The Department of English and Comparative Literature recently honored Dr. Rebecka Rutledge Fisher with its Graduate Student Mentoring Award, recognizing her commitment to guiding and directing the professional development of its graduate students. Dr. Fisher, while describing some of the tasks she performs as a mentor, discussed editing dissertation chapters and articles for publication; guiding graduate students toward appropriate venues for the publication of their research; writing letters of recommendation for a wide range of fellowships, awards, and job placements; and helping graduate students locate and apply for funding.
When asked to describe her secrets to being a successful mentor, Dr. Fisher observed that mentoring is an essential part of her graduate teaching, one that requires a substantial time commitment. “My students are on a deadline just as I am,” says Fisher, acknowledging that she frequently privileges the work of her students over her own demands and deadlines in order to provide them with timely feedback. Dr. Fisher’s intention in offering this diligent attention is to help graduate students discover their unique voices as writers, to highlight their original ideas as researchers and thinkers, and to develop their professionalism and collegiality, empowering them to participate respectfully and meaningfully in discursive scholarly communities.
Perhaps Dr. Fisher’s greatest secret to being a successful mentor is that she remains actively engaged in her own discursive communities even as she dedicates time to the work of her students. She has recently completed a manuscript of her new book Habitations of the Veil: Metaphor and the Poetics of Being in African American Literature, to be published by the State University of New York Press in their philosophy and race series. Her article, "The Poetics of Belonging in the Age of Enlightenment: Spiritual Metaphors of Being in Olaudah Equiano's Interesting Narrative” will appear in a special issue of Early American Studies, dedicated to the study of empire. She will also contribute an essay to South American Quarterly (SAQ) in a special issue focusing on W. E. B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction (1935). Dr. Fisher’s commitment to making critical contributions to her field enables her to advise her students about the most recent trends in scholarship, allowing them to become current, informed professionals. Dr. Fisher’s generosity, her kind professionalism, and her commitment to serving students not only make her a worthy recipient of the Graduate Student Mentoring Award but also an invaluable resource to her mentees and an asset to the university.