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Postgrad Perspectives

News & Features | April 13, 2010

Jonathan Wilson
University of Essex, 1973

I graduated from college in England, from University of Essex, summer 1973. So, it must have been in June 1973. And that was the second school I had been to. I actually started a college in 1968, did one year at the University of Nottingham, then I left shortly before they were about to ask me to leave. (Laughs) But I left, they didn’t get the chance.

Then, in October of 1973, the Yom Kippur war broke out in the Middle East, and I went from England as a volunteer to work on a kibbutz. And I arrived in Israel on the day of—I think it was the largest tank battle since Stalingrad…Nixon had just rearmed the Israeli army, and there were all of these huge American transport planes unloading tanks that looked like they were rolling out huge eggs onto the tarmac.

I remember when the Yom Kippur war broke out, I was in a pub with a friend of mine, and, this I do remember: I was in a pub called “The Station.” And we were quite drunk, and the next day, we went down to London…and then [my friend and I] volunteered to be workers in the kibbutz. And then there was a delay while a lot of the fighting was going on. But in the middle of the war, we did go out, and we did arrive at night in Tel Aviv. It was a blackout.

I stayed there for three months working on the kibbutz where I was in charge of chickens. And I had a little red tractor of my own, and I inoculated them against Newcastle’s disease.  And I incinerated the dead chickens. And I fed them. And once, I fell over and bashed my head on a feeder and was unconscious in the chicken hut for a while. Anyway, I know I was there for at least 3 months. And then I went back to England. And here’s the confusion…because I have no idea. (Laughs) Like January through the following September is a total blank! And, I started a post-graduate degree at Oxford, I’m pretty sure in October 1974.

That being the case, I must have done something between January and August of 1974. But it’s gone. It’s completely gone. So um, (laughs)—maybe the something I was doing was something that induced a state of amnesia. I was back there on that kibbutz summer of ’74. So there’s still a few months missing. The “lost months.” You can fill them in however you like. Make something up. Habitat for Humanity…

Consuelo Cuz
Georgetown University

When I graduated from college, from Georgetown, I was very, very young. I was 20…I didn’t know anything about anything. So I went to Georgetown, to the School of Foreign Service…I was all set. I liked it very much. But when I graduated, I really felt like I didn’t know anything about myself and what I wanted to do with my life. So I decided to go back to my country and take a look. And I went into private banking (in those days it was mostly commercial banking).

I had to start from scratch, and I had to teach myself how to do financial analysis and how to be a banker, and, um, I remember that we had to be at our desks by eight in the morning…and, that there was this sort of ethos—a competition almost as to who was the one that left last…it was this idea that you had to almost kill yourself working so I proceeded to lose something like 20 pounds in the first six months, I used to chain smoke, you know, like two packs a day.  Lots of coffee.

But, what was most interesting was that I was extremely young, and yet I soon found myself being promoted, and I ended up supervising a team of something like 15 people who were much older than myself and who had been at the bank for a long time…first, they thought that I was a privileged, US educated, very young woman. Why should I be above them, why should I be telling them what to do? So I had to learn to earn their respect.

Not only did I have to learn about finance and financial analysis, but I also had to learn how to respect people, how to treat people well, how to give people their due, and how to understand where they’re coming from. That it wasn’t just about being polite to them, that it was also about putting myself in their shoes. And that changed my life. It made me a better human being, and it made me a better student at the Masters level, and it made me a better political scientist.

And in the end, I fit in just right in terms of the culture. I was going back to rediscover my culture in my country, that came back very quickly, it was the universal lesson of actually putting yourself in other peoples shoes that really turned out to be the goldmine.

Gerard Gasarian
La Sorbonne, 1969

It was tremendously tumultuous in 1968…Everybody followed the students’ example, and everybody went on strike for a month! The whole month of May…La Sorbonne was occupied! It was occupied for the first time in its history. Students were occupying La Sorbonne, no one could enter and teach, or study. It had become a stronghold of, of the mini revolution. Of the May Revolution.
I wanted to study French literature, which I did. [I continued to work towards my MA] at the Sorbonne in Paris, and when I passed my MA exams, I had to comply with one civic duty which had to do with the military service because it was compulsory in France at the time… So I had deferred doing this because I was a student, and students were allowed a deferment. I sort of waited as long as I could.

I was fortunate that at the time, General deGaulle had decided that it would benefit the French nation to strengthen the presence of the French language wherever it is spoken. So, he actually offered MA students in French literature an option other than serving in the military service. He offered them the chance to teach in any third-world country where French was being spoken still, at the time. And that meant Vietnam, that meant Africa…and one more option was Quebec. (Laughs) I didn’t want to go to Vietnam because you know, the war was going on, and I just didn’t want to have anything to do with that. The French had gotten out of it, I didn’t see why I should be sent back there. So fortunately my first choice was accepted and I taught in a ghetto of Montreal because as a linguistic soldier, they could send me anywhere battle was raging. And there were some dismal schools in East Montreal.

In the summer between the two years when I taught, I decided to tour the United States. I spent two months traveling anywhere, anytime, with Greyhound buses for 100 dollars a month. I decided to apply to a graduate school in the United States…I accepted an offer from Berkeley to work towards a Ph.d…And that was a life-changing experience for me because I discovered a new system of education, which I ended up preferring…the French system is free, but there is absolutely no supervision. You are left alone in some sort of wilderness. And it’s swim or sink, no one will come to your rescue. So, freedom comes at a cost.

Beatrice Manz
Harvard University, 1970

I was not very organized. I graduated from Harvard in 1970. And, that was a confusing time: we’d been on strike, there was the Vietnam war, and so on and so forth…I wanted to move out to the West coast for a while. I sort of wanted adventure, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I wasn’t worried about that terribly.

So, I was talking with people and one of my older cousins said, “Oh you’ve got to move to Seattle, Seattle’s great, go to Seattle.” He now lives there. Um, neither he nor I had noticed that Boeing had laid off…half their people. But we weren’t practically oriented so we hadn’t noticed that little fact.

I very quickly discovered I’d not made a very good choice in terms of jobs. But I was open and so I just started looking for anything I could find. And I spent about two months. Pretty much nine-to-five or more job hunting. I just didn’t do anything else. I was very systematic, I was totally shameless. (Laughs) When I look back I mean, it was really funny. You know, I asked anyone. I looked into banks, I looked into sort of non-profit. I went around the university. I looked into teaching, I looked into journalism.
My skills didn’t exactly match what they were looking for. All my studies were Russian, European. I knew French and German well, I knew some Russian, I knew some Persian. No one could care less about those languages in Seattle.

One thing I did discover quite early on was the one thing you could always do in an interview was to get some sort of further information. And I became very, very skilled at politely keeping the conversation going until people were so desperate to get me to move on, they’d give me something. Not a job, but a name.

I started going around to these people who bowled together at lunchtime that passed me on…and actually got hired for a job before it was advertised…And I held that for about seven months. And then, my serious boyfriend had gone in the Peace Corps partly to get away from the draft because he had a bad number, and so after about nine months in Seattle I left for the Philippines and I taught history there at a couple of different colleges.

Gloria Ascher
Hunter College, 1960

I was graduated from Hunter College, in New York. In what year? God…I’m lousy on that. I wanna say 1960, I think it’s ’60. I’m not good in years…I used to call up my mother when I needed that. “Ma? When did I get out of Hunter?” (Laughs)
Right afterwards, the summer, I probably did what I always did in the summer which was stay home, we lived in the Bronx. I got a Fulbright student grant to Germany, I studied at the University of Bonn…it was my first time away from home, first time really away from home, I never even went to summer camp or anything. Nothing. My mother always said, “She never even wanted to go to camp, but now she goes to Germany,” you know? I do things big, dramatic. (Laughs) But that was a great opportunity for me because it was my first time on my own…Germany was my growing up. I turned 21 over there.

We had to type up the application in quadruplicate or something like that. God forbid. We didn’t even have a typewriter. I borrowed my Uncle Maurice’s…I was doing the thing, you know, in the middle of the night the day before it was due and the ribbon ran out! So I thought, well, it still makes an indentation, so I did the whole thing then I went over it with pencil, believe it or not, every single thing. That’s why I think they were sorry for me. They said hey, she wants that Fulbright! And am I glad I got the Fulbright! [My world]—it was very sheltered. I wasn’t allowed to do too much. But in Germany, it was like wow! Gonna go dancing, gonna conquer the world. And I did!

The experience in Germany was important for me also from a personal point of view. I really grew up, and I knew I could make it on my own. I knew I could make it without mommy and daddy…but, I had also wonderful friends. She just called me for my birthday last week, my German girlfriend who now is a grandmother for the first time…I had such experiences through her because she had a farm, and I’d never been on a farm! And they let me collect the eggs and everything, they thought, “Oh good, free labor!” So I had that wonderful experience of a real German farm. Germany was really, as I said, my growing up place. My place where I came into my own.

I didn’t take a break, I know a lot of students now take breaks after their graduation, and I think it’s not a bad idea, I was always thinking, “What do you do now?” And I’m still like that.

Chris Rogers
Stanford, 1984

I sort of knew I was going to be a professor before I went to college. So I went straight through, all three degrees, same institution, graduated, and came straight here to teach. I did a couple summer jobs along the way. There was one right after my last year undergraduate, I worked at Lockheed Martin. They had a testing plant up in the mountains in San Mateo, California, and we fired off rockets! It was really cool. You had this big rocket engine, and you just fire stuff off, and you stick something in the back of it…we had these little things that shot pebbles so it was like you hit ice, [to see] what would happen to the front of the bomb, in their case. But that was a lot of fun.

We also had a cryo facility where we’d do stuff that was really cold. Best part about that was one day there was a rattlesnake right outside our place so they took some liquid nitrogen from the cryo facility and instantly froze the snake. Then we cooked it up and ate it. It was pretty good!

But I already knew I wanted to become a professor…I stuck with teaching. I actually taught a lot in my life. In 8th grade I was a substitute teacher in my local high school, and, (laughs) I was a TA in a bunch of different classes. I taught a course at Stanford before I graduated. I’ve just always loved to teach. My father is a professor as well.

Since becoming a professor, there’s a number of things that I’ve done that have made my life different…I did do Fulbright in New Zealand with the whole family…learned to drive on the wrong side of the road. We spent a year in Switzerland, I went on sabbatical.

For me, the big decision was coming out of high school whether to go to Northwestern School of Music or Stanford Engineering. (Laughs) And so, after looking at starting salaries, it became evident that engineering might be the safer bet. But I’ve always tried to keep the music part alive [in my work now]. We’ve done research in music instruments…I offer a class in music instrument design. We started the Music Engineering minor [here at Tufts].