British Association for American Studies


MA Graduate Teaching Assistantship Award in Southern Studies at University of Mississippi: Lily-Pearl Benn’s testimony

As the deadline for BAAS’s MA Graduate Teaching Assistantship Award in Southern Studies at University of Mississippi nears, read the testimony from Lily-Pearl Benn about her time at the University of Mississippi. 

I first heard about the BAAS award via email when I was an undergraduate in English and American Literature and Culture at the University of Hull. To complete an MA and have it funded through invaluable work experience in such an interesting place seemed a dream! I was surprised and over the moon when I got the place.

I had never heard of an MA in Southern Studies before, but it is similar to the American Studies component of my undergraduate degree in its framework and interdisciplinary nature, just more ‘zoomed in’. This is not to say the programme isn’t expansive: the American South encompasses every kind of place, from vast cities like Atlanta to the Appalachian mountains and Miami beaches to the Mississippi Delta.

When applying, I made sure to look at the MA programme at the University of Mississippi in detail – I looked at the course catalogue to learn about specific modules and researched the organisations the center is connected with, like the Southern Foodways Alliance. The course is very flexible and wide-ranging; you can take modules in photography, history, literature, music, sociology, and cultural anthropology to name a few. Another tip for prospective applicants is to attend welcome sessions and open houses which are now offered virtually, so as to get to know your cohort. The community here have been one of the highlights of my experience – they have been incredibly supportive and I have learnt a lot from a group with a broad range of skills, experiences, and research interests.

The Southern Studies department were very receptive to my career goals and skills when assigning my 20-hours-a-week graduate assistantship. For my first term, I proofread, copy-edited, and wrote for the center’s newsletter (and remembered to watch my U’s and double L’s!). This semester I was a teaching assistant for Southern Studies 103, where I have learnt from both the course content and job role. Balancing the assistantship and MA coursework is sometimes a challenge, but one that has helped me to grow, and the role and my course often complement each other.

As part of this course, we kept weekly field notes and so I became more reflective and reflexive. We considered things like insider/outsider perspectives and how to navigate that which was especially useful to me. Although Hull, UK is a world away from Oxford, MS, I never experienced uncomfortable culture shock – there’s no language barrier & southern hospitality isn’t a myth! There are moments of surprise, but it’s all part of the experience.

My experience has been life-changing academically and personally. I strongly recommend this course to any and all prospective students who want to take an exciting leap!


All applications must be submitted to BAAS by January 20th 2022. Find more information out here. (Remember to scroll down to and click MA GTA Award in Southern Studies)

About the Author

Lily-Pearl Benn is an author at USSO.