The Ecology of a Dissertation
The beginnings of a dissertation start long before the actual writing and research. I could in fact turn this essay into a longer autobiography that begins, “she was born into a family…” However, in lieu of starting at the very, very beginning, I have chosen to write bios for all of the entities (or at least as many as I can think of) that have participated in the ecology of my dissertation. I’m certain I have left out some and for that I apologize. The beginnings of my dissertation, the forming of the ecology of what it has become, began in North Africa, but the real work of the work happened over years in and around places with people and things who contributed to that effort.
I could not have done this without them.
Dr. Estee Beck has a stylish comfortable office for meeting with students and telling them how to be better writers. She is very good at this. She is also an expert in teaching time management, responding to drafts, and juggling a million things.
J.R. Bentley’s is very quiet between 1-4 pm—a perfect place to think and write. When not quiet, a place for great conversation and company.
Carlisle 409 is home to the couch of wisdom, sleep, and laughing, vortex of all good beginnings and the ten commandments.
El Jem endures as one of Northern Africa’s largest Roman structures. It sits in the desert under a wide expanse of sky. The chambers for the gladiators resonate in the underbelly of my dissertation.
Sean Farrell makes a great sock puppet. He also enjoys movies, teaches too much, and looks fantastic in a suit.
Dr. Luann Frank will make you a Heideggarean without your knowledge or permission. She also possesses the unique talents of smacking a table so that it shapes up and yelling Vagina Dentata with intensity.
Erin Galland is my person. She is telepathic (if you are me) and an amazing crier. She feels the world in all its ugliness and beauty which makes her the most well-rounded person alive.
Dr. Jason Hogue knows a lot about trees. On long walks he will identify them and explain their reproduction much to your delight. His real superpowers, however, are his enduring friendship, great debating skills, and love of music.
Larry Huff spent his days at UTA doing his rounds in a dapper hat and bow tie. His visits included stories of his personal history, the history of Arlington, and occasionally a small jar of honey. He is sorely missed.
Hurricane Harvey produced awesome and terrible ruin–in landscapes, writing, and lives. Harvey also produced opportunities to radical transformation.
Dr. Penny Ingram has been a damn good advisor to the graduate students at UTA through her role as graduate advisor and as EGSA faculty sponsor. She also possesses a commanding voice, a sharp wit, and courage to speak truth.
Margie Jackymack is the unsung hero of the English department. When she goes on vacation, things just don’t work right. She also possesses an uncanny ability to know what you need and then make it happen.
Jeff and Janet Kirk have many children. I am the best one. They are really the reason I love to read, to learn, and to think.
Hope McCarthy is full of grace and courage. She carries a Victorian secret identity. She doesn’t know that she is an example of those traits to those who know her.
Jeffrey Marchand is fiercely and unapologetically himself and allows everyone else the same freedom. His catch phrases, “I have a problem with that…” and “Yeah, I’d do that,” will push you to change your perspective. He will also always have something fun to do and a solid hug available in times of need.
Dr. Rachael Mariboho’s kindness falls into the realm of magical realism and, if you are lucky enough to experience it will be able to survive anything—especially the first year of a PhD program.
Christina Montgomery knows what it’s like to parent teenagers and can offer great insight and hugs when needed. She also knows what it’s like to work her tail off, fight the Man, and do work that matters.
Catherine Morphis will drive an hour to a foreign film in the middle of the night with someone she just met. She works as a Grand designer and dreamer with the energy to bring her creations to life.
Paper Mate Flair Pens make the page a more colorful and enjoyable place. They do not bleed, and their color combinations are infinite.
Lauren Phelps is a quiet force for thoughtful change, not to be underestimated. She has excellent taste in historical periods and moonlights as a knowledgeable and entertaining Chicago tour guide.
Dr. Tim Richardson plays great ambient sound for writing, which means sharing an office wall with him will never be to your detriment. He also encourages his students to experiment and tries new things out himself from time to time.
Dr. Ken Roemer exudes a rare utopian spirit that makes him unroastable. His smile and his generosity make everyone’s day better. He also leaves great books in the Little Free Library outside Carlisle Hall.
Abigail Rowntree is an expert organizer and leader. She will make sure things are in their place and that the ship does not get off course.
Ayla Rowntree takes after her namesake by riding wild, loving hard, and working with purpose. She also writes excellent notes of encouragement.
David Rowntree makes things happen. He fixes everything from cars to trampolines to hearts. His willingness to go along with hair-brained ideas makes him the best life-traveling companion.
Haley Rowntree has a unique laugh that is infectious and can dye hair with panache. She loves long nails, but don’t let them fool you. She is also a fierce warrior who won’t hesitate to break those nails for those she loves.
Jared Rowntree will always ask provoking questions, like “why am I me?” and remind you to pay attention to the small things. He also can talk for many hours about Nissans and other cars and will not care if you understand what he is saying.
John Rowntree will gruffly tell anyone they need to man up when they need it. He cooks excellent pork tacos and knows that a wire is not a wire.
Josh Rowntree shows respect to those around him, can have a memorable conversation in five minutes, and goofs around at family dinners.
Wesley Rowntree keeps the world from settling. He makes the atoms in the air move with him. He will hug wrestle at any time. He also loves shenanigans that make you laugh.
Rod Sachs is an activist, realist, idealist, but not-an-ist. He is a dismisser of systems, sharer of dreams, world traveler, storyteller, and heart healer. He is also an excellent house guest who will leave everything (and everyone) in better shape than when he arrived.
Yael Sasley not only manages graduate students with efficiency she also has a smile that can cheer the most melancholy visitor to the English department office. Her forthcoming vegan cookbook is sure to be full of mouth-watering recipes.
Bethany Schaffer can do a comp exam cheer that will knock your socks off. She throws a great wedding, makes every student feel valued, and is a great mama.
Dr. Sarah Shelton cannot be described. She is a mythical creature of affirmations, cheeky chokies, and magical dancing. Queen of assassins and listeners. You want her in your corner. She is also a superior travel companion, party thrower, and a million other mythical beings.
Joul Smith is an aspiring cult leader of the best kind. That beard. He is also a neo-romantic. Follow his musings and never be disappointed.
Vince Sosko is the kind of man who gives you his jacket when he’s cold. He is an excellent dancer, a concerned feminist, and the kind of man who should be kinder to himself.
Dr. Stephanie Tavera is a vigilante for justice who talks 90 miles an hour and always has something to say. She is dedicated to intellectual badassery. Work with her and you will always do better work for trying to keep up.
Connor Stratman writes poetry on the extraordinariness of the ordinary. He sings with emotion and plays the guitar for others to sing along.
Dr. Kathryn Warren can recite Romantic poems with a soothing voice. She also makes academia easier for others and writes great essays.