Melody May

Melody May

A full-time nurse before the progression of her autoimmune disease, juvenile-onset rheumatoid, pushed her to change careers, Melody May graduated with her PhD in English from the University of Waikato in December 2022.

Sam Barnes Award for Excellence; FASS Masters Thesis Award

Melody May

Inspired by her physical disability, Melody’s thesis, ‘Erased: Representations of women's bodies in chronic invisible pain’, explores the critical need for accurate communication.

Growing up, Melody wanted to work somewhere with a cash register that went ‘ding’, but as she grew older, she started filling spiral notebooks with handwritten stories of heroines who got lost on their journeys but found wild success, and of course, love.

“Back then, I didn’t know that stories were nearly as powerful as medicine. Now I get to be a doctor and write stories - all my dreams in one,” Melody says.

The high standard of professors in the English department was why she chose the University of Waikato.

“I love everyone up there in the English and creative writing department, but there were a few that had a life-changing impact on me, including Dr Tracey SlaughterAssociate Professor Kirstine MoffatAssociate Professor Sarah Shieff and Catherine Chidgey.

“Their care and skills as teachers, as well as their talent in the field, meant that, when I decided to do my master’s and then my PhD, there was not even a second of a doubt about where to go.”

It was Melody’s third time graduating from the University, having previously received her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in English from Waikato.

“Graduation is so important to me. I had a lot of catching up to do when I first started at University, so this is a really proud moment.”

It was a bittersweet day for the mother of one who moved to New Zealand in 2006 from Colorado. It was hard not having her family, including her father who died during the Covid-19 pandemic, by her side.

Melody was a founding member of the University’s literary journal, Mayhem, and the recipient of several scholarships including the University of Waikato Doctoral Scholarship, the FASS Masters Thesis Award and Sam Barnes Award for Excellence for writing feature length screenplay.

“I could not have done my PhD without the doctoral scholarship. I am a single parent and without it, I would have had to abandon my study.”

Throughout her studies, Melody has taught undergraduate courses, exploring one of her passions, inequality in society.

“There is no experience quite like being able to teach things you deeply care about - it gets into your skin like an electric charge.”

With her PhD done, Melody is now focusing on publishing her novel, Happy Birthday Kelly Wisely, working on further research about inequality in the healthcare system, and continuing teaching.

Melody May

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