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Message from 2014 GSC President, Michelle Cowin-Mensah

Posted By Administration, Thursday, November 20, 2014
Updated: Thursday, November 20, 2014

 Dear ASTR GSC Membership:

Welcome to the 2014 annual conference in Baltimore, Maryland. Our GSC Cabinet and Committees have an exciting palate of events over the next three days. While I will share this update at the Business Luncheon on Saturday, here are some general announcements and updates since my last report in July 2014 for those unable to join us: 

ASTR Executive Committee and GSC Cabinet Updates

The structure and overall health of the Graduate Student Caucus is excellent. This is thanks to the excellent leadership from past GSC presidents and cabinets including Kellyn Johnson (2013) and David Calder (2012). Despite the strength of our structure, we did see a decrease in membership (236 in 2014) since Dallas 2013 (252). However, there was an increase in conference registration from 2014 to 2013 (190 in 2014 and 180 in 2013). I am confident that the health of the GSC is sound, but could be improved by some additional visibility from the whole of ASTR on behalf of the GSC. 

This year my goal as President was to help improve the visibility of our group. Sara Boland-Taylor (2014 Rep. to the New Paradigms in Graduate Education) and the GSC Cabinet proposed some recruitment initiatives focused on soliciting Theatre and Theatre-related graduate program. We drafted a recruitment letter addressed to graduate program advisors to introduce the goals and interests of our caucus as a reminder of GSC activities and events.

Over the summer, Allan Davis (2014 VP, Rep to the Committee on Conferences) and Rita Kompelmakher (University of Minn.) organized a virtual book club featuring Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius’ So What Are You Going To Do With That?: Finding Careers Outside Academia. The book club attracted many graduate students and scholars. Allan and Rita will lead a Career Session on a discussion of the book, as well as offer resources to faculty mentors and graduate students on how to navigate the changing job market. This session will be held on Friday 12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. 

The ASTR Executive Committee is considering ways to improve the guidelines for working group paper submissions. There has been an increase in double and triple paper submissions across multiple working groups. Please note, ASTR traditionally does not allow same paper submissions to multiple sessions. The general rule is one paper to one working group. 

Committee on Conferences Host City Schedule is as follows: 2015 Portland, 2016 Minneapolis, and 2018 Atlanta. 

Graduate Fellowship Program:
The Graduate Fellowship Program continues to be a valuable financial resource to graduate students looking to offset conference registration fees. For more information on how you can apply for 2015 ASTR Graduate Fellowship, please contact the ASTR Administration Office at   

ASTR GSC Committee Updates

Conference Assistance Committee:
Co-Chairs, Areum Jeong (UCLA) and Ira Murfin (Northwestern) 

This committee oversaw the 2014 Baltimore Conference Assistance Packet. This document which will be distributed in Baltimore (hardcopy form and online) features host city information, arts and entertainment, local restaurants, and information for new and current members on navigating the conference. This year, we decided to add photos of the co-chairs and current GSC Cabinet Reps. We hope these will serve as a point of reference for new and returning ASTR members. Please do seek us out as points of reference while in Baltimore. 

Mentorship Committee: 
Co-Chairs: Shamell Bell (UCSD) and Christiana Molldrem Harkulich (Pitts) 

Formally, Peer Mentorship, this committee is organizing the ASTR Mentorship Breakfast, and two social networking events to take place in Baltimore. Currently, we have a total of 90 participants (42 mentors and 48 mentees). Last year we had 46 mentors and 54 mentees for a total of 100. While this is a slight decrease from last year’s mentorship breakfast, we are confident that interest in the breakfast, these numbers may reflect the slight loss in general membership in 2014. 

Web Resources Committee:
Chair: Danielle Rosevally (Tufts) 

The Web Resources Committee has created a digital pamphlet with GSC information and events. Click here to view. We are thrilled with our social media presences. In April 2014, we had 254 members of our Facebook Group. We now have 283 members, 114 Twitter Followers, and Facebook community page has attracted 83 Likes. If you are attending the Baltimore conference either in-person or via webinar, we encourage you to help us increase our online presence by tweeting @astrgsc and #astr2014. Please be respectful when posting photos from the conference on social media. It is generally recommended that you if you intend on posting photos on social media that you obtain consent with the person(s) who are visible and/or recognizable in the photograph. Also please be respectful in terms of language and subject matter when referring to your fellow ASTR members. Respect carries across all forms of communication.  


GSC Election:
The GSC closed elections for 2014-2015. The current cabinet is working closely with the new representatives to ensure a smooth transition. 2015 reps will assume their positions after the business meeting in Baltimore on Saturday, November 22, 2014. Click here to view the 2015 GSC Cabinet bios or visit President-Elect, Kellen Hoxworth will select chairs and co-chairs for 2015 available committees. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved! Please contact Kellen at if you are interested in chairing/co-chairing Web Resources, Mentorship, or Conference Assistance Committees. 

Outside Academia: 
The committee on New Paradigms in Graduate Education has released a five-volume set of interviews on theatre artists and scholars who have careers outside of the academy. The interviews were conducted and written by graduate students. Our GSC Rep, to the Committee on New Paradigms in Graduate Education, Sara Boland-Taylor, is the editor. There will be a limited number of hardcopies available at the conference. To read these interviews, please visit us on Facebook at 

In Closing

It has been a pleasure serving as your 2014 GSC President. I am thankful for your support of graduate student interests. We could not serve the graduate student population or the ASTR community without the guidance of President Heather Nathans, the members of the Executive Committee, Nancy Erikson (ASTR Administrator), and Shaun Sewell Franklin (Communications Manager). I would like to extend a special thank you to Nancy Erickson and Shaun Sewell Franklin for their continued assistance and dedication to the GSC. As announced earlier this year, Nancy Erickson will step down as ASTR Administrator as of December 31, 2014. Shaun Sewell will also step down effective June 1, 2015. Ewald Consulting will assume ASTR administrator and communication duties as of January 1, 2015. Nancy and Shaun have been pivotal to the success of the GSC and I am grateful for their guidance and support. 

Additionally, no presidency is a success without the support of her/his cabinet. Thank you to the 2014 GSC Cabinet and Committee Chairs: 

Allan Davis, Vice-President and Representative to the Committee on Conferences
Kellen Hoxworth, Vice-President and Representative to the Annual Conference Committee  
Amanda Boyle, Secretary/Historian
Sara Boland Taylor, Representative to the ASTR Committee on New Paradigms in Graduate Education
Areum Jeong and Ira Murfin, Conference Assistance Program Committee
Shamell Bell and Christiana Molldrem Harkulich, Mentorship Program Committee
Danielle Rosevally, Web Resources Committee
If you are interested in chairing or serving a GSC Committee, please contact President-Elect Kellen Hoxworth at So until we meet again in Portland 2015, take care and thank you! 

Graduate Student Caucus President and Graduate Student Representative to the Executive Committee
Doctoral Candidate, Bowling Green State University

Tags:  2014  ASTR Baltimore  ASTRGSC  Michelle Cowin-Mensah 

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How to get the most out of the ASTR Mentorship Program

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Updated: Friday, November 7, 2014

How to get the most out of the ASTR Mentorship Program
by the GSC Mentorship Committee; co-chairs: Shamell Bell (UCLA) and Christiana Molldrem Harkulich (Pitts)

Oftentimes, the dissertation or thesis advisor is the number one candidate for a good mentor, but there are other alliances to be found in committee members, teaching supervisors, and scholars inside and outside the individual’s institution.

Sometimes there are formal structures for pairing mentors and mentees, but most often these relationships need to be cultivated. Mentorship is a service for faculty members, but not required and not compensated. In a perfect world, faculty members seek out opportunities to mentor in order to produce good and effective scholars and teachers as part of their general vocation. However, with stresses of research and publication, teaching and committee work, mentoring is an additional service load and is often done out of goodness of heart. That, for good or for ill, is the nature and current paradigm of academia.

  • Mentees: Be open and receptive to advice and resources wherever and whenever it comes. Don’t pass these up. Mentorships “emerge,” vs. being assigned.

  • Mentees: Be someone with whom a prospective mentor wants to work. A mentor’s rewards are minimal: they want to work with friendly, enthusiastic, hard working scholars who take notes. If a mentor has to give the same exact advice more than a couple of times to the same mentee, they may start to wonder if their extra time is worth it!

  • Mentees: Be respectful of mentors’ time and patience. They’re there for you to come to with stresses, obstacles, crises, and can be a shoulder to cry on. But try not to become a “standing item on the agenda” as a problem child. Build a network of resources: mentors are part of a support team that includes partners, friends, and family members. Don’t let mentors carry the whole load for your success. They can get burned out, too!

  • Mentees: You’re not the mentor’s only mentee. Good mentors accumulate mentees over the years. In addition to working with their current cohort of graduate students, they’ve got mentees who’ve graduated and are on the job market, mentees out there in the profession, and even undergraduate mentees. If they don’t respond to your email asking for feedback on a paper right away, don’t take it personally.

  •  Mentees: It’s not the mentor’s job to keep tabs on you. If they’ve given you advice on a paper or dissertation chapter, and don’t hear from you again, they may not contact you asking for a follow up.

  • Mentees: The long and short of it is that mentorships are often informal, “off the grid,” and not part of a faculty member’s regular load. That said, a mentor-mentee relationship is a professional one. While the mentor will see you at your worst and most vulnerable and can be a cheerleader, it’s only rarely that you’ll find a “To Sir With Love”-style Sidney Poitier who will come get you out of bed to face the world. Try not to put your mentor in this position.

  • Keep in mind, mentees don’t “graduate.” While a given project (dissertation, publication, conference presentation) may culminate in a successful conclusion, and the intensity and contact between mentor and mentee may wax and wane over the years with continuing projects, your mentor can and will always be your mentor. Your continued success makes them feel good. Keep them posted on what you’re working on. Take them out for coffee at conferences and fill them in on how it’s going.


Tags:  ASTR  ASTR Baltimore  ASTR Mentorship Breakfast  astrgsc  christiana molldrem harkulich  GSC Mentorship Committee  shamell bell 

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ASTR GSC 2015 Cabinet

Posted By Michelle Cowin Gibbs, Bowling Green State University, Sunday, November 2, 2014
Please join me in welcoming our 2015 Graduate Student Caucus Cabinet:
Kellen HoxworthStanford University 
GSC President and Representative to the Executive Committee
Michelle Salerno, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Vice President and Representative to the Committee on Conferences
Stephanie Vella, Graduate Center of the City University of New York
Vice President and Representative to the Annual Conference Committee
Sarah Campbell, Indiana University
Haddy Kreie, University of California Santa Barbara
GSC Representative to New Paradigms in Graduate Education 

Each representative will assume office after the ASTR Business Meeting in Baltimore on Saturday, November 22, 2014.

Thank you,

President, Graduate Student Caucus
American Society for Theatre Research

Tags:  2015  astr  ASTR Baltimore  astrgsc  graduate students  gsc elections  gsc leadership  haddy kreie  kellen hoxworth  Michelle Cowin-Mensah  michelle salerno  sarah campbell  stephanie vella 

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Message from GSC President, Michelle Cowin-Mensah

Posted By Michelle Cowin Gibbs, Bowling Green State University, Thursday, July 17, 2014

July 2014

Dear ASTR GSC Membership:

Happy Summer! We are about six months away from the next conference and our committees have been hard at work preparing some exciting happenings for Baltimore, November 2014. Below are a few updates since our last meeting in Dallas.


GSC Executive Committee:

We have proposed some recruitment initiatives in an effort to grow our membership. Led by Sara Boland-Taylor (Rep. to the New Paradigms in Graduate Education), we created a recruitment letter addressed to Theatre and Theatre-related graduate program advisors to introduce the goals and interests of our caucus. We hope to solicit interest in GSC as well as remind ASTR affiliated graduate program advisors of our activities.

Virtual Book Club:
Co-Chairs: Allan Davis (Maryland) and Rita Kompelmakher (Minnesota)

 We are pleased to announce the organization of the 2014 Virtual Book Club. In preparation for an extended discussion at the 2014 ASTR conference in Baltimore, the GSC invites ASTR members at all stages of their careers to participate, reading and discussing a book reflective of an ongoing conversation about new paradigms for graduate education in theatre and performance studies.

We will read and discuss Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius's "So What are You Going to Do with That?": Finding Careers Outside Academia. As book club participants read chapters throughout July, August, and September, GSC officers will guide a forum discussion on a group page on the ASTR website through prompt questions based on the reading. We will consider how to transfer the general advice of the book to the specifics of our training in the fields of theatre and performance studies.

Certainly, this reading will appeal to graduate students considering where they can apply training and education after graduation; however, it is our hope that this virtual book club will also serve junior and senior faculty members of ASTR who are being increasingly asked to mentor students through these new paradigms. Please consider passing along this information to the graduate advisors of your current institutions. This book is a must read for all!

If you would like to sign up to participate in the Virtual Book Club, join us on the ASTR website for an exciting discussion. Please note, you must obtain a copy of the text (electronic or print) to participate. Copies are available online at Amazon $11.43 paperback and $9.99 Kindle edition. ISBN: 978-0226038827.

Conference Assistance Committee:
Co-Chairs: Areum Jeong (UCLA) and Ira Murfin (Northwestern University)

We have a team of graduate students working on creating our annual conference assistance packet. This guide will provide all attendees with host city information, food and eatery locations, local arts and entertainment, as well as offer helpful guidance for first-time ASTR attendees on navigating through a successful conference experience.

Peer Mentorship Committee:
Co-Chairs: Shamell Bell (UCLA), Christiana Mulldrem Harkulich (Pitts), and Kellyn Johnson (UC Santa Barbara)

Formally titled, Peer Support Program Committee, the GSC Executive Committee decided to fold the duties of the Mentorship Program in with the Peer Support Program to better and more efficiently serve the needs of our caucus. This year, Peer Mentorship will host our annual Mentorship Breakfast to be held the Saturday morning of the conference. We will also introduce two new networking events in Baltimore with more details to come later. Last year we had 46 mentors and 53 mentees and are hoping to have an even greater number of participants. Sign up for mentor and mentee registration will begin in early September 2014. For more information on how you can get involved with Peer Mentorship, please contact Michelle Cowin-Mensah at

Web Resources Committee:
Chair: Danielle Rosvally (Tufts)

We have folded Graduate Resource Committee into the Web committee, as most of the information that was generated from Graduate Resources was content to be posted on our website and blog activity. Currently this group is working on creating an online recruitment brochure that will include information on each of our committees, as well as additional opportunities to serve in the GSC. If you would like to get involved, contact the committee chair at

Congratulations to Kellen Hoxworth (Stanford) on being elected our next President of the GSC. Kellen will also serve as representative to the ASTR Executive Committee. His term will begin in November 2014 and end in November 2015. Nominations for GSC Executive Committee cabinet positions will begin in September 2014. The following positions will be available for nominations:

GSC Vice President, Representative to the Committee on Conferences

GSC Vice President, Representative to the Annual Conference Committee

GSC Secretary and Historian

GSC Representative to the Committee on New Paradigms in Graduate Education

Any GSC member may be nominated to a leadership position. These positions are a one-year term to begin November 2014 and end November 2015. For elections to be valid, individuals selected must be currently enrolled graduate students both at the time of election and on upon the commencement of their term. If a member holding a leadership position completes their graduate studies during their term, they may continue to serve until the end of the term, provided they remain members of both ASTR and the GSC. For more information on the service obligations of each position, please visit our website at Please feel free to contact me at with questions, concerns, and/or requests for more information on how you can get involved with the GSC. I am beyond thrilled in anticipation of our 2014 annual conference and I hope to see you all in Baltimore!

Many Blessings,

Michelle Cowin-Mensah,
President and Rep. to the Executive Committee,
American Society for Theatre Research Graduate Student Caucus

Tags:  ASTR Baltimore  conference  graduate students  GSC 

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