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Graduate Student Mentors

Graduate students in the English department offer their advice and counsel to undergraduates interested in a graduate degree of one kind or another. Here are our current graduate student mentors.


Paul Schmitt –

Paul Schmitt is a fourth-year English PhD candidate, studying 20th and 21st century literature and media. He is interested in the infrastructural subplots of the novel form, the poetics of resource extraction, and the implications of both for local and global ecologies. He has taught Rhetoric and The Interpretation of Literature at the University of Iowa, and served as a research assistant for the Intermedia Research Initiative. Paul is a first-generation college student, and began graduate school at the University of Iowa the same year he graduated with his BA in Literature with Writing Emphasis from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, having dabbled in journalism, ad-agency copywriting, and GIS. He is a big proponent of interdisciplinary study, and has enjoyed the flexibility and scholarly community that UI has cultivated in that regard.


Enrico Bruno –

Enrico Bruno is a fifth-year student in the English PhD program and is currently working on a dissertation that explores the myth of the flying African in late 20th century black American literature. He teaches Interpretation of Literature with a focus on subversive fabulist literature and previously taught in the Rhetoric department. He graduated from The College of New Jersey with a BA in English and Creative Writing, then worked for several years in New York City in the publishing industry. He worked as a project editor for an academic publishing house and also freelanced for a literary magazine. Connecting with peers, faculty, and undergraduate students to help foster a supportive campus community has been his favorite aspect of graduate school.


Caitlin Simmons –

Caitlin Simmons is a fourth-year PhD candidate in the English program. She has roots in the Romantics and Victorians, but her current work focuses on psychical dispossession and the potential for survivance across cultures. Caitlin took several years off after earning a B.A. in Psychology and English at UCSB, and worked in a variety of non-academic jobs. Once she realized how much she wanted to work in academia, she headed to San Diego State for her MA, and then taught at a community college for a year as an adjunct professor. Eventually, she made the decision to move across the country and find a home at the University of Iowa. The biggest and best surprise about graduate school, for her, was that she walked into an incredible community of supportive and like-minded individuals. She found her people! Also, it turns out she kind of likes the frigid winters. This was major news!


Torie Burns –

Torie Burns is a third-year English PhD candidate, studying 20th and 21st century American literature. She is especially interested in gender, embodiment, and life writing. Her interdisciplinary research explores how women portray themselves in their memoirs, specifically how they write about (or choose not to write about) their bodies within these texts. She's also working to earn a graduate certificate in Public Digital Humanities. Prior to starting graduate school, Torie worked in Vanderbilt University's business school's Marketing & Communications department. While an undergraduate at Duke University (where she studied English and abnormal psychology), Torie worked at Duke University Press and spent most of her free time volunteering as a copy editor, writer, and photographer for on-campus publications (including the university yearbook and both print and online magazines). Since joining Iowa's English department, she's been pleasantly surprised by the camaraderie between the graduate students, who have acted as both mentors and friends.