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Alumni Profiles


Morgan Lessley

Name: Morgan Lessley
Graduation Year: 2014
Program: English
Degree: MA


Why did you choose the University of Rochester?

I was attracted to many aspects of the U of R’s M.A.  program in English, but particularly the collaborative environment, the beautiful campus, and the plethora of resources and research opportunities in the Robbins Library. The opportunity to pursue interdisciplinary work also held a strong appeal: in one short year, I was able to study one-on-one with professors at the top of their fields in English, History, and Literary Translation Studies.

Were there any aspects of the program that you benefited from without expecting to?

Although I’d known about the program’s small class-sizes, I hadn’t anticipated how closely I would work with the faculty: during my year at the U of R, I think I spent just as much time in office hours as I did in seminars. The professors are extremely supportive and continue to be so even after one graduates. I have stayed in contact with several of the faculty, and they have aided me in making career decisions.

How did your time at the U of R help to prepare you for where you are now? (You are now in the midst of pursuing an M.Ed. in addition to a teaching certificate. Are you still glad that you received and M.A. in English as well?)

I entered the U of R’s M.A. program intending eventually to earn a Ph.D. in Medieval Literature; but while my career path took another direction – toward secondary education – my time in the program has figured centrally in this new field of endeavor. My studies exposed me to postcolonial texts, while also grounding me further in the Western canon: this experience has proven especially useful in curriculum-design. Moreover, the knowledge I gained while writing my M.A. thesis, which was on trans-historicism and The Canterbury Tales, has provided me with the tools I need when helping my students to connect to the past – as well as to draw connections to the present.

Your work with Literary Translation Studies would seem unrelated to basic primary- and secondary-school education; how has that tied in?

My work in literary translation studies focused on Old English texts, and last year, while serving with AmeriCorps in an elementary-school classroom, I found that my knowledge of this premodern language actually aided me in teaching phonics: the students felt that their work was more meaningful once they learned the history behind the rules they were being taught. Further, my study of literary-translation theory, in particular, has supplied me with a deeper understanding of what it means to interpret: it has influenced how I help learners to navigate and develop their own readings of the texts I introduce to them. Indeed, I have found that teaching is itself a kind of work of translation: each day I am asked to present material in new ways to new audiences – and, as in the translation of a literary text, the cultivation of beauty and pleasure in one’s teaching may ultimately be as important as the transmission of information.