Faculty Members Create Scholarships to Support Students in the Department of English Master's Program

July 26, 2023 by Coby Zucker - A&S News

Original story posted on A&S News, as well as pasted below. 

Two longtime faculty members in the Department of English, Lynne Magnusson and Paul Stevens, have created endowed scholarships to support students in the English literature stream of the master’s degree program.

Magnusson and Stevens, professors and graduates of the Department of English themselves, hope their philanthropy will inspire others to support the program.

“Lynne and I started our graduate work at U of T, and here we are at the end of our careers at U of T,” Stevens says. “So, the University of Toronto and the Department of English mean a lot to us.”

Magnusson and Stevens stressed the importance of recruiting top students from across Canada and the world to the program.

“Because master’s students are also enrolled in classes alongside doctoral students, and the interaction between the two student groups is a core part of the program, it's crucial to keep the standards of the Master of Arts program high,” Magnusson says. “We both have a deep belief in the importance of the program from a whole number of angles. It's the first time English undergraduates come together in a group with people who are not only intensely interested in the same things, but professionally committed.”

Magnusson was the driving force behind a fundraising campaign to encourage giving to a Graduate Futures Scholarship in English Literature. Later, Magnusson and Stevens each pledged to create named scholarships, furthering their dedication to the fundraising efforts and its intended impact.

“The master’s degree in literature is a magnificent one-year program,” Magnusson says. “We have a set of courses students can take that's the largest of any Master of Arts program in English in the world.”

According to Magnusson and Stevens, funding options for the master’s degree are limited, which has led to rival universities drawing top students away with more competitive offers.

“Application pools in the humanities are becoming smaller,” Magnusson says. “So this initiative is all the more important because it's become increasingly harder for us over the last decade to attract top students without the funding.”

Magnusson is an international authority on Shakespeare and Renaissance literature, especially language and social dialogue. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a former Killam Research Fellowship winner, her most recent book is the Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare’s Language (2020). She completed her Master of Arts and PhD in English at the University of Toronto in 1975 and 1984 respectively. She has served as graduate director and associate chair of the department.

Stevens is an international authority on John Milton and 17th-century literature and culture, especially nationalism and colonialism. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, former Canada Research Chair and a Guggenheim Fellow, his most recent book is the Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and War (2021). He completed his PhD in English at the University of Toronto in 1983. Stevens was formerly chair of the Department of English.

Also a couple, Magnusson and Stevens met as teaching assistants at Victoria College for a large Shakespeare course. Both taught at other universities before ultimately returning to U of T and the Department of English.

“I come from a society that is intensely class-oriented,” says Stevens, who was born in the United Kingdom. “U of T became a place that was liberating — there was a sense of real possibility. It's hard to explain this perception or to get its emotional force across, but that's really the heart of the matter for me.”

“We want to see University of Toronto English thought of across Canada as the place to be and a welcoming place,” Magnusson says.

When Magnusson and Stevens started the process of setting up their scholarships, they anticipated they would retire by the time they were first awarded. That did not prove to be the case as the inaugural award recipients were recently announced.

Julliana Santos, the recipient of the Lynne Magnusson Graduate Futures Scholarship, says that the funding has let her focus on her studies instead of taking up multiple part-time jobs. By receiving the award and attending U of T for her master’s, Santos says she gets to stay in Scarborough and the community her family has called home since they migrated from the Philippines in 2015.

“I can sincerely say that receiving this award has changed my life,” Santos says. “I know that I will carry it with me in the years I have ahead. I also know that I will do all I can to honour its meaning and pay it back to my community as I move forward.”