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Graduate Student Appreciation Week

April 5–9, 2021 marks the nationwide celebration of Graduate Student Appreciation Week, and the College of Humanities would like to recognize several graduate students who are doing great work in their fields or study.

According to the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students, “Graduate-Professional Student Appreciation Week seeks to emphasize the contributions, impact and value of graduate and professional students on campuses throughout the United States.”

Jordan Coburn, vice president of events for the BYU Graduate Student Society stated that the purpose of this week is “to recognize and celebrate the compelling contribution that graduate students make at BYU. Because graduate students make up a small percentage of the BYU population, and due to the nature of grad school, it can be easy for a graduate student to feel like they aren't remembered. We want to ensure them that we appreciate them and all of the work that they do.”

BYU is home to some of the best graduate programs in the country, and those rankings reflect back on the students in those programs.

"Our graduate students are an invaluable part of our campus community—they conduct innovative research as well as teaching and mentoring undergraduate students—so we’re glad to have a chance to recognize and promote the vital work they do," said Leslee Thorne-Murphy (Associate Dean, College of Humanities).

Nominees were selected by faculty members and professors.

“The students highlighted have been nominated by their respective colleges as distinguished students. When we ask for nominees, we ask that they submit a student who represents their college through their commitment to learning, dedication to research, and qualities of excellent leadership,” Coburn said. “It is often very difficult for them to choose just one student, as so many graduate students are making great contributions in their field and are essential assets to the graduate student population.”


Claudia Mencarelli


Nominator: Troy Cox, Graduate Coordinator for the MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

“I would like to nominate Claudia Mencarelli, a TESOL MA student from Rome, Italy. Fall Semester 2020, she defended her thesis ‘Application of a Self-Regulation Framework in an ESL Classroom: Effects on IEP International Students.’”

"While defending a thesis is not unique, the fact that she did it in her third semester of her MA program is. The key, in many ways, is that she took the principles of self-regulation that she researched and applied it to her own graduate work. I was a reader on her committee, and in her defense, the other committee members commented that we wish all of our students would be as self-directed in their education.”

David Dewey Walker

Comparative Arts & Letters

Nominator: Julie Allen, Graduate Coordinator for the MA in Comparative Studies,

Walker’s advisor, Marc Yamada (Associate Professor, Comparative Arts & Letters) said, “David is the best grad student with whom I have ever worked. In addition to his course work, Dewey worked with me as a TA, research assistant, and as assistant with International Cinema.

“Last summer, we received a grant from the College of Humanities at BYU to prepare a book proposal on Japanese director Kore-eda Hirokazu for the Contemporary Film Director Series at the University of Illinois Press. As part of the process, I asked David to screen Kore-eda’s feature films and documentaries and compile a bibliography of secondary materials on Kore-eda's work in English.”

“We met regularly to brainstorm themes and ideas that emerged from the films and the secondary sources. David brought a deep knowledge of filmic representation and theory, and fresh eyes that certainly played a role in the success of the proposal. David has also worked diligently and effectively as an important part of the International Cinema Program at BYU for several years.”

“Along with working as a projectionist, he has produced our podcast, worked as a TA for our course International Cinema Studies, and served as an important part of the selection committee for our film programs each semester.”

Summer Weaver

English MA

Nominator: Paul Westover, Graduate Coordinator for the MA in English and the MFA in Creative Writing

“Summer Weaver was one of the top applicants in the English MA cohort of 2019. She was already highly professionalized, hoping to pursue a Ph.D. in American literature but not certain if her personal and family situation would allow it. Accordingly, she decided to make the most of every experience at the master’s level. En route to earning a perfect GPA, impressing both faculty and colleagues, she proved an outstanding teacher of Writing 150 and Writing 316 (Technical Communication). In her second year, she became a University Writing Program Assistant. In short, she managed to juggle school, teaching, and parenting, all while finding time to reach out to fellow graduate students and mentor them.

“Just last week, Summer successfully defended her MA thesis. Her committee members offered these remarks:

‘Summer's thesis was one of the best I have read from a student in our MA program. It was so good that we spent a significant amount of time during the thesis talking about which venues might be the likeliest places to publish her piece.’

‘Summer's thesis is one of the two best theses I've mentored in 13 years at BYU. Because the chair and reader were so enthusiastic, we spent most of the defense hour talking about very minor revisions to undertake before sending it off to the target journal.’

‘This is one of the two best theses I have seen . . . as a university professor. Summer’s argument is original, clear, nuanced, and persuasive. Her prose is lucid and enjoyable to read. The article makes an argument about the primary text that Summer examines and contains a powerful "so what?" factor about what archipelagic thinking brings to trauma studies. This thesis will certainly be published in a quality journal of literary criticism. I do think that it deserves special recognition from the department.’

“'Publishing will not be a new thrill for Summer, as she has already placed three essays in student journals (Criterion, Locutorium, and Women’s Studies Commons). However, she is about to make the jump to a significant peer-reviewed periodical in her field. That is no small thing for an MA student in English. Many advanced English Ph.D. candidates have yet to land an article in a top-tier venue.”'

“I should add, in closing, that Summer has already begun to receive acceptance letters from respected Ph.D. programs. Her journey as a scholar is just beginning, yet this is a fitting moment to celebrate her outstanding accomplishments. To quote the president of our English Graduate Student Association, ‘I can’t think of anyone more deserving.’”

Rebecca Casanave 

English MFA

Nominator: Paul Westover, Graduate Coordinator for the MA in English and the MFA in Creative Writing

“Rebecca Casanave has been a model graduate student since her arrival. It is no coincidence that, when I solicited recommendations for this recognition, Rebecca was mentioned by both students and faculty. Rebecca has been an outstanding RA, TA, and teacher. She excels in the classroom, whether working with first-year students in Writing 150 or aspiring creative writers in English 218. She has also taught English 316.

“She has worked to create a community of authors at BYU, planning multiple writing retreats and public readings (including for the English Reading Series); serving as editor-in-chief of Inscape, BYU’s literary magazine; and hosting YANCON, an annual event that brings together undergraduate writers with graduate-student mentors and professional authors of young adult fiction. She has represented our department at the college 3MT competition, and she has served as president of our English Graduate Student Association. She is currently the project manager for a research project on experiential writing funded by an H-MEG Grant.

“In short, she has been deeply involved, but this has not prevented her from being a top-notch student in both seminars and workshops, winning prizes, and publishing her own creative work. As a writer of historical fiction, she has modeled the merger of research and craft. Few MA students take such good advantage of their time here. She will be missed when she graduates.

Additional note from John Bennion (Associate Professor, English): “I first met Rebecca in a 318 class. She turned in a chapter from a conventional fantasy novel, one set in a forest with magical beings. I said to her, ‘This is a typical fantasy.’ She stopped writing, thought for a month, and came up with a wonderful topic for a novel about a Portuguese girl who has to go to the slave colonies in Brazil to be safe during the Napoleonic Wars. She is an astonishing organizer.

“She's currently the editor-in-chief of Inscape, and last fall she set up a system for managing 45 staff members on Zoom. This is the biggest staff I've seen on Inscape, and she made them feel that they were part of an important work. Of course, I helped with making a semester-long schedule, but she is so relaxed, personable, and articulate that she created a community—without ever being in person with them. Many of them are back this semester.

“I know she helped Jon Balzotti in a similar manner with his simulation projects. This semester, she is Inscape editor-in-chief and also manager of the reading series, all while finishing another draft of her thesis novel. In addition, I received an H-MEG to build a website on reflective writing, and I asked her to manage the team. She designed a flexible system where teams shift to meet the needs of the project. Every week the members report to her and she uses that information to make a new plan for the next week's work. She is simply the best student manager I have ever worked with.”