Comfort Udah

Comfort Udah, ‘13, is a former UMBC English student who earned her PhD in English at UCLA. Udah is completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Dartmouth College before she begins starting a position as an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto. Read about her experience at UMBC and her journey through graduate studies below:

When I first arrived at UMBC in 2010, I was unsure of what major to pick. I knew that I wanted to be an educator and a teacher, but I was stuck between English and Psychology for a while. Then, the choice became easy once I got familiar with the English Department. I remember taking my first few English
department classes, like ENGL 301, with Professor Falco and another one that introduced me to the world of critical theory taught by Professor Berman. Those first classes were a revelation for me. I enjoyed them very much, even though, and especially, because I found much of it challenging but
fascinating. Both Dr. Berman and Dr. Falco set me on the course that has led to where I am today. They were very engaging and encouraging even when I had a hard time believing in my abilities. Today, I am a Postdoctoral fellow at Dartmouth College, preparing to take up a position as an Assistant Professor at
the University of Toronto. I honestly cannot say that I would be here this early in my life, without the nurturing environment of this English department.

I found that there was a very high degree of investment in students in the English Department at UMBC. The story of how I became an English Honors student exemplifies this investment. I remember being in the old Department offices in the Fine Arts building. Having been too shy to attend office hours by
myself, I had tagged along with a much more outspoken friend. On our way out, Dr. Falco stopped me to ask if I would be attending the information session on the Honors Program. I did know that this event was taking place, but I had not considered that I would be a candidate for it and I told him as much. I ended up not only attending but applying to the program because of my conversation with him that day. Once I was in the Honors Program, I began to see, through the close mentorship of Dr. Berman, that my goals were in fact within reach. I have wanted to be a professor since I was in secondary school, but I also always assumed that I could only pursue and achieve that goal much later in life. Thankfully, Jessica Berman quickly disabused me of this notion. Having the opportunity to work on an independent project, closely mentored and encouraged by my professors, was the boost I needed to pursue a
doctoral degree. I have since earned my MA and PhD in English at UCLA.

Although I had to overcome a lot of personal obstacles–from my shyness, to the cultural shock of being an international student in the US, and so on–the people in this department made it all feel feasible. There were always people who made themselves available to me and other students, thus contributing
to our growth and confidence as scholars and as individuals. I really could go on about every single one of them, but instead, I would just like to especially thank Lindsay DiCuirci, Michelle Osherow, Jean Fernandez, and, of course, Rafael Falco and Jessica Berman for all their support and the work that they put into making the department a fecund ground for nurturing young minds into well-rounded individuals.

At UCLA, I wrote a deeply interdisciplinary dissertation titled, “Unwritten Spaces: African literature and Charismatic Spatiality,” in which I focused on literary representations of Nigerian urban spaces and objects, using the concept of charisma as a fulcrum. As a Postdoctoral Fellow, I am working on a couple of smaller adjacent projects, still concerned with the idea of charismatic spatiality and storytelling agency. I will also begin work on a book manuscript based on my dissertation before I move to Toronto in 2022.


This spotlight was originally published on February 4, 2022.