Ben Kolbe, MA’09

Ben KolbeI entered the Brandeis terminal Master of Arts program in English in 2008 after a few years working in a printing and mailing factory. I found that work to be valuable in many ways, but I wanted more of an intellectual outlet. I was excited to be back in an academic setting for a year, and I wasn't too concerned at that point with building a CV or placing myself on any kind of professional path. The terminal MA was brand new, and I was one of the first few students to enroll in the program.

Like most new graduate students, I found the work difficult to manage at first, but I got the hang of it. The very small size of the Brandeis English department helped me to connect quickly to faculty and other students who could offer a perspective on my experience. I wasn't particularly focused on a time period or genre, so I didn't mind the department's limited course offerings; I always found something to get excited about. If I had stayed longer, I certainly would have tried a course or two within the graduate consortium. I completed my Master's thesis, "Walt Whitman's Split Poetic Personalities," under the direction of John Burt, who was particularly helpful to me.

I decided to try academic administration, but as I entered the job market in 2009 at a historically terrible time, I predictably had trouble finding work. Eventually, I worked at the Harvard Registrar's office, where my responsibilities included processing diplomas and transcripts, troubleshooting website applications with students and faculty, and performing general customer service. It was a great experience, but once again, I needed more of an intellectual outlet, and I decided to return to graduate school in English.

In fall of 2011, I entered the PhD program in English at the University of Oregon. I'm starting to call myself a Modernist, and I'm reading a lot of early children's literature and science fiction. I'm also interested in the evolutionary turn of literary theory, and I'm starting to explore that approach. I've had the occasion, as far as that goes, to discuss William Flesch's work in a recent paper. I feel good about finally pursuing an academic career; the prospects are daunting, but I've done enough other things to know that this is the best way in my life to keep myself intellectually engaged.

I look back fondly on my time at Brandeis. I learned and grew a lot, and I had access to great faculty and other resources which I hardly need to list here. The terminal Master of Arts is a good option for anyone wishing to begin graduate study in English.