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Greta Nelson Greta Nelson, a Hillsborough, New Jersey native, graduated in May 2007. While at Rutgers, she studied illustrated maps in early twentieth century children’s books—specifically, how these maps reflect their creators’ psyches and adult fantasies rather than physical space—and completed a thesis entitled “Mapping Impressionistic Neverlands: The Cartographies of Winnie the Pooh and Wind in the Willows.” For this thesis, she won the 2007 Jordan Lee Flyer Honors Award for outstanding promise and achievement in the study of language and literature. In the fall, she will begin working towards a master’s degree in the teaching of English at Columbia University’s Teachers College.


How did you come up with the idea for your research?
When I first came to Rutgers, I took a seminar in children’s literature that got my wheels turning and made me interested in studying the genre. That inspired me to contact different professors and librarians in the New Jersey area, including several at Alexander Library. There are some fantastic experts right here, so having that network has helped me to see what is going on in the field and what is cutting edge. Through the English department and the Douglass Scholars Program, I completed a thesis that examined maps in children’s literature from a modernist psychoanalytic perspective.

In conducting your study, what experience have you had with the faculty at Rutgers?
I met Professor Marcia Ian, who has a really strong background in the kind of critical framework that my study involves, and she has been fantastic in helping me to structure my analysis. The second reader for my thesis, Professor Ellen Gilbert, taught the children’s literature seminar, so their different areas of expertise helped give balance to my work. I was able to work closely with them as mentors, and it was exciting because they gave me a lot of freedom in what I was doing. It was really a unique experience, and it helped me decide that I want to pursue graduate work.

How else has Rutgers prepared you for life after college?
At the Douglass/Cook Writing Center, I tutored students taking expository writing courses. Some of the students struggle with a lot of challenges in writing, but then there are other students who know how to write but need inspiration to develop ideas. It’s a great experience because you get to communicate with their professors about their progress. It’s like you’re really in a teaching position.

When you are not studying or tutoring, how do you enjoy your free time?
I grew up on a farm, and I always really loved the outdoors, so having the Rutgers University Outdoors Club has been fantastic for me. They run camping and other kinds of trips throughout New Jersey, taking advantage of the many outdoor opportunities we have here. I’ve met some great people through the club, and it definitely helps to balance out the academic, school-oriented activities.

What is one of the most memorable experiences you have had through Rutgers?
The summer before I enrolled at Rutgers, I studied in Urbino, Italy, through the summer abroad program offered by the Italian and art history departments at Rutgers. I had a great time.

Now that you are prepared to graduate a year early, how do you feel about the choice you made to transfer to Rutgers from New York University during your freshman year?
Some colleges spoonfeed you and make it easy to get through. At other schools, you have to work for it. You don’t get spoonfed at Rutgers, but if you work for it, the rewards that you reap are a lot more than you would get at any other school. I feel really well prepared, and it’s because I worked hard. At the same time, I put a lot into it and people at Rutgers responded to that. I could not have just done it on my own.


Editor’s Note: This interview was originally conducted by Maggie Estephan, an assistant project manager in the Department of University Relations. It appeared as a feature article on the Rutgers homepage and is reprinted here in slightly different form.

© 2007 Future Traditions Magazine
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