Students

Students are active members of ASLE and they contribute to the association in many ways. There are numerous benefits for our student members:

  • The association welcomes the participation of undergraduate students, many of whom are learning and conducting research under the guidance of ASLE members.
  • Our Mentoring Program supports graduate students by matching students with faculty mentors
  • At our biennial conference, graduate students present on panels and in roundtable discussions, participate in workshops, and attend sessions on professionalization designed specifically for our student members.
  • Graduate Student Liaisons serve as elected and voting members of the ASLE Executive Council

We invite you to join ASLE today and enjoy the many student benefits of membership.

Why Pursue Graduate Study in the Environmental Humanities?

Stephen Siperstein, University of Oregon

Because the climate is warming. Because the glaciers are melting and the seas are rising.  Because the Earth has entered a sixth great mass extinction event and species everywhere are dying. Because social inequality is increasing every day. Because communities around the world are facing environmental racism and injustice on scales both large and small. Because environmental violence is fast and slow, affecting both ecosystems and bodies. Because people are losing their “sense of place” and because places are being taken from them through the forces of neoliberalism, consumerism, and the fossil fuel economy.

But since you are reading this, you likely already know most of this, and you are probably already considering the questions: “What can I do? What should I do to address this destruction and injustice?” One surprising answer might be: “study the environmental humanities.” The humanities, and the literary and cultural arts specifically, put us in contact with writers and thinkers and philosophers, with scientists and activists and teachers, all of whom have sought to understand the human role in the more than human world. Pursuing graduate study in the environmental humanities is an opportunity to learn from, and contribute to, the vast body of wisdom that has accumulated in this regard. Furthermore, while the roles of the humanities, and specifically the study of literary and cultural texts, in society has always been changing, it is nevertheless worth remembering that the word “text” comes from the Latin texere, meaning to weave or construct. Thus, the overall project of the environmental humanities, in its study of and creation of texts, may in one sense be seen as part of an effort to re-weave the world and to work towards constructing resilient communities in a time of great social and environmental crises.

Why should you pursue studying the environmental humanities? Because stories matter. Because poetry and metaphor matter. Because art, film, performance, and culture matter. And because the world needs more people who have studied these things, who can speak intelligently about these things, and who can write intelligently about these things. The world needs more people who can teach these things not just to students in institutions of higher education but also to the public at large. That is, the world needs public intellectuals, scholars, and artists who are engaged with issues of social and environmental justice and with issues of human and more-than-human histories and futures and who can tell powerful stories through many mediums.

Pursuing graduate study in the environmental humanities does not necessarily mean having to enter academia afterwards. There are many opportunities for the intellectual, artist, writer, or teacher trained in the environmental humanities in all areas of public and private work. However, it is important to recognize that the fields and sub-disciplines within the broad rubric of the environmental humanities do share a common orientation regarding the role of academia. They believe that no firm distinction exists between what occurs “inside” academia and what occurs “outside.” On the one hand, this means that being an academic need not take the place of participating in protest marches, joining environmental groups, or repairing community gardens and wilderness trails. On the other hand, it means that “traditional” academic study can also have a visible impact upon the world.  Pursuing study in the environmental humanities means joining a community of scholars, teachers, artists, and activists who are working from both inside and outside academic institutions to address the many social and environmental crises that our common world is facing today. It means shifting the terms of the question from “What can I do” to “What can we do?”

Stephen Siperstein is a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Oregon and is currently an ASLE Graduate Student Liaison.

Paul Bogard, James Madison University

Soon after the whole rock n’ roll star thing didn’t work out, Paul Bogard began taking creative writing classes at the University of New Mexico (UNM), where he eventually earned a Masters of Arts in Creative Writing. During his three years at UNM Paul had the good fortune to work with Gregory Martin, a fantastic writer (Mountain City, Stories for Boys) and an even better teacher of creative nonfiction. Then at a conference in Albuquerque Paul met longtime ASLE member Susan Hanson who told him about the Literature and Environment program at the University of Nevada, Reno. 

Paul can’t say enough good things about the four years he spent in Reno earning his PhD with the guidance of ASLE members Scott Slovic, Cheryll Glotfelty, Mike Branch, and alongside fellow students in the UNR program. The program at Reno was a great experience, a special place. Paul’s background in both literature and creative writing was a plus on the job market. In 2007 he accepted a three-year visiting position at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where he taught American literature surveys and advanced creative writing. He then spent two years at Wake Forest University teaching composition and creative writing.

Bogard_EndofNight_HCNow, with a tenure track position at James Madison University teaching creative nonfiction, and with the publication of his book The End of Night Paul’s primary motivation continues: to teach and write about “the environment,” this beautiful world we share. Being an ASLE member since 2003 has been a vital part of his path. Even if in his next life the rock n’ roll star thing does work out, Paul guesses he will still show up at ASLE conferences to hang out with his literature and environment friends.

Paul Bogard is Assistant Professor of English and Director of Undergraduate Internships at James Madison University.

Erin Conley, University of California Los Angeles

Since joining ASLE in 2010 I’ve participated in two biennial conferences and held countless generative conversations both in-person and via social media with fellow scholars from around the world. No matter the context, our conversations always seem to circle back to the issue of how scholarship can engage our communities through praxis. What can we as scholars and teachers working in the environmental humanities do to curb the systemic inequality and structural violence that goes hand in hand with the destruction of the environment?

Every quarter I take my “Critical Reading and Writing” students to a busy intersection on the edge of UCLA’s campus and ask them to close read how humans move through the space. Here Sunset Boulevard cuts through a few acres of land dense with sycamores and ficus trees. North of the intersection, the Bel Air gates receive a slow trickle of luxury vehicles and landscaping trucks while countless busses and private cars pass by our university grounds on the south. I ask my students to describe the socio-ecological landscape of Los Angeles and to consider how their observations about it comport with the ways the literature of our city simultaneously critiques and celebrates this region replete with concrete and cars.

As graduate students we’re in a unique position to shape the field of environmental humanities through our research and pedagogical innovation. Experiment as much as you can with bringing ecological praxis into your classroom. Incorporate fieldwork and service learning. Have students read the world around them as a text. Whether the text they’re close reading is a poem or a major street intersection, our students can learn to describe power through the lens of environmental humanities, and in describing power they can start learning how to dismantle it.

April Anson, Graduate Student at the University of Oregon

The conversations and contacts I make at ASLE enrich my knowledge of the field, my scholarship, and my personal life. – April Anson

I first attended and presented at the 2011 ASLE conference in Bloomington, Indiana. I was humbled and inspired to field questions from some of the foremost scholars in the field, and was energized as conversations in sessions continued over meals and conference excursions. In addition to the relaxed and engaged atmosphere of the conference, I took advantage of the mentoring program and received valuable guidance from Annie Ingram, a former president of ASLE. I gained much that first year and had a similarly exciting experience at the 2013 conference in Kansas. The conversations and contacts I make at ASLE enrich my knowledge of the field, my scholarship, and my personal life. Of all the scholarly organizations I am a part of, ASLE is the most encouraging to graduate students and the most welcoming to students with complex, interdisciplinary questions.

Dr. Ali Brox, Lecturer in English and Environmental Studies, University of Kansas

For the past two years, I have team taught a two-semester course, “The Global Environment,” in the Environmental Studies program at the University of Kansas. The course combines perspectives on the human relationship to the natural environment from the perspectives of the humanities, sciences, and social sciences.

Team-teaching has been an enriching experience. It has increased the scope of my research, and enhanced my ability to communicate with scholars in the natural and social sciences. Collaborative-teaching has benefited me as an instructor as well. The opportunity to observe teaching approaches from my colleagues in other fields, and their witnessing my classroom approach, has offered opportunities for discussions about how material is presented, the way class time is spent, and what the most effective methods are for achieving course goals. While teaching collaboratively is more fun than teaching solo, there are challenges when designing a course with others. It takes longer to make decisions and create course materials and to plan out the responsibilities among the team. And regular meetings to discuss course content, email exchanges of assignments and exams, and building rubrics to ensure that grading standards are consistent among evaluators.

The interdisciplinary nature of the course materials in “The Global Environment,” and the opportunities to work with professors in history, geography, and sociology has broadened my approach to course preparation and design, and has expanded the types of courses I am able teach in both English and Environmental Studies programs. Moreover, the relationships I have developed with my team-teaching colleagues have increased my feelings of belonging to the wider university community.

Dr. Ann Martinez, Assistant Professor of English, Kent State University at Stark

This past year I completed my dissertation, “The Medieval Green Age: Environmentalism and English Literature in the Middle Ages,” an examination of Anglo-Saxon and Middle English depictions of environmental awareness in poetry, and joined the ranks of the beleaguered academic job seekers. 2013-2014 was considered a “good” year for Medievalists on the market. I applied to thirty-four positions and was one of the fortunate ones who received attention from a number of schools, and in the end had two job offers. I feel that the focus of my research, particularly my dissertation, helped me immensely in getting that attention. The majority of the positions to which I applied were listed as “Pre-1800 British Literature.” But in the job interviews my expertise in ecocriticism and environmental literature was attractive to search committees. The interdisciplinary edge to my work allows me to contribute to green conversations and initiatives that many colleges have recently started.

My interest in ecocriticism began years ago, when I took a class at the University of Kansas with Byron Caminero-Santangelo. He encouraged me to join ASLE and attend the 2011 conference in Bloomington, Indiana, where I presented “Green Boundaries: Displacement and the Non-Human in British Literature, from Medieval Monsters to Tolkien’s Elves,” and the 2013 conference in Lawrence, Kansas, where I presented “Nanesmonnesland: No-man’s-land, Monstrous Boundaries, and the Figure of the Hybrid in Beowulf.” As I prepare to start my new job this fall as an assistant professor at Kent State University at Stark, I am very thankful that I took the green way.