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MA Literature | Alumnae & Alumni

Program Alumni Careers

Our alumni are pursuing a wide range of professional paths, including:

Kent Anderson, MA 1998, Instructor of English and Chair of Engaged Learning Programs, Birmingham-Southern College

Steve Beaulieu, MA 2013, PhD student in English at the University of Maryland

Jennifer Berry, MA 2005, teacher of English and journalism, Bishop Dunne Catholic School, Dallas, TX

Ben Clausen, MA 2004, Teaches English as a foreign language in Prague

Ed Comstock, MA 2001, Senior Professorial Lecturer, College Writing Program, American University

Charles Cox, MA 1999, Senior Professorial Lecturer, Department of Literature, American University

Rika Drea, MA 2002, Chair of the English Department at Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences, Santa Monica, CA

Jeffrey Edwards, MA 2000, Upper School English teacher, Riverdale Country School, NY

Jeanette Fast, MA 1999, Owner and Editorial Consultant of FastEditing

Jessica Roberts Frazier, MA 2007, Managing Editor of Shakespeare Quarterly, the leading American Shakespeare journal, housed at the Folger Shakespeare Library

Michael Gavin, MA 2001, Associate vice president for learning, Anne Arundel Community College

Jody Gerbig, MA 2001, Full-time high school English teacher, St. Charles Preparatory School

Melissa Gilmore, MA 2000, Proposal writer for Affiliated Computer Services, Inc.

Dan Mangiavellano, MA 2003, Assistant Professor of English, Loyola University Maryland

Liz McClure, MA 2000, Lecturer, University of Maryland

Pauline Newton, MA 1998, Full-time Lecturer in English, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX

Patricia Reichler, MA 2000, Consultant, National League of Cities, Author, Cities Promoting Racial Equality, Adjunct Professorial Lecturer in College Writing Program, Department of Literature, American University

John Reilly, MA 2004, Instructor of English at Northern Virginia Community College, Writer at Action Lab Entertainment

Damon Seils, MA 1999, Managing Director of CCGE Research Operation, Duke Clinical Research Institute

Meagan Smith, MA 2011, Research Assistant at the American Institutes for Research

Mark Stein, MA 2001, Playwright, writer, and teacher

Kyoko Takikawa, MA 2005, Secondary school teacher of English, Japan

Michele Tencza, MA 2006, Academic Advisor III at the University of Texas at San Antonio Honors College

Brea Thomas, MA 2005, Teacher of English, Spanish, and International Leadership, Cal Coast Academy, San Diego, CA

Joelle Tybon, MA 2008, PhD candidate at Wisconsin-Madison in Comparative Literature

Max Uphaus, MA 2009, PhD Columbia University 2015, Assistant Professor of English, Montana State University

Maree Watkins, MA 2004, MS in Library and Information Science, Catholic University 2007, Associate Branch Manager for Fairfax County Public Library

Lisa Vanian Wolff, MA 2005, Associate Director and ELL (English Language Learners) Coordinator for the Writing Program at Dickinson College

Lacey Wootton-Don, MA 1999, Hurst Senior Professorial Lecturer, College Writing Program, Department of Literature, American University


"I teach mostly writing, but also introductory literature courses. My experiences at AU certainly were key for those tasks. I don't think there can be any doubt about that. I wouldn't be doing this now if it weren't for the degree. In the spring I'll be teaching a freshman seminar course on science fiction, based largely on the work I started with Professor David Pike in the spring of 1999." — Kent Anderson, MA 1998


"Earning my MA in Literature at American University was an immensely enriching and fruitful first step into graduate school—from bonding with my cohort in Professor Sha's graduate poetry survey at the beginning, to enjoying the challenges and the more independent process of writing my master's thesis under Professor Larson's direction, to eventually designing and teaching my own courses in African literature. Because the Department of Literature is neither an English department nor exactly a comparative literature department, it offers its graduates the best of both worlds: a rigorous grounding in canonical Western literature along with the freedom to explore and discover what lies outside of it." — Aaron Bady, MA 2003


"My MA from the Department of Literature put me in a great position to succeed in my PhD program, even though it was in another field. In fact, the multi-disciplinary work I did in my MA program both inspired and enabled my dissertation and publications, not to mention my current work as a professor." — Ed Comstock, MA 2001


“I have only good things to say about the AU literature department. Though the graduate program is small, the faculty are excellent and very dedicated to their work. . . . I really enjoyed the MA program at AU and I thought the faculty were its strongest asset.” — Ben Clausen, MA 2003


“One evening during a break in our novel genre class, Professor David Pike slid a folded newsletter over to me. An erratic scrawl of ink encircled a small paragraph in the upper right-hand corner of the page: The Novel and La Mode: Fashioning Novelty, a semester-long seminar at the Folger Shakespeare Library. “You should do this,” Dr. Pike said. If I had harbored any uncertainties about my selection of graduate programs, that paper and those words scattered them into the obscurity of bootless worries. Over the summer that followed, I began the application process to gain admission into the seminar. From the mountains of Bogota, Columbia, Professor Pike read and re-read and re-read my statement of purpose and crafted a letter of recommendation, which he somehow managed to deliver to the Folger Institute on time. Despite a previous year spent on sabbatical and only one prior meeting with me, Professor Roberta Rubenstein, then graduate director, negotiated the necessary forms and university requisites. Thus, in September, I found myself in the space of a library that reminds you of why you wanted a life of books in the first place. Amidst the hush of the Folger Library and the impassioned discussions of a seminar group comprised largely of professors and PhD candidates, the life of an academic became a tangible thing—a promise of the future.

This story remains one of the many that I could have shared with you. I could have told you about Professor Keith Leonard who enabled a master’s student to sit on a Langston Hughes panel at the American Literature Association Conference last May—an opportunity that renders further graduate studies all the more possible. I could have told you about how Dr. Leonard, perpetually overcommitted, agreed to direct a master’s student’s scholarly essay, opening a pathway to publication. I could have told you of the paradigm shift in thinking that Professor Katharine Gillespie’s course on the biblical epics of John Milton and Lucy Hutchinson engendered or of the delightful confusion that Dr. Jonathan Loesberg stirred in asking about the definition of art and beauty. I could have told you that Professor Madhavi Menon will challenge your system of beliefs in ways that will provoke a richer personal philosophy. I could have told you of these memories and so many others. But I need not. For, if you choose American’s MA program in literature, you will have such moments of your own.” — Jessica Roberts Frazier, MA 2007


"I went to American University hoping to gain a solid foundation in 'what good literature is' so that I could become a good poet/fiction writer, not necessarily to become a scholar. There is no doubt that American University provided me with the thinking and literary skills to become a good writer if I pursue it. But while I was at AU, teachers like Professors Rubenstein, Larson, Leonard, Moyer, and Sha, to name only a few, inspired me to think about being a scholar. A year and a half away from the scholarship world, I miss it, but I think I miss the environment that American University provided me with even more." — Michael Gavin, MA 2001


 “As a doctoral candidate at Louisiana State University, I can say that the MA in literature from American University has given me real advantages in my current program of study. My department found my previous coursework at AU both applicable and highly relevant to the direction I want to take in my doctoral work. This didn't just happen by itself. The advising and mentoring I received at AU— particularly from Professors Sha, Rubenstein, Larson, and Turaj—were phenomenal. While in the MA Program, I had the opportunity to teach in the College Writing Program under John Hyman, create a secondary bibliography for Roberta Rubenstein's research, work in the Writing Center, and develop my own writing and ideas with the support of some of the most dedicated scholars in their respective fields. One of the best parts of the program is that your professors don't forget about you when you leave. I still keep in touch with many of my professors, some of whom have even offered to read my ‘works in progress’ before final submission. If this doesn't scream ‘dedication to students,’ I don't know what does.” — Dan Mangiavellano, MA 2000


"I've realized more and more clearly over the past year how very much the process of writing the thesis helped me, both in terms of clarifying my ideas and interests and in terms of learning how to approach writing in more constructive ways. I find that I approach writing differently now and allow myself to explore ideas in drafting that previously I would probably have either avoided or else imposed more control over. It's allowed me to think through writing differently than I used to and, while it hasn't made the writing process easier or tidier, it has certainly made it more interesting." — Liz McClure, MA 2000


"I heartily praise the graduate program in Literature at AU for many reasons, though I'll just list two here: 1) The Teaching of Writing program gave me the scholarly background and hands-on curriculum experience that I needed to become a professor. Without this invaluable two-semester course, I certainly would not be teaching as a lecturer at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. 2) The curriculum of courses at American University thoroughly grounded me in twentieth-century American literature, which turned out to be my primary field for my dissertation/doctoral work. Although I was not able to take as much of a variety of courses in twentieth-century American literature at the University of Tulsa that I would have liked, my academic background at American University certainly supported my ability to pursue this field. My only regret is that AU does not have a doctoral program; if it had had one, I certainly would have applied." —  Pauline Newton, MA 1998


"I think the AU program prepared the way for me to explore intellectual interests that I might not have had the opportunity to explore otherwise (or at least to appreciate in a meaningful way). My experience at AU, because it offered courses in both theory and interpretation, has given me the flexibility to make even thinking about [applying to an interdisciplinary doctoral program] possible." — Damon Seils, MA 1999


"In teaching the Intro. to Drama class at Catholic University, a lot—a whole lot—of what I learned in getting my MA informed my approach. Issues of gender and drama, for instance, which I learned from Professor Rubenstein's seminar on feminist theory, surfaced in our discussions of Lysistrata, Miss Julie, and M Butterfly. Issues of race and drama, insights into which I gained from Professor Leonard, surfaced in our discussions of M Butterfly, Long Day's Journey into Night (based on an African-American production), and a recent play, Fires in the Mirror. This last play also sparked connections between modern drama and romanticism—Professor Bennett having introduced me to the analogously titled The Mirror and the Lamp by M.H. Abrams, which connects romanticism to its classical roots, and Professor Pike having led me to a keener understanding of those classical roots in his course on Roman Literature." — Mark Stein, MA 2001


“I finished my undergraduate degree knowing that I wanted to continue studying literature without knowing exactly what it was that I wanted to study. Completing my MA at American was an excellent way to fill in gaps in my knowledge of literary periods and theoretical discussions while I narrowed and defined my interests. AU offers a wide range of courses, some covering a genre or a theme across a broad spectrum of time periods and literatures with others dealing with very specific moments in literary history. The theory courses I took were some of the most difficult, and most rewarding, classes I've ever taken. As a result of my time at AU, I feel more prepared to enter a PhD program and I would go so far as to say that I have an advantage, as far as theory is concerned, over other students coming directly from undergraduate programs. Finally, the professors at AU are extremely accessible and I really appreciated the fact that they were always willing to help me with whatever it was I was working on—whether it was for their class or someone else's. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at AU.” — Joelle Tybon, MA 2008

"In the spring of my final year in the MA program, the AU Literature Department held a Walt Whitman marathon reading. For three snack-filled, caffeine-fueled, thrilling hours, fifty-two successive members of the department – undergraduates, graduate students, and professors – read aloud all fifty-two sections of Whitman’s “Song of Myself” among an audience of their friends and colleagues. For me, this event encapsulated what was most rewarding about my two years in the Literature MA program at American: the experience of being an integral part of a vibrant intellectual community. The collaboration and communality of the Whitman reading exemplified everything I found most valuable in my experience in the MA program: bonding with fellow graduate students by sharing work and exchanging ideas in seminars and study sessions; taking an active part in the mission of the department as a student participant in hiring and administrative committees, a consultant in the Writing Center and a teaching assistant in undergraduate classes; and working closely with the department’s brilliant, generous, challenging, and inspiring faculty. The guidance of professors like Richard Sha, David Pike, Anita Sherman, Jeff Middents, and many others enabled me to define and pursue my own intellectual trajectory, one enriched by the huge range of interests and perspectives represented in the department. The MA program combines a rigorous grounding in the fundamentals of the literary field with the scope and opportunity to follow one’s interests in any direction, while providing a model for how scholars from across this whole range can support and collaborate with one another. In short, AU’s MA in Literature admirably provides the pedagogical and academic skills and habits of mind necessary to enter the broader community of literary scholars and professionals. My time in the program was an invaluable foundation for success in a PhD and beyond and a priceless experience in its own right." — Maxwell Uphaus, MA 2009

Kyoko Takikawa, MA 2005

Why did you decide to enroll into the program?

I studied at AU as an undergrad for a year as an exchange student and I was deeply inspired by a professor in the Department of Literature. I wanted to study with him again and decided to enroll in your program.

How would you describe the faculty?

Great scholars as well as good teachers.

What did you gain from the degree program?

A joy of life, knowledge, and critical thinking skills.

In what ways do you feel your education prepared you for your career path/current position?

Writing skills and critical thinking skills I acquired in the program are helping me a great deal.  

What is your current title and place of employment?

I returned to my country after graduation and teaching English at a public high school in Japan.


“The advising and mentoring I received at AU was phenomenal…I still keep in touch with many of my professors, some of whom have even offered to read my ‘works in progress’ before final submission. If this doesn't scream ‘dedication to students,’ I don't know what does."

— Dan Mangiavellano, MA 2003


"Completing my MA at American was an excellent way to fill in gaps in my knowledge of literary periods and theoretical discussions while I narrowed and defined my interests...I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at AU.”

— Joelle Tybon, MA 2008


"My professors challenged me, pushing me to expand my knowledge and understanding and treated me like a fellow scholar. So, beyond the 'practical' preparation of the teaching track, the MA program helped me to grow as a thinker, reader, and writer, too."

— Lacey Wootton-Don, MA 1999