Dana Linda: Training the Imagination for Unforeseen Diversity

May 30, 2019

Dana Linda, B.A., Literature and Feminist Studies.

This profile is the fifth in our series Beyond the Forest, which examines the lives and careers of UC Santa Cruz grads who have found their own paths using the humanities as their foundation.


Mid-way through her graduate program in comparative literature, Dana Linda realized she was not likely to find an academic career. “I went to grad school planning to become a tenured professor,” she says. “Half way through my degree, I realized that my career prospects and priorities had dramatically shifted.”

UC Santa Cruz graduate Linda (B.A., Literature and Feminist Studies, 2007), sums up a realization common to many grad students: what if I don’t become a professor?

Today Dana is employed at Menlo Ventures, a prestigious venture capital firm in Silicon Valley — not a typical path followed by humanities Ph.D.’s outside of academia. She worked hard to find her new role, and her path there was significantly aided by staff and programs that the UC system provided to help students with the transition process. The experiences she’s had and the lessons she’s learned can be valuable to anyone in the humanities who might consider a career outside of academia.

To discuss her career path and its various twists and turns, I met with Dana at a cafe near her workplace in Menlo Park, CA. Over coffee and tea, with the soft thumping sounds of reggae tunes in the background, Dana walked me through the process she followed to find a career where she could use the skills and insights she had developed in both her undergraduate and graduate studies.

We began our conversation discussing a pivotal event Dana attended in the midst of her graduate work at UCLA (where she received her Ph.D. in comparative literature with a doctoral dissertation on Hispanic and Anglophone Caribbean literatures). A UC-wide conference, called Humanities and Changing Conceptions of Work, brought graduate students together with industry, government, and talent professionals, as well as career advisors, in sessions on transferrable skills, and how to translate the work of the Ph.D. to a non-academic career track. At this conference, Dana met Kelly Brown, Associate Director of the UC Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI) and UC Santa Cruz graduate alumna, an advocate for finding new ways to prepare students for the world outside of academia.

“Kelly is amazing,” Linda says. “She really empowered me and my colleagues to think about our degrees differently, and to prioritize different aspects of life in ways graduate students are not always permitted to do publicly within academia.”

A year later, Dana returned to the conference — then rebranded Humanists@Work — and got involved in the planning process, and in mentoring other attendees. It was a program created not only for grad students, but by grad students.


A panel at the Humanists@Work Terminal Workshop. Dana seated on the right.

A panel at the Humanists@Work Terminal Workshop. Dana seated on the right.


“It was very important that the initiative involved a graduate advisory committee,” Dana says, “and I served on that inaugural committee as well.” They helped run workshops throughout the UC system; and the one-time event became a statewide program for assisting current Ph.D. students and alumni to find careers in the changing world outside academia. Dana continued to work with the program, saying, “In four years, we developed and grew our internal and external networks, including working with industry partners, career counselors, and faculty and staff throughout the UC system.”

In the process, Dana discovered, “the more I networked with counsellors, faculty and staff, I saw that graduate students weren’t always plugged in to where the resources were.” One of those invaluable resources was executive résumé and career transition coach Jared Redick, who worked with members to improve how they communicated their skills and capabilities. Dana explains, “Jared was a thought partner from the very start and dedicated himself fully to helping us define and translate the various kinds of labor and competencies that are unique to the humanities Ph.D. experience.”


Humanities Career Inspirations & Aspirations

These professional resources were helpful, but the key to Dana’s ability to transition to the fast-paced world of venture capital was her rigorous and deep training, first as an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz, followed by her graduate work at UCLA. While at UC Santa Cruz, Dana had the good fortune of taking foundation courses with Jody Greene, Professor of Literature, Feminist Studies, and History of Consciousness, and now Director of the Center for Innovations in Teaching and Learning (CITL).

“Jody gained this massive cult following on campus, to the point where — once Facebook took off — several students created a fan club in her name,” she laughs. Greene has a mandate to challenge the UC Santa Cruz campus to rethink teaching, and has a lot of institutional support to teach faculty and graduate students to be “different” and better teachers.

What makes Greene such an effective teacher, Dana says, is that “she has such a way of captivating you in the classroom. She’s quick-witted, funny, and charismatic, and she actively engages students in everything from literature to the current political climate to pop culture. I’ll never forget how she got us thinking about poetic form through Eminem’s rhyme schemes.”

A dynamic and engaging professor can transform a class and encourage learning; but the students still need to do the work to learn and grow as scholars: “She expects a really high caliber of work from her students. Her assignments and exams were among the most challenging I encountered as an undergraduate, but also provided ample opportunities for me to grow as a writer and thinker.”

Dana’s experience in Greene’s classes highlights an important part of the teaching environment in the humanities at UC Santa Cruz: bringing out students’ best work by getting to know them personally.

“I think some of my earliest classroom experiences at UC Santa Cruz helped me pinpoint the teaching practices that inspired me as both a student and a future educator,” Dana says. “I was lucky to learn from Jody, as well as other literature and feminist studies faculty members such as Bettina Aptheker, Vilashini Cooppan, and Gina Dent.


UC Santa Cruz Feminist Studies 1A: Teaching Assistants with Professor Bettina Aptheker, Fall 2006
UC Santa Cruz Feminist Studies 1A: Teaching Assistants with Professor Bettina Aptheker, Fall 2006.


“But I also benefited from a dedicated group of graduate students who were invested in my intellectual and personal growth,” she explains. Teaching assistants and recent Ph.D.s, including Rashad Shabazz, Sora Han, Emily Scheese, and Laura Martin, became important academic guides and influencers. “By the time I entered my Ph.D. program at UCLA, I realized it was those meaningful connections in and outside the classroom that really steered the kind of educator I wanted to be.”

Dana continues, “UC Santa Cruz provides a unique learning experience because it offers the combined benefits of being a large research campus and a teaching-focused institution. Undergraduates have the opportunity to develop strong working relationships with faculty and graduate student instructors. It was important for me to make sure my students at UCLA received comparable support and mentorship.”


Continue reading this article on screen-shot-2018-10-03-at-11.07.50-am.png