UHV alumna accepted into prestigious doctoral program

Two years ago, University of Houston-Victoria alumna Mariah Massengill would not have predicted that she would be spending the summer after graduation preparing to move to Hawaii.

Massengill, a UHV alumna who recently received her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing, will begin in August as a student in the Asian Theatre doctoral program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She will soon join the internationally recognized program for the study and practice of Asian performance.

Mariah Massengill

“I was, at first, completely shocked that I was accepted,” she said. “But now I am thrilled to be a part of such a program, and I am learning everything I can about the state and what I need to know as I prepare to move.”

Massengill is a native of Aransas Pass and has a bachelor’s degree in theatre from Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi. Since her undergraduate studies, Massengill knew she wanted to teach and write for theatre. When she first experienced Asian theatre, a whole other world of performance opened her mind to more creative possibilities.

In particular, the classical form of Kabuki and its larger-than-life storytelling caught her attention. The style of theatre inspires her to create plays that are a blend of Asian and Western theater, which she did for her manuscript for her thesis. Massengill wrote a Kabuki play based on a popular Japanese folktale with a modern twist.

“I am hoping to inspire a new style of work, and I want to find ways where these two different cultures can meet in an art form,” she said.

The program Massengill was accepted into is much like going to an Ivy League school for Asian theatre and performance, said Anthony Madrid, an assistant professor of creative writing and English and director of the creative writing program. According to the University of Hawaii at Manoa, since 1923, the Asian Theatre program has produced numerous world-premiere English-language productions of traditional and modern Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Malaysian, Korean, Indian and Thai theatre, as well as original, experimental works based on or influenced by research and training in specific genres of Asian theatre.

For the UHV MFA program faculty, it came as no surprise that Massengill was accepted into such a prestigious program. Madrid describes Massengill as a complete original, a good student and a disciplined and serious artist. Madrid mentored Massengill and provided guidance for her manuscript and wrote a letter of recommendation for her Ph.D. application.

Anthony Madrid

“With a program like this, anyone getting in is surprising, but it is less surprising that Mariah was accepted because she is exactly the type of person they are looking for,” Madrid said.

Liane Tanguay, an associate professor of English who teaches the “Literary Theory” graduate course, found Massengill to be a curious, motivated and diligent in her class, which is a course where students learn how literature has been theorized over the past century and helps students become better analysts and critics of different types of texts.

When Massengill was a student in the class, she was able to take what they were learning in class and applied it to her analysis of kabuki, Tanguay said. Massengill asked questions and enjoyed the classroom conversations, read widely and engaged other students in the online discussions.

Liane Tanguay

“Mariah is the kind of student we all like having in our classes,” Tanguay said. “I wasn’t at all surprised that she wanted to carry on her studies beyond the master’s level. I’m really pleased that Mariah has found a program that will be rigorous and challenging, that will connect her with peers and mentors with similar research interests, and that will inspire her to excel. I think she’s going to have an amazing experience, and I hope she keeps in touch with us all.”

Massengill first heard about the program while at a conference in Los Angeles in April. She immediately applied to the program and received her acceptance into the program in May. So far, Massengill has hand-picked the courses she will take in the fall and has been accepted into the university’s East-West Center Student Affiliate Program, a competitive program that includes leadership opportunities, professional development, funding for travel and field study, global networking, social events and activities, and discounted housing. She is looking forward to when she and other students will learn plays in both Japanese and English and perform a tour in Japan.

Massengill appreciates her time at UHV, as she was able to finetune her writing skills through the MFA program. She also had the opportunity to work one-on-one with faculty to gain invaluable insight into her own writing.

“I am so grateful for my time at UHV,” Massengill said. “I knew I loved writing, but it was kind of a Hail Mary moment for me to get my MFA. I feel like I couldn’t have landed in a better spot.”

To request information about the UHV MFA program, go to

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Amber Aldaco