U-M grad students are dedicated, and Sarah Suhadolnikis no exception – on many levels. She has a two-word answer for what she does for fun: Michigan sports. “My advisor teases me about my sports addiction. We’ll be at a conference and he’ll find me in a corner checking scores on my phone.”
Fortunately, Sarah carries this dedication over into her graduate studies. A musicologist, Sarah’s dissertation research is on Jazz and New Orleans. She looks at the different ways jazz has contributed to how people understand and interact with the city of New Orleans, and vice versa. She covers a range of different situations and contexts, from traditional New Orleans music to contemporary musical life in the French Quarter, and beyond. She studies iconic New Orleans artists such as Louis Armstrong, Wynton Marsalis, and Dr. John, and investigates the different ways in which New Orleans has taken on greater cultural significance outside the geographical boundaries of Louisiana. Most recently, this has meant tracing different popular ideas about the city that was lost to Hurricane Katrina. She says, “I love research. Nothing gets me more excited.”
“Two of the biggest ‘firsts’ in my academic career were made possible by Rackham. The Rackham Conference Travel Grant allowed me to do my first conference paper in Leeds, England, and the Rackham Graduate Student Research Grant supported my first official dissertation research trip. Both have proven to be significant professional milestones, but the Leeds trip in particular is especially significant because it also led to my first serious publication.
“More importantly though, these experiences were true adventures in self-discovery. Rackham support has guided me through the process of creating opportunities to grow as an aspiring scholar. That's what Rackham is to me. Adjusting here has been complicated. It can be hard to make your own personal niche.”
Sarah came to U-M straight from her undergraduate experience at SUNY – Geneseo. “It was exciting and I owe U-M a lot for the opportunity. I showed up as an undergrad, and Rackham gave me the opportunity to define myself as a professional and grow into graduate-level work.” She started getting involved with social events like yoga classes and the Fall Welcome. “Rackham was where I got settled.”
After participating last year in Rackham’s What Now? professional development program, she is currently on the student leadership team for this year’s program. She also serves on the Rackham Student Advisory Board. “With the job market rapidly approaching, I’m turning to Rackham to figure out what that all means.”
Active in programs at the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, Sarah will be a graduate teaching consultant there next year. She has been floored by the profound ways in which she’s sometimes able to connect with undergraduates in her classes. “I’ve had some really moving teaching experiences. I love teaching and working with students.” Sarah hopes to pursue a teaching position in a large university setting after finishing her doctorate. “I would love to be in a place that offers students well-rounded experiences like those I’ve had here.”
“Rackham is the ‘life blood’ of graduate programs. This is the one institution on campus that puts out resources for graduate students and says, ‘They’re here, use them if you need them.’ When I graduate, it will be in part because of Rackham. I probably wouldn’t have finished my program without the support I received there.”