Seton Hall, Meet Our Leaders

Meet Our Leaders: Mary Balkun 

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Mary Balkun I love being a professor at Seton Hall. I think it has a lot to do with the way people treat one another. This is the kind of place where people wait to hold the door open for you. It’s a place where people are really kind to one another; they’re thoughtful and care for one another’s well being. I also love it here because our faculty are deeply committed to their students’ intellectual development.

Mary Balkun, PhD
Chair and Professor of English

A Seton Hall education provides students with a close one-to-one interaction with faculty. “At Seton Hall, we will know who you are because we really care,” Balkun says. “I still have lunch every semester with a group of students I taught during their freshman year. This isn’t just me; I know lots of faculty who are very involved. They help their students find jobs and work with them and continue to meet with them regularly, long after they’ve finished their classes. This just doesn’t happen at lots of institutions, and it is one of the things that make Seton Hall so special.”

Seton Hall strives to prepare students for the world beyond graduation. The Department of English hosts a colloquium every spring titled “What You Can Do with An English Major,” with SHU English major alumni serving as presenters. “Our graduates have gone on to work in the fields of publishing, corporate communication, law and finance at places like Marvel Comics, MTV, Simon & Schuster, and major PR firms and law offices. Many have had articles and creative work published in journals and magazines; one of our graduates had an essay reprinted in The Atlantic,” Balkun notes.

“We also have students studying internationally in Japan, China and Ireland among other places. One student who studied for a year in Ireland went on to receive a Fulbright award to study and teach in Taiwan,” Balkun notes. “Study abroad can be a wonderful way to study the literature of another culture in the very setting in which it was produced.

Balkun is also a strong believer in internships and encourages her students to regularly visit The Career Center on campus so they are aware of all their career options. “While we say you can do anything with an English major, students don’t always understand how true that is until they see the wide variety of career options open to them, and an internship—or several—can be a way to open doors and find a career one might never have imagined otherwise.”

Seton Hall Career Highlights:

Balkun, whose own scholarly research includes early American literature, material culture, social constructions of the body and the grotesque/gothic, guides and mentors students in the classroom and beyond, providing them advice with about graduate programs and information about scholarship opportunities and encouraging them to join listservs so they can be aware of what is happening in the field in real time. “My mentoring of students primarily takes the form of working with them to get their papers accepted at conferences or ready for possible publication,” she notes. “I currently have two students working on revisions for papers from a spring course so they can submit to a journal for publication.”

Several of the department’s undergraduate students have presented at conferences, including the Language and Linguistics Colloquium at Gordon College and the Plymouth Medieval and Renaissance Forum, and, each year, the Women’s and Gender Studies Program sponsors a contest with winners reading their papers at a special session at the Seton Hall Women’s Conference. “These experiences help students think about a broader audience for their writing and help them see themselves as part of a larger scholarly conversation,” Balkun says. “They realize they are no longer writing just for the teacher and for a grade; their ideas can have an impact and reach others well beyond the classroom.”

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