Jayne Ziemba, Joint MA’12
Although my decision to attend Brandeis was motivated by intellectual curiosity and not a definitive career pursuit, my time as a master's student has nonetheless shaped who I am as a reader, a thinker, and a person in the world outside of the academy. Currently, I'm an Assistant Managing Editor at Penguin Group (USA) in New York, NY.
I grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania and I attended Villanova University where I double majored in French and English. In my English and French literature courses, I was always interested in questions of subjectivity and the political and social forces that forged an idea of selfhood. While I was happy to grapple with such questions, I was also discouraged by the lack of community I found as a liberal arts major at a non-liberal arts school. I was motivated to attend graduate school simply because I felt I still had more to learn.
I chose Brandeis in particular for its joint degree in Gender and Women's studies. I was interested in approaching literature from the political and theoretical motivations of gender studies and Brandeis felt like the best fit. I also immediately connected with other grad students on the open house day which solidified my decision to attend. Several courses that I took have had a lasting impression. Caren Irr's Methods course was a challenging introduction to literary studies but one that was fundamental to my understanding of the reality of the academic marketplace. Another important course for me was an independent study I took with Dave Sherman and a few other grad students on Virginia Woolf. That course directly informed my master's paper on To the Lighthouse and contributed to what I know will be a lifelong engagement with Woolf. I also still reflect on Ulka Anjaria's course on Language and Power in which I learned how much is at stake in discourse (which is another lifelong engagement). In addition to these courses, I formed friendships with other grad students that have lasted beyond my time as a student.
In all, I look back on Brandeis as an integral part of my development as a person in the world. I made a difficult decision to not re-enter academia after my master's degree. Although nothing can match the intellectual rigor of academia except academia, my confidence to turn towards literature in everyday life is nonetheless sustained by the habit of doing just that — which I developed at Brandeis. Additionally, there are still many opportunities to be critical of underlying assumptions and to be a thoughtful and empathetic communicator. I find that functioning in the world is made richer by the intellectual curiosity fostered by the people I met at Brandeis.