Professor Mia Carter and Professor Don Graham honored in the Alcade's Texas Ten
Posted: March 17, 2014
Congratulations to Professor Mia Carter and Professor Don Graham, two of this year’s Texas Ten, “the ten most talented and inspiring professors ever to walk the Forty Acres,” according to UT alumni. This month’s Alcade has an interactive feature where you can learn more information about the honor and each professor who has been chosen to receive it.
Commenters on the Alcade’s website sound their support for the awards, as in these snippets:
“It is long overdue for Don Graham to have made this list. Congratulations, Dr. Graham. You were hands-down the best professor I ever had (three times, actually) as an undergraduate.”
“So privileged to have worked with several of these amazing educators as a doctoral student…[including] Dr. Graham and my wonderful mentor and friend, Dr. Carter.”
Dr. Graham and Dr. Carter also answered a few fun, informal questions for us about their careers at UT, books, and each other:
When you were a kid, what did you want to be “when you grew up”?
Don: Growing up, I didn’t know what I wanted to be. I didn’t know until my first year of graduate school at the University of Maryland. Then I knew: a professor and writer.
Mia: I wanted to be in the summer Olympics when I was a kid. I knew that it wasn't a profession, per se, but I really wanted to be an Olympic swimmer or track star (but I am a lousy runner). I have always been jocky and had athlete crushes. As a young adult person, I wanted to be a writer of short stories and a filmmaker.
Tough question, I know, but what’s your favorite book?
Don: I have too many favorite books to pick one.
Mia: This is not a tough question, it's an impossible question! I have favorites from different parts of my life that I treasure; I also have favorites that I marvel at upon re-reading again and again. And then there are the favorites that I would want with me if I were stranded on an island with just a few books to sustain me. Included in and across those categories would be Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, Walter Benjamin's The Arcades Project, James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man & Ulysses, Theodor Adorno's Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life, and Sylvia Plath's Ariel.
Easier question, what are you reading now?
Don: What I’m reading now, rereading actually, is The Son, an epic Texas novel ranging from 1836 to 2012, written by Phiipp Meyer, a former student of mine.
Mia: I am reading the children's book, Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures (2013). I am considering adding an actual contemporary children's literature great to my "Representations of Childhood and Adolescence in Literature and Film" course; it is terrific, literary, moving, funny, and very smart. The squirrel super hero Ulysses is a poet; in the scene that completely won me over, the neighbor reads him one of Rainer Maria Rilke's love poems to God, "Give Me Your Hand," once Flora discloses his typing and creative writing skills. I am also reading Nelly Reifler's Elect H. Mouse State Judge (2013) for consideration for the same class--a fantastical, apocalyptic adult noir on the 70s. And W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz (2001) and On the Natural History of Destruction (1999) for work--a graduate student's forthcoming MA thesis completion--and because my time with Sebald is long over due.
Do you have a favorite course to teach?
Don: My favorite course is English 342, Life and Literature of the Southwest. It’s J. Frank Dobie’s old course, and I never tire of it.
Mia: My favorite class for the past couple of years has been my "Writer-Directions: European Literary Cinema" course. It attracts absolutely amazing students--the passionate, fanatical cineastes and the film-curious, aspiring writers and filmmakers, too. I'm fascinated with literary and cinematic form, so I am fairly blissed-out while teaching this course. I'd say the same for the Literary Modernisms course.
What are you most proud of in your time teaching at UT?
Don: I guess I’m most proud of the close fit I’ve enjoyed between teaching and writing. Most of my books have come out of the interaction between what I was teaching for a span of time and what I was writing partly as a result of that classroom back-and-forth. I take very seriously the idea that one of the principal responsibilities of a UT professor is to write, to publish.
Mia: I am proudest of the good works for the world that former students are doing. It is amazing to know all of these committed, energetic teachers, doctors, lawyers, activists, parents, writers, and generous and hopeful citizens. I've grown a great deal as a human being and teacher, thanks to our students' patience, openness, and courage in the classroom. The teaching profession brings wonderful people into your life on a continual basis; for that, I am very, very grateful.
What’s one of the craziest things that’s ever happened during one of your classes or office hours?
Don: One of the craziest things that happened took place in Calhoun 300, an auditorium-sized room where, back in the eighties, I was teaching a section of E342 when, right in the middle of a brilliant point I was making, a curious bat flew into the room and terrorized the students, dive-bombing them, and as chaos threatened to empty the joint, I took off my jacket and tossed it over the bat, wrapping the leathery critter inside, and then, after taking my captive outside and releasing it to the heavens, I returned to receive a round of applause.
Mia: I started to pass out once in class and a heroic student named Jonathan Yorke caught me. And every once in a while some crazy laughing jag starts up over something; I love the sound of a lot of people laughing together. I have had two decades plus of truly lovely, magical office hours visits; those times are very special to me.
Don, what do you think Mia is really great at as a professor?
I think Mia is really great as a professor because she’s real, she’s very sharp, and that includes her fashionable attire, she’s funny, she’s serious, she’s funny, and she’s the total package and a great role model for students, female and male alike.
Mia, what do you think Don is really great at as a professor?
First and foremost, I think that Don is authentically himself: he is open-hearted, hilarious, a lover of literature and Southwestern and other cultures. I also know him to be an honest and direct, warm and kind, deeply thoughtful human being. He's a Southwestern gentleman and a scholar, a lover of life and living. And he knows how to put the -ing in living.
Thank you and congratulations, Dr. Carter and Dr. Graham!