A former Abbotsford resident who received a $300,000 five-year scholarship to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island in 2011 recently graduated with his PhD from Brown.
Darrel Janzen, 32, filed his dissertation – titled The Outside Within: Self-Seclusion by the Roman Elite from Tiberius to Hadrian – in May of this year. His defence of it passed with no revisions – something his advisor told him he had not seen happen before.
“This doesn’t mean that my dissertation was flawless, but that it met their standards ‘as is’ for argumentation, research, copy editing and so on. That was definitely a welcome surprise,” Janzen said.
He now plans to pursue a career as a teacher and scholar of Greek and Roman history and literature.
Next year, he will be a visiting assistant professor at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, teaching courses in the department of classics.
Janzen is a 2003 graduate of Mennonite Educational Institute in Abbotsford who attended University of the Fraser Valley from 2003-06 and the University of B.C. from 2006-11, earning a bachelor of arts with a double major in history and classical studies.
He applied for, candidated and won the Brown University scholarship in 2011 to further his studies in classical Greek and Latin literature, history, culture and related fields.
Janzen said completing his dissertation – a substantial work that makes an original contribution to a field of study – was a long and arduous, but rewarding, process.
“It was definitely a relief to see that my efforts over a number of years paid off, and it was gratifying to have a panel of experts whose judgment I respect say that my research met their standards,” he said.
Janzen said it was challenging to spend so many years in school, but having the support of his family, friends and professors helped him endure the process.
He now plans to turn his dissertation into a book, which he says is a standard part of getting a stable job teaching in the humanities at a university.
Janzen said his greatest challenge over the years has been battling his own self-doubts. Many of his fellow students came from well-regarded American schools and upper-middle-class backgrounds, while he comes from what he describes as a “working-class family.”
“It took awhile to believe that I and my ideas were ‘good enough.’ One of my goals as a teacher is to inspire that confidence in my students.”
Janzen said his love of “intellectual discovery” kept him going all these years.
“I never would have survived if I hadn’t loved that,” he said.
Janzen said he doesn’t get back to Abbotsford as often as he likes, but his mom still lives in the community, and he tries to visit at least once or twice a year.