Friday, May 19, 2017

2017 Rutgers-Newark Commencement

Some of our MFA students before the Graduate
Hooding. I had the immense pleasure of having nearly
all of them in a workshop or literature class! 
It has been eons since I've blogged, I know, but this year so far has easily been my busiest in a while, perhaps ever. I've recited the litany so often I think friends and associates, and most certainly my colleagues, are tired of hearing it, but in addition to my departmental chair duties, teaching, mentoring graduate students (3 MFAs, 1 independent study, 1 TA, two different doctoral committees), undergraduates (2 honors students), multiple search committees, and university committees, as well as various non-university profession-related duties, I also spent a good portion of the semester traveling to continue promoting Counternarratives and my other books, and while I love doing so, the physical and psychic toll of travel, especially these days, is always steeper than I envision.

As the scant entries this year testify, my blogging has especially fallen by the wayside this year. This  saddens me because I enjoy writing on here, and I feel like there's a particular need for it now. (I can also recall how just a few years ago, we were told that Twitter was becoming irrelevant and that blogging would soon be joining the ranks of the dodo bird and the woolly mammoth.) My several entries on the current resident of the White House remain stubs, however, and every day--sometimes it feels like every hour--brings so many new political revelations, bombshells, and shocks that, as was the case during the George W. Bush years, if you miss a week, you might as well wait for the next cluster of horrors and outrages. I think you can reasonably describe the White House's attempted Muslim Bans, its health care bills, its assault on regulations, its draconian budget, and so on horrors and outrages, even for some of Donald Trump's supporters....

But my aim with this entry was not to talk about Trump, but rather to congratulate the Rutgers-Newark (and Rutgers more broadly) Classes of 2017, undergraduate and graduate, and by extension, all who graduated this spring and year.  I'm very glad the semester and academic year have come to a close, but I already miss the students I worked with this year. As I mentioned, I supervised three MFA fiction students, Soili Smith, Matt Weir (whom I'd taught when he was a beginning creative writing student at Northwestern!) and Magally "Maggie" Zelaya, all of whom successfully completed their theses this spring. In addition, Soili applied and was admitted to Rutgers-Newark's PhD program in American Studies.

I also supervised two honors undergraduate students, both of whom successfully submitted fiction theses, Secilia Flores and Madani Sheikh. Madani graduated summa cum laude, received a senior prize from the English department, and gained admission into Rutgers-Newark's MFA program. He even was recently the subject of a thoughtful profile on Rutgers-Newark's website, and had previously received coverage as part of a social entrepeneurship team that made it to the regional finalist stage when he was a freshman.

All of these students, as well as others I mentored and taught, were a joy to work with, and I will definitely miss them, though I'll get to see Soili and Madani this upcoming academic year. Congratulations to all of them and all of this year's graduates!

Below are a few photos from Rutgers-Newark's various end-of-the-academic-year and Commencement events. For the Graduate Hooding ceremony and the actual Prudential Center campus-wide commencement, I wore a purple robe (for my graduate degree from NYU), but a creative writing colleague told me that I need to get the fancier, final degree model, with the fancier hat. Will do!

The big shebang, at the Prudential Center! 
Yours truly, one of our talented MFA graduates,
Darise Jean-Baptiste, and my wonderful
colleague Tayari Jones, after Commencement
The MFA graduates, during their end-of-year
reading at the MFA house
Matt Weir, one of my MFA advisees,
reading from his hilarious thesis
Poet Jeremy Clark, with Matt at right 
Darise Jean-Baptiste, reading from
her fiction thesis
Leslie Jones, reading from her
fiction thesis--well, showing its cover
before reading from it 
Maggie Zelaya, sharing her cover before
reading from her thesis, which I saw take
shape over her time at Rutgers-Newark
Aarthi Monteiro, another student I finally
got to work with last fall, reading from
her fiction thesis
Soili Smith, one of my MFA advisees,
reading from her fiction thesis, Sasquatch,
which did not include the story featuring Sasquatch
(though I hope the full collection will)
Students in the book arts course,
with their art-text projects, which they
discussed before sharing a bit of work
The faculty and students listening to the readings
Faculty and students enjoying the readings

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