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Home » Discover Rackham » Student Spotlight: Valentina Montero-Roman

Valentina's work at the University of Michigan focuses on the ways that women's minds are represented fictionally. In particular, it looks at how literary narratives work in conversation with other cultural representations of the female mind in media like film and advertisements. Working backwards from contemporary representations of the female mind in sitcoms like “The Mindy Project” and chick lit novels like Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series, she explores the intertextuality between these narratives from the twenty-first century and the work done by authors of the early-twentieth century, narratives of what most Americans would call “the flapper.”

Her work argues that narratives of female experience are also explorations of new ideas about female subjectivity, and that literary texts that take up that focus remain important in conversations about gendered consciousness and female experience. She says that part of what motivates her to do this work is that she believes that “representations of fictional minds display important connections between the stories we tell about ourselves (and to ourselves), and our everyday, lived, embodied experience. These narratives explore the minutia of a day, the ways that things like class, race, sexuality, and disability– all these politically important and powerful things–intersectionally inform and shape the ways that these characters tell the stories of their own lives or try to define their role in a fictional world.” For her, these texts display the ways that “the narratives that characters construct are integral parts of the lives that they live” and that “those narratives are inextricable from social, cultural, and political discussions of gendered experience.”

She says she hopes to finish her degree and pursue a career in academia: “I have enjoyed being able to work with students to think about the ways that literary representations, both historical and contemporary, circulate in conversation with other narratives about human experience.” She expands, “Alongside my scholarly work, teaching is a space for taking academic culture and shifting it so that it looks more like the critical analysis that students are more used to interfacing with, like blogs, twitter, and even Facebook.” Valentina’s role as a graduate student instructor has been really valuable in her progression as a doctoral student. She describes the support she’s received: “This is a school that takes teaching and your role as a teacher seriously. I had never taught anything but fitness and soccer before coming to the University of Michigan, and the programs that the English Department required us to participate in through EDWP were pivotal for me as an instructor.” Funding as a Rackham Merit Fellow has helped Valentina shift her energy at different times during her years as a graduate student. “My fellowship years give me time to focus on writing and scholarship, but the larger program also gives me funding for years where I can develop my skills as an educator. Having this kind of funding has been wonderful for my professional development.”

Acknowledging the critique of graduate programs and the difficult job market, Valentina says “I hope to pursue an academic job, but I also feel that this program has prepared me to do a lot of other kinds of work. I've learned a lot about who I am, what matters to me, what my skills are, and how I can use them in different professional atmospheres. The funding I received here has given me the time to learn and to teach.”

Outside of her dissertation research, Valentina is a co-coordinator for the Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshop, Integrating Diversity and Equality in the Academy. She says, “In IDEA, we work with faculty, staff, graduate students, and undergraduate students to do the continual work of thinking about ‘diversity’ in a department. We feel that being a Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshop has allowed us to make connections with other likeminded graduate students across departments, and it has also given us visibility and community across those disparate spaces.”

Valentina feels that making the choice to come to Michigan was the right one. When she and her partner, a fellow English Department doctoral student, Kyle Grady, began looking for doctoral programs when they were at Rutgers together, they didn't think that Michigan was a place that they wanted to spend six years. The Midwestern cold was a major deterrent, but after their visit they both decided that Michigan was the right department for them. She says, “We met at Rutgers. He ran track and I played soccer, and we were the only athlete English majors at the University at the time. We got in to a few of the same schools, but we still thought that we might end up in different programs based on our areas of study. When we came to Michigan, though, we both felt like this was a place where we could develop strong projects and teaching experience.” She and Kyle are settled in Ann Arbor now. Valentina has integrated into the Ann Arbor community in another way, using her athletic background to teach spinning, boot camp, and other fitness classes at the U-M Rec Center and now at Vie Fitness downtown. She says, “Despite our initial reservations about the Midwest, we have found community at the University of Michigan and in Ann Arbor in general. It has been a tremendously productive space for me, and I am glad to still have a few more years to enjoy here.”