Carnegie Mellon University
May 06, 2015

MA in LCS Student Gains Invaluable Teaching and Research Experience

MA in LCS Student Gains Invaluable Teaching and Research Experience

As an undergraduate student, Souri Somphanith majored in American Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz where she gained an education in interdisciplinary study.

She was already interested in studying popular culture in the form of literature, movies, and other cultural products, so she saw Carnegie Mellon's Literary and Cultural Studies (LCS) program as a good fit. The English Department’s Days of Welcoming open house also swayed her decision.

“I had a really great experience,” said Somphanith. “Not only did I get to meet my cohort, but I had multiple opportunities to connect with the faculty and with the doctoral students. They answered my questions about the goals of the MA program and I appreciated their frankness and guidance.”

Somphanith, who is slated to graduate May 16 with a Master of Arts in LCS, is a Research Assistant to Marian Aguiar, associate professor of English and Jeff Williams, professor of English.

Somphanith’s research interests include contemporary American fiction, genre fiction, print culture, postcolonial studies, and Asian American studies.

She works closely with each professor on different projects.

“Both projects that I am involved in have an interesting blend of both academic and editorial work,” said Somphanith noting she worked in publishing for three years as a publications manager with PLOS ONE, an online Open Access STEM journal.

Somphanith’s editorial experience combined with her literary and cultural studies passion created the perfect skill set for Aguiar’s next book, which is centered on arranged marriages in the South Asian diaspora context.

As Professor Aguiar completes drafts of her chapters, Somphanith assists her writing. “As someone who is interested in the writing process and in diaspora studies, this project is especially exciting,” said Somphanith.

She worked with Professor Williams on a few different projects including assisting with updating footnotes to Aristotle’s “Poetics” for the next edition of the “Norton Anthology of Literary Criticism” and transcribing an interview Professor Williams conducted with the founder of the “Los Angeles Review of Books.”

“It’s been quite a rewarding experience working on such different projects," said Somphanith. "I feel like I’m learning to think in completely new ways.”

Last semester, she was a teaching assistant for the course, “Reading and Writing in an Academic Context.” Somphanith worked closely with students on the second drafts of their papers, ensuring that comments from the first draft were addressed and gave them feedback.

She also had the opportunity to teach. She gave a lecture on research methodologies and led a workshop on how students can find academic articles relevant to their work.

“This was such a rewarding experience,” said Somphanith. “I really enjoyed working with our students over the course of the semester and seeing their writing skills develop and flourish.”

After graduation, Somphanith will move back home to the San Francisco Bay Area and apply for adjunct teaching positions at local community colleges. She'll also prepare applications to Ph.D. programs with the hope of moving into the field of Asian American studies.  

Her advice for students considering Carnegie Mellon is this: Attend Days of Welcoming. Bring all of your questions and concerns. Come and talk with our faculty, current MA students, and doctoral students – they are such a great resource! Tell them about your long-term and short-term goals, work with them to figure out how an MA in LCS can help you achieve these goals.

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By: Amanda King