joanietskovitz_courtesy_of_princeton


Joani Etskovitz '17 was awarded a 2017 Marshall Scholarship for graduate study in the United Kingdom.

"The Marshall is the impossible dream," Eskovitz said. "It has been my impossible dream."

According to a University press release, in 2017 there will be 40 students who will join the program, up from the planned 32. Marshall Scholarships finance young Americans of high ability to study for a graduate degree at any British university, according to the scholarship's website.

The website also notes that "Marshall Scholarships strengthen the enduring relationship between British and American peoples, their governments, and their institutions."

Etskovitz is concentrating in English with certificates in Humanistic Studies and European Cultural Studies. She plans to pursue a Master of Studies in English Literature at the University of Oxford, and a Master of Studies in English Literature at King's College London. Etskovitz said that she has wanted to pursue two masters, emphasizing her desire to be at Oxford and to use the Bodleian Library there.

Etskovitz said that she had thought it very unlikely she'd be called back for an interview.

"I realized in the application process I would be throwing my hat into a very [large] ring full of extraordinarily beautiful hats," she said. Etskovitz said that it hadn't been intentional, but she's always loved libraries, literature, analysis, and writing.

 "I was so lucky, but I was also looking for this sort of opportunity," she said.

The Cotsen Children's Library in Firestone Library was instrumental to her path at the University, she said, adding that is all happened by chance. She said that at the end of first semester of freshman year she was sitting in the library reflecting on her assignments.

"Fortuitously enough at that moment, I heard a child laughing and I was really curious as to where the laughter could be coming from," she said. She followed the sound and discovered a cluster of strollers outside of the Cotsen library. She said that children were everywhere there, enjoying the place, reading, and laughing.

Etskovitz said she wandered into the library office and met Dana Sheridan, the Cotsen Education and Outreach Coordinator. She told the director about her interest in volunteering at the library -- anything really, she said -- and walked away with a job offer an hour later.

"I've been working there ever since," Etskovitz said. "That's one example of how something completely accidental had a big impact on my life."

Etskovitz added that her activities and work at the University fit together well, though it was not as planned as it seems. Her focus on literature and children's literature is reflected not just in her independent work and work abroad, but also in her pursuits outside of the classroom at the children’s library.

"It seems very neat and packaged," she said. "It makes for a compelling plan for my life."

English Professor Susan Wolfson, who advised Etskovitz on her fall term junior paper and will be her adviser for Etskovitz's senior thesis, said that her work on “Alice in Wonderland” is, in some ways, biographical.

"It embodies who she is," Wolfson said. "Not only does she have this uncanny resemblance to Alice, but I think this is something she's always felt for herself … In some ways, it was like discovering her biography, or at least the genealogy of her biology."

"We've talked a lot about how the Alice books create curious readers with puzzles and wordplay," Wolfson added.

Etskovitz's junior paper was the beginning of what will become her senior thesis on "female curiosity in imaginative literature," according to a release Wolfson plans to publish on the department's website regarding Etskovitz's scholarship.

Wolfson said that she knows Etskovitz wants to be a university professor.

"It's ideal and I think she's positioned to use her graduate studies to position her for success in getting hired into that world to which she's aspired since she was young," Wolfson said. "If I could make wishes for her, it would be success in academia and increasing the need for academia in the public sphere to be ever more involved."

"Joani will be the perfect embodiment of what's needed," Wolfson added, noting that Oxford and Cambridge's suburban proximity to London allows academia to be much more involved in the culture in the city. Wolfson said that academia has a much more routine and lively interface with the public sphere and that Etskovitz will "be sucked up immediately and invigorated by how the academic, public sphere and the humanities all circulate together."

Wolfson said that Etskovitz is what is needed at a time when academic expertise can be regarded with stigma instead of appreciation.

"We need people to show the public sphere what is exciting about academia," Wolfson said.

Etskovitz is a member of the University Glee Club, an assistant to Curator Andrea Immel and Sheridan at the Cotsen Children's Library, a mentor to underclassmen in the year-long humanities sequence, and an English tutor for students and postdoctoral researchers learning English as a second language at the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning.

Etskovitz learned about her award during a Glee Club rehearsal, where she first told her friend Josh Collins '17. Collins said he first met Etskovitz at an area meet-up for University affiliates before their freshman year.

"I've known her since really early on, and I always kind of admired the way she seemed to be very genuinely passionate about her work," Collins said. "She seemed to actually gain joy and pleasure from doing schoolwork and readings which is something that even at Princeton is really rare."

"She always had that kind of flair and passion and joy for her work," he added. "Her work ethic is insane."

He added that beyond her academics, she has always been a great and more like an adult friend, he said.

"With Joani, it's always 'Let's get a meal and have real conversations about our lives and how things are going," he said, adding that she was the person who inspired him to join Glee Club.

"I'm really happy she got this," he said. "I hope she becomes a professor one day."

She also won a Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence in 2015, received a 2016 Beinecke Scholarship, and is a member of the Behrman Undergraduate Society of Fellows, according to the University statement.

Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article contained a mistranscribed quote. The 'Prince' regrets the error.

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