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Our esteemed alumni exemplify that there is a whole world out there full of possibilities for the English Community to explore and achieve their professional goals. Karrieann Soto Vega, a graduate of our MAEE Program, overcame diverse obstacles in order to achieve her dream of teaching, and has been offered a tenure-track Assistant Professor position at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Soto shared the secrets of her journey in an interview by Kiara D. Lugo Carrero. We hope you are inspired by her success story!

1. What did you do after you graduated from your bachelors degree?

I graduated from my bachelor’s degree in Secondary English Education with the Use of Multimedia Technology at UPRAG and there was no question about UPRM being the next logical step for me to extend my graduate studies. The Master of Arts in English Education introduced me to a variety of topics in literature, linguistics, and English education from a multidisciplinary approach. After completing my MAEE, I worked as an English Professor in the Instituto de Banca for a year, and spent another year exploring my options while living in New York City. With the support and mentorship from UPRM English Department faculty (even though I had graduated two years before), I got accepted to all three graduate programs I applied for, but ultimately decided to pursue my PhD at Syracuse University.

2. How did your time with the UPRM English Department help prepare you for the next stages in your life?

In addition to mentorship, the faculty of the English Department at UPRM set a good example of what it means to be active scholars by seeking research opportunities and participating in conferences, while also being attentive professors and community activists. Besides teaching English Composition courses as a Teaching Assistant, the rigorous academic experiences during coursework, engaging in research, and the process of writing my master’s thesis all prepared me for doctoral work outside of Puerto Rico.

3. How did you achieve your upcoming position as an Assistant Professor at the University of Kentucky? Was it a difficult or competitive journey?

There are resources that illustrate the specific state of the Rhetoric and Composition job market, which is smaller, but still related to the English market. Among them, an analysis ( compiled by a colleague in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies at the University of Kentucky. It is a good illustration of how competitive the job market is, especially for those graduating with a specialization in Rhetoric and Composition. A shorter answer is that it was extremely competitive.

As to how I prepared, I would say a big component was maintaining a multifaceted approach to scholarship and teaching that reflected my personality. That is, I supplemented my previous interests (such as music and multimodality) with an attention to how they could manifest differently (such as podcasts and digital rhetoric). Most importantly, I made sure to maintain my focus on Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rican cultural practices. I was really lucky to be the student of great scholars in the field of Rhetoric and Composition, but also in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, which helped shape my decolonial feminist perspective.In short, I was able to create an interdisciplinary scholarly agenda that could reach across departments and subject areas, and sought opportunities to teach courses that necessitated such an interdisciplinary approach. Lastly, I’ve created support networks by participating in multiple conferences, especially those that reflect my scholarly interests and identity positions.

4. Is this the type of career you’ve always aimed for or did you have a sort of epiphany later on in your life?

If you had asked an 18-year-old Karrieann graduating from the Patria Latorre Ramirez High School in San Sebastián where she’d be once she graduated, the likely answer would have been, “maybe San Juan.” It has certainly been a long-road, full of unexpected turns, but I’m perfectly aware of how the places I’ve been have led me here. I’ve always wanted to be in school, and I’ve always been interested in new media, culture, and communication. I can’t wait to continue dedicating my life to understanding and producing it, hopefully with the result of augmenting attention to my people in Puerto Rico.

5. Is there anything you would like to say to those students back at UPRM who are interested in heading towards this career path?

Don’t be afraid to ask. If you read an article and think, “this is so cool! Wish I could study this!” find a program that can get you to do so. If you don’t know where to start, ask every faculty member you know, or ask them to put you in touch with alumni who could help (hint, hint). If you are having a difficult time, ask for support. But always make sure that you have a project that you *must* do, that is fulfilling and significant for you, and that will sustain you throughout the challenges of an academic career.

Editor’s note: Congratulations to (now) Dr. Karrieann Soto Vega for successfully defending her dissertation yesterday!