In this special episode of High Theory, Ramsés Martínez Barquero and Abigail Cowan interview their graduate student colleagues about teaching. They turn our attention to graduate study as one of the foundational aspects in building academic knowledge, and show us graduate instructors encountering the classroom as a learning environment for teachers and students. Abigail and Ramses recorded interviews with eight fellow graduate students in a story circle they held at the PennState Humanities Institute as part of their Public Humanities Fellowship program. The episode weaves together stories of anxiety and humor, pushing against self doubt, and finding community while pursuing graduate studies.

Ramsés Martínez Barquero is a M.A/PhD student in the Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. He earned a BA in Spanish Philology in Barcelona, where he was born and raised. While  at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Ramsés collaborated with GEXEL (Grupo de Estudios del Exilio Literario), a group that focuses on the Spanish Republican Exile, which took place after the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). His interests and research projects focus on the republican exile, such as Max Aub’s and Antonio Buero Vallejo’s epistles, almost unknown authors like Álvaro de Orriols, and the communication between the exiled authors and the ones who lived inside Spain during Franco’s dictatorship. Ramsés is also interested in contemporary theater and authors such as Juan Mayorga. Overall, Ramsés investigates Spanish Republican Exile along with XXth and XXIth century Spanish literature, focusing on exile, literature during the dictatorship and cultural studies that focus on topics such as cultural memory or historical memory in Spain and Europe.

Abigail Cowan is a graduate student for the Department of English and a teaching assistant for English and Comparative Literature. She is experienced in teaching Rhetoric and Composition, Human Rights and World Literature, and Technical Writing. Her inclusive and collaborative pedagogical approach emboldens students to advocate for their learning needs and seize their passions. Abigail earned her Bachelor’s degrees in English Literature and Creative Writing from Western Michigan University. Her current research interests include women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, Marxist feminism, speculative fiction, and digital humanities. In her free time, she enjoys creative writing, singing, reading, and cuddling her cat, Omar.

Kristina Bowers is a PhD student at Penn State University studying Rhetoric and Composition and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Their research interests include queer/trans, feminist, and embodied rhetorics; digital humanities methods; Writing Program Administration; and editing. They hold a Masters of Arts in English and a Master of Arts in Teaching K-12 English as a Second or Other Language as well as a BA in English/Women’s and Gender Studies. They have experience teaching EL students at a K-5 school, consulting and program coordination in a university Writing Center, and editing professional and academic materials. In their free time, Kristina enjoys hiking and cooking with their wife.

Vani Gupta is a doctoral student in the HDFS Department at Penn State University. With research experience at the Decision Lab in IIT Kanpur, she focused on studying the impact of Covid-19 on anxiety and foraging decisions. Vani holds a Master’s degree in Biological Sciences and Bio-engineering from IIT Kanpur and a Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology from Delhi Technological University. Her research interests include neuroscience of mindfulness and empathy through decision making, across different developmental periods. In her free time, she enjoys singing Hindustani classical music, learning Sanskrit, and volunteering. Vani also loves traveling and engaging in interesting conversations with ‘humans’ across the world.

Ash Mayes is a master’s student in the English department. Her studies center rhetoric and composition studies with particular emphasis on digital multimodal composition. She is interested in studies of labor, food, and technology. Additionally, Ash teaches rhetoric and composition and technical writing courses to undergraduate students. Her pedagogy takes a universal design approach to build upon and expand the multiple and intersecting literacies, skills, and perspectives that students come into the classroom already possessing.

Ana Sofía Semo is a second-year graduate student in the Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, and now she teaches Spanish 2 in the Spanish Basic Language Program. She obtained her B.A. in Social Communication on which she specialized in film language. Her undergraduate dissertation was on the representation of sexuality and eroticism in the Mexican Golden Age Cinema. She also studied Semiotics and History of Ideas at the National University of Entre Ríos in Argentina. Moreover, she worked as a soft news reporter for Reforma newspaper in Mexico City and in the communications area of an NGO. Her current research interests include the representation of Jewish women in contemporary Latin American literature, Jewish studies and Gender and Women studies. In her free time, Ana Sofía loves discovering new places on her bike and cooking.

María José Andrade Gabiño is a Ph.D. student in the Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese Department. She holds a BA in literature from the Universidad de las Américas Puebla (UDLAP) with an honors thesis about masculinity constructions in the Ateneo de la Juventud, a group of young writers at the early twentieth-century who became essential figures in the configuration of post-revolutionary Mexico. She has worked as a journalist in LADO B, an independent digital newspaper in Puebla, Mexico. Her journalistic investigations have been around cultural production, feminism, LGBT+ community and the current situation of violence against women in Mexico.

Alex Mika is a second-year PhD student in the Penn State English Department studying Shakespeare’s cultural legacy via literary, cinematic, and dramatic adaptations of his works. He is especially interested in exploring the ways in which Russian literary and dramatic figures have engaged with Shakespeare’s plays. He also enjoys learning languages, playing the piano, and occasionally falling down rabbit holes. 

The image for this episode was made by Saronik Bosu in 2023. 

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