New Directions: Professor Judith Haas

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Assistant Professor of English Judith Haas began her career in English early - as an undergraduate at Wesleyan University. Though she considered studying French or Classics, she decided to pursue her B.A. in English then continued on to the University of California, Santa Cruz to obtain her Ph.D. in literature. Growing up with a mother who taught English and a father who was an English professor, Professor Haas often felt that teaching as a career was “just what you [did].”  Despite her parents’ efforts to dissuade, Professor Haas loved being in the classroom.  Now she has been teaching at Rhodes for six and a half years, and this fall she took on a new position as Co-director of Postgraduate Fellowships.

When Dean Drompp asked that Professor Haas consider this new role for the fall of 2008, she had already worked with some of the most talented and motivated students at Rhodes during her four years as the Secretary-Treasurer of the Rhodes chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and her role in determining the recipient of the Peyton Nalle Rhodes award. In her new role, Professor Haas will help mentor students pursuing any one of a number of prestigious fellowships. Postgraduate fellowships are highly competitive and include such well-known programs as the Rhodes, Marshall, Watson, and Fulbright. The Marshall Scholarship, which is open to students of any major, had almost nine hundred applicants in 2008; only thirty-seven applicants were chosen to receive scholarships, giving the program an acceptance rate of just over four percent. The preparation required to apply for these programs at Rhodes is rigorous. Co-directors Judith Haas and Mike LaRosa teach a one-credit course in the spring to prepare interested students for the September and October deadlines of many of the fellowships. The class not only provides students with information about the many different programs available, but it is also a valuable way for students to become familiar with what is expected in a statement of purpose, which is also required for graduate school applications. Professor Haas describes writing a statement of purpose as “inventing yourself as a scholar.” She expresses how difficult not only the writing process itself is, but the larger process of thinking of yourself “as a person who contributes to the intellectual world,” instead of just “taking it all in,” as a student does in the undergraduate phase. “I enjoy working with students who are highly motivated in their revisions,” Professor Haas remarked of the students preparing their statements of purpose. One of Professor Haas’s favorite benefits of the program, however, is that she does not have to give grades – her self-admitted least favorite task as a professor – which allows her to form relationships with these students without the stress of evaluation.

You can learn more about individual postgraduate fellowships on the Rhodes website at: http://www.rhodes.edu/academics/1128.asp.