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Most classes on North Campus will be held remotely through the end of the semester on December 12.

Student Spotlight: Graduate Student Michael Mahin Organizes MERC 2023

Story by Tian Quinn

In February, the Master’s in English Regional Conference (MERC) celebrated its third annual event celebrating graduate-level research and writing by English students. This year’s event featured 33 student presenters from universities across Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont. For the past two years, MAT in English graduate student and graduate assistant Michael Mahin has had a hand in the organization of this event, cosponsored by Salem State University and Bridgewater State University.  

March 2022 was the first year of Mahin’s organization of MERC, and the second year of the annual event. During the planning process, Mahin had the opportunity to work with a graduate assistant from Bridgewater to develop promotional materials, create digital submission forms for students to submit abstracts, read student proposals, as well as contact universities across New England as part of the conference’s outreach efforts. In addition to these efforts, Mahin also acted as a mentor, offering conference participants guidance on presenting their work in a remote setting. 

This year, Mahin notes, the organization for the conference was similar; however, it was the first year it was being held in person. The event was primarily spearheaded by the Bridgewater State Graduate Coordinator Dr. Halina Adams, with assistance from Bridgewater English Graduate Assistant Melissa Batty. As the conference shifted to an in-person event, Mahin noticed higher involvement with presenters and a diversity of work, like zines and graphic novels, as well as diverse themes, like the role of monsters through the lens of masculinity. Although Mahin notes not having a huge conferencing background, he expresses a rewarding part of this experience has been really focusing on how to help participants get what they need to successfully share their work at the event.  

For Mahin, one of the most impactful parts of organizing this conference was the opportunity to witness the admirable scholarship and research from English graduate students that he (and other MERC participants) would not have the chance to see otherwise. Mahin notes that in a graduate program, there can be times of isolation, especially when working from home. In his assistantship, Mahin's role requires him to integrate himself into the both the Salem State and English department’s communities, allowing him to develop relationships with students and faculty on campus, as well as across New England. 

As a graduate assistant in the English department, Mahin is grateful for the opportunities he has been able to involve himself in. Under the supervision of English graduate program coordinator Professor Keja Valens, Mahin often acts as a spokesperson for the program, composing and collecting surveys for students to identify preferred class schedules and gauging interest in department-led community events. As he nears the finish line for his MAT in English, Mahin continues to reflect on how he can help provide an informative and continually welcoming experience for new SSU graduate students. Doing so, Mahin says, is a form of “paying it forward.” 

Thank you, Michael, for all your hard work on MERC!  


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