Category Archives: Alumni News

Welcome, Ms. Kim Turner!

Earlier in the semester, the Department of English announced the appointment of several new faculty members. In this post, we get to know Ms. Kim Turner as part of an ongoing “Q and A” series with our recent faculty additions. 

Ms. Turner previously taught at Florence-Darlington Technical College and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, but she’s no stranger to FMU: she’s a recent alumna!

In this Q and A, Ms. Turner discusses pursuing an MA in English, which she completed from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2013. She also explains how minoring in Gender Studies at FMU shaped her current research interests.  

What made you decide to specialize in your current subfield in English?

I minored in Gender Studies as an undergraduate, and I found the coursework particularly interesting. Modern American society, for all its progress, still possesses relatively archaic views of gender, sex, and sexuality. We find these issues played out over and over again in literature and popular culture, and research concerning these themes are particularly crucial for our cultural advancement.

What would you have liked to tell the 20-year-old version of yourself about college?

It’s okay if you need to take time and go a little slower. You’ve got a lot of life left. Take your time and learn.

What is the most intriguing or quirky idea that you have learned from your recent research?

I’ve been researching the HBO show Girls, and I’m still awed that my work is part of a legitimate field! It’s great to study in a field which entertains and interests you AND yields academic work!

Did you go straight to graduate school after college? If not, what was the most interesting thing you did in the interim?

I took a year off in between my undergrad and grad degrees. In the year off, I taught at a tech school and learned that being a teacher is not for the faint of heart!

Course Spotlight: Advanced Study in Critical Theory and Literature

This post is by Ms. Natalie Mahaffey, an instructor in the English Department and FMU alumna. She describes the role critical theory played in her successful transition from undergraduate to graduate studies. During spring semesters, the English Department offers a course in critical theory, ENG 465: Advanced Study in Critical Theory and Literature, which is open to majors and minors.

When I graduated from Francis Marion University in 2008 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English, I felt good about where I was going in life. I had an excellent GPA, a half dozen conference presentations, published poetry, and an English Award under my belt.

CC-licensed photo by flickr user origamidon

But, I wasn’t dumb to the fact that I was a very big fish about to become a very small minnow at Clemson University. That was fine with me, though. I was going to Clemson to get my Master’s degree in Literature, and all I cared about was getting through my two years unscathed with my academic reputation still intact.

However, as I sat through my first few months of Literature courses at Clemson, I began to realize something. In a class of twenty new graduate students, I was one of the only ones with any sort of experience presenting at conferences, and even stranger, one of the only ones who had ever had to deal with critical theory.

I remember sitting in on conversations and hearing students apply theory without realizing they were applying theory. They’d graze the surface of theory, only to let me down by the end of the conversation because they never quite got there. In the mean time, I was busy reading texts and delving into critical analyses all based in different forms of theory. Post-Structuralism. Deconstruction. Feminism. Marxism. Psychoanalysis. If I was writing a paper, theory was making an appearance.

I finally got brave enough to ask some of my peers about their background in critical theory, only to learn they’d never been introduced to theory as undergrads. Yes, they’d analyzed texts, but they’d never had an official learning experience that involved any sort of theory. I thought back to my undergrad courses, thought of Dr. David Cowles in English 465 cramming critical theory down my throat (because, really, that was the only way I was going to allow myself to learn theory), thought of the times I’d flung my theory book against a wall in frustration, only to pick it back up and start again. The memories made me cringe, glad that I’d survived that time in undergrad; but, those memories also made me exceptionally grateful for my experience as a student in Francis Marion’s English Department.

CC-licensed photo by flickr user scrappy annie

When I went to grad school, I was prepared. I was able to attack my work with confidence because I was not learning brand new material while some of my peers struggled; I was simply learning how to apply it in brand new ways. Some of my peers used to scoff at the fact that I came from such a small liberal arts school in a town they’d never heard of, but my small liberal arts school taught me what was necessary to succeed in grad school. I graduated from Clemson with a 4.0. I consider that Francis Marion’s 4.0 as much as it is mine. I may have worked for it, but the English Department at FMU gave me the tools to use to earn that GPA. Not so shabby for a little minnow in a sea of students.

Helping Homeowners and the Environment: A Professional Writing Internship with NERR

This post is written by Kerrie Bethel, a recent graduate of the Professional Writing Program. She describes her internship with an environmental research group and explains how professional writers are an important link between scientists and the public.

I held several jobs while I attended FMU’s Professional Writing program. I’ve been a customer care specialist, a tutor, a researcher, a waitress, and a babysitter. None of those experiences were able to reveal to me the things I learned as a writing intern at the North-Inlet Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR).

Kerrie Bethel, graduate of FMU’s Professional Writing Program. Photo copyright by Kerrie Bethel.

I worked on communicating research regarding swash and stormwater management to surrounding homeowner’s associations. I had never heard of a swash, which is a small, once-tidal creek that flows into the coastal waters. I completed hours of research and realized that the data I needed to communicate to area residents could save their livelihoods. The additional chemicals (natural chemicals are still chemicals) flowing into the coastal waters and nearby inlet are killing the fish and other wildlife. In Myrtle Beach, a tourist economy reliant on seafood and beach traffic, this information is important.

A scientist could not be the one to deliver this message, though. To the average homeowner, their jargon would be off-putting, but scientists love it, because it is the only way to be absolutely accurate. It takes a writer to understand the audience and to make a document that is appropriate. It also takes a writer to interview the scientists, have their documents fact-checked, and, when necessary, stand up to the scientists to benefit the audience. The last one is the most important and the most difficult.

CC-licensed photo by flickr user greenkayak73

I learned how to work at NERR. I learned that, despite the unpleasant aspects of the job, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I learned how to interact with co-workers, superiors, and audience members. I experienced the number of hands a document has to go through to be complete, and will never forget that. Every time I look at a document, I think of how many eyes had to see it first.

I was able to enjoy the reward of communication – helping others understand. This experience, like all of the others offered to me at FMU, helped shape me as a writer, and as a person.