Alumni Stories: Melody Jue
Do you have any fond memories from UC Davis as an English major? What was your favorite class?
I have fond memories of reading in the sunshine on the grassy Quad, biking to the library and wandering around the stacks, writing the Mondavi Center blog one year, and walking through Voorhies to go to office hours while battling nerves. Colin Milburn's science fiction class was particularly memorable (as was the literature and science grad class he let me crash...). He started class with a reading of The Matrix and the embedding of a digital file hidden within a book that had its pages cut out--I was hooked. I also really enjoyed Mark Jerng's class on contemporary Asian American literature, Fran Dolan's Shakespeare and drama classes, Scott Shershow's intro to critical theory, and Greg Dobbins' class on Modernism.
Did you always want to become an English professor? What inspired you to follow this career path?
Taking Intro to Drama with Fran Dolan my first quarter at Davis was formative. As one of my classmates put it, "Fran could teach the phonebook and make it interesting." I loved her lectures and, on some level, wanted to be able to engage people in a similar way. Fran directed me to Colin when he was hired the next year, since I was interested in literature and science. He directed my senior thesis on metaphors of cognition, and that gave me the momentum to pursue a PhD. What really made the difference, though, was Colin's glowing encouragement and belief that any student can tackle hard material if they're willing to put in the effort. Another important mentor was Evan Fletcher, who taught a course on "the scientific study of consciousness" for the Integrated Studies Honors Program when I was at Davis. He had a talent for listening and asking good questions.
Do you have any advice for current students interested in entering the educational field?
As to advice for anyone interested in the field of education... learn as much as you can about different career options in the field, and know your own strengths and what you like to do. In addition to K-12 education, I have friends who have gotten involved in English education abroad, others who study the effectiveness of media in k-12 classrooms, others who work in the field of distance learning, others who study how to make math more interesting in the classroom, and others who have a PhD but work for universities in roles that have to do with grant-writing or programming (organizing guest lectures). And that's just to name a few options! The field of education is huge, with many opportunities to do meaningful and rewarding work.
What courses are you currently teaching at UC Santa Barbara?
At UC Santa Barbara, I regularly teach courses on Science Fiction, Ocean Media, contemporary American fiction, and environmental literature & theory. My research sort of combines all these things, focused on the ocean. I'm working on a book called Wild Blue Media: Thinking Through Seawater (forthcoming with Duke Press), which shows how oceanic environments can make us aware of the terrestrial bias in our concepts and vocabularies. For example, what changes if you locate a museum underwater? What counts as ocean memory? My one regret at Davis is that I did not take Scuba certification courses, but I ended up learning a few years later, in North Carolina.
You can find more information about Melody, including her written work and underwater photographs, here: http://www.melodyjue.info/.