Jonathan Senchyne | Graduated in 2004
Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Posted on Fri, 23 Aug, 2013
I majored in English with the intention of becoming a teacher at the secondary level. Like many other Geneseo students, I combined my major field with a secondary education minor in the School of Education. As an English major, I discovered that my love of reading was deepened by the analytical abilities literature awakened. Through the Honors program, my reading interests extended into philosophy, cultural theory, and politics. In collaboration with several different advisors, I decided to pursue graduate studies rather than going straight into secondary teaching. Months after graduating from Geneseo, I began studying for an MA in English and teaching freshman composition at Syracuse University. Two years later, I began work on my PhD in English at Cornell University.
At Cornell, I began to focus my research and teaching on early and nineteenth-century American literature, and also the history of the book and print culture. I wrote my dissertation, the culmination of years of research and writing, on how early and nineteenth-century American writers and readers described the relationship between the book's material form and what is communicated within it - and further how the material book, especially paper, and people's bodies interact. Research for this project took me to some of the best archives in the U.S. including the American Antiquarian Society (where I was a fellow), the Library Company of America, and the Library of Congress. I continue to publish work based on this project, and am currently rewriting and revising it for publication as an academic book with the help of a National Endowment for the Humanities postdoctoral research grant.
After graduate school, I was fortunate to get a tenure-track assistant professorship in Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At UW, my research and teaching focuses remain the history of books and print culture, and I am also the associate director of the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture.
Geneseo's emphasis on liberal arts education prepared me for my career in ways that I could not have guessed. In graduate school, I certainly appreciated the skills in critical reading and writing that I learned in the English department and Honors program. But, I find the less tangible lessons increasingly important in my daily life. Switching from an English Department to a Library and Information Studies department, for example, has required me to make inter- and trans-disciplinary connections between my methodologies, objects of study, and critical commonplaces with those of fellow scholars who come from different training backgrounds. It has been very interesting to see how my interests in the book and print as a technology of early American life are very similar to those whose research interests are in digital privacy or e-publishing. I credit Geneseo's curriculum - through which I studied literature, geology, language, biology, art history, history of science, philosophy, politics, and calculus - for helping me become someone who can learn in and translate between knowledge domains. Also, even though I didn't end up "using" my secondary education certificate, I never did leave teaching, and so I often think back to the conversations about teaching and learning that I shared with so many experts of the craft at Geneseo.