MTSU’s diverse English Ph.D. program allows candid...

MTSU’s diverse English Ph.D. program allows candidate to expand horizons, helm academic journal

Middle Tennessee State University’s English Ph.D. program aims to provide a graduate experience with tight-knit faculty, multiple hands-on training opportunities and a supportive environment. 

Kylie Petrovich, a current Ph.D. candidate in the program, recently began her dissertation and shared about her decision to pursue her degree within the university’s Department of English

Kylie Petrovich
Kylie Petrovich

“When looking at Ph.D. programs, MTSU stood out because of its diversity,” Petrovich said. “As an older, slightly nontraditional student, I felt like I would be comfortable at MTSU. There were also a few professors that I wanted to work with, and I liked the variety of specializations. I knew I would be able to ‘do my own thing’ to a degree at MTSU.”

Petrovich has indeed embraced “doing her own thing” since arriving at MTSU and taken advantage of several of the program’s opportunities: working as a tutor, research assistant, a professor’s mentee and a teacher as well as becoming a member of multiple committees. 

The Johnstown, Pennsylvania, native emphasized the department’s collaborative and harmonious atmosphere in facilitating her success in these multiple endeavors. 

“The comradery of the program is … a strength; the English faculty and my fellow students are all supportive of one another,” she said. 

Allen Hibbard, a professor in the program whom Petrovich said has had a great impact on her experience, echoed this and other advantages of the department.

Dr. Allen Hibbard, Department of English faculty and director, Middle East Center
Dr. Allen Hibbard

“One major strength of MTSU’s English Department is that faculty members are generally accessible and willing to work closely and directly with students,” Hibbard said. “Another is that we provide our students with excellent professional training, working as tutors in the Writing Center and as graduate teaching assistants. The environment is also far more collegial (and less competitive) than many programs.”

Mischa Renfroe, another faculty member whom Petrovich mentioned as an important part of her studies, added that the program attracts nontraditional students like Petrovich because it accommodates students’ lives such as balancing working full-time or multiple responsibilities with their degrees.

“The English Department (also) offers research assistantships and program assistantships (in addition to traditional teaching assistantships),” Renfroe said, “so students can gain experience teaching, contributing to research projects, working in administrative roles, managing social media, editing journals and more.”

Renfroe said students can even further gain administrative experience as program assistants for the department’s various divisions. 

Dr. Mischa Renfroe
Dr. Mischa Renfroe

“We are also working on developing more internship partnerships to give students the opportunity to apply research and teaching skills in a range of non-academic settings. A recent master’s graduate is now at the local Discovery Center thanks to an internship: she writes grants, designs exhibits and plans special events, drawing on skills related to her teaching and writing center experience.”

Petrovich additionally credited the College of Graduate Studies with aiding in the success of her doctoral journey. 

“(They) have helped … through my assistantships, money for travel expenses and support from faculty and cohorts.”

It was the program’s multiple, practical training opportunities, in addition to her prior experience, that Petrovich said helped prepare her for her latest role — editor-in-chief of the revival of the university’s Scientia et Humanitas peer-reviewed journal, showcasing MTSU’s best graduate and undergraduate research.  

College of Graduate Studies logo

“My main goal as the editor of Scientiais to encourage and facilitate interdisciplinary research by publishing articles that bridge gaps between different academic disciplines,” said Petrovich, who hopes to find a tenure-track position after completing her degree. “I also aim to ensure the quality and academic standards that the journal is known for. I definitely also want the staff to have an enjoyable time working on the journal.” 

“Kylie has made excellent use of available opportunities,” Hibbard said. “I met Kylie when she was a student in a graduate seminar I taught … (and she) was an exemplary student, always ready to engage with challenging material with a curious and supple mind. 

“She is gaining valuable professional experience that will (we hope) make her a competitive candidate for whatever positions she may apply for after she completes her degree.”  

Learn more about all of the opportunities at MTSU’s Department of English at Learn more about MTSU’s graduate programs at

— Stephanie Wagner (