Grad Story #25
Grad Story #25
Lisa, what drew you to the MA program in English?
I received my BA in English from UND, so I had the opportunity to get to know the faculty before I decided to attend UND for my MA. The final decision really came down to the opportunity for one-on-one work with faculty. I knew I would have that at UND.
What was your favorite class?
That’s a tough question! The poetry workshops I was a part of were my favorite. There was a sense of community in the class, and discussions were always lively. You don’t realize what a great opportunity workshops are – the chance for several people to respond to your writing and to hear their feedback before you submit it. It’s a rare and very valuable thing.
The English Department successfully nominated your Master’s thesis for the 2010 Distinguished Thesis Award. The award is recognition of academic excellence in your field. How did you respond when you discovered you’d been chosen?
Shock. I was really honored. UND graduates many accomplished students, and I was overwhelmed to be recognized. It’s nice to have someone confirm that what you’re writing is important.
You recently published In Grain (Finishing Line Press, 2011). Can you describe the book?
It’s a collection of poetry that explores rural North Dakota and the family farm. It centers around the connection the people have with the land, exploring the interdependent relationships between the family and the family farm. It’s really less about North Dakota and more about the farming community; these poems could very well take place on a wheat farm in Kansas. As corporate farming begins to monopolize agriculture, it’s easy to say the family farm has failed, and that’s what will be remembered. The family farm also thrived. It is my hope that this project illustrates the beauty within the challenges of a farming community.
Can you talk about your writing process when you were compiling In Grain? I imagine many of the themes stem from personal experiences?
Many of the themes do stem from personal experience. I grew up on a farm in rural North Dakota, but I didn’t have an intense interest in the workings of it until I began writing. I needed to write a poem for a workshop I was in, and “Rural Route 2, Box 36” came out. It was surprising to me that this became the project that obsessed me. I spent the next two years writing and revising poems exploring this agricultural lifestyle.
Throughout a graduate student’s career they tend to work closely with faculty mentors and advisors. How important is that relationship to your success as a grad student?
This was very important to me; it was one of the reasons I chose UND’s MA program. I went to my advisor for everything, and she probably spent just as much time on In Grain as I did – reading, commenting, talking it out with me. The faculty encouragement and support throughout my time at UND was invaluable, and those faculty members are still encouraging me even after I’ve left!
What are you doing now?
I am a full-time faculty member at Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. I’m excited to get to do what my advisor did for me.
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
Get to know the faculty – they are your best resource.
The truck stop is the best place to do homework – they’re open all night and the coffee is endless.