English Bilinksi Fellows
What is the Bilinski Fellowship?
The Bilinski Educational Foundation was established in honor of Russell Bilinski, a researcher, professor and entrepreneur and his wife Dorothy Bilinski, an adept artist. The Bilinski Fellowship is an extension of the foundation that awards $30,000 to doctoral candidates who are ambitious and responsible during their graduation year. Typically, this final year is spent writing and completing a dissertation. This allows doctoral candidates to devote time solely to their dissertation without worrying about other obligations.
Jonathan Villalobos, an English doctoral candidate at the University of Nevada, Reno, is defending his dissertation May 2018. Without the financial support he received from the Bilinski Fellowship, he wouldn't have been able to spend laborious months reading, writing and researching in order to complete his dissertation and graduate in five years, one year ahead of most.
Growing up in Florida and experiencing extreme climate change first hand, it is fitting that Villalobos is writing his dissertation on environmental horror in southern literature. Self-described as "buried under books," Villalobos is focusing primarily on literature from the 20th century. According to him the south has a unique connection with the environment due to its historical relationship with colonialism and early-industrialism, this is exemplified in works by Edgar Allan Poe, Harper Lee, Rachel Carson and more recently Jeff Vandermeer. His "Labor of love" dissertation takes on four perspectives analyzing southern literature.
Villalobos looks forward to adding 21st century literature to his dissertation and reformatting it into a publishable novel. He also wants to continue spreading his knowledge by becoming a professor.
An English doctoral candidate at the University of Nevada, Reno, Aaron Schneeberger was awarded the Bilinski Fellowship last year and is defending his dissertation on 20th century American literature this May. According to Schneeberger, the fellowship gave him time to "think, read and write," that wouldn't have been possible otherwise.
His dissertation focuses on human thought and cognition, specifically how people think of subjectivity and place as portrayed in Sylvia Plath's, The Bell Jar, The Bible's, "The Book of Daniel" and Toni Morrison's, Beloved. Schneeberger is soft spoken and studious. He has spent nearly three years working on his theoretical model of human thought and cognition. With the help of the Bilinski Fellowship he was able to devote his attention to his dissertation and immerse his findings in 1960's and 1970's American literature.
Upon graduation, he hopes to publish his findings in novel form and become an English professor or researcher.
Landon Lutrick, an English Ph.D. candidate and a new father, has completed his dissertation regarding the perception of the west in film and literature with the help of the Bilinski Fellowship. He used the funds awarded to him to not only cover tuition and living expenses, but also to attend the Western Literature Association Conference in Minn., MN last fall where he presented a shortened version of a chapter from his dissertation.
While reading for his comprehensive exams in graduate school, Lutrick noticed two competing views of the west. He believes this is due to films, including westerns, becoming more violent therefore, changing popular conceptions of western history. His dissertation focuses primarily on film and literature in the 1960s, as film in this time period pushed boundaries by using more violence. Opposing that violent progression, "Writers than began subverting that cinematic vision of the west by writing western stories that have more specific, place-based concerns and value systems," Lutrick said.
With the fellowship, he's been able to solely focus on his dissertation. He recommends exercise and meditation to deal with the stress of the dissertation. To complete his dissertation on time he also broke his project into smaller chunks with deadlines and utilized the Pomodoro Technique, which is a study method that separates focus and break times using a timer. He aspires to publish his dissertation in novel form or a series of journal articles. He hopes his work inspires others and he wants to continue teaching English in a tenured position.
An English doctoral candidate at the University of Nevada, Reno, Tyler Nickl, has been working on his dissertation with the help of the Bilinski Fellowship. Nickl knew that graduates in his department had received the fellowship before, so when he received an email that he was eligible he applied. His dissertation focuses on Wallace Stegner and his students to understand how the politics of postwar America influenced the craft of writing.
Wallace Stegner was a conservationist who wrote about many rural, western places as well as mentored acclaimed writers. He became the inspiration for Nickl's dissertation because his legacy encompassed two of Nickl's passions: environmentalism and literature. Nickl used his fellowship to devote a year to research, reading and synthesis. He used some of his funds to spend a week in an archive examining Wallace Stegner's private correspondence, "Handling those letters and documents made all the history I learned so present and real. This fellowship has been the highlight of my education," Nickl said. He is preparing for advisers' feedback and has drafted dissertation chapters using bullet journals, the Pomodoro Technique and meeting with community writing groups.
Nickl wants to publish his dissertation. With revisions, he believes University press could publish it, but he believes due to Wallace Stegner's popularity, there might also be commercial press interested as well. His overall hope for his dissertation is that it, "Interests readers and writers of all sorts in what they inherit from the past through their literacy."
Ian De Jong
Ian De Jong, an English literature Ph.D. candidate from the University of Nevada, Reno was awarded a Bilinski Fellowship for his dissertation to research alleged prestige of the folio format between 1450 and 1620 in European societies.
De Jong was inspired to investigate alleged prestige of the folio format from the belief of many Shakespearean critics that Shakespeare's most prestigious works were printed in the large format. De Jong attempted to discover where this belief was founded and couldn't find concrete evidence of these claims. He believes size does not equal prestige, but the two are interlinked. He is laboriously compiling research from books in the British Library, UCLA Archive, University of Texas Library and the Folger Shakespeare Library to determine the verity of the claim. De Jong looks at bibliographic codes such as page numberings, footnotes and illustrations to determine the cultural prestige of a book. With every book he notes their bibliographic codes and puts them into his list of data. He believes in a revitalized format of academic discussion will involve "data and the inescapable conclusions from data that are persuasive and exciting to modern scholars."
De Jong sees this research as continuing for the next 15 years of his career. He wants to publish his discoveries and spread his literary knowledge as a professor.
Blake Watson, an English rhetoric and composition doctoral candidate from the University of Nevada, Reno is researching the rhetoric and linguistics of public spaces for his dissertation with the help of a Bilinski Fellowship.
Watson is working alongside architects to analyze from both the drawing of plans and the language used around them, how public spaces are made and how they affect society and democracy. He is also researching how landscape architects write and persuade each other through text and drawings, in his words "the rhetoric of landscape architects." He is trying to influence people who view public spaces as destructive towards community to know how to converse persuasively with landscape architects and urban planners because, "The jargon can be very opaque," he said. He is looking forward to what his conclusions will reveal at the end of his process.
He is fascinated by expertise and the development of textual practices. He wants to be a scholar and professor of rhetoric.