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Representing Radford Among International Literary Scholars
Irish novelist James Joyce is nearly universally regarded as one of the 20th century’s most complex writers, but one Radford University graduate student has accepted the study of his work with enthusiasm – and she’s succeeding in a field where most researchers are long-time professors.
Michelle (Marti) Williams started studying Joyce as an undergraduate English major at Radford University, and as a graduate student in the Master of Arts in English program she earned the opportunity to travel to Rome for the 2017 James Joyce Italian Foundation Annual Conference. She proudly represented Radford, presenting, “A Novice Scholar Faces the Parnell Affair in Joyce’s Fiction.” Williams shares fond memories of “a room full of Joycean scholars who had probably been studying Joyce longer than I’d been alive. It was so intimidating, but they were very helpful and welcoming.”
Williams cites Radford’s English faculty as having been highly influential on her educational and future professional choices. In particular, Dr. Jolanta Wawrzycka, an internationally-known Joycean scholar, helped with her writing process and has encouraged her to form connections and network so she has opportunities and a career path after her May 2018 graduation. “I didn’t think I could do it and she helped me make it happen and I have conference fever now. I want to go everywhere!” she said. Other professors have noted Williams’ progress with pride; graduate program coordinator Dr. Amanda Kellogg nominated her as March’s Graduate Student of the Month.
While her studies have been challenging, Williams perseveres because she’s passionate about English scholarship. “There’s more to a degree in English than people may think. It has a function in society and using my reason to make a difference in society is helpful,” she said. Williams explains that English has a direct tie to history and said she “really love[s] historical documents.” Above all, Williams wants to make an impact in her field as she contributes to academia.
In addition to her studies, Williams says she’s grateful for Radford’s excellent Graduate Teaching Fellowship program which has paid most of her tuition and also pays her to teach undergraduate courses. She emphasized that it was the trifecta - teaching experience, tuition assistance and being able to work with Dr. Wawrzycka that led her to attend graduate school here.
Williams has advice for new students starting her program: “Don’t let any class pass you by that you could get something out of,” she said. Williams stressed to not simply do the minimum because that is not what graduate school is about. It is about making the most of classes and viewing one’s self as the professional they are.
Williams is currently applying to PhD programs and her first-choice program is at nearby Virginia Tech. In the meantime, Williams was a dance minor as an undergraduate and so she still pursues the activity as stress-relief from her studies and teaching. When she has free time, she travels to her Giles County home to teach dance classes. While she loves teaching, Williams says she’s a student at heart. “I like to read scholarly articles on my thesis topic. It calms me down,” she said. She also described some of her favorite things to do around Radford, such as walking at Bisset Park or heading downtown to Sharkey’s or Macado’s with her friends