A Scholar, a Teacher, A Citizen: Duygu Erdogan Monson, Student Spotlight

Post-graduation professional plans are on the minds of all doctoral students. The importance of professional preparation led rising third-year UW Drama doctoral student Duygu Erdogan Monson to apply for a tenure-track position at Shoreline College.

“As an actor, I’ve been on thousands of auditions, but I had never interviewed for a position in academia. I thought applying for the Shoreline position would be a good way to experience it. I never thought they would hire me,” says Duygu.

Well, an initial interview led to a second, which led to an offer for a tenure-track position and the opportunity to join the founding faculty for a four-year theatre and film program at Shoreline. After discussions about her options, Duygu and the UW Drama PhD program faculty crafted a plan that would allow her to complete her third-year of coursework while starting with a light teaching load at Shoreline.

“We are all very proud of Duygu and delighted that she’s landed this position. We work hard in the PhD program to professionalize our graduate students to be scholars, teachers, and good citizens of both the institution and the larger field,” says Associate Professor Scott Magelssen. “Duygu has demonstrated in just a couple of short years here a passion for social and justice issues, a rapport with her students, and a real sense of leadership. These are all valuable traits for theatre and performance scholars to have—in addition to strong researching and writing skills—and they’re the kinds of attributes that Shoreline was looking for. Duygu’s work on Ottoman theatre and performance, as well as her projects about contemporary issues and events in Turkey and the Middle East will be extraordinarily beneficial to her students and colleagues there, and we expect a wealth of good things to come from her in the future.”

"We work hard in the PhD program to professionalize our graduate students to be scholars, teachers, and good citizens of both the institution and the larger field,” says Associate Professor Scott Magelssen. “Duygu has demonstrated in just a couple of short years here a passion for social and justice issues, a rapport with her students, and a real sense of leadership."

Duygu has already proven herself to be a daring and determined artist and scholar. In addition to over twenty-years working as a professional actor in theatre, television, and film, she also founded an award-winning feminist theatre company in Istanbul and was a lecturer at Beykent University before moving to the United States. Despite a language barrier, Duygu auditioned and landed roles in New York City. After moving to Seattle, she continued to work as an actor, but with a constant eye on furthering her studies in a PhD program.

“I always knew that I was going to be a teacher. I had a lot of ideas and I wanted to share those ideas, and I always believed that I would make a good teacher because I’m interested in understanding my students and building good relationships. But I delayed applying to PhD programs because I thought I should do everything I could as an actor first,” explains Duygu. At the encouragement of Professor Odai Johnson she applied and was accepted into UW’s program.

Duygu recently took the time to sit down and chat about her experience in the UW Drama PhD program, being a foreigner in American academia, and what she’s looking forward to as she begins her tenure at Shoreline.

What has your experience in the PhD program been like?

I was scared that I was just going to be around American ideas, American stage, and American performance studies. But that hasn’t been the case. The professors encourage us (students) to go wider. They encourage us to think bigger. In the process of choosing my dissertation topic, we talked a lot about pros and cons. We asked: What does the field of Performance Studies need right now? What kind of research do we have to do? When I started the PhD program, I was so stuck on the idea that all my study was going to have to be around what happens on stage. It was really hard to accept that every attitude—any time someone is doing something with an audience—I can work on that. This is a huge, deep, broad subject. How would I prove my existence in academia? But the freedom given by our professors actually gives you confidence. While we’re trying to swim in this huge ocean, they’re there with kayaks helping us find our direction.

I was very anxious when I started because we tend to believe that when somebody doesn’t know the language they must not be clever enough, but the environment the School created made me comfortable. Then I found a way to express myself. Not the way Americans might be used to, but the professors and my colleagues here tend to understand, whatever you are saying.

This is a huge, deep, broad subject. How would I prove my existence in academia? But the freedom given by our professors actually gives you confidence.

What will be the focus of your dissertation?

I was thinking that since I’m a feminist and I did a lot of activist work in Turkey, primarily with underserved women and children, that I was going to do research around women in theatre in Muslim countries, Islamicate countries, or the Middle East. But during my studies, I got interested in the relationship between Ottomans and Europeans. I’m looking at the Ottoman relationship with Europe and how the Turk image was created on European stage, ballet, and opera.

What does your faculty position at Shoreline encompass?

The department is Theatre & Film. I’ll have classes and responsibilities in both disciplines. For my first year, while I’m completing my UW coursework, I will have a light workload. After that, I’ll teach three classes a quarter. Shoreline also wants me to build community programs. The student body is more diverse than the University of Washington. There are many first-generation students, as well as language and financial barriers that students face. Shoreline wants me to create an environment to bring all the different students together to do work, not just theatre and film students.

The City of Shoreline and Shoreline College are collaborating on a professional film studio. They want me to be a bridge between professionals and students. They also plan to build the program into a four-year degree. I’m excited because I won’t just be a teacher, but also a founder and a creator of new ideas. I’ll get to use my creativity, my personal background, and my artist side all together—I’ll get to use all my skills for this work.

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