Josefina Lundblad-Janjic is one of only twenty students selected by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation as a Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellow for 2016 — among the nation’s most prestigious awards for Ph.D. candidates in the humanities and social sciences.
A native of Gothenburg, Sweden, Josefina talked with us about her journey to and at Berkeley.
“After high school, I studied for six years in Russia: St. Petersburg, Siberia, the Urals. When my undergraduate advisor in Sweden suggested I consider Berkeley’s Slavic department — the best in the world for Russian literature — I visited and fell in love at first sight. My dream came true when I was accepted into the program in 2010.”
She credits several Berkeley faculty with special mentoring. “Anna Muza and Lisa Little were great supervisors when I was learning to teach. And my dissertation advisor Eric Naiman was incredibly helpful. He urged me to apply for this fellowship, pushing me hard to improve my proposal through five drafts.”
This fellowship is awarded to doctoral candidates who address questions of ethical or religious values. Josefina’s dissertation concerns the ethical dimensions of the literary works of Russian dissident writer, poet, and journalist Varlam Shalamov, who survived almost 20 years in the Soviet Gulag (concentration camps). “I’m taking an unusual ethical approach by looking at his late works not only as witness literature but also as aesthetic artifacts. This is pushing boundaries in good, productive ways.”
Asked how the $25,000 fellowship would be used in her final year of dissertation writing, Josefina spoke of relief as the mother of a 17-month-old, being able to devote more time to write without need of teaching another semester. After making more progress on her dissertation, she plans to begin searching for a tenure-track or postdoc position in Russian literature.
Her advice for fellow students? “Graduate school can be a disorienting journey, so it is most important to keep your passion for your research interest and remain true to that focus. I’ve told my students when teaching: School is not about classes and grades – it’s about why you choose to do this, because of discovering a passion and wanting to tell others its importance. If you don’t lose sight of that, you won’t lose yourself.”
The Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation fellowships, for 12 months of full-time dissertation research and writing, are designed to encourage original and significant study of ethical or religious values in all fields of the humanities and social sciences, and particularly to help Ph.D. candidates in these fields complete their dissertation work in a timely manner.
The stipend is $25,000 for a 12-month period of full-time dissertation writing. The Newcombe Fellowships are administered with the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Applications and further information are available on the Newcombe fellowship website. Application deadlines are in November each year.