Grad School: An Interview with Kendall Meador

Born in Lewiston, Idaho, Kendall Meador moved up and down the west coast before completing her BA in English at Southern Oregon University. She is currently pursuing a PhD in American literature at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. In her free time, she enjoys writing poetry and cooking.

Ed Battistella: What is your graduate experience like so far?

Kendall Meador: It’s difficult to describe very succinctly, but I’ll try. It’s been at once thrilling, disheartening, emboldening, devastating, inspiring, and excruciating.

EB: What’s been your intellectual focus and how has grad school changed that?

KM: I initially went in wanting to do Chicanx lit, especially focusing on what I think of as “messy” bodies — feminine bodies, wounded or disabled ones, queer ones, fat ones, etc. I am still very interested in working with representations of those bodies, but not specifically in Chicanx lit. The questions that drive my interests have shifted and are now really questions of citizenship. That is, whose body do we think of when we think of a citizen? And I’m interested in how our conceptions of citizenship impact reproductive rights and choices about sex and sexuality.

EB: What courses are you taking and what sorts of things were you reading?

KM: This term I am taking an archival research course and a Chicanx literature course. For the former, we’ve read a lot of interesting texts like Jill Lepore’s Book of Ages (much better than her recent op-ed), and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A Midwife’s Tale. I enjoy reading the fruits of these long research projects that reconstruct the lives of historical women. In the latter class we are reading texts from Caballero by Jovita González and Eve Raleigh, to Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera, to Salvador Plascencia’s People of Paper. We’re really tracking the development of Chicanx identity and culture over the term, and it has been a lot of fun.

EB: What has been the most fun so far?

KM: I just love talking about books in seminars. I love it when something a colleague says transforms my understanding of a passage, or when I have a moment of realization in class and get to share this thing that I’ve just seen that’s really exciting to me.

EB: What has been the weirdest?

KM: This year, it’s been working remotely. When I do go to campus occasionally it’s practically deserted, and that feels very peculiar and a little eerie.

EB: What’s next for you?

KM: Wrapping up my first term as an instructor, writing a couple of long papers, and celebrating a year with my partner, who is also in my program.

EB: Any advice for students considering going on for more school?

KM: First off, apply for a GRE waiver! That waiver will qualify you for graduate program application fee waivers and those bad boys add up. A less cheery piece of advice is that if you’re interested in going to grad school because you want to work in academia, you need to recognize early on that the job market is dismal. COVID may make it much worse for the foreseeable future. So, if you do go to graduate school, go to a program that will not require you to take on any additional debt, and do it to enjoy every available opportunity to develop and indulge your interests. Make the program a worthy end in and of itself, because that’s what you can control. Last, I would also advise new grad students to make friendships with their cohort mates and other peers as soon as possible. You have no idea how crucial those relationships can be, especially when imposter syndrome and multiple deadlines conspire to crush you. Just knowing other people are feeling or have felt as you do can make all the difference. Good luck!

EB: Thanks for talking with us!

KM: Thanks for the opportunity.

About Ed Battistella

Edwin Battistella’s latest book Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels was released by Oxford University Press in March of 2020.
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