The Statement of Purpose that Got Me Into Grad School

Last week, I started my first college courses since graduating with my English BA thirteen years ago.  Naturally, trying to go back to school had me a tad nervous.  Grad school is worlds different; they don’t give a shit about your hobbies or how well-rounded you are.  They just want to know what you can bring to the table, and why they should let you in.

A major part of the application process is the Statement of Purpose.  Naturally, the guidelines from the university gave zero input as to what one of those things is and what should be in it.   I turned to the internet for some examples, but there wasn’t a lot of help there, and what examples I did find were for physics programs in places like MIT or CalTech; nothing to help me get into a writing program.

So I took a leap, and crafted what you see before you.  It was  gamble, to be sure; the department could have stopped after the second paragraph, declared me a wacko, and moved on.  But they didn’t, and I got accepted, so I must have done something right.

Thus, here it is.  My Statement of Purpose.  Hopefully some Google spider will find it and present it to the next person looking for an example.  If that’s you, good luck.

Statement of Purpose

From the moment I finished my first piece of fiction – a Ghostbusters-inspired script for my second-grade talent show – I have considered myself a writer, but it wasn’t until fairly recently that I realized that I want to teach the art of writing to others.     The thought of being a teacher has flitted in and out of my head several times since I obtained my English BA degree, even to the point that I attained an alternate-route teaching certification, but it always seemed to be more of a back-up plan than anything else.  A general lack of time and finances kept me from going back to school to pursue a higher degree, and the idea gradually slid into the recesses of my brain.  Now, I am on the cusp of a major career change.  Our family farm, where I have worked for the past seven years alongside my father, is up for sale, and I find myself finally able to work toward earning a master’s degree.

But why Rowan, why a Master of Writing Arts, and why now?  In order to answer those questions, I must first wax nostalgic about the time that I met Batman.

In 2010, I had the opportunity to contribute an episode guide to Gotham City 14 Miles: 14 Essays on Why the 1960s Batman TV Series Matters.  The book was well-received in comic book and pop culture circles, and in October of that year I found myself sitting on a panel at New York Comic Con alongside fellow contributors and dignitaries in the field.  It was a strange sensation, being treated as an equal by writers whose works I’ve read since childhood; stranger still was being treated as such by members of the sold-out audience.

Two years later, I once again attended Comic Con, this time with the express purpose of meeting one of the featured guests: Adam West, the titular star of the 1960s Batman television show.   It was my intention to add his autograph to those of my fellow contributors.  Who better to sign my book about Batman, I reasoned, than Batman himself?  It was thus with great excitement, when the time came, that I handed him my copy of Gotham City 14 Miles to autograph.  I was not prepared, however, for his reaction.

“Oh, I’m familiar with this book,” he said.  “I enjoyed it.  I found it interesting.”

Mouth agape, I managed to tell him that I was one of the writers, and immediately his face lit up.  He asked me to show him what I had written, grabbed my hand and shook it vigorously, and told me that it was an honor to meet me.

Allow me to repeat that.  Batman knew who I was, liked my work, and was honored to meet me.

By that point in my life, I had more than a few works published.  I had served as entertainment editor for my local newspaper for its first four years of existence, and several years later had a monthly column about the world of entertainment in the same paper.  I was no stranger to having people recognize my work, and believe my opinions were of some merit.  Never, though, would I imagine that my work would be recognized and respected by the very international television star about whom I had written.  The feeling of validation with which that meeting filled me is virtually indescribable.

That encounter, and that jubilant validation, was what led me to decide to pursue a Master in Writing Arts.  I want others to find their voice with the written word, and to one day feel that same level of validation.  I want to be able to help them hone their skills and know the joys of being published.  In order to do so on a collegiate level, I need, at the least, a master’s degree.

When considering to which school I should apply, there really was only one choice: my undergrad alma mater, Rowan University.  The MA in Writing program has everything I want: close, individualized attention; concentrations in creative writing (including graphic novels, a writing form that strongly appeals to the comic book lover in me); instruction on how to teach at the post-secondary level; and preparation for doctoral work.  It is my hope that this program will not only help me become a stronger, more effective writer, but also give me the skills I need to successfully teach the craft to others.  The fact that this program is offered by a university that I called home for four years only sweetens the deal.

Writers certainly don’t need advanced degrees to achieve any level of success.  To date, I have written for a newspaper for several years and contributed to a highly-praised critical analysis of a beloved television show, and I currently have contracts to write a Ghostbusters encyclopedia, co-author an encyclopedia about the Universal Monsters films and spearhead (and contribute to) an anthology critically analyzing Star Trek comics – all without a master’s degree.  I know that I can do better, that I can improve and expand my skill set, and that I still have much to learn.  Rowan University’s Masters in Writing Arts program will help me achieve all that, and prepare me to teach others to achieve those goals as well.


Filed under Joseph F. Berenato

2 responses to “The Statement of Purpose that Got Me Into Grad School

  1. If Batman likes you, everything else is gravy.

  2. That is inspiring, Joe. I had no idea the farm was for sale.

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