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DFF Program Provides Job-Market Edge

Natalie Lozinski-Veach saw the Deans’ Faculty Fellowship (DFF) opportunity as a great capstone for her graduate education. “I’m glad I did it,” she says of meeting the dissertation defense schedule, “but it wasn’t easy.” 

The Comparative Literature expert was one of nine PhD students who completed the program this year and are currently visiting assistant professors at Brown. “The fact that I defended in December made a difference in a bitter job market, with few tenure-track positions,” she says. Lozinski-Veach has accepted a position as visiting assistant professor at Williams College. “I look forward to teaching at a great college for two years, designing upper-level literature and theory courses, publishing, and turning my dissertation into a book.”

The DFF program, a joint initiative of the Graduate School and the Office of the Dean of the Faculty, gives advanced students a way to strengthen their teaching portfolios. To be eligible, rising 6th-year graduate students must commit to completing, defending, and submitting their dissertation by January 15 of their 6th year. The DFFs receive full fellowship support without any teaching responsibilities during the fall semester. In the spring semester, they are appointed as visiting assistant professors with assignments to teach or co-teach a course in their areas of expertise. 

What surprised Lozinski-Veach about the process was the shift in self-perception from being a graduate student to a visiting assistant professor (VAP). “In job interviews, it really helped me with my posture as a colleague,” she says. “I was already being addressed in the classroom as professor.”

She is teaching Species Matters: Animals in Literature, Film, and Theory. Twelve students are exploring the complex relationships of humans with nonhuman animals, looking at the role of language and human subjectivity. The class addresses questions of ontology, aesthetics, and ethics.  

Teaching as a VAP is empowering, she says. The position allows her to develop her own teaching and to test approaches, such as using self-reflective writing at the beginning of the semester and self-evaluation at the end. She credits training as a teaching assistant with Professors Arnold Weinstein and Gerhard Richter as formative. 

When she applied for the DFF program, she had written about two-thirds of her dissertation, completed research for the third chapter, and had finished conceptualization. Though she knew what the final chapter would be, she says, she still found it challenging to finish the last 50 pages of the 300-page dissertation, which analyzes the destabilization of the human-animal divide in literary and theoretical discourse after the Holocaust.

Those considering applying for the DFF program should give thought to how they work under an external deadline. People work in different ways, she explains. “It helps,” she adds, “to have an efficient writing structure in place.”

Article by Beverly Larson; photo by Susan Ely.