Leah Lapszynski
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My Story

Leah Lapszynski entered the Master of Arts program in English in 2013. At Northeastern, she discovered new interests and embraced renewed interests through opportunities in the experiential liberal arts. Leah graduated in 2015 and now holds an administrative position in higher education.

This is Leah’s Northeastern story…

 

My Path
Photo courtesy of Leah Lapszynski
Graduate Studies in English

After earning her B.A. in English from a small liberal arts college and working for several years in art museums in Philadelphia, Leah applied to Northeastern’s graduate program in English. She was drawn to the flexibility of the curriculum and opportunities for interdisciplinary work. Leah experienced the full advantage of both, as she discovered new fields of study and gained hands-on experience with digital humanities tools and methods.

“All of the experiences that I had at Northeastern— personal experiences,  experiences with the faculty, experiences with my cohort, and these kind of everyday learning and teaching experiences— set me up perfectly to go into the field that I was interested in.”

Transformational Coursework

Leah was introduced to rhetoric and composition studies through her graduate coursework. She took three ENGL 7395 Topics in Writing seminars: “Literacy in Crisis” and “Genres and Identities in Action,” both taught by Professor Mya Poe, and “How Do We Study Writing & Writers?,” taught by Professor Chris Gallagher. The exploration of reading and writing across cultures, industries, identities, and abilities resonated with Leah’s passion to help people access and share ideas.

“Mya Poe and Chris Gallagher were instrumental to me in pursuing rhetoric and composition. They brought a real sense of continuity to what is learned in a classroom and what is applied to your experience outside of the classroom…. I think that’s really who they are as people. They were working with a lot of interdisciplinary [institutions], and they always had these great experiences and perspectives.”

Faculty Mentors

In addition to Professors Poe and Gallagher, Leah places Professor of the Practice Julia Flanders high on her list of NU mentors. Leah worked with Professor Flanders on the Digital Scholarship Group’s Women Writers Project and Our Marathon teams.

“Julia was incredibly instrumental to me realizing that I could use the MA in English to go further with cultural heritage site work. It was really fabulous working with her on the Women Writers Project, because it all really beautifully tied in how academics and, honestly, just life, can co-mingle and make sense. … My work on the culture and reception portion of the Women Writers Project was one of the things that really drove home the practical, human relationship between the theoretical academic [question] ‘why do we study’ and the actual people and things that we study.

Experiential Learning

“I had a really amazing opportunity to work for Our Marathon when it was in its later stages.  After the bombing had taken place, people from all over the world sent postcards and notes and letters and things written on napkins and all of these this real, heartfelt messages ‘To the City of Boston.’  The Boston City Archives was really fabulous and collected as much as they could. We worked with the archives to digitally transpose the texts. Being part of this shared healing/thinking/grieving process was one of the most unexpected and rewarding experiences that I had at Northeastern for sure.”

Our Marathon is a crowd-sourced archive of the April 15, 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon finish line and the city's healing process.
Leah's thesis included case studies of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Boston's Museum of Science, and Philadelphia's Magic Gardens. This image is from the Magic Gardens. Photo credit: CC BY JoshBerglund19
Master's Thesis

In her Master’s thesis, “Three Case Studies on Digital Technology Implementation in Museums for Disabled Patrons” (supervised by Professor Mya Poe), Leah explored the accessibility of  in-person and online art museum texts and exhibits and offered suggestions for improving accessibility with digital technology.

“I felt so lucky that I was able to do something that was kind of off the beaten path…. I got to put a little bit of digital humanities work into it, which is always fun.”

“Leah’s innovative thesis brought together research on digital humanities and disability studies in the context of museums. Through her illustrative case studies of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Science, Boston, and Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, Leah provided compelling examples of the ways that museums attempt to the make themselves more accessible for disabled patrons. Leah’s work also pointed to the potential of museums to further expand that accessibility through interactive, informative, and contributory options for museum patrons.” – Professor Mya Poe

Graduate Community

“I think one of the things that really sticks out to me is the people that I met and the people that I developed friendships with at Northeastern. Faculty mentors, but also people who were students—my peers. When I first came into the Master’s program, I didn’t expect such fulfilling relationships on a personal level. I still keep in touch with so many, and kind of check in with the program and see where everything is going. It’s nice.”

Leah (left) with Wiregrass colleagues at mosaic artist Frederic Lecut's MosaicBlues studio. Photo credit: Frederic Lecut
Next Steps

Leah is now an academic program specialist in the Department of English at Florida State University. Previously, she spent a year helping to grow the arts community in Dothan, Alabama at the Wiregrass Museum of Art as their Education and Public Programs Coordinator.

“I graduated from college, worked at museums, and went to graduate school, then worked in a museum, now I work at a university. I like varying between experiencing the human aspects of the things and [learning about] why they are important to study and preserve.”

“At FSU, I split my time between managing technical aspects, like schedule-building and faculty assignments, and advising English majors who are in their final year. These students are starting to consider things like graduate school and employment and how to best use their degree. I talk to them about why the English major is incredibly beneficial to making their interests and passions their career choice. So, it’s cool to feel like I’m like living that vibe.”

Looking back on her time at Northeastern, Leah sees how her experience helped contextualize the interests of instructors and students and the value of academic and hands-on approaches to English studies.

Having gone to grad school at Northeastern where the program is so interdisciplinary and still relatively small enough to know everybody, I feel like it’s easier to straddle those lines and bring people together.

This was Leah's NU Pathway... Where will yours lead?

Northeastern Department of English

https://cssh.northeastern.edu/english/

Photo credit: Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University