Dr Kristina West
Krissie West returned to Reading to study for her Master's degree years after obtaining her BA. Krissie's aim was to change her career direction - a big decision where the choice of institution would be pivotal. Krissie relates how the University inspired her to come back.
An exciting course
"When I discovered that such a highly-accredited MA in Children's Literature was available at Reading, I was delighted to return. The campus is beautiful, it is convenient for the British Library in London, and it has its own archives to explore."
It wasn't just the University itself which attracted Krissie. With innovative approaches to teaching, the fantastic academics at Reading also played a role in her choice.
"Meeting Professor Karin Lesnik-Oberstein was a key factor in my decision to return to Reading. Her revolutionary approach, and that of her colleagues, Dr Sue Walsh and Dr Neil Cocks, inspired me to approach children's literature critically and understand it in ways I had never previously conceived as possible."
Innovation and support
A Master's Degree is a serious undertaking, and Krissie worked hard to achieve her qualification. During this time, she remembers, the way in which the course was taught became a source of great inspiration.
"The critical approach to the subject challenged me in a way I had not foreseen, and although it was not easy, the community of scholars, MA students, and PhD students offered invaluable support, advice and care. I also felt that this course both prepared and inspired me for further study at PhD level."
A new career
Completing her Master's Degree in Children's Literature has had a demonstrably positive effect on Krissie's career and life goals, allowing her to change her professional direction.
"This course has changed my professional life entirely, and much for the better. I currently have a two-book deal with Palgrave Macmillan: my first monograph on Louisa May Alcott will be out later in 2019, and my second, on childhood and the Salem witch trials, is due out late 2020. I work as a lecturer and personal tutor in English and American literature, and am a board member of The Ralph Waldo Emerson Society. I have also been invited to speak several times on BBC Radio Berkshire about children's literature and the Salem witch trials. It is entirely through my studies at Reading, and the support of the staff, that this has been possible."
Transforming her career from that of a financial journalist to an academic writer has been a remarkable journey for Krissie. She highlights the ways in which her course directly contributed to her success in this new career path.
"The CIRCL approach to reading children's literature is directly responsible for my Alcott monograph: the publishers were particularly impressed by an approach to Alcott's works, through readings of queer theory, race, disability studies, and childhood theory, that has not yet been taken. It was also due to the support of CIRCL staff that I was inspired to turn an interest in witchcraft into a successful monograph proposal."
Having enjoyed great success since completing her course, Krissie now has a message for those currently considering a Master's in English Literature at Reading.
"I would recommend the Children's Literature M(Res) to anyone who wants to think critically, to participate in rigorous academic debate, to challenge their preconceptions of children's literature and its study, and to achieve more than they might think possible."