Four women in the English Department spoke on their journey into university careers and answered student questions about how they can do the same.
The annual Women in Academia Panel was held on Friday, March 26, hosted by the English department. The purpose of the panel is to connect students with women in the department and give students the opportunity to ask questions about potential university careers.
The panel was recently renamed the Brandie R. Siegfried Women in Academia panel, and as Assistant Professor Jarica Watts welcomed students to the panel, she explained the reason for this change: “As a young, untenured professor in the 1990s, Brandie served as a faculty advisor to a student club called Voice—a club to advance the status of women. And then as time went on, from 2001 to 2004 Brandie was a member and a co-chair of the Faculty Advisory Council for BYU, and in this capacity, she worked relentlessly to establish a parental leave policy for faculty members,” which has helped many female professors at BYU secure maternity leave after having a child.
Watts was joined by three other women in the English department, Associate Dean Leslee Thorne-Murphy, Assistant Professor Juliana Chapman, and English Department Secretary Tessa Hauglid.
Each woman took a moment to introduce themselves and talk about their journeys into university positions. Thorne-Murphy and Chapman explained how they both contemplated other paths when they realized that an aptitude and love of English studies was deeply rooted in them and decided to pursue academia.
While working post-graduation at WordPerfect, Thorne-Murphy said, “I would do kind of semi-insane things like take literary criticism to read during my lunch hour. . . . I actually had a lot of fun just reading histories and commentary and literature and I thought, I’ve just got this in my blood, and I've got to do something about it.”
Similarly, Chapman was unsure about her journey into literary academia after taking five years off of school to raise her family and support her husband through his graduate program. When it was time to return, Chapman said, “I actually applied to both music programs and to literature programs for my masters because I still wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to do. I wound up landing on comparative studies and comparative literature. I realized, oh my goodness, I don't actually have to choose. . . . It was a place where I could blend both those fields that I loved and that I saw a lot of interaction among.”
Hauglid was a first-generation college student, and she graduated from BYU with a BA in Asian and Near Eastern Studies. While working on the administrative side of academia has its own unique challenges, she said, “There are lots of other advantages. I feel like I can help create a safe space for students as they try to navigate the university system, which can be a little daunting at times. . . . I also get to work with world-class people.” Hauglid was also able to return to school during her employment and receive an MFA in creative writing.
As Watts reminisced on her journey through schooling and into the world of academia, she remarked that her path has been “faith filled, and one that has been unpredictable, and one in which I felt guided and directed.” Many of the other women expressed the same sentiment of being guided and trusting in their decisions as they continued through their education and on to their careers.
The four women also spent time in a Q&A session answering students’ questions about the world of academia and how to navigate it.