Jessica Alzen

English, M.A.

 

"The deep study of literature from all over the world opened my eyes to different lived experiences. I became a more critical thinker because of the ways I was challenged in several of my master’s courses."

Why did you choose this graduate degree program? What interested you in this particular field of study?
When I finished my undergraduate degree, my original plan was to teach high school English. Individuals who received their teaching credentials from CBU had the best reputations in local school districts, so I chose their M.A. in English program so that I would be the most marketable on the job market, gain more training in teaching, and ensure a pay increase as a teacher. While in the program, I considered getting a PhD in either comparative literature or film studies and finally move on to be a college professor because I was inspired by my professors in the program and wanted to become like them.

What did you like about being in this program at CBU?
I felt close to people I took classes with as well as the instructors I had. This made my learning experience like being a part of a second family. I am still in contact with several people I took classes with in this program, even though I completed the program over 10 years ago. Something else I really enjoyed was the immersive experience I got both in literature but also in learning how to teach literature to others. A lot of the skills I have in lesson planning and design are related to courses I took as a part of this master’s program, and a lot of the critical thinking I do about literature is grounded in things I learned as a part of this program. I also appreciated that this was a program I could complete while working. Getting my master’s degree wasn’t a huge financial burden because I could work while I completed the degree.

What did you think about your professors?
I had extremely positive relationships with all of my professors. I felt like each of them cared about me as an individual person as well as a student. They wanted me to do well in the program and in life after the program. They challenged me both as a learner as well as an educator. A major reason I went on to get my PhD was because of the support and encouragement I got from individuals I encountered while in this program.

Did you complete any field work?
I completed field work for several classes in this program. It was helpful for me to see what other teachers did in the classroom and how they went about teaching different kinds of students. All of the time I spent observing others helped me to be prepared for my own classroom. To this day, as I plan lessons, I draw on things I learned during this program.

How did you grow while in this program at CBU?
I grew in my understanding of the world in this program. The deep study of literature from all over the world opened my eyes to different lived experiences. I became a more critical thinker because of the ways I was challenged in several of my master’s courses.

What have you done since graduating?
I worked as a middle school math teacher in the Riverside area until 2011. I left the classroom at that time to pursue a PhD in Education at the University of Colorado Boulder. When I was admitted, I applied for and was awarded the Miramontes Scholars Fellowship, a competitive fellowship only offered to 2–3 students admitted to the School of Education every year. During my time as a graduate student, I gave several presentations at national education conferences. As I neared my dissertation, I applied for and won the American Educational Research Association MET Dissertation Fellowship. This fellowship was sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and AERA to support graduate students studying the Measures of Effective Teaching Project data. In 2017, I completed my PhD and also published a paper in the AERA-Open Journal entitled “The Implications of Reduced Testing for Teacher Accountability.” Immediately following graduation, I started a one-year post-doctoral position at the Center for Assessment, Design, Research and Evaluation at University of Colorado Boulder and will continue on as a full-time research associate there starting in Summer of 2018. In addition, I’ve worked as an adjunct instructor for CBU since I completed my master’s degree. 

How has your time at CBU prepared you for your life and career after grad school?
My time at CBU was integral in making me a lifelong learner, avid reader and critical thinker. I continue to read a wide array of literature and engage in thoughtful conversation about that literature with others. I think this enables me to participate in conversation with a wide range of people, and all of this stems from my education at CBU. On a professional level, I learned to write and to write well in this program. It was a huge benefit to not worry about my ability to write while working through my PhD. This continues to be a benefit in my professional life as an academic researcher.

Is there anything you learned at CBU that you still use in your professional life today?
I think about particular conversations I had in my master’s program and specific lessons I learned on a pretty regular basis. I still diagram sentences when I’m writing as well as reading. Graphic organizers were a huge part of what I learned in the program, and I continue to use them to organize my own learning as well as help my students organize theirs. I still plan lessons and classroom activities for diverse learners based on the training I got in these courses. I also learned how to write a literature review in this program, and this is a constant part of being an academic.

How are you making a difference in the world? How are you living your purpose?
Being involved in education is my purpose. I’m able to do that in multiple ways at this point. I work with undergraduate students through my work as an adjunct instructor. I work with K–12 students and teachers as well as other education professionals in my education research. I am able to make a difference in the ways I help students learn as well as the ways my work helps to inform education policy in meaningful ways.

Would you recommend CBU to others?
Yes! This program helped me grow as a person in multiple ways, and I built lifelong friendships along the way. The professors cared about me as a person, and that was such an important part of the program to me.

 

Learn More

M.A. in English
Department of Modern Languages and Literature

 

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