Saturday, May 23, 2020
Susan Harris's recruitment letter: How I got to Penn State
In the fall of 1998, during my senior year at Tougaloo College, I was trying to decide on graduate schools where I might apply. I was an English and history major. One day, while talking through my grad school dilemma, one of my history professors asked if I had ever considered the English program at Pennsylvania State University. I had not.
My professor then showed me a letter that had been sent to an administrator at Tougaloo and then distributed among various professors. The letter was from Susan Harris, director of graduate studies in English, and she was encouraging administrators and professors to make students aware that Penn State was recuriting for its graduate programs.
That letter, which wouldn't have even reached me if that history professor had not mentioned it, was the first time I had thought about attending graduate school in Pennsylavania. I mentioned the letter to another professor, Jerry W. Ward, Jr., and he noted that Bernard W. Bell and William J. Harris were at Penn State. I followed up with Susan Harris, and she arranged for me to visit in early spring.
I made the visit, which went well. At the end of my time at Penn State, Susan Harris asked me if I was going to accept the department's offer. I said, "let me think about it." Shortly after our conversation, I boarded my flight and returned to Tougaloo.
The next morning a little after 7:00 am, the phone rang in my dorm room. I picked it up and said, "hello."
"Hello. This is Susan Harris. Have you thought about it?" she asked.
That's how I ended up at Penn State for graduate school.
• An Inspiring Book on Mark Twain
• Mark Twain and the generative power of difficult men