Alumni Interview: Mike Minchin

Tell us about yourself.: unnamed-300x225

I graduated from UMF in 2006. Since Graduation I’ve worked full time as a Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer, for three years at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire and for the past five years at Gifford Medical Center in Randolph, Vermont. In January 2014, I graduated from Vermont College of Fine Arts with my MFA in writing. My fiction has recently received Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train. Currently, I’m at work on short stories and essays. I live in Bethel, Vermont with my wife and two children.

What are some of your most memorable moments at UMF?:

I enjoyed my time at UMF a great deal, so it’s hard to pick out just a few moments. But I recall taking a Cuban literature class that gave me a new perspective on a culture I knew little about. I have to say, that was a really fun class. The discussions we had were often stimulating and insightful, and the stories and novels we read changed the way I thought about Cuba. I have a lot of great memories of skiing with friends at Saddleback and Sugarloaf, fishing on the Sandy River, hiking in the Bigelows, among other adventures.

What makes studying English at UMF unique?:

What struck me about the English program at UMF was that I always felt like I had ample opportunities to engage with other students, to participate in class, to discuss literature and really be part of the ongoing conversation. I enjoyed the small class sizes and the way we would sometimes sit around the perimeter of the room, facing each other, going back and forth with questions or comments. I like that small-group feel so much more than sitting in a large lecture hall. In another sense, what is remarkable about UMF is that you have a quality university situated in one of the most desirable spots in Maine in terms of outdoor recreation. I felt lucky to be studying just a short drive from the Bigelow Preserve and Saddleback Mountain, among other places.

How did your time at UMF help you beyond the classroom?:

My time at UMF has helped me in many ways. As a practical example, the skills I developed as an English major—analyzing and interpreting writing, doing research, forming my ideas into thoughtful essays—helped me a great deal when I was working on my MFA degree, which involved not only creative writing but substantial amounts of critical essay writing and research. In my daily work at the hospital, I’m communicating all the time with colleagues, usually in writing, via e-mail. I’ve written letters designed to help our department move forward in one area or another, and often these letters are of the persuasive nature, so I need to back up my arguments in the most concise and articulate ways possible.

What advice do you have for current or prospective students?:

For current students: First, I hope you consider it a privilege to be a UMF student. It’s such a great opportunity, and it can lead you almost anywhere. As an undergraduate, you have a lot of helpful people and resources available to you. My advice: take advantage of those resources as much as possible. For example, even if you haven’t considered graduate school, I would encourage you to do some research into graduate studies as early as freshman year. You might stumble upon something that really interests you. There are alternative ways to pay for graduate school in some cases, so don’t let the cost stop you from at least seeing what’s out there. Talk to your professors, ask questions. Graduate school for me was about exploring what I was passionate about, and I couldn’t have done it without my undergraduate degree.

For prospective students: I can only tell you that my experience at UMF was a positive one. I’ve attended several colleges and universities, both undergraduate and graduate, and UMF was one of the best. Farmington is a great place to live and study if you want to avoid the bustle of city life. In my case, I had the chance to graduate from a private college, but I’m glad I chose UMF for all the reasons I’ve already mentioned. But beyond all that, I’m in no way convinced that spending four times the money (or more) on tuition at a private college equates to a better education.

What type of students should consider majoring in English at UMF?:

You know, I think the English major covers so much ground, that anyone interested in a well-rounded education should consider English as a major. But certainly anyone who has a particular interest in the written word, or the spoken word, or just a love of language itself, in all its different forms, should consider majoring in English. It’s a luxury and simply enriching to immerse oneself in literature, to learn about people from all over the world. In my mind, education is not just about mastering a certain set of skills. There are certainly tangible skills that come from studying English, but I think the education alone, the time you spend thinking and conversing and writing about works of literature, is worth a great deal. Practically speaking, the English degree is useful simply because there are so many careers that require careful attention to language and the ability to think critically and write competently.

What do you see yourself doing in the future (10 – 20 years)?:

In the next few years, I’m hoping to develop a writing workshop here in Vermont, possibly at my town library. This would likely be a free workshop to participants and voluntary on my part, and I think it will be a lot of fun. In the long run, I could see myself teaching in a more formal setting. But, for now, my primary focus is creating new works of fiction and new essays on the craft of writing.

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