Abby Dobson is a second-year M.A. student in Political Theory. While enrolled in the M.A. program she has also been working full time as a Senior Immigration Paralegal at a law firm in NYC.
Leo Tamamizu: What motivated you to pursue your M.A. at the Graduate Center while continuing to work full time?
Abby Dobson: I attend the GC part-time, juggling graduate school with my full-time job. This has been a delicate balancing act but one that I enjoy tremendously. Having graduated from undergrad many moons ago, my motivation for coming to the GC was to exercise the muscle of being a student again in a structured environment with deadlines. Just prior to coming to GC, I had begun exploring my research interests as an independent scholar, including attending and presenting at academic conferences like NWSA and ASALH. I also came to the GC to acquire better research skills, tools and knowledge to help me better frame, contextualize and analyze my research interests, while drawing from the discipline of political science. Unable to attend school full time, I plan to begin writing my thesis in the fall of 2020, exactly two years after matriculating. I expect it to be as challenging as the time I took a full three classes while working 40+ hours at a demanding job. It was not easy and it wasn’t pretty, but it was rewarding. I am motivated to do both because I am passionate about my research interests and want to continue moving towards my goal of entering a Ph.D. program after graduating from the GC.
LT: How have your interests developed through your classes and research?
AD: I started my time here at the GC with an interest in exploring the intersection(s) between art, politics and questions of citizenship, particularly with respect to the responsibilities of black female artists as civic actors. This particular intellectual, activist and artistic passion continues to burn bright. My goal at the GC has been to engage in study to help me refine the research inquiry I came in with while remaining open.
Mainly limited to evening courses because of my work schedule, I have tried to select courses that hinted at some connection to this overarching interest, even if tangential. I have been fortunate. I have taken or am currently taking courses that relate and offer me the opportunity to develop and further connect aspects of my research inquiry.
The M.A. core seminar confirmed my strong interest in and the applicability of political theory and American politics as sub fields to focus on. A course in political interpretation introduced me to John Dewey’s work and enabled me to examine the connection between art, aesthetics, and the cultivation of political participation in politics in my final paper. Another course on social justice movements provided me space to theorize movement building as connected to my interest in the function of art and aesthetics in politics. Another on American Political Development offered me the opportunity to better interrogate theories of U.S. nation building that do not center the construction of race and gender. Finally, the weekly assignments for the Feminist Political Theory course I took further stretched me as a thinker and writer. The process of theorizing and articulating a politics of dignity in Black Feminist Political Thought, based on theoretical and textual analysis of seminal works, while trying to make a clear and imaginative contribution, was a joy that has opened up additional avenues of related research inquiry for me to explore. These are but four examples of many.
LT: How will your experience in the Political Science program enhance your career after graduation?
Abby Dobson: The GC’s political science program is a great academic network that I hope to continue to engage with after graduation, wherever I end up for doctoral study. I will be better prepared to enter a doctoral program because of my incredibly useful time at the GC. My only regret is to not have been able to teach a course while here due to my work schedule.