Lee Skallerup Bessette, Instructional Technology Specialist, University of Mary Washington

Lee Skallerup Bessette, Instructional Technology Specialist, University of Mary Washington

BY: Catherine Nygren

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Lee Skallerup BessetteIn a compulsory class on Québécois poetry and translation, Lee found the subject of her dissertation: Québécoise poet Anne Hébert, the English translations of her poems, and her correspondence with her translator, Frank Scott. During Lee’s PhD, her main source of funding, beyond internal scholarships, was from her position as primary instructor of an introductory course in her research area for four years, which helped to develop not only her own work, but also her teaching philosophy. Even with her previous experience teaching ESL, however, teaching her own courses was a bit of a trial by fire in the beginning.

Community also played a significant part in her PhD experience: at the start of her doctorate, Lee’s department was tightly-knit and supportive. Part of the way through her degree, however, her department underwent large-scale changes, which caused a significant amount of tension and strain for both students and professors: everything was suddenly on hold, and the graduate students felt like they were an afterthought. After a year working as her student association president during this difficult time, and then another trying to refocus on her dissertation, Lee decided to move to the United States to be with her partner and focus more on her work than on university politics. Throughout this entire process, Lee’s supervisor was supportive; they just clicked, and Lee remembers her as one of the best experiences of her PhD.

Lee completed her doctorate in six years, taking some extra time to heal from the strain before she could be productive again. After graduation, she got a tenure-track position, but left it due to personal and family responsibilities. She then taught at several different universities, but when she tried to get back on the tenure-track, she couldn’t even get interviews.

After getting more involved in social media, including Twitter and blogs, as well as writing for Inside Higher Ed, however, Lee began to be sought out for faculty development jobs. Now, she is an Instructional Technology Specialist at the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies at the University of Mary Washington, specializing in the intersections of technology, pedagogy, and collaborative learning. She is still teaches an introduction to digital studies course once a semester, but her focus is on fostering new advances in teaching, learning, and research at her institution.

Reflecting on her PhD experience, Lee wishes that she’d had more access to digital humanities, interdisciplinary work, and professional development, as well as travel funding. She also cautions PhD students to consider the regrettable importance of politics: you think that if you’re smart and you do good work that you’ll be fine, but factors like having a well-connected supervisor can be more important to search committees.

To see Lee’s past writing for Inside Higher Ed, Prof Hacker, and more, see her personal website.

Lee Skallerup BessetteIn a compulsory class on Québécois poetry and translation, Lee found the subject of her dissertation: Québécoise poet Anne Hébert, the English translations of her poems, and her correspondence with her translator, Frank Scott. During Lee’s PhD, her main source of funding, beyond internal scholarships, was from her position as primary instructor of an introductory course in her research area for four years, which helped to develop not only her own work, but also her teaching philosophy. Even with her previous experience teaching ESL, however, teaching her own courses was a bit of a trial by fire in the beginning.

Community also played a significant part in her PhD experience: at the start of her doctorate, Lee’s department was tightly-knit and supportive. Part of the way through her degree, however, her department underwent large-scale changes, which caused a significant amount of tension and strain for both students and professors: everything was suddenly on hold, and the graduate students felt like they were an afterthought. After a year working as her student association president during this difficult time, and then another trying to refocus on her dissertation, Lee decided to move to the United States to be with her partner and focus more on her work than on university politics. Throughout this entire process, Lee’s supervisor was supportive; they just clicked, and Lee remembers her as one of the best experiences of her PhD.

Lee completed her doctorate in six years, taking some extra time to heal from the strain before she could be productive again. After graduation, she got a tenure-track position, but left it due to personal and family responsibilities. She then taught at several different universities, but when she tried to get back on the tenure-track, she couldn’t even get interviews.

After getting more involved in social media, including Twitter and blogs, as well as writing for Inside Higher Ed, however, Lee began to be sought out for faculty development jobs. Now, she is an Instructional Technology Specialist at the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies at the University of Mary Washington, specializing in the intersections of technology, pedagogy, and collaborative learning. She is still teaches an introduction to digital studies course once a semester, but her focus is on fostering new advances in teaching, learning, and research at her institution.

Reflecting on her PhD experience, Lee wishes that she’d had more access to digital humanities, interdisciplinary work, and professional development, as well as travel funding. She also cautions PhD students to consider the regrettable importance of politics: you think that if you’re smart and you do good work that you’ll be fine, but factors like having a well-connected supervisor can be more important to search committees.

To see Lee’s past writing for Inside Higher Ed, Prof Hacker, and more, see her personal website.

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