Assistant Professor Michelle Wang enjoys every step in paving her career path in academia
Jan 10, 2019
Ask Dr Michelle Wang, 33, what she enjoys about life as an academic and her replies reflect her undeniable passion for her job.
The assistant professor, who teaches English at the School of Humanities at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), says: “It’s the little things — meeting like-minded people at conferences who continue to help you perceive the familiar in new ways and invigorate the way you think about issues or books.
“It’s those moments in the classroom when students go, ‘Oh, I never saw it that way!’
“It’s also when you’ve been wrestling to put a particular idea into words, leading to that moment when it clicks — it’s pretty incredible.”
Prof Wang’s journey towards academia started when she was an undergraduate reading Communication Studies at NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information. She had taken a minor in English, during which, her teacher, Professor Neil Murphy, encouraged her to apply for NTU’s Master of Arts in English.
Her decision to pursue the MA was the point at which she began to seriously consider a career in academia.
However, since her undergraduate training was in a different discipline, she was not absolutely certain she had what it took to embark on a doctorate in English, given that the doctoral degree “demands an extraordinary commitment in terms of time, intellectual rigour and emotional grit, among other things”.
She says: “What I enjoyed about doing the MA was really just the freedom, time and space to read and think. And I was in an environment that nurtured my love of literature, with teachers who taught me to see texts in new ways, in a process that was no longer dominantly grades-driven.”
Pursuing the MA gave Prof Wang an understanding of what being an academic entailed.
She explains: “The teaching. The flexibility to read and think about texts of my choice. And also, the learning opportunities my professors offered by employing fellow graduate students and I as research assistants to copy-edit and proof-read their books — such opportunities and experiences helped shed light on what being an academic involves.
“So it was a process that helped shaped the goal of becoming an academic as much as it helped me to advance toward it.”
“Having teachers who believed in me was absolutely critical.”
The joy of pursuing the MA in contemporary fiction also inspired her to complete a PhD at The Ohio State University in the United States. She also did an NTU HASS (Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences) International Postdoctoral Fellowship at Queen Mary University of London in Britain. She is now back at NTU and has just taught a graduate seminar in the history of literary theory.