University at Albany
Contact: Mary Hunt (518) 442-5264

Approaching the Finish Line

Over the last several months, three Rockefeller College doctoral students have been preparing to make the transition from graduate students to faculty members. Kimberley Fletcher, Natalie Kapur-Johnson and Jennifer Woodward prepared themselves to enter the job market by expanding their experience and professional networks.

"All three students have developed unique projects that showcase their interest in public law effectively and contribute new insights," said mentor Dr. Julie Novkov, chair of Rockefeller's Political Science Department and a public law specialist herself. "Kimberley is looking at how the Supreme Court has influenced executive capacity to direct foreign affairs, transforming the literature on constitutional development. Natalie's dissertation explores how judicial decisions have both shaped and reflected how marriage and the concepts of husband and wife have changed between the 1940s and the present. And Jennifer's work on the early days of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission shows us how law on the books comes to life not just through litigation and early court decisions, but also through the engagement of administrative agencies with individuals and organizations."

Recently, Kimberly, Natalie and Jennifer shared their thoughts on the long, hard and rewarding road to their doctorate.

Kimberley L. Fletcher, MA, PhD

Hometown:  Idaho Falls, Idaho
Dissertation:  Overseeing Politics, Authority, and Unilateral Presidential Power: The Court's Transformative Role in Constitutional and Political Development in Foreign Affairs

Kimberley Fletcher

Kimberley Fletcher "jumped at the chance" to accept a year-long visiting professorship at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio last fall. At the time she was offered the opportunity, she was living in California and working on her dissertation. "It was a nice way to get some much-needed experience and add to my résumé," said Kimberley. "I was working alongside and interacting with new colleagues. It showed me that I could stand on my own and use what I've learned from my professors at Rockefeller when interacting with a new department at a different academic institution." Last year was challenging, but definitely rewarding for Kimberley. She presented at six conferences, including the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting. In November, her work was published in the Maryland Law Review.  "It was a year that tested me as a student and as a visiting professor. It would have been quite easy to focus solely on teaching, but knowing that I wanted to be a professor who teaches and completes her own research gave me a chance to challenge my resolve – going on the job market, presenting at conferences, editing my dissertation, and teaching. It showed me I could grow as an academic." Kimberley will start a tenure-track position at San Diego State University in fall 2014. "Completing your dissertation while working certainly teaches you to value your time. I learned to set small deadlines and prioritize. My students always came first, but I made sure that once I had completed my class prep, I always had time to write and edit. I also carved out time to unwind."

Natalie Kapur-Johnson, MA, PhD

Hometown: Chester, United Kingdom
Dissertation: Judicial (In)dependence: The Making of Family Law, 1942- 2012

Natalie Kapur-Johnson
Natalie Kapur-Johnson has been a visiting lecturer at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. since fall 2013. Her days are filled with teaching, interacting with students, attending faculty meetings, traveling to conferences, and working on her dissertation. Natalie says that dividing one's time between being a full-time faculty member and doctoral candidate "spurs you on to action." In April, Natalie presented a chapter of her dissertation at the Western Political Science Association Meeting in Seattle. She's published two book reviews as well. "I have had the opportunity to present my research to the Skidmore community and that has been helpful. This spring I taught a class based on my dissertation. Also, I was able to get a lot more teaching experience in different classes that served me well on the job market," said Natalie. At Skidmore, Natalie had a mentor and the support of the New Faculty Council, a group that provides orientation and ongoing support to junior instructors. "There are two days of orientation before the semester starts and meetings once a month that focus on work-life balance, evaluations, and problems in the classroom," said Natalie. "It's very helpful because you can talk to others who are new to the college. It's a great way to build community." This fall, Natalie will begin a tenure-track position as an assistant professor in the department of political science and geography at Francis Marion University in Florence, S.C.

Jennifer Woodward, PhD

Hometown: Cookeville, TN
Dissertation:  Interpreting Civil Rights: Early Claims Under Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964

Jennifer Woodward
Jennifer Woodward received her PhD from Rockefeller College in December, just as she was wrapping up a two-year doctoral fellowship with the American Bar Foundation (ABF) in Chicago. Her primary responsibility as a fellow was to complete her dissertation, but she had many opportunities to continue learning while at ABF. During her fellowship, she attended weekly research lectures given by law scholars. She also took part in a monthly workshop where fellows, graduate students and professors presented a research problem, workshop syllabi or talk. "In a typical day, I would get into the office at 7 a.m. and leave around 7 p.m. Most of the day was spent coding data, and writing and reading for dissertation purposes. However, the days were broken up with meetings, luncheons, dinner parties, and other social events with ABF faculty and fellows," said Jennifer. Currently, Jennifer has a number of articles in development and is working from her home in Tennessee on a research project for the ABF regarding the gender composition of litigation teams. She'll be co-authoring a report with the director of the ABF and an attorney in Chicago that will be presented at the American Bar Association Annual Meeting this year. "I cannot recommend a doctoral fellowship enough," said Jennifer. In addition to having a constant source of feedback on my dissertation, which made it stronger, I was blown away by the amount of resources the fellowship provided me. Having things like an office, phone line, copy and postage costs covered, and access to administrative assistance freed up considerable time to focus on my dissertation. I credit the fellowship with allowing me to not only have the PhD in hand today, but also with enabling me to have a number of journal articles in development. I was able to discuss my research with subject area specialists on the topic and esteemed scholars from a wide range of disciplines. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity."

Congratulations to all three new PhDs! May you have find much happiness and success in your careers.