After Vassar

Alum Biographies

James Ingoldsby, Hispanic Studies Alum (Correlate) 

I was an English major with correlates in Hispanic studies and comparative philosophy at Vassar in 2009.  The specific constellation was based mostly on indecision and the eventual facility of getting through the degree based on the concentration I chose (which didn’t happen until my third year! after I’d already spent a semester studying in Spain).  Hispanic studies happened for me mostly because the faculty were so amazing.  I was basically interested in literary and cultural theory (primarily Decon and the poststructuralists) in undergrad, and Mihai Grünfeld, Mario Cesareo, and Andy Bush were among the most passionate and understanding theoreticians I’d found at Vassar.  I eventually wrote a thesis in the English Department on Paul de Man and what his theories of temporality could bring to a comparative historical reading of W. Burroughs and Ginsberg.

I’m now in my second year studying toward a PhD in English lit. at Cornell.  I work on interwar American socialist literature, postwar Italian communism, and Marxist literary theory.  Between Vassar and Cornell, I did a masters in critical theory at the University of Sussex and lived in Montreal and Philadelphia, teaching English and Spanish language and writing.  Though I was thinking about it, I wasn’t sure about graduate school while still at Vassar and wish I had inquired (especially of the professors listed above) about the specifics of getting in, coursework, dissertation writing, and the state of the field(s).  If I could go back and do Vassar over, I probably would have concentrated in Spanish or Italian and done computer science as a correlate.  As it is, I feel it prepared me for the academics (if not the social environment) of a doctorate at a big research institution.

Leslie Granston, Hispanic Studies Alum (Major) 

I took my first ever Spanish language class at Vassar. I had taken French through junior high and high school and loved it, and wanted to add Spanish to my arsenal as I was interested in Hispanic culture. When it was time to declare my major, I declared English, loving as I did (and still do) to read and write. But I was having so much fun in my beginning Spanish class taught by the wonderful Karen Stolley (who later became my academic advisor, mentor and who remains my friend) I started to imagine how much fun it would be to major in Spanish. So I switched, and in the first semester of my junior year, I studied in Spain. Best decisions ever. During my senior year, I wrote a thesis and it was an amazing experience. I analyzed two short stories by the Puerto Rican writer Rosario Ferré. Her stories were so lyrical and evocative, and I felt I could feel her spirit through them. It was a challenge to write a whole thesis in Spanish, and I was very happy and grateful for the accomplishment. I remember getting very helpful feedback from Karen and also from Pat Kenworthy, who was another mentor I was honored to learn from. The thesis sits on my bookshelf today.

At Vassar, my goal was to become a lawyer. But my career has actually mirrored my college experience. I’ve always followed the fun and the passion, and always end up in the right place, but it’s almost never exactly where I expected. I started off as a paralegal, went into journalism as a magazine editor and writer, and now I work for American Express in Human Resources. My practice area is diversity and inclusion, a field I’ve now been in for more than 10 years. What we do is work to increase the diversity of our workforce and create a culture where everyone feels able to bring their full and true selves to work. Majoring in Hispanic studies has proved to be a wonderful asset for the work I do now. It gave me a window into a culture that I was fascinated with, that wasn’t my own—I am African-American. It gave me language skills including reading, writing and speaking. And it turned out to be somewhat prophetic as American demographics have shifted and the world has become more connected—it’s great to know another language and have had the experience of immersing myself in this amazing culture.