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Cecilia Enjuto Rangel

Cecilia Enjuto RangelField:  Romance Languages
SR-EIP:  Cornell University (1998)
Undergrad:  University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras (1998)
Graduate School:  Yale University (2005)
Current:  Assistant Professor, University of Oregon

Could you talk about any memorable experiences from your summer research at Cornell?
It was fabulous.  It was a groundbreaking experience for me.  It really encouraged me to go to graduate school and look at Comparative Literature programs.  It seemed hard for Puerto Rican students to enter Comparative Literature programs in the states, because we are not native speakers of English, and also because of fears that they are elitist departments.  The summer made it seem possible. 

That summer at Cornell was a real mentoring experience.  My professors, Cynthia Chase and John Monroe, took the time to talk to me about my project and my plans for graduate school, and helped me prepare for it.  Both of my summer mentors were key in the application process for graduate school.  They both wrote me letters of recommendation and were very encouraging.

Can you talk about how your summer experience prepared you for graduate school?
It prepared me in many ways.  The experience of working at a research university like Cornell was great.  The University of Puerto Rico is an excellent academic institution with brilliant and committed faculty and students, but the resources at a major research university like Cornell were new to me.  Being able to work in their libraries and collections prepared me for the type of research I did in graduate school.

My summer project focused on an essay on modern poetry, the equivalent of what, in some places, a master’s thesis would be.  Through it, I was able to demonstrate my capacity to work on a third language, French, and I actually worked with one of the authors I discussed later on in my dissertation.

The School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell also left a mark on me.  It was mostly graduate students and it wasn’t a scheduled part of the summer program, but I was able to go to all of the lectures and seminars and meet many of the people who had written the books I was reading.  It gave the academy a real face.  People who you read became real people who encouraged you to pursue your academic goals.

Can you talk about the role of mentorship in your career?
At Oregon, I’ve had the opportunity to work with graduate students doing their MA and Ph.D.  It is very rewarding to see them work really hard and succeed.  I’ve recommended a few undergraduates and MA students to continue studies in our program and elsewhere, and three of them have started their PhD’s here at Oregon.  I’ve also just had one fantastic student who was admitted to the graduate program at Columbia.

What advice would you give to this year’s Leadership Alliance participants?
Take advantage of every little resource.  No one told me about the School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell, but once I found out about it I went to every lecture and seminar, and it didn’t cost me a dime.  It transformed my whole outlook and showed me the many doors graduate school could open.  It was a summer that I really squeezed the juice out of academically.

Take all the advice you can get.  See if you like graduate level work.  It’s hard work, but it’s worth it, if you are studying what you love.

Is there anything else that you would like to mention?
I’m really grateful to my mentors at Cornell [during the summer program]. I’m still in touch with them and they have seen my career develop.

The Leadership Alliance really encourages students.  My parents were both professors, so I was encouraged from a very young age to think about getting a PhD, however, a Ph.D. still seemed daunting and I was a bit intimidated.  That summer made the PhD seem more realistic.  For someone who didn’t grow up around books, I think the Leadership Alliance experience would be even more valuable.