We Are English Majors: Alan Roberson

Alan Roberson photo

In your time with the English Department, what has been the most memorable course you have taken? Why?

English 167, 20th Century African-American Poetry is my most memorable course because it challenged me to fortify my work-ethic and personal worldviews. It was my first quarter as a transfer student, yet I was accustomed to the 16 week semester system. Assignments were forty, or more, pages of close reading, which was a larger workload than I was used to. I struggled to read everything. I read a majority of it. I was disappointed with my study habits and I believed I missed out on powerful readings. Moreover, it was one of the few times an English course texts were of the canon of Afrocentric literature. I read poets that I had been interested in, but had not ventured deep into before the class. And the course framed the texts with the African-American social and political movements. I learned about social and political theory and gender issues and synthesized it with poetry. This class illuminated the necessity of managing my time for reading and writing. It reminded me control my learning trajectory.

Tell us more about your involvement around campus! This can include student organizations, clubs, or other events you've worked on. Please be as detailed as possible about what you did and your experiences.

I joined the legacy of student organizers for UC Davis’ Black Family Day and Pan Afro Student Organization (PASO) and earned my role as a campus organizer. BFD’s history stretches back to 1968 and is currently the largest event for Davis’ Afro community. In comparison, planning BFD is like planning a major cultural festival. I helped choose the performers, the event’s t-shirt design, and the food and non-food vendors; as the Facebook Content Creator, I managed advertisements. PASO’s presence at Davis traces back more than two decades and has been a politically charged organization; as PASO’s Communications Director, I manage the email and social media accounts. I search new ways to improve my communication skills and reach my leadership potential. Both groups strengthen Afro community presence. My favorite part of these experiences is fostering a place of belonging.

What is your emphasis (Creative Writing or Literary Criticism & Theory or both)? Why did you pick this as your emphasis?

My major emphasis is Creative Writing and my focus is poetry and fiction.

Why major in English? What would you like to do with your degree?

My desire to master English and Poetics began in my childhood when I realized that language attracted attention from my parents and teachers. As a third grader, my poem “My Dad” was published in the San Francisco Gate newspaper. Fortunately, I discovered my gift early. Since then, my obsession with writing was stimulated by poems, music, and novels. I love stories. I love to analyze writing for its ideas and styles; my dream is to professionally write poems, lyrics, plays and films. One of my life goals is to publish a novel; also, I want to teach English Literature and Creative Writing at the high school and collegiate level. Dozens of doors opened for me because of language and communication. Poetics showed me that language shapes perspective.

Tell us about your experience as a Transfer student

Unfortunately, I doubted myself a lot in my first year at Davis, and even a little bit now. Sometimes admiration for another intellect feels like intimidation, which lifts the lid to my “Pandora’s Box” of anxiety. Not only have I experienced anxiety in the classroom, but also the lows of student housing and owing money to the university; living in a new city and being away from my family is exciting, but also heartbreaking when those confidants are miles away and not easily accessible. I slipped into deep depression a few times. I continue to overcome self-doubt through studying diligently, surrounding myself with love, and self-affirming my competency. My academic performance used to be central to my self-worth, but I realized my resilience hitherto is my self-worth. I dreamed of being a university student in primary school, but I had few real relationships with people that went to college themselves. But I will succeed regardless of adversity. And I know I deserve to be at Davis and wherever else I want to be.