This summer, fellow FMU student Shannon Pratt and I spent a month at the University of Delaware participating in the Arts and Humanities Summer Institute (AHSI), which is aimed towards preparing undergraduate students for graduate studies in the humanities.
Shannon and I were two of six students selected through a competitive application process. We learned about the program from Dr. Christopher Johnson, who earned both his master’s and doctorate at the University of Delaware. He was very pleased to recommend us for the program in hopes that we would choose to attend the University of Delaware for graduate school and join him as “Fightin’ Blue Hens.”
Other participants in the program included Tempestt Gavins from Columbia College in South Carolina, Debbie Nguyen from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, Shauntazia Shorter from Tennessee State University in Tennessee and Patricia Abraham from Syracuse University in New York.
During the course of the program, we participated in seminars, developed a research project and ended by presenting our individual projects at a public research symposium. We also had opportunities to interact with graduate students currently attending the University of Delaware, meet with numerous faculty members and attend various workshops regarding graduate studies.
All six of us in the program worked very hard on writing and presenting a research project revolving around one of the three novels that we read for the program. The novels-William Wells Brown’s “Clotel” (1853), Nella Larsen’s “Passing” (1929) and Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” (1970)-spanned from the antebellum period to the New Negro Renaissance Era to the 1970s. While five of us, including myself, chose to focus on “The Bluest Eye,” Shannon wrote about “Clotel.”
Every Monday through Thursday, we had class from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. with our two faculty advisors, Dr. Martin Brueckner, associate professor of English, and Dr. Tim Spaulding, associate professor of English and Black American Studies. During this time, we discussed the novels that we were focusing on and the corresponding assigned articles and essays from various historical and theoretical perspectives.
After a lunch break (which was sometimes paired with events such as meeting the dean), we returned for an afternoon session from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. These sessions usually focused on preparing us for applying to and attending graduate school. During this time, we also met with graduate students and professors who spoke with us about their own research projects.
Many times, we had evening sessions as well. Some topics of these included possible careers for English majors and how to give public lectures.
We took two field trips-one to Philadelphia and one to Winterthur Museum. In Philadelphia, we took a tour of Independence Hall and visited the African American Museum. Winterthur was a gorgeous country estate. We strolled through the woods and admired the scenery, and then we toured the house full of collected antiques. We ended in the rare book room of Winterthur’s library. Although we were all exhausted by this time, it was still astounding to see such old and interesting textual artifacts.
While it was stressful and fast-paced, it was rewarding to finish successfully. Regardless of all of the afternoon and evening sessions and seminars, just the experience of studying at another university, outside of my comfort zone, helped prepare me for graduate studies, and I am very grateful that I was able to take advantage of that opportunity with a friend by my side