In the Forum of Scholars and Teachers

In the Forum of Scholars and Teachers

 Date published: January 4, 2016

Rhett FormanMany graduate students write poetry. Many more study foreign languages abroad while working, for example, on organic farms in their host country. Not every student does both.

In addition to writing poetry and spending a year working on organic farms in Central America, Rhett Forman, PhD ’17, has dedicated much of his time and energy to the University of Dallas community and classrooms. He has served as President of the BGSA (2015-16) and Director of the Writing Lab (2016-17). He hopes to continue his involvement in liberal arts education far into the future — and for him it all began with a series of excellent English teachers when he was still young.

Tell me a little about yourself and your background.

I went to public schools growing up and always had excellent English teachers who encouraged my natural inclinations towards writing and literature, and I was able to participate in several poetry workshops at a young age. Because of this background, I have both scholarly and creative interests. I am currently working on a Ph.D. dissertation on Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot with Associate Professor Brett Bourbon, Ph.D., Professor Scott Dupree, Ph.D., and Professor Robert Kugelmann, Ph.D., after studying Pound for two summers in Italy while at Braniff, and I am finishing up a manuscript for my first book of poetry.

What was your experience at Braniff like?

Braniff has been rigorous and rewarding. I found a lot of freedom to pursue my own interests and avenues of thought in my research and writing, rather than pressure to conform to some preconceived argument or perspective about a book. Outside the classroom, the interdisciplinary nature of Braniff has fostered a community where people from different backgrounds and departments come to be close friends, and because they have certain foundational texts in common, everyone can help and encourage each other.

How has this degree played a role in your plans for the future?

After I finish my dissertation I plan to be involved in liberal arts education in some capacity. Braniff is well-recognized in the world of classical liberal arts colleges and high schools, so I imagine myself becoming a part of one of those institutions while continuing to pursue my creative work.

What's the most unique aspect, in your own opinion, about the Braniff Graduate School?

I wouldn't want to overgeneralize, but I think it's no exaggeration to say that everything about the Braniff Graduate School of Liberal Arts is unique. The interdisciplinary degree programs, the commitment to the Christian intellectual tradition, the balance of both professional development and self-edification that you find here is very unusual. I have heard of similar institutions that existed elsewhere but which have either deviated from their original design or become extinct altogether, and so I think it's very important that we have and support an institution like Braniff. What excites me about education in America today is that so many young people are getting exposed to classical education and the liberal arts in K-12 schools like Great Hearts and Founders, and I am thrilled to see how Braniff, with their Master's and Ph.D. programs and now with their Classical Education program, has taken the lead on being a resource for those who've either grown up with a classical education or have as an adult come to appreciate this approach. My colleagues come from all over the country and from different parts of the world, and we have an appreciation for the liberal arts in common. Braniff serves as a forum in which we can help each other grow as scholars and teachers in order to further the approach to education, the values, and the tradition Braniff has helped us to love.

How has this experience shaped you both personally and professionally?

Personally, my time at Braniff has given me a better understanding of what it means to be liberally educated. It is sometimes difficult to consider the significance of what you are doing while you are doing it, but Braniff has allowed me to reflect on the nature of the education I have received. Professionally, the institution has given me the knowledge and the confidence to educate others in the liberal arts, a lifetime commitment that I am excited to embark upon.

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