After March break, the student body returned rested, refreshed, and ready for the end of the year, having spent two weeks in a tropical destination, on a school trip, or, most likely, on the couch at home. However, not everyone on the faculty could say the same thing. While most were catching up on Mad Men or spending time with family, Dr. Tift was putting the finishing touches on her dissertation and receiving her doctorate in Editorial Studies from Boston University. Receiving a doctorate culminates Tift’s learning experience in the classroom, and, although she did not initially envision herself at this place in her life, she is thrilled to have accomplished such a feat.
Actually, Dr. Tift did not even think she was going to become a teacher until later in her career – after finishing her undergraduate studies at Vassar and earning a B.A. in English, she was immediately drawn to the job of a copy editor at Duke University Press in North Carolina, where she proofread and streamlined writers’ prose. She then became an acquisitions editor for Random House Publishing, where it was her job to work with budding authors on crafting novels and discover new, inspiring works of literature for print. Yet it was not until the opportunity arose to work as a teaching assistant in a Harvard English class on literature and social reflection that Dr. Tift found her passion for pedagogy.
As a teacher, previously at both Falmouth Academy and Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall, and now at Belmont Hill, Dr. Tift soon found that she loves most of all the sense of community around campus and the close interactions she has with students; however, something was missing. Even though she was officially a teacher, Dr. Tift was not yet finished with being a student; thus, she continued her passion for learning by enrolling at BU and getting both an M.A. and, most recently, a Ph.D. in Editorial Studies, a field which ties in well with her previous career as an editor.
To receive her doctorate, Dr. Tift needed to attend classes, take tests, and even have proficiency in another language. The paramount requirement for receiving a doctorate, however, is the dissertation, an extensive, comprehensive essay about a certain area of interest. Wanting to craft her dissertation around editorial studies, Dr. Tift chose to research the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson and the director Lloyd Richards as they worked together to edit Wilson’s play, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, for a Tony-nominated run that began at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. Tift chose this topic for her dissertation because of Wilson’s powerful narratives of racial struggle in the twentieth century and his complex partnership with Lloyd Richards, a partnership which clearly demonstrates the importance of editing.
Having defended her dissertation successfully, Dr. Tift comes back to Belmont Hill with her head held high and becomes one of a select few teachers who have received a doctorate. Although she will be hearing “Ms. Tift” for a little while longer, it won’t be long before her new name sticks and her accomplishment is recognized by all.