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Koret Fellowship Program

Zohal Karimy
Zohal Karimy

English major, Class of 2018

I had the opportunity to do research with a professor who is in a position that I aspire to be in someday. As a Global Literature professor, he taught us the importance of recognizing how interconnected we are with one another and urged us to see how the borders that are emphasized today are merely manifestations that we have created. After visiting Professor Velasco during his office hours, he shared how the English department recently approached him to teach English 156 again next year (Spring 2018). At the time, Professor Velasco was teaching English 156 under the name “Global Literature and Latin America Cinema.” After having an intellectually stimulating conversation about how we can expand this idea, Professor Velasco informed me about the opportunity to create a new curriculum for this course.

This summer I worked on finding new content for this class which also abided by the former course description. My goal was to design a course, with the guidance of Professor Velasco, which increases a student’s understanding about the interactions of cultures in global literature. However, I decided the focus of this course will be regarding violence against women (e.g. femicides, sex trafficking, oppression, etc). In the beginning stages of my research, it felt a little overwhelming to create an extensive annotated bibliography that covered such a broad topic. I overcame this challenge by narrowing the scope of my annotated bibliography. Professor Velasco and I decided to structure the syllabus around four or five geographical areas: Middle East, Asia, Latin America, Europe/Africa.

I was able to organize a rough draft for my bibliography which helped me decide that each region should have, at least, three movie and film options. I began my research before summer break because I wanted to maximize the resources available on campus. I wanted to make sure that a lot of the book/movie reviews were credible so I spent a lot of time reading reviews about that particular text or film. I had to make sure that the book/film was relevant to the course’s topic about violence against women and, specifically, a text that a student would want to complete. I found it helpful to have conversations with my peers and to take notes on some of their encounters with powerful books/films. After taking down their suggestions, I would read the summaries of these books and specific chapters depending on how comprehensive their recommendation was.

It was important for me to find all the books that I needed first because I wanted to select my movies based on the themes in the various texts. I had a few challenges finding a gripping text from Latin America and I decided that it would be best to reach out to my librarian. Instead of receiving assistance from one librarian, I was guided by two wonderful women. I was particularly grateful for the range of suggestions that they provided (i.e., poetry and graphic novels). Beforehand, I had not considered graphic novels properly and I limited myself to novels that students were already familiar with. After my enlightening conversation with these two librarians, I looked for more graphic novels to include in my annotated bibliography because I feel like they carried a powerful message much like movies.

I finished the first part of the bibliography shortly afterwards and I began looking for movies to include. I did not want to limit myself to a particular type of movie and I decided to consider specific TV shows as well. By looking at a range of films, such as documentaries and fiction films, I was able to have many options to select from. I really enjoyed looking for films that carried our overarching theme in the narrative. I had to make time to watch most of the foreign films because it was difficult to understand how relevant certain films were just by reading reviews. The entire process was not complete until this quarter.

I completed my annotated bibliography in the end of September and I presented it to my professor in October. We worked together to structure a strong syllabus for our students. We were mindful of the fact that this class will be a lower division English course. That being said, we wanted to make sure their workload would be manageable. We ended up selecting three graphic novels, one novel, and a TV show called, “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Our final choices were certainly unexpected because my previous course with Professor Velasco was structured in a different way. I am eager to work as a peer educator for this course next year. Until then, I am continuing the project by making sure that our discussions will be ready for this class. This task includes making sure that we have our materials ready for the course by Spring 2018 as well.

I hope to become an English Professor in the future  and this opportunity has exposed me to the kind of work that I will be doing in graduate school as well as my career. Although I have not had the opportunity to teach this class alongside Professor Velasco yet, I know that this research will allow me to build on my experience as an educator. A valuable part of my education as an undergraduate students, aspiring to be a professor someday, is to gain experience as an instructor. Professor Velasco has been extremely generous by allowing me to make mistakes during my research and uring me to continue making decisions on my own. Moreover, I feel better prepared for the kind of work that I will be doing in graduate school by learning how to collate proper research. My academic advisor has assured me that there is a great deal of research that I will be required to do in graduate school and for my PhD. This opportunity has allowed me to extend my education beyond the world of an academic. It has been an honor working alongside an excellent professor who has inspired me to continue the path that I have chosen.