A well-known paragon of the English Department is the mentorship faculty provide to students over the course of their studies at CU Boulder. Whether you are a first time undergraduate learning the foundations of writing or an experienced PhD candidate about to be named an expert in your field, English faculty are beside students every step of the way to teach, train, and advise on the many disciplines of rhetoric, literature, and creative writing.
One faculty member stands out as Faculty Program Coordinator for the PhD Consortium in Literatures and Cultures: Dr. Tiffany Beechy, Associate Professor.
Beechy, originally from Oregon, was hired at CU Boulder in 2011 after completing her undergraduate degree at Harvard, her MFA at Columbia, and her PhD in medieval literature at the University of Oregon. She was named the Faculty Program Coordinator for the Consortium in 2019.
The Consortium in Literatures and Cultures, a student opportunity started by the Center for the Humanities and the Arts at CU Boulder, is a group for PhD candidates “to maximize the benefits of intellectual and administrative collaboration while granting participating programs autonomy in their pursuit of excellence.” The Consortium has offered funding and mentoring to doctoral students that “allows them to complete their degree in five years without sacrificing intellectual depth and methodological diversity.” A highlight of this program is that PhD candidates who are interested have full access to faculty in other departments, promoting interdisciplinary research and mentorship across campus.
When asked to define the purpose of the Consortium herself, Beechy herself highlighted how important this program is in preparing PhD candidates for the rest of their academic careers: “Consortium has brought very good funding to its recruits, allowed students to know one another across departments, and, potentially, will provide very good support for students at the advanced stage, as they prepare first publications, write their dissertations, and prepare for “the profession,” whether inside or outside academia.”
When it comes down to it, it is apparent that Beechy sees academic mentorship as a two-way street where student and professor each gain a resource in working with one another on a subject both are passionate about. “Mentoring students keeps me from despair. These past several years have been very difficult for medieval studies, amid and on top of an ongoing disaster in the humanities. All of that is painful and takes a toll on your motivation (like, when you’re trying to finish your book on the finer points of early medieval Incarnational theology and its representations in art).” She continues: “But working with students and seeing that they, too, can find meaning and worth in the ideas you care about, and seeing as well that you can be of real help to them in drawing out, developing, and contextualizing their own ideas, that is motivating and rejuvenating.”
“Leading students into deep engagement with language is what I love to do—it is a lot like teaching poetry of any period. Students have to confront opacity, and confusion, and then catch a glimpse of clarity. From there, learning happens.”
In addition to her work with the Consortium, Beechy enjoys teaching Old English, “in part because the grammar and history of English come as such a revelation to many students.” She sites Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales as the most fun text to teach, any time, any day. Her current personal research includes working on press revisions for her second book, Flesh of the Word: Materiality, Aesthetics, and the Incarnation in Early Medieval Britain, as well as working on a collaboration with colleagues in Ireland and the US to publish a digital edition of a strange manuscript from the eleventh century, related to her book.
When asked what makes her the most proud of her work at CU Boulder, her answer is a perfect summation of why and how she teaches: “Medieval studies is a deeply traditional field, and I believe that in my writing, in my professional engagement, and in my mentorship I have worked to make the field more open.” She continued: “I am very proud of my PhD student, Tarren Andrews (whose accomplishments are entirely her own). I will feel satisfaction that I have helped clear a way for her to develop her ideas and shape her voice. I guess personally, I am proud of having raised a child to age five (so far) who is both secure and kind and knows how to respond to “Live long, and prosper” (answer: “Peace, and long life”).”