersville students and professors, wrote a summary of the event and presentation topics.

Andie Petrillo, Dr. Emily Baldys, and Maria Rovito

The 50th anniversary conference of the Northeast Modern Language Association was held at the National Harbor in Washington, D.C., at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, from Thursday, March 21, 2019, to Sunday, March 24, 2019. The theme of the conference focused on transnational humanities, particularly intersections of nations and identity within language and literature. A variety of panels, roundtables, and workshops were held that focused on various kinds of aspects of English studies, particularly literature, rhetoric and composition, creative writing and publishing, critical theory, interdisciplinary humanities, and pedagogy and teaching. Several keynote speakers were included in this year’s conference; most notably featured was the postcolonial critic Homi K. Bhabha, who spoke about the politics of migration and human rights in his keynote address.

Members and presenters came from all over the world, including a few of our own students and faculty here at Millersville University. Graduate students and English faculty presented their research at the convention, including Drs. Emily Baldys and Katarzyna Jakubiak, as well as graduate students Maria Rovito and Andie Petrillo. Each of their presentations focused on different aspects of literary studies.

Dr. Emily Baldy’s presentation was titled “The Sisterhood of Disability Care in Gaskell’s Industrial Narratives,” and focused on disability care as surrogate sisterhood in Gaskell’s first published short story, “The Three Eras of Libbie Marsh.” In her work, Dr. Baldys argued that “Gaskell’s narratives self-consciously resist industrial capitalism’s devaluation of difference and dependence.” Particularly, through Gaskell’s depictions of sisterly relations and disability care, “Gaskell’s texts mount a ‘dependency critique’ similar to that proposed by modern disability theorists, modeling a respect for difference that Gaskell saw as necessary for rehabilitation of industrial system.”

Dr. Katarzyna Jakubiak presented on the politics of translation in her presentation, particularly translating African American Literature in Poland during the Cold War. Titled “We Make Our Own Negroes: James Baldwin’s Reception in Poland During the Cold War and Now,” Dr. Jakubiak’s work focused on the role of James Baldwin’s work in Poland in the 1960-70s in relation to current Polish reactions to Raoul Peck’s documentary I Am Not Your Negro.  She argued that the “past and present Polish responses to Baldwin attest to the power of his voice to impact the discourse of interracial and interethnic relations globally.” Dr. Jakubiak’s presentation also focused on the impact of Baldwin’s work on Polish political discourse: “As Poland’s current populist government manipulates the public fear of ethnic or racial ‘other’ to garner support, Baldwin’s work has again provided a platform for intellectuals and cultural activists aiming to undermine the government’s xenophobic discourse.”

Maria Rovito presented twice during the conference, in a roundtable on African American literature and trauma studies as well as on a panel on ability and identity. Her first presentation, titled “Race and Disability in Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Wilson’s Fences,” focused on the intersections of race and disability within African American literature. Particularly, her presentation researched how race, disability, and trauma impacts disabled characters within The Bluest Eye and Fences. Her second presentation, “‘I Did This to Myself’: Disability and Non-Normative Bodies in the Manga and Anime Series One Piece,” researched representations of disabled bodies within manga and animé. Her research particularly focused on Eiichiro Oda’s series One Piece, and how disabled characters within the series disrupt Western notions and expectations of disabled bodies.

Andie Petrillo presented a poster titled, “Packing a Punch: Satirizing the ‘New Woman’ In Victorian England.” She researched visual representations of the New Woman of Victorian England, and how these images stereotyped early feminists within the later Victorian period. These representations “show a shifting attitude towards a woman’s place in the later Victorian era and are figureheads for first-wave feminism.”

This year’s conference showcased the research and skill of Millersville students and faculty, and presented an opportunity for students and faculty to learn new ideas about literature, provided networking and mentoring opportunities, and gave students and faculty an opportunity to have fun with English studies. Next year’s conference will be held in Boston, MA.

-Maria Rovito

myOwnBody.docx by Maria Rovito

Congratulations to Maria Rovito for publishing a book of her poems!  If you have been recently published, contact Rachel Hicks with your story.

myOwnBody.docx, a collection of conceptual, cyber, and experimental poems, looks at the ways in which bodies are rendered and manipulated on screen, on the Internet, and in real life. Reading on the page as lines of code, chat room messages, and transcriptions, Rovito’s work aims to explore and reinvent the question of the body and human involvement in machinery and technology, shifting the borders between human and non-human.

Maria was profiled on the blog because a few of her poems featured in this collection were published on websites and in magazines. Check out her experiences as a grad student and a writer here.

You can find her book on Amazon.

MUsings 2019 Graduate Publication

MUsings began at Millersville to showcase the research and creative work of graduate students here at the university. We have been publishing work online since 2016, and publishing in print for well over a decade.

All the English graduate assistants of Millersville work on the journal in the fall and spring semesters. Professor Joyce Anderson of English is the faculty adviser of the journal, and this year the English department’s head graduate assistant Maria Rovito is the lead editor. MUsings also collaborates and works with other faculty and staff in graphic design, university marketing, graduate studies, the McNairy Library, Made in Millersville, English, and social work.

If you are interested in getting your graduate work published, submit to the journal. A publication will impress future employers, and if you are interested in going into higher education, a publication helps establish your credibility as a scholar. The journal is both in print and online. If you are accepted into the journal you have the option to present at Made in Millersville in the spring of 2019.

All graduate students at Millersville can submit to the journal, no matter their degree program or discipline. We accept any work that is academic, creative, or artistic. Some examples include academic articles, fiction, poetry, artistic works, and personal essays.

The deadline for the spring 2019 issue is November 1, 2018. Right now we are finishing the spring 2018 issue, and we will start accepting work for the spring 2019 issue in November.

Here is where you can submit your piece and find more information.

Submission Criteria:

  • Maximum two prose submissions (scholarly or creative) or up to five poems or visual works or art
  • Less than 10,000 words in length

Please contact either Professor Joyce Anderson or Maria Rovito with any questions.

Thanks to Maria Rovito for her collaboration.


Student Profile: Maria Rovito

Maria Rovito is a grad student here at MU and works as the head graduate assistant. A few of her poems were recently published on a website called Ex-Ex Lit and in the magazine Brave New World. 

I am an MA student in English interested in American literature and disability studies. I have been a student at Millersville since 2012 and I plan on graduating in May 2019. After that, I hope to complete my PhD and find a job somewhere as either a literature/disability studies/medical humanities professor, or as an editor or publisher. I have also been a graduate assistant to the English department since 2017, and this year I was fortunate enough to become the head graduate assistant. It’s a lot of work but I enjoy working with faculty and students in class and for research projects.

Being a grad student is almost a completely different experience from being an undergrad—not only do you have to complete assigned readings, you usually have to do extra work in order to supplement the readings you are assigned. For example, most of what I have learned about disability studies has been a product of my own independent research: meaning I incorporate this knowledge into my classes, but I haven’t directly learned about it through my coursework. Luckily, Dr. Emily Baldys was hired this year, and I now have a mentor who researches and teaches critical disability studies and the theoretical implications of medicine and medical knowledge. It’s a growing field, but hopefully one day I will get hired and use what I have learned in an academic setting.

My poetry is considered conceptual or cyberpoetic—meaning that I work more as an information processor rather than a traditional “author.” I was a fan of conceptual and post-language poetry before taking Dr. Halden-Sullivan’s postmodern American poetry class, particularly authors such as Matthew McIntosh and Claudia Rankine. I find the Internet to be a fascinating place for the sheer amount of information one is able to find, and this is reflected in my poetry. Who is responsible for this information? Why do we have access to certain things, and others are blocked? I believe the Internet and technology is destroying what we deem to be classic “literature,” as we are writing less for humans and more for cyborgs, robots, and aliens—beings that are considered post-human and postmodern.

I particularly enjoy Kenneth Goldsmith’s concept of “uncreative writing”—meaning a process of writing where nothing is original, and everything is taken from an outside source. Some of my poetry is taken from medical documents, such as the DSM, or from random places on the Internet: government websites, chatrooms on Reddit, or I look at the source code for websites and transform it into code poetry. I find that the author as a processor objectively looks at this information and copies it directly into their poetry—there is no subjective, emotional involvement in conceptual poetry. I have read a thousand poems about grandma’s death or someone’s love life; we don’t need any more. Not to say these emotions aren’t valid; however, I am not interested in universal human experiences.

I submitted three of my poems to Ex-Ex-Lit, and the editor contacted me and said they wanted to use one of my poems in a magazine called Brave New World.

Right now I am more focused on getting my academic work published in research journals, rather than getting my creative work out there. I wrote over a hundred poems for Dr. Halden-Sullivan’s class, and I think I have years of content for submissions to magazines. I’m not sure how helpful getting creative work published is for literature and critical theory academics. I think the more diverse my skills are, the better chance I have of landing a solid academic job. I submit abstracts to as many conferences and journals as I can in the hopes that my research is making a positive impact on the discipline. I don’t think I’m the future Foucault or Derrida, but I do think my work is challenging traditional notions of what we call “literature” and all its implications.

Maria Rovito

MUsings: The Graduate Journal

The publication of MUsings: The Graduate Journal showcases the academic work of graduate students at Millersville University. The journal invites students to present highlights of their work in a venue that bolsters career-building experiences and celebrates their scholarly efforts. Graduate students from the English department serve on the Editorial Staff. Each issue may feature research articles, short stories, and literary essays. With this publication, MUsings seeks to encourage student creativity, commend innovative research, and generate student engagement in the academic and professional communities. Graduate students serve on the Editorial board.

This year, MUsings will appear at Made in Millersville. Graduate students Claire Porter, Rashid Noah, and Maria Rovito will present the Spring 2018 publication, showcasing the academic work of graduate students at Millersville University.

Submissions for MUsings will open in Fall 2018 for inclusion in the Spring 2019 Graduate Journal.

Photo courtesy of MUsings.