Pay it Forward
Arvind Thomas, GSAS ’05 and ’10, was a strong candidate for the open position of lecturer at Yale University. His resume stood out, even when stacked up against the thousand or so other applicants for the full-time position at Yale—the kind of job doctoral students dream about.
While earning his master’s of philosophy and doctoral degrees in English at Fordham’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), Thomas won several prestigious scholarships and fellowships, including a Bennett Scholarship, a GSAS Alumni Dissertation Fellowship, a GSAS Travel Grant, a Hill Museum and Manuscript Library Heckman Award, and a Erika and Kenneth Riley Fellowship from the Huntington Library, to name just a few.
He also presented papers at renowned and influential conferences around the world—from the Medieval Studies Colloquium of the Interuniversity Doctoral Consortium at Columbia University to the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies Conference at the University of Durham, and published articles and papers in five peer-reviewed publications.
Thomas accomplished all this—and more—while teaching several undergraduate courses at Fordham College at Rose Hill, serving briefly as assistant to the director of Fordham’s Center for Teaching Excellence and editing the Italian section of Fordham’s Center for Medieval Studies’ Online Medieval Sourcebook.
He had as good a chance as anyone to land the job at Yale. But what really put him over the top, according to Thomas, was the professional guidance and advance work of his Fordham professors—something the other candidates didn’t have.
“It’s as much their job as mine,” said Thomas, who came to Fordham from his native India specifically for the University’s Medieval Studies program. “This is a collaborative effort, really.”
During his course of study, Thomas worked closely with a number of Fordham professors, including his dissertation adviser, Eve Keller, Ph.D., professor and director of the Department of English’s Graduate Studies Program; Lenny Cassuto, Ph.D., professor of English; John Bugg, Ph.D., assistant professor of English; and Maria Farland, Ph.D., associate professor of English. He also worked with Maryanne Kowaleski, Ph.D., director of the Center for Medieval Studies, and W.P. Mueller, Ph.D., associate professor of history.
Thomas said Keller, Cassuto, Bugg and Kowaleski, helped him with everything from the organization of his dissertation on Piers Plowman and canon law to his job hunt.
“They were my patrons, to use the Medieval word,” he said. “Every day, I’d have to revise my job letters and CVs, and they would always help me willingly. They helped me create syllabi for job interviews. They helped me with everything, on an almost daily basis. It’s very rare to find a professor who will give a student that much time.
“That kind of support was amazing.”
And it’s exactly this kind of one-on-one support, the hallmark of a Fordham education, that Thomas now hopes to bring with him to Yale.
“I owe it to my students, both at Fordham and Yale, to mentor and advise them,” he said, “even if it means putting off some of my own work from time to time. It’s only fitting.”