By Kevin G. McDonald on March 20, 2018
Dr. Lisa Felipe is the Director of the Excellence in Pedagogy and Innovative Classrooms Program (EPIC) at UCLA. EPIC, made possible by a five-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is a program committed to creating opportunities and dialogue around Humanities pedagogy for graduate students and faculty. Having received her PhD in Comparative Literature from UCLA in 2013, Dr. Felipe has extensive experience with research, teaching, and pedagogy development.
I recently sat down with Dr. Felipe to discuss, among other topics, her personal trajectory to serving as the Director of EPIC, to learn about the program’s most recent efforts to serve the graduate student and faculty communities here at UCLA, and to discuss EPIC’s relationship to the Digital Humanities and how that is being realized at UCLA with the Center for Digital Humanities (CDH). Dr. Felipe also generously provided a teaser of what to expect at the Inaugural EPIC Conference coming up on April 5th and 6th in Royce Hall at UCLA.
In addition to illuminating the mission of EPIC, the conversation yielded some very candid insights into both Dr. Felipe’s and my own pedagogical formation, as well as the realities of the job market and career opportunities beyond academia for PhDs.
It would be great if you could share a little about your background and what brings you to EPIC.
It’s kind of like a long circuitous route. I mean I’ve always been interested in teaching pedagogy and teaching in general. I’ve been teaching for as long as I can remember. I started tutoring when I was in Middle School so I’ve had this long love affair with teaching for a very long time, and in fact my motivation for coming to grad school was so that I could teach.
I was an Education major at some point in college, but I decided once I kind of dabbled in research that I really liked the research aspect of it too so I transitioned to being a Comp Lit/English major as an undergrad. I took a couple of years off and worked for non-profits. All the non-profits I worked for are based in schools and had a student services dynamic to it, and so I’ve always been in the realm of teaching. So when I came to grad school I thought it was a really good marriage between my interests in research and my interests in teaching.
I’ve always really kind of emphasized my training as a TA and I’ve really wanted a lot of training that may not necessarily have been available when I was starting out as a TA. So you go through grad school which takes a long time. I was on a traditional path in terms of going on the market, writing a dissertation, and …. I went on the market for maybe, like hardcore, like three or four years. I had a few MLA interviews, never really got that far, even though I applied to so many schools and you realize when you receive these letters back that you’re applying for a position that 400 people are also vying for, for a postdoc that pays you $40K per year and makes you move across country. So that life wasn’t very realistic for me, especially as I’ve gotten older and met my husband and got married here. It just wasn’t a sustainable life, being on the market and adjuncting.