The Jacob K. Javits Fellowship is a program of the U.S. Department of Education that provides up to $40,000 per year to students entering a doctoral program in the fields of the arts, humanities, and social sciences. This highly competitive grant is meant to support a generation of talented experts and educators upon whom the government believes the futures of their disciplines rely.
Jason Peters first heard about this fellowship in the fall of 2008, while in his second year of the MFA program in Writing, Literature and Publishing. WLP Professor Murray Schwartz suggested that he apply for it, and he spent the following year thinking intently about whether he should. While finishing up his degree in 2009, he began the process, and submitted his application in September 2010.
Earlier this month, a representative from the U.S. Department of Education called to offer Jason the fellowship. Now in his first year of doctoral studies at the University of Rhode Island, he immediately accepted the offer, and then called his mom to tell her the good news. The second person he contacted was Schwartz, to thank him for initially suggesting that he apply for the fellowship.
“Having been a judge for these fellowships, I know what tough competition [Jason] faced. In the humanities, he is literally one in a hundred.”
Emerson's Communications and Marketing Office caught up with Jason recently to discuss his interests and plans for the fellowship.
What is your focused area of study?
I'm working on a PhD in writing and rhetoric. I'm interested in studying the politics of language use and language differences in the U.S.
Has your work been published in a scholarly journal or publication?
A couple of years ago, I published a paper in PsyArt: An Online Journal for the Psychological Study of the Arts. It was about the influence of Shakespeare's tragedies on John Berryman's Dream Songs (Berryman studied Shakespeare in some depth). This year, I was a finalist for the Crazyhorse poetry prize (the Lynda Hull Memorial Prize) and I've gotten a few very nicely worded personalized rejections from other journals.
How will this fellowship assist you as a student?
I'm still figuring that out, actually. It will help financially, for sure, but it could also give me the time to do much more interesting research than would otherwise be possible. The immediate benefit is that I can take time off from teaching to finish my coursework early.
What are your long-term goals?
To write, teach, learn, and play.
Was there an Emerson faculty member who really influenced your educational pursuits?
Yes, a few. John Trimbur and Murray Schwartz are both important mentors to me. They are incredibly imaginative and generous teachers. And Jonathan Aaron introduced me to poets in languages other than English.