Dear Graduate Admissions Colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst,
Thank you for visiting my website. My name is Andrew Marvin, and I am an applicant for the English Rhetoric and Composition PhD program at UMass. In lieu of an interview, I wanted to elaborate on my personal history and professional interests.
I have always been an academic. I was in the English Honors Program at Newington High School, to which I attribute my foundational reading and writing skills. The correlation may seem obvious, but I believe I would not be where I am today without my high school education. Given the output of some of my first-year students, I consider myself lucky to have had teachers who—while scary at the time—exhibited an attention to detail and refused to accept anything less than professional, scholarly work. Today, I try to continue in their stead, although I like to think I'm less frightening.
At Sacred Heart University, I majored in English after having a brief identity crisis wherein I thought getting a business degree might be more practical. It would have been, but I believe loving what you do is essential for creating great work, and I have never once regretted my decision. I was fortunate to have incredible professors, several of whom still advise me today. For the first time, I realized that I love being in English departments surrounded by English people. To miss out on that camaraderie would have been a shame, and I hope to enjoy it for the rest of my career.
I went on to earn my master's at Southern Connecticut State University, where I was pushed to new levels of scholarship. That journey culminated in my thesis, "The Medieval Dark Horse: Challenge and Reward in the Middle English Lyric," which was approved for publication in 2012. I was a Graduate Intern in Student Life while working on my degree, which gave me further insight into the world of Student Affairs. I found the job enjoyable, but I always preferred the nights I had class, when I was exposed to the intellects of my professors as well as my peers. I feel this dynamic is one of the key differences between college and graduate school—we learned just as much from each other as we did from the person at the front of the room.
After earning my master's degree, I took an adjunct position teaching composition at Three Rivers Community College. A year later, I was privileged to return to Sacred Heart, teaching literature as part of their nationally recognized Common Core: "The Human Journey." Teaching alongside my former professors has been an inspiration, and these past two years have convinced me that I'm ready to embark on the path to my doctorate.
I've been a student and instructor in the martial arts for over fifteen years, to which I owe much of my character development. I hold a fourth-degree black belt, and I often relate my martial arts training to my academic career. All students can plateau, feeling frustrated when things get hard or stagnant when things get too easy. I've been there as a martial artist, and I've been there as an English teacher. I feel an educator is at his or her best when they are still students themselves. The excitement of learning new things is what fires me up to teach class every day. When I'm not learning, I'm not excited. Once I realized that, I knew I had to earn my PhD. To conclude my education now feels like quitting at brown belt—it doesn't make sense.
To join UMass's community of scholars would be an honor. I attended a concert on your campus in 2007, and while doctoral work was not on my mind at the time, I remember wondering what it would be like to study there. In addition, I recently earned my 200-hour Embodyoga teaching certification. My teacher has encouraged me to pursue the 500-hour program with Patty Townsend, who coincidentally is the founder of Yoga Center Amherst. Embodyoga is a style of yoga that is inherently academic, and, in fact, many of Patty's students are faculty members or graduates of UMass. To be able to join that community while studying at your institution would be thrilling.
I'm a teacher of many things, and so my areas of research interest are varied. I'm sure my obsessions will change during my tenure at UMass, but I have always been particularly interested in the relationship between language and music. I've been playing electric bass for over a decade, and many of my favorite musicians often refer to music as a language. The connection is undeniable, but I'm interested in the converse—language as music. I envision a number of levels on which this concept can be explored, from the textual—as in the "Sirens" chapter of Joyce's Ulysses—to the abstract—how do music critics write about their subject when the very definition of music is that it expresses the inexpressible?
My obsession with writing as a craft brings me to UMass's Rhetoric and Composition program. I am also obsessed with music, and I feel I would be able to combine the two in a way that covers new ground. I hope to have the guidance of UMass's faculty in doing so.
Educating myself and others is my vocation, and so I will be applying for a teaching assistantship. I believe learning and teaching are inseparable acts, and I am most fulfilled when enjoying both.
If you've managed to get this far, thank you for taking the time to visit this page and learn more about who I am. I hope this letter provides insight into what I would contribute to UMass's academic community, and I hope to be able to meet you in person soon.