Email: margaret.mcdowell@duke.edu
Office: Edens 1C Room 112B 

Hometown:  South Bend, IN

Pronouns:  she/her/hers

Professional interests:  As an Academic Guide, I’m really excited about helping to create a dedicated place for students to explore and identify what interests them and figure out how to pursue their passions. So many of us operate on autopilot all the time and could use the reminder to slow down and take stock of what our options and our preferences actually are. 

Summary of previous professional experience:  I completed my Ph.D. in English from Duke in March 2022. During my time as a Ph.D. student here I have gotten to know Duke students in my capacity as a TA for classes in the English Department and as an instructor of a Science Fiction Film course. One of my favorite things I’ve done at Duke was working as a consultant in the Thompson Writing Studio and hearing about the projects students were working on in other departments across campus. I also taught for a semester at Durham Tech Community College, and have received training in coaching and mentoring.

Intellectual interests:  Asexuality and queer storytelling, science fiction and fantasy, diversity of representation in fiction, feminist theory

Education

  • Ph.D. in English and GSF, Duke University
  • M.A. in English, Duke University
  • B.A. in Program of Liberal Studies, University of Notre Dame

 Fun fact:

I’ve lived abroad for five years in France and Ireland (and would be happy to talk about study abroad opportunities!). Now, though, I’m very happy to be settled in Durham, and I don’t think my two cats would appreciate it if I wandered too far any time soon.

What was the most challenging part of college for you? What did you learn from that experience?  

My undergrad institution also had a culture of effortless perfection, and everyone acted like they were really happy to be there from day one. I didn’t always feel that way, so I thought there was something wrong with me for not being a “typical Notre Dame student.” It wasn’t until later in my undergrad experience that I found a friend group I felt comfortable opening up with, and it turned out most people had struggled to find their place at first. I learned it could actually be pretty affirming to talk with other people about what wasn’t working for me. It was only in sharing these experiences and realizing that I wasn’t alone in having them that I could work on changing my approach to seeking out a more inclusive, less high-pressure campus community.

What did you learn or gain in college that you have carried with you? 

I am forever in the process of learning that it’s okay not to have all the answers. The point of being a student is that you’re learning, not an expert in everything yet. Making an honest assessment of my skills and the gaps in my knowledge was crucial to being able to seek out the resources I needed to get where I wanted to be. Along the way, I had amazing conversations with people about their own learning processes. These conversations led me to think about the things I didn’t know in new ways, introduced me to paths I had not previously considered, and taught me how many doors asking for help can open.

What do you know now that you wish you had known in college? 

College is for exploring, not for following a predetermined path. It’s okay to try things on and decide they’re not quite right for you. If it doesn’t feel like the right fit, maybe it isn’t. In the process of figuring that out, you’ve learned something about your preferences and who you are becoming. That’s not a wasted opportunity.

Chase Black
Director, Academic Guides Program
Quads: Keohane & Wannamaker
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Sarah Eisensmith
Quad: Crowell
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David Frankel
Quad: Few & Craven
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Maggie McDowell
Quad: Edens & Hollows
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Paige Vinson
Quad: Kilgo
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