We Are English Graduate Students: Sophia Bamert

Sophia is a PhD Candidate in English who has been selected for the department's Mainz exchange program in 2018-2019. We talked to her about the program, how it connects to her teaching and research, and how she got interested in it. (To find out more, you can also go to the information session TODAY in Voorhies 396!)

You've been chosen for the Mainz exchange next year! What is it, and how did you get selected?

The UCD English department has a really amazing exchange program with the Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. Every year, we are lucky enough to have a German grad student who's doing their PhD in American Studies come to Davis to teach ENL 3, and in return we send a PhD candidate to Mainz to teach in the American Studies department there. The UCD student gets the opportunity to teach an Intro to American Studies course to BA students and a Critical Theory/Methodology course to MA students. Our department sends out the call for applicants every winter, so interested PhD students should keep their eye out for it in the future! And in the meantime, they should make sure to get to know the visiting lecturers from Mainz that we host every year.


What got you interested in this program? How do you expect the experience to connect to your other work?

Before beginning my graduate studies at Davis, I spent a year as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Germany, so as soon as I heard about the Mainz exchange, I knew that it would present the perfect opportunity for me to return to Germany. I am especially excited to be able to bring my knowledge of Germany's secondary school English classes—which I TAed in on my Fulbright—to my teaching at JGU Mainz, because I know that a majority of the students in American Studies classes will be Education majors who are planning to become English teachers in the public school system. I am also looking forward to being able to create syllabi related to my dissertation project (on urban space and race in American literature); for example, I am planning to call my Intro to American Studies course "American Urbanism." This will allow me to situate my literary research within its larger historical and cultural context, and it will likewise be hugely informative to encounter the perspectives through which university students outside of the US respond to the American texts that I work with. Because I work at the intersections of ecocriticism, cultural geography, and critical race studies, I am also hoping to incorporate contemporary readings from those fields into my MA theory seminar. What I love most about doing my PhD is teaching college students, so I am thrilled to have this opportunity to develop new courses and to teach in a foreign university system.


How can people find out more about the Mainz exchange program?

Prof. Dr. Oliver Scheiding, who coordinates the exchange on the German end, is going to be visiting Davis this Wednesday, May 23 and holding an information session for interested graduate students from 3-4 p.m. in Voorhies 396!