Lesley Brooks is from Chester, Virginia. She is twenty-two years old and recently graduated from the University of Virginia with a BA in English and in Anthropology. At UVA, Lesley worked as a Resident Advisor for first-year students and as the Head Program Director of Madison House Medical Services. She finds English Literature fascinating, believing that it allows readers to be transported into different eras, different cultures, and into fantasies. This love of the transformative power of the written word and of history led Lesley to her academic love of novels, biographies, and autobiographies. Besides reading and writing, her hobbies include camping, kayaking, painting, and playing the piano.
Joshua Katz is a Richmond native, mostly; he was born in Maine, and the conditions of his parents’ respective employments necessitated a four-year stay in South Florida, but since December of 1995, his permanent residence has been in the West End district just outside the city. Thus, he guesses that, technically, he might not be a native (if one defines “nativeness” as having spent one’s whole life in one place), but he’s lived here longer than he has lived any place else, so Joshua thinks that comes pretty close to the designation. After high school, Joshua spent eighteen months as a Film/TV major at Emerson College before transferring back to Richmond, where he received his English BA at the University of Richmond. Graduation led to a series of odd jobs: a stage hand at UR’s Modlin Center for the Arts; a bank teller at a credit union in Portland, Maine; a closed captioner for the National Captioning Institute, which is located in the historic district of beautiful Chantilly, Virginia (note: Chantilly is not beautiful, nor does it have a historic district, unless strip malls built in the early 1980’s constitute “historic”). Currently, he serves as the head news editor for Blu-ray.com and writes movie reviews for the Culture Mob Blog. His hobbies include movies (or film, if you’d prefer), jogging, and American Literature post-1800, with a particular interest in the transformative purposes of literary violence.
Melissa Lawhorn will always consider Richmond, Virginia her home–regardless if one day she decides to settle down again outside of her small city limits. The adventurous spirit within her soul aspires to travel, discover the unknown, and grasp the beauty she has yet to see with her own eyes. After 23 years, the evolution of one’s self has hardly begun, and although Melissa feels she has taken many steps and crossed several bridges in her lifetime, she has found that the train on which she’s aboard is far from its final destination. In December of 2010, when she graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, she felt she had come to know herself fairly well. However, Ms. Lawhorn is still on the journey of finding exactly who she is and where she’s going. Nevertheless, there’s no question that she has purposely chosen to seek the path that leads to becoming an educator. At a young age, Melissa knew that one day she would be a teacher. And in time, she also learned of her desire to express her love for one of her greatest passions: the marriage of the mind and paper. In the past year, she has come closer to discovering where her train will end up in the long haul. Starting graduate school this fall will be the fuel needed to keep this train headed in the direction she feels it should be. Melissa is excited for this opportunity because it will complement many great experiences from her past (graduating from high school and college, living in Prague and earning a TEFL certificate, and encompassing a love for the English language) and prepare her for future experiences to come.
Zachary Marson was born in California, only to move to New Jersey when he was four. After ten years of living the guido life, he moved to Richmond, Virginia. In 2008, Zach attended VCU as an English Major where he discovered his desire to read everything in modern and contemporary literature’s catalogue. Zach graduated with his BA in May 2012 only to reapply to VCU as a grad student. He is excited to continue his studies in the fall and even more thrilled to meet his fellow graduate scholars.
Nancy McPherson is living, breathing and walking proof that when George Eliot said “It’s never too late to become what you might have been,” she was right. At the inception, or very nearly there, of her third expedition through academia, Nancy was irretrievably grabbed by literature. What had always been an interest soon became an obsession. The reading of texts, and the resultant writing in response, analysis or criticism of them became an irresistible siren’s call. But the road to this end had been neither simple nor easy. She had gone to college at the usually prescribed age because that was the family expectation, even though what she was mostly interested in was ballet. After a couple of years or so, the ballet siren’s call was becoming increasingly insistent. So, Nancy became a ballet teacher. Many years later she found herself in the VCU School of the Arts at night, nibbling away at courses there for three years, and interestingly enough, that was, by now, nearly thirty years ago. The English Department here has given Nancy the loving support that enabled her, not only to finish her BA, but also to be welcomed into the MA program.
Zoya Mirza grew up in Lahore, Pakistan where she completed an undergraduate honors degree in Humanities and Social Sciences with a focus in Literature in 2010. The nebulous cluster of her research interests includes magical realism, self-conscious fiction, and post-colonial and post-modern literary theory. Zoya is also interested in art, photography, and visual culture. Some of the ideas that inspire her study of literature are the fashioning of narrative voice, the place and value of aesthetic pleasure, and the relationship between visual and literary forms and the cultural traditions that produce and inhabit them. Most simply though, her study is inspired by the joy of luxuriating in language, and the hope to become firmly grounded in the discipline so as to address these nebulous concerns through literature in English, Urdu, and Punjabi.
Kenneth Rebello is originally from Rhode Island but has been in Jacksonville, FL for the past 6 years and graduated from the University of North Florida. VCU’s program caught his eye, and upon visiting campus won his heart. He’s heard great things about Richmond and is looking forward to exploring it more. Kenneth was an English major, with a minor in mass communications theory. He also edited for a literary journal known as Fiction Fix and is known for his creative and analytic editing skills. His passion is words, and he loves to write as much as he loves to read. Kenneth currently owns his own pressure washing business to pay the bills and get him through college. He is a seeded long-distance runner, as it helps him think. That’s just Kenneth compressed. He’s incredibly excited to meet everyone and start the program. He just graduated in December and already misses the stimulation and fulfillment of academia compounded by other sharp minds.
Olivia Sanchez is 24 years old and the oldest of four children. She is originally from California, but was raised in Spokane, WA. She enjoys outdoor activities such as snow skiing, hiking and rock climbing. She also enjoys playing volleyball and tennis. Olivia attended Eastern Washington University for her undergrad. Her degree was in English (Literary Studies) and she also had a minor in Government. In the MA program, Olivia want to pursue Literature as her focus.