Peter Diamond '20
Can you describe your career path and how it has led to your current work?
I graduated from Brandeis in May 2020, and I began progress toward a PhD in English at University of Pennsylvania the following August. In this sense, my relevant "career path" mostly entailed my undergraduate studies in the Department of English here at Brandeis. Currently, in my first year of graduate coursework, I take a total of eight seminars (four per semester) on topics in literary studies; these have included courses on land and labor in the eighteenth century, race in early modern English drama, and economic approaches to studying the novel. These classes have been challenging and rigorous, yet I feel as though the undergraduate major at Brandeis prepared me well. My professors in Brandeis English demonstrated the kinds of research, teaching, and mentorship that left me yearning to advance in this discipline, and they provided careful support as I prepared my applications during senior year. Beginning next year, I will have the opportunity to teach undergraduates at Penn, and I hope to emulate the care that I received at Brandeis.
What skills that you learned from your time at Brandeis have you found most valuable in your current work?
I spent much of undergrad floundering through large ideas without much focus, and only toward the end of senior year did I begin to recognize the skills that would be most pertinent to beginning graduate study. Over and over again, my professors at Brandeis patiently maneuvered around my undergraduate tendencies toward abstraction, distraction, and bombast, always taking my hand and guiding me back to the fundamentals—aspiring to read astutely and write cogently. I hardly internalized these lessons until I was halfway from Waltham to Philadelphia, but nowadays, my Brandeis professors' voices are in my head every time I prepare presentations and papers for my graduate seminars. Concretely, Ulka Anjaria's notes in the margins of my thesis drafts, and tidbits from hour-long conversations in Tom King's office, stick with me indelibly!
What advice do you have for current students as they embark on their career exploration or job search?
Undeniably, this is a challenging time for students entering the workforce. COVID-era austerity makes it harder for college graduates of any major to find work in general, and even harder for English majors to find work that satisfies the curiosity that first led them to study books for four years in college. I don't feel comfortable outright endorsing graduate school because there's no one-size-fits-all answer. If you're thinking about applying, talk to your professors. That said, some PhD programs (including mine) pay a stipend that amounts to a living wage with health insurance for at least five years—a privilege that few other sectors afford under the present conditions, not to mention that I love the work that I'm doing. I lucked out, and I'm hardly older than you, so I'm not sure that I can advise very dynamically. In any case, we're living through a moment that can easily exhaust and numb you, but I hope that you continue reading and writing, whether or not that's connected to the way that you put food on the table.