STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: A MELLON MAYS FELLOW AT CITY COLLEGE ON DIVERSITY, BELONGING, AND HER PATH TO THE GC
Sophia Yip comes to the Graduate Center’s Ph.D. Program in English after having received significant recognition during her undergraduate years at City College: She was an Isaacs Scholar (English Literature) and a Kaye Scholar (Humanities and the Arts), and also a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, one of a yearly cohort of 25 rising juniors around the country who receive continued support in graduate school.
Yip, who was born in Malaysia, studies contemporary world literature, literature in translation, and issues of national identity in our time of globalization. She has spent her summer exploring around her subject area, rereading Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, The Waves, To the Lighthouse, and Between the Acts. She recently spoke to us about her path to the Graduate Center:
Graduate Center: How was your experience as a member of the MMUF program at City College?
Yip: I wouldn’t be where I am now without the support of the MMUF program. It was an eye-opening and life-changing experience for me. I migrated to the United States, like many of my classmates, at the age of 10. Growing up as a Malaysian Chinese immigrant in the United States, I have become used to people’s questions about my race and ethnicity. In this regard, the great diversity on the CCNY campus had especially made me felt included, supported, and validated. The MMUF program, whose objective is to address the problem of underrepresentation in the academy, provided me a sense of belonging at CCNY.
As a Mellon Fellow, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in summer research training programs and conduct research under the guidance of a faculty mentor. My mentor at City College, Professor Robert Higney, was extremely supportive and dedicated. My experiences as a Mellon Fellow sowed the seeds for my research interests, helped me grow as a scholar, and gave me the courage to continue pursuing higher education.
GC: What are you most looking forward to at the Graduate Center?
Yip: Since I just graduated from CCNY in June, I’m looking forward to continuing my study in English literature at the GC to deepen my knowledge of contemporary fiction and literary theory. I’m excited to meet new people and learn from them and build a professional network. I’m looking forward to seeking what my future has in store for me as a first-year Ph.D. student at the GC.
GC: What do you plan to focus on in your research?
Yip: My research interests lie in 20th-century literature and global Anglophone literature, with an emphasis on national and personal identity and globalization. I plan to explore authors whose works have a global reach (e.g., Haruki Murakami, Kazuo Ishiguro, and J. M. Coetzee) and deal with issues of boundary crossing, cultural hybridity, literary circulation, and globalization. I’m also interested in exploring the ways in which globalization and co-occurring changes in the economy, migration, and identity have influenced writers’ narrative responses. (I’m pretty sure all these might change, though.)
GC: Aside from Virginia Woolf novels, what have you been reading this summer?
Yip: I wanted to learn more about the impact of colonialism on language policies and practices, so I read articles that explore the impact of colonialism on language and national identity in Malaysia. I do have a pile of interesting books that I’m hoping to get to very soon. Here are a few on my list: Matthew Hart’s Extraterritorial: A Political Geography of Contemporary Fiction, Debjani Ganguly’s This Thing Called the World: The Contemporary Novel as Global Form, Poulomi Saha’s An Empire of Touch, and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun.
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