This archived article was written by: Kelli Burke-Gabossi
College of Eastern Utah’s newest Ph.D. is the English Department’s Jason Olsen. He defended his dissertation on Oct. 16, 2009, at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The defense was attended by four faculty members of his committee and other professors who were interested in his research.
Olsen wrote his dissertation over the years of his graduate work at WMU. The dissertation (along with coursework, comprehensive exams, and other necessary work) was a requirement for graduating with a Ph.D.
His dissertation is a collection of poems entitled “Neon Allegiance.” It contains poems about his relationships with places he has lived throughout his life and the definition of “home.” Poems in the collection have been published in literary magazines such as The Indiana Review, The Mid-American Review and Hayden’s Ferry Review.
He applied to CEU because he was interested in teaching out west. He grew up in California and Las Vegas and had been living in Michigan for several years; he was excited to return closer to this part of the country. “When I came to campus for an interview, I was taken by the tightly knit community, charming campus and terrific faculty. After meeting the students, I knew this was a place I could be very comfortable,” states Olsen
He received his bachelor of arts degree in English from University of Nevada, Las Vegas and his master’s of fine arts in creative writing (poetry) from Eastern Washington University. He earned his Ph.D. in English from WMU.
“I majored in English because I’ve always loved writing and reading. I was interested in other subjects, but nothing fit me as well as English. I also knew that an undergrad degree in English was a great degree for branching out to a variety of fields, so it made a lot of sense to me.”
Olsen was always interested in theater and took a number of acting and screen writing classes. He also was enrolled in French and history classes.
If he wasn’t a college professor, Olsen said he’d likely be teaching at some level. He has had experience working with elementary and high school students, so he assumes he would have been teaching at one of those levels. “I love teaching and I can’t imagine not doing it,” Olsen affirms.
“The people who have had the most influence on my life are certainly my family – my mom, grandmother and late grandfather especially. My professional life was greatly influenced by many of the great professors I worked with while a student and I hope to continue to grow as an instructor and influence my students the way those professors influenced me.”
In his spare time, Olsen reads and writes. He also enjoys cooking and considers himself to be a bit of a movie buff.
His favorite poets include Robert Lowell and William Carlos Williams. Some of his favorite writers include Kurt Vonnegut, George Orwell, Mark Twain and Virginia Woolf.
So far in life, Olsen has no regrets.
“As far as how I felt about receiving my Ph.D. – it feels pretty great. There was a lot of work that when into completing the degree and there is a terrific sense of accomplishment. My dissertation adviser once told me that the smartest he ever felt was immediately after defending his dissertation (the “defense” was a two-hour session where the professors on my committee asked me questions about my dissertation) and I know what he means. To know what I’ve accomplished and learned and how many great people I’ve gotten to meet on the way makes me feel pretty great.”
Now that Olsen has his Ph.D., his next quest in life is to marry his fiancé Chapel, who he recently proposed to. They will marry in August in Michigan. He spent five years in Michigan for schooling; he met Chapel there; he has family roots there, as well. It felt like a natural fit, Olsen added.