English Grad Student Profiles

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2016 MA Grads Move On To Doctoral Work

The Department of English wishes to celebrate the accomplishments of Gabriela Valenzuela and Amanda Kong, who will be heading off to pursue doctoral work this fall! Both weighed attractive offers from various Ph.D. programs around the country before making their final decisions. As they extend the department's successes in doctoral placement, we thank them not only for being ambassadors for Cal State LA's English Department, but also for enriching our program during their time here with their collective spirit, good (and wry!) humor, and intellectual insight.

Amanda Kong will be attending UC-Davis, continuing the work she initiated in her time at Cal State LA. Her thesis is a savvy interpretation of the representations by Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau of antebellum American labor, with a specific focus on the way that these authors confronted paradoxes presented by the expanding possibilities of print during that time. She is moreover interested in pursuing work on the nineteenth-century infrastructure of the western U.S., as well as literatures documenting the Chinese-American experience in California.

Gabriela Valenzuela will be heading across town to join the grad student community at UCLA (including its many Cal State LA alums!). She'll be riding the momentum of her compelling thesis, which reads Emily Dickinson's practices of self-publishing -- especially letter-writing -- as a strategic response to the gender expectations implicit in the literary marketplace of her time. Gabriela plans to extend her scholarship on the writing of nineteenth-century women and to pursue her longtime interest in Latino/a literatures -- as well as to cultivate her emergent enthusiasm for archival work.

As impressive as their thesis projects, however, has been their shared commitment to both professionalization and intellectual community. Often working in tandem (justifying the nickname "Gabmanda"), they have been fearless about networking, sharing work at academic conferences, and taking on professional responsibility. Both have served as American Literature session chairs for the Pacific Ancient and Modern Literature Association conference; Amanda helmed the steering committee of the CSU's annual graduate conference, Significations; Gabriela is a 2015-2016 fellow of the Andover Institute for the Recruitment of Teachers; both are members of the English Department's McGrath Working Group. And this list of very tangible accomplishments is complemented by the affective impact their leadership has had on the department culture. We are sorry to see them go, but happy to see them succeed. Well-done, Amanda and Gabriela!

Profiles of Recent Graduates

Below are brief profiles of some of our recent graduates.

Carrie Arcos imageCarrie Arcos '07

After working as a high school teacher for many years, Carrie Arcos enrolled in the English Department’s M.A. program and graduated in 2007. She published her first novel, Out of Reach, in 2012. Upon its release, it was nominated for the California Book Award for Young Adults and the National Book Award for Young People. The novel has since won multiple awards, including the IRA Young Adult Honor Book of 2013, the CLC Peggy Miller Award of 2013, and was named a Bankstreet Best of 2013. Carrie says that she writes books for Young Adults and loves the genre. Currently, she is working on a third novel that’s scheduled for publication with Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Abraham Encinas imageAbraham Encinas '13

Abraham received both his B.A. and M.A. in English from Cal State LA.  He is an associate of the Institute for Recruitment of Teachers (IRT), an English PhD student at UCLA, and a recipient of the Eugene V. Cota-Robles fellowship.  He is currently interested in postcolonial translation theory and 20th century literature beginning with European modernism and up to the contemporary global Anglophone novel.  Abraham has also been a long-time tutor working with inner-city students in Los Angeles and a public school teacher in Alhambra. “My goal,” he says, “is to one day teach at a public university like Cal State LA.”

John Gordon imageJohn Gordon '10

John Gordon is a part-time faculty member at California State University, Los Angeles, as well as a budget analyst for the Department of Pathology at USC’s Keck School of Medicine and a freelance writer.  John attended California State University, Los Angeles for both his BA and MA in English, with a focus on short story writing.  With a longtime interest in table top war gaming, John is a freelance writer for Hyacinth Games based out of Chicago, Illinois which produces role-playing and table top gaming materials including rule books, fine scale miniatures, and short fiction. John Gordon lives in Temple City, California.  ​

image of Katharine HenryKatharine Henry '15

Katharine Henry completed undergraduate degrees in English and Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. In her coursework she felt particularly drawn to critical animal studies, disability and the nexus between them. In the English M.A. program at Cal State Los Angeles, Katharine enjoyed deeply exploring literary theory and reflecting on the body as a porous vessel mediating the anxieties and desires of self and society. With the inspiring support and encouragement of her professorial mentors, she brought her interdisciplinary curiosities together to read Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” in conversation with the fiber sculptures of American visual artist Judith Scott, arguing for an ethics of disability through human relationships with objects. Katharine has been delighted to share in the rich intellectual culture of Cal State LA by being a part of the campus’s major literary events, including the 19th and 20th Significations conferences, Statement, and the Center for the Study of Genders and Sexualities conference. A proud Cal State LA graduate, she is excited to begin the English Ph.D. program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Fall 2015.

image of Efren LopezEfren Lopez '13

Raised in the San Gabriel Valley, Efren earned his B.A. (’07) and M.A. (’13) in English from California State University Los Angeles, where he studied how 19th and early 20th century American Literature considers the relationship between economic arrangement and the utopian imaginary.  A former Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral scholar and Institute for Recruitment of Teachers (IRT) Associate, he began doctoral work at UCLA’s Department of English in the Fall of ’13 as a Eugene V. Cota-Robles Fellow.  Utilizing critical, theoretical, as well as archival methods, Efren studies Chicano and American Literature from 1800-present, especially literary accounts and theorizations of racial violence and utopia.  He credits CSULA for “well, basically everything” and hopes, as a future teacher, to follow the tradition of outstanding mentorship he himself received during his time there.

Melanie Sherazi imageMelanie Masterton Sherazi '09

Melanie Masterton Sherazi is a Ph.D. candidate in English at the University of California, Riverside, specializing in 20th century modern and contemporary American literature. She received her M.A. in English from CSULA in 2009, after writing her thesis on Faulkner’s experimental fiction under the advisement of Jun Liu. At CSULA, she found a rigorous intellectual environment that was attentive to the needs of working students. Her M.A. training continues to inform her doctoral research. Her dissertation, “Posthumous Afterlives: Ecstatic Readings of Post-1945 American Literature,” explores the temporal and ethical implications of texts that were written during the civil-rights-era by authors such as Ralph Ellison and Carson McCullers, but were published posthumously, years and sometimes decades after the death of the author. She is currently a UCR Immortality Project Fellow, and a UC Hayman Foundation Fellow. She recently returned from working in Italy with the papers of the late African American expatriate author William Demby, and is developing a book project about the writer’s life and work.

Najah Pena imageNajah Peña '12

Najah Peña started in Fall 2013 in the Comparative Literature and Foreign Languages Ph.D. program at the University of California, Riverside. She received her M.A. in English from Cal State LA in 2012. She works on nineteenth-century France and Egypt, mainly on the impact of the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt on Arabic and Islamic epistemologies, examining issues of identity through a focus on class culture, the  hegemony of modernity, and the role of power hierarchies in colonial and postcolonial continuities. On the French side, her work examines the intersections between orientalism, colonialism, modernity, and identity in nineteenth-century French literature.

Gretta Whalen imageGretta Whalen '13

After graduating from CSULA in Spring 2013, Gretta Whalen became the Communications Manager for Hadley Impact Consulting, a firm that provides consulting, fundraising, and management services for social impact campaigns. She has penned blog posts that appeared in the Huffington Post and the African-American Observer, managed multiple social media and email marketing campaigns, and crafted messaging for tech startups, documentary filmmakers, celebrities, and philanthropists. She credits CSULA with making her a more sensitive, careful, and responsible thinker and writer, which is crucial for her cause-related work.  Every day, she uses the skills she learned as a graduate student at CSULA.

See Also


Recent graduates of our M.A. Program have been accepted, with full funding, to the following Ph.D. Programs:

Brandeis University
Cornell University
CUNY Graduate School
UC Davis
Indiana University
UC Santa Cruz
UC Riverside
UC San Diego
University of Chicago
University of Michigan
University of Pennsylvania
University of Virginia

Some Colleges and Universities Where Cal State LA Grads Teach

Graduates of our Master's program teach at many of the community colleges, colleges and universities in Southern California. The list below, while incomplete, provides a glimpse of some of our graduates' successes.

Antelope Valley College
CSU Channel Islands
CSU Los Angeles
CSU Northridge
Citrus College
College of the Desert
Cuyamaca Community College
Dominican University of California
Eastern Connecticut State University
El Camino College
Fullerton College
Glendale City College
Irvine Valley College
Long Beach City College
Los Angeles City College
Los Angeles Harbor College
Los Angeles Mission College
Los Angeles Trade Tech
Los Angeles Valley College
Mira Costa Community College
Moorpark College
Mt. San Antonio College
Orange Coast College
Oxnard Community College
Pasadena City College
Rio Hondo College
San Diego State University
Santa Barbara City College
Santa Monica College
Ventura Community College
Yeshiva College