English Alumna Explores Careers in Teaching and Writing
English alumna Julia Fleming (MA ’18) initially considered the University of Denver’s master’s program when her sister moved to Colorado in search of schooling. At the time, Fleming was determined to remain in Southern California, where she had earned her bachelor's degree, but she was drawn to the intimacy of DU’s Department of English & Literary Arts.
While at DU, Fleming enjoyed working for Writing Center Director and Teaching Professor Juli Parrish at the renowned Writing Center, where opportunities for creative pedagogy and experimentation were boundless. Fleming fondly recalls participating in and helping design professional development courses on topics like advanced grammar and the Fulbright application process. Fleming also found her teaching assistant (TA) position for Daniels College of Business to be rewarding.
“I loved working at the Writing Center, and I had incredible opportunities to TA for Daniels College of Business. I really appreciate all the time I got to spend learning from DU’s faculty as well as the opportunities I had to explore what I wanted for a future career,” Fleming says.
During her tenure as an MA student, Fleming found comfort in the generosity of several professors who encouraged her research pursuits, including the examination of female visual narratives grounded in health, sexuality, politics and pop culture. She also explored African-American literature through the lenses of teaching and social response.
“While at DU, I asked Associate Professor Tayana Hardin for more professional development classes on teaching, especially teaching African-American literature. She created a class focused on teaching, encouraged us to go to job talks, and emphasized constructive feedback on our teaching styles. This was such a unique class and shaped a lot of my experience,” Fleming says.
One of Fleming’s proudest moments came from Associate Professor Erin Willer’s course, Visual Narratives of Women’s Health, where Fleming completed a syllabus project for an arts-based sexual education class geared toward younger male students, a population she once taught at an all-boys high school in California. Fleming had the opportunity to present this syllabus at a conference panel on inclusive and innovative pedagogy in 2018.
“The research I completed for this syllabus really brought my research and interests full circle and allowed me to explore art, literature, reproductive justice and teaching all together,” Fleming says.
She also credits Associate Professor Billy J. Stratton with pushing her to compose, polish and present critical essays about Native-American literature. While a student of Stratton’s, Fleming was able to present her work at the annual Western Literature Association Conference. Fleming has since presented twice at the conference, which has allowed her to build her professional resume in ways she didn’t think possible.
As an instructor at Red Rocks Community College, Fleming is trying out “ungrading,” which is a method of removing the burden of the grade from the task plates of students so that they can more readily focus on the process of learning. She’s also had the opportunity to try new approaches like employing artifacts of popular culture, including music and film, as contexts for academic writing, and creating open deadline structures for assignments. She’s led professional-development trainings at DU’s Center for Professional Development as well, focusing on providing in-depth knowledge of grammar for students and community members.
Though Fleming loves teaching and believes education is important, she recognizes the challenges of pursuing adjunct work. She’s begun looking toward a career in professional or technical writing, using some of the experiences she gained at DU’s Writing Center.
“More than anything else I did during my time at DU, the Writing Center made me a more capable communicator, writer, tutor and teacher,” Fleming says.
Even though she’s grateful for these experiences, she wishes she’d had more opportunities to work with career advisors while pursuing her master’s degree.
“I went into grad school only wanting to be a grad student, when I really should have thought about a lot more than that,” Fleming says.
She offers these words of wisdom for those interested in pursuing graduate degrees: “Do your research about graduate school. Don’t be afraid to reach out to current students and ask them about their experiences in the department. Ask about funding! Ask about relationships with faculty! Ask about the culture in the department! Find out what graduates of that department are doing now. All of these things really matter.”