University Administrative Fellowship Spotlight: Andrew Finn (GS, English)

July 21, 2021

In the GradFUTURES Spotlight series, Princeton graduate students share in their own words about their experiences in one of the GradFUTURES Fellowship programs: the Community College Teaching Fellowship Program, the University Administrative Fellowship Program, or the GradFUTURES Social Impact Fellowship Program. 

Where and when did your Fellowship take place?

I was a University Administrative Fellow (UAF) for Princeton Research Day under the mentorship of Assistant Dean Christine Murphy and Director of Undergraduate Research Pascale Poussart from Fall 2020 to Spring 2021. (In Fall 2021, I will be a UAF in the English Department under the mentorship of Professors Josh Kotin and Meredith Martin and Assistant Dean James M. Van Wyck.)


After completing my BA at Colby College and pursuing a Master of Studies degree at the University of Oxford, I began my PhD in Princeton’s University’s English Department in Fall 2017. My work focuses on late medieval religious poetry and philosophy, as well as critical theory.

What drew you to the University Administrative Fellowship and this particular Fellowship?

When I was in the third year of my doctorate, I took on the role of Academic Programming Chair in the English Department’s Graduate Action Committee (an elected group of graduate students who plan departmental events and serve as a liaison between faculty and students). In this role, I led a panel discussion on first-year graduate student academic writing and another on preparing for the General Exam. These experiences drove me to seek out other similar opportunities for academically-driven campus engagement and professional development beyond my department. After hearing about the UAF program from John Schulz, a fellow English Department doctoral candidate, I met with Assistant Dean James M. Van Wyck to discuss my options.

One of the opportunities he highlighted in our initial meeting involved helping put together Princeton Research Day (PRD)—an interdisciplinary conference for celebrating the work of Princeton scholars from undergraduates to early career researchers. One of the core tenets of preparing for PRD is ensuring that your work excites and compels a variety of audiences outside of your discipline; so, I was compelled to provide a graduate perspective that drew from the work I already did within my discipline. Indeed, as a medievalist, I’m always thinking about how I can make my work applicable to a wide array of audiences beyond my niche, so being able to adapt my methodologies in a broader context like PRD was rewarding to say the least. After a successful virtual Princeton Research Day 2021, I decided to return to my home department and help evolve its graduate program offerings and opportunities this Fall.

Can you share a bit about the Organization and the projects to which you contributed?

Princeton Research Day is, as I mentioned above, an interdisciplinary conference for celebrating the work of Princeton scholars from undergraduates to early career researchers. I was the Participant Liaison. As such, my contributions centered on encouraging scholars to participate and helping them prepare to present their research to non-specialist audiences beyond the confines of their discipline. For instance, I put together guidelines on presenting in a short timeframe and crafted outreach materials tailored to individual departments to encourage participation from academically underrepresented groups in PRD.   

How did these experiences help you?

Being given the opportunity to apply my own methods for expanding the reach of my scholarship in turn gave me the opportunity to reconsider and refine those methods. Also, experiencing the ways in which a large, long-term project was structured throughout an entire year helped me think about how I approach and develop my own long-term projects.

Can you share some reflections on the mentorship component of the Fellowship?

Christine Murphy, my chief point person for PRD, was a wonderful, attentive mentor. She regularly checked in with me about my progress on various PRD-related projects, left ample time to answer any questions about higher education administrative work in general, and was always willing to connect me with other administrators on campus for informational interviews as well as for general networking.

Best advice for Graduate Students considering a Fellowship through GradFUTURES?

I think it’s important to consider how your academic work may be part of a broader network of different kinds of labor that can make use of similar skillsets. Alternatively, simply considering what other kinds of work you’re interested in doing with your PhD is fundamental to healthily approaching your program as a rewarding experience in its own right, not solely a means to an end that you cannot predict. Thinking about these possibilities early on—say, after you’ve completed the first third or half of your program and have become familiar with Princeton—has proven beneficial for me and for other Fellows I’ve talked to for the simple fact that you’re given ample time to explore what professional options lie beyond your seminars, books, laboratory, or other chief work environment.

In short, the University Administrative Fellowship Program is a fantastic opportunity to expand your horizons and see what other professional opportunities are out there that may complement your academic work or take you in entirely new, exciting directions.


Read more GradFUTURES Fellowship Spotlights here!