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USM student accepted into nationally competitive summer program focused on diversity in graduate literary studies

One of The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) School of Humanities’ top undergraduates has been accepted into a highly competitive and prestigious program designed to encourage college students and recent graduates from varying ethnic, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds to pursue graduate study in English language-literature, while also diversifying the fields of American and English literary studies.

Abigail Jordon, a junior from McComb, Mississippi who is an English licensure student, will attend the week-long Rutgers English Diversity Institute (REDI) program in June. Hosted by Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, the program accepted only 15 students from a national pool of applicants this year.

Rutgers and REDI typically cover travel and living expenses for the duration of the program, with each participant receiving a $750 stipend; this year, however, the institute’s programming will be delivered virtually on Zoom because of concerns related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Program participants will learn about the different subfields in English and American literature from Rutgers faculty members considered among the leaders in their fields. Program activities will include seminars, lectures, workshops on applying for graduate school and on digital resources in literary studies. Current Rutgers English graduate students will offer advice and assistance regarding the graduate school application process and help give students a sense of what graduate school is like, both informally and as part of a formal application workshop.

Jordon is a first-generation American. Her mom, a veterinarian, and her father, an internal medicine physician, are originally from Guyana, South America.

“I feel blessed to have this opportunity, and I’m honored to represent not only the English program but also USM as an institution,” Jordon said. “It feels wonderful to be recognized as a high-performing English student out of a national pool of applicants. I’m excited about being accepted and getting started.”

Jordon has already been accepted into the USM English program’s Accelerated B.A./M.A. in English Literature, but says she’s interested in learning all she can about the graduate experience with other students from all over the country and from Rutgers faculty members. Her career plans include working as a writer and illustrator of children’s books and stories for an African American audience or working as an editor in the publishing industry to achieve her goal of diversifying that field.

She expressed gratitude to USM English program faculty members Amy Carey and Dr. Luis Iglesias for their assistance and support helping her gain acceptance into the REDI. “Dr. Carey wrote one of my recommendation letters for the program and has been so supportive of my academic pursuits, and Dr. Iglesias (faculty sponsor) brought the program to my attention by giving me a brochure about it and urging me to apply,” she said.

Since REDI’s inception in 2009, three USM students, with Jordon being the most recent, have been invited to participate. Students from some of the country’s top humanities programs, such as those at the University of Chicago, University of Texas, Brown University and Columbia University, among others, are also regularly accepted into the program.

“I’m thrilled that Abigail has been recognized at the national level with her acceptance to the Rutgers English Diversity Institute (REDI),” said Carey, who taught Jordon in her Advanced Grammar course at USM in the fall 2020 semester. “She distinguished herself in class with her dedicated work ethic, notable intellectual engagement, and strong leadership ability in interacting with her peers.”

Carey also noted that Jordon was particularly animated by topics of race, language, and power dynamics in class readings and discussions, and openly shared her own powerful personal experiences with these intersections in her academic background.

“I have absolute confidence Abigail will make significant improvements to a world that desperately needs to hear more diverse voices and experiences like hers,” Carey continued. “She is just the type of active, engaged, dedicated student who deserves this incredible opportunity to interact with and learn from esteemed scholars and her peers around the country. I know she will represent USM well, and we are all so proud of her.”

Dr. Iglesias said he first met Jordon when she was a student in his ENG 370: Survey of American Literature class three years ago, when she impressed him with “not only her keen and articulate insights, but also her maturity and professional composure.”

“At the end of the semester, I met with Abigail to discuss her future plans for graduate school and recommended she apply to the REDI program, to which she thanked me but reminded me she was only a freshman,” he said. “I was blown away, because she displayed a level of innate intellectual skill and academic promise that betrayed her first semester status. She was a star then and she has continued to grow as a scholar, a writer, and individual ever since.

“Abigail has more than fulfilled the expectation of her academic excellence, and it was no surprise the REDI program would accept her application. She will not only be in good and stimulating company this summer, but she will shine among them.”

The USM School of Humanities and its English program are housed in the College of Arts and Sciences. Learn more about the English program at https://www.usm.edu/undergraduate-programs/english.php.