Congratulations to all of our master's and doctoral students joining Temple University's College of Liberal Arts' (CLA) Class of 2020! We know your final days with us weren't what you (or any of us) were expecting, but we couldn't be prouder of you for displaying the resolve necessary to finish your graduate studies under these conditions. Please join us in celebrating your entire class of graduate students and your amazing accomplishments by highlight a few of your fellow grads!


Kristina Dale | Psychological Research MS

A community college transfer student, Kristina completed her bachelor's and master's at CLA in just three years thanks to the +1 program and was awarded a LAURA.

My favorite thing about my program was: the people I got to meet and interact with. My peers, lab mates, professors and mentors quickly became like an extension of my family. That helped me grow as an academic and professional and connect with people I can always count on, academically or otherwise. I'll forever be thankful for everyone I've met throughout the +1 program and everything they've taught me.

Finishing school amid the COVID-19 pandemic has been: different and, at times, difficult. I'd like to say it's been a great, easy transition, but that's just not the case. I never got to say goodbye to my friends or talk to my favorite teachers about my postgrad plans or my students from the Introduction to Psychology class I was a TA for. But this experience has also taught me a lot about myself and what I'm capable of!

My post-graduation plans are: uncertain, like many others, but only for now. I plan on continuing my career in academia, in the realm of psychological research. I don't have a job lined up, but I'd love to continue researching adolescent depression. As we all adjust to the new normal, students like me who are still applying for jobs might have to come to terms with the idea that we'll be unemployed for a while, but things will get better, and we'll come out stronger.

Completing my master's as a 4+1 student has been: an experience in and of itself. While I've always been "good at school," I never imagined I'd have the opportunity to complete my master's degree by 23. Earning this degree at Temple through the +1 program after coming from a small community college and a small town in the middle of nowhere has helped me see my full potential as an academic. It was hard at times, but it's honestly difficult to put into words what this program has done for me. It's been a great experience.

Winning a LAURA scholarship was important to me because: it was a surprise to me. I didn't even know about the scholarship until my mentor (Dr. Olino) mentioned it to me a couple of weeks before the application was due. Nonetheless, winning the LAURA scholarship was a hallmark moment in my academic career. The scholarship allowed me to work on my first ever independent research project, which, in combination with support from my mentor, ended up solidifying my love for research. 


Jill Eidson | Criminal Justice PhD

Jill is completing her PhD this month after being in the program since 2010. She has been the full-time Research Director at the Philadelphia Adult Probation and Parole Department since 2015 and has presented her work at national conferences.

My favorite thing about my program was: being instructed by respected subject matter experts, whether that was in the classroom or in more applied research settings. The professors in my program had so much knowledge to offer, and I tried to absorb everything that I could over the years. It's already paying off now in my career.

Finishing school amid the COVID-19 pandemic has been: a blur, really. But the strangest thing was virtually defending my dissertation to about 50 people from my bedroom while hoping that my internet would stay connected and my attention-loving cat would not steal the show.

My future plans are: to remain in Philadelphia and hold down my current position doing research for the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania. I would like to fit a trip to Japan in somewhere once it's safe to travel internationally again.

Balancing completing my thesis while working full-time was: the hardest thing I have ever done, but it's all about being persistent. Instead of only thinking about the finish line, I just focused on passing each of the mile markers along the way. Plus, a lot of supportive and patient people rallied around me and helped to keep me going.

Presenting my research at national conferences was: both exciting and a bit anxiety-provoking. Once you get used to it, however, you realize that you are just as prepared and knowledgeable as other presenters, and you also have a valuable contribution to make to the field.


CiAuna Heard | Sociology PhD

As a CLA grad student, CiAuna conducted in-depth research into what it means to be in a black upper-class community, how these community members understand race, class and gender, and how they develop integration and solidarity strategies based upon a unique social position.

My favorite thing about my program was: the Sociology Department's academic community. When applying to graduate school, I wanted someplace that felt mutually supportive. My program afforded me lots of opportunities to teach and do research guided by leaders in the field, and I was mentored by faculty who were incredibly generous with their time, knowledge and emotional support. My grad-student colleagues were incredibly intelligent, compassionate, and hardworking; I'll miss them the most.

Finishing school amid the COVID-19 pandemic has been: unusual, to say the least! I defended my dissertation via Zoom, and several of my family members were able to join and listen in. I was grateful to share this accomplishment with my family because without them, I might have abandoned an academic career long ago. Looking towards the future and strategizing my next steps is also strange and tenuous. The systems and timelines we rely on during normal times are now out the window. Preparing for the future means I have to be patient and flexible in considering alternatives.

My post-graduation plans are: to enter the academic job market in the fall, so I'll be using the summer to prepare some articles for publication. I'm also brushing off my statistical programming knowledge because a think-tank or industry-research job is also intriguing to me.

I'm passionate about my research on black elites because: I've always been interested in storytelling, which led me to qualitative sociology. What does it mean to be black and suburban, and how is that different from both white/suburban and black/urban experiences? How do identity categories work together to co-create social groups and experiences? These are big questions that engage established theory, as well as "sidewalk knowledge," but they go back to my core interest of hearing people's stories and opening my imagination to new perspectives.

Through my research, I discovered that: if you want to think about black elites, you cannot simply think of them as raced or classed. Rather, a non-white racial identity means that they are going to think about an elite-class identity uniquely; similarly, an elite class identity shapes the ways these same intersectional individuals talk about their black identity. So, not only is the formation of their raced-classed-gendered identity distinct from the stereotypical mainstream categories of blackness, economic wealth or cis-heterosexuality, but the strategies that they use to socially reproduce themselves are saturated with these unique intersectional experiences. 


Adam Koontz | Religion PhD

Although Adam is graduating with his PhD from Temple this month, he's already left Philadelphia for Indiana, obtaining a tenure-track position at Concordia Theological Seminary.

My favorite thing about my program was: the breadth of the Religion PhD program. I got to study a wide array of religious traditions and ways of understanding religion and enjoyed every minute of it.

Finishing school amid the COVID-19 pandemic has been: a little odd, but it hasn't affected me as much as someone who's doing coursework. The dissertation phase is pretty hands-off anyway, and I moved to Indiana for my new job this past summer.

My advice to my fellow graduates is: to enjoy learning what you're learning. If you can't or don't delight in what you're studying, you probably won't want to study it in the future or work on it in your job.

My post-graduation plans are: I'll be teaching New Testament here in Indiana, a job I got last year when I was still working on my dissertation. The job has been great, and I've been able to apply so much of what I learned at Temple in both my graduate classes and teaching undergrads.

I'm excited to teach because: the joy I find in learning and teaching is something I experience every day here. I take what Temple taught me about delighting in learning everything I can and teaching everything I know—and being honest about what I don't know!—and get to use that every day.


Tara Lemma | Creative Writing MFA

A First-Year Writing Instructor at CLA, Tara works as an Assistant Fiction Editor at Barrelhouse Magazine and as a Flash Fiction Reader for Split Lip Magazine. Her work has been published in Lockjaw Magazine, Longleaf Review, Maudlin House, Monkeybicycle, Paper Darts, Hobart and Jellyfish Review.

Finishing school amid the COVID-19 pandemic has been: anticlimactic. Fiction workshops actually translate pretty well to an online format, and so the quality of feedback didn't suffer, but I felt the loss of our end-of-the-year party and the graduation ceremony. I was ready to celebrate what we'd all accomplished together, but it's OK—we will just wait a while and celebrate on our own!

My advice to my fellow graduates is: invest in your cohort. These are people that can serve as your readers or hold you accountable to produce new work for years after the program is over. Give yourself the freedom to pursue what you're interested in and accept when that deviates from your original plan for your thesis. Sometimes the best work happens accidentally.

My post-graduation plans are: to get my Secondary Education teaching certification and teach English or creative writing at the high school level.

My advice to students aspiring to be widely published is: don't aspire to be *widely* published. Aspire to be published in lit mags you genuinely love. If you're not wild about a lit mag's aesthetic, they'll likely not be wild about yours, so submitting to those places is little more than a good way to rack up a lot of rejections. Accept that even the lit mags you love will mostly tell you no. Keep submitting.

Being a First-year Writing Instructor has taught me: to work autonomously and handle significantly more responsibility than I'd had in previous jobs. I was the only one who was going to catch my own day-to-day mistakes (in the schedule, in lesson plans, etc), but I was not the only one who would suffer from my mistakes—a mistake could cause student confusion or frustration or could cause an issue for my department. I was detail-oriented, and I planned extensively prior to this position, but its responsibilities pushed me further in making absolutely sure that everything I did was thoroughly considered.


Jessica R. M. Locklear | History MA

As a History MA student, Jessica had a concentration in Public History and won a grant from the Leeway Foundation as well as the Martha Ross Memorial Prize for her research on Lumbee Indian migrations to Philadelphia. A Lumbee herself, Jessica has accepted an offer to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the fall.

My favorite thing about my program was: having multiple opportunities to gain practical experiences and training. My favorite experience was working at the American Philosophical Society as the Martin Levitt Fellow. While I was there, I digitized the Frank Speck lantern slide collection and created a digital exhibit that addresses the complex relationship between anthropological collections and indigenous identity. 

Finishing graduate school during a pandemic has been: a humbling experience. It is very tempting to be upset over canceled events and conferences that I worked hard to prepare for. However, during this time at home, I realized how grateful I am for all the opportunities I've been given, good health, a loving husband and a supportive family. 

Researching Lumbee migrations to Philadelphia was: something I wanted to do for a long time. While this narrative is a significant addition to our tribal history, it also adds and complicates how we think about Philadelphia's history.  It has been such a privilege recording oral histories and preserving and sharing this piece of our past. 

My post-graduation plans are: to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill this fall. I will be pursuing a PhD in history as well as working as a field scholar for the Southern Oral History program.

As a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill fellow, I hope to: continue the work I started here at Temple. In continuing my research on Lumbee history in the 20th century, I hope to encourage people to acknowledge and embrace the complexities of the past while comprehending the present and looking to the future.


Alexis Saenz Montoya | Geography and Urban Studies PhD

An international student, Alexis came to Temple from Colombia, where he was a youth leader working for peace amidst poverty and violence.

My favorite thing about my program was: the opportunity to live on the East Coast of the United States, a diverse and multicultural region, and experience the daily life of Philadelphia and Temple, my home for almost six years. I have multiple learnings, multiple memories that will be forever in my mind and heart.

My post-graduation plans are: to reaffirm my commitment as a scholar-activist to co-produce geographic knowledge with many community-based groups, supporting their labor for peacebuilding and socio-environmental justice in Colombia.

Working for peace in Colombia taught me: From the ages of 17 to 36, I worked as a community organizer, pursuing the building of peace in my home country of Colombia, which has been affected by more than six decades of violence. Working for peace in different regions of Colombia, I saw how community-based groups resisted the impacts of violence, protected ecosystems and built, in everyday life, effective mechanisms of positive social-environmental change. I continue supporting groups such as La Corporacion Casa Mia and La Colonia de San Luis while leading a community geography network called Elatlas.

Attaining my PhD at Temple after growing up in Columbia helped me learn: a new perspective on the concepts of the global North and global South and the multiple contradictions that these concepts imply. In this sense, as a geographer and activist living in North Philly, I have understood that academic and community efforts to achieve peace and social justice must articulate global affective networks of solidarity and cooperation.


Emmanuel Selorm Tsyawo | Economics PhD

Emmanuel is an international student who conducted highly technical research focused on developing new research methodologies.

My favorite thing about my program was: the support and encouragement from professors and colleagues. They are a source of inspiration.

Finishing school amid the COVID-19 pandemic has been: tough for everyone including me. In the midst of the uncertainties, finishing well was still my priority, and my advisor Dr. Brantly Callaway, the dissertation committee and the director of graduate studies, Dr. Douglas Webber, were very supportive.

My advice to my fellow graduates is: something I'd like to pass along from the headmaster of my primary school: "hard work does not break bones." Hard work eventually pays off, and one should not despair if returns to hard work are not immediate. Graduating is the beginning of a new phase.

My post-graduation plan is: to pursue a career in teaching and research in econometrics.

My experience as an international student at Temple has been: a good one. Temple was my home away from home. I have met a lot of good people who have been instrumental in a number of ways.

Researching empirical industrial organization and micro-econometrics is important to me because: economics as a discipline is making progress at bridging the gap between theoretical and empirical work. The field of empirical industrial organization has evolved and connects quite well with economic theory. With micro-econometrics as another field, I am happy to contribute to the development and improvement of econometric tools to better test and understand economic theory using observational data.