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Student Spotlight: English Major Wins Poetry Contest

Zoe Chuang, a sophomore from Helena, is majoring in English with a concentration in literature. She recently won a poetry contest with her poem “An Elegy for Medusa.”

Tell us about the poetry contest–how did you use your reward?

The contest I won was a contest through V-Day, a social activism organization. The competition was called “Dismantle Patriarchy,” and I ended up submitting a poem I wrote for Professor Emrys Donaldson’s class. The poem was mostly a subversion of the traditional narrative of the Medusa story, kind of spinning it around on its head to focus with a feminist lens. I actually ended up using the $1000 prize money to pay my rent & get groceries, but I was also able to add to my Squishmallow collection as well (I’m up to 54!).

When did you know that JSU was the right school for you?

I knew JSU was the right school for me the second I toured it. I initially came in as a secondary education major, but changed about a month in. I remember walking around campus, and I knew I couldn’t see myself going anywhere but here.

What are some benefits of your major?

Being an English major has a lot of benefits. I don’t want to say that I like to argue, but I definitely love a healthy debate, and being an English major has helped me sharpen my skills in that department. I also love being surrounded by new ideas about old works, and taking classes in the department definitely has shifted a lot of my critical views on certain literary works.

What is your favorite thing about JSU?

My favorite thing about JSU is probably the student to instructor ratio. In my time here so far, I’ve never had to sit in a giant lecture hall, or fight to get my professors to answer me because they have too many courses to teach and too many other students to answer. I really like the class sizes and just how generally accessible I’ve found the faculty to be.

What clubs/organizations are you involved in?

As for organizations on campus, I’m a new member in Zeta Phi Eta, the professional arts & communications fraternity. I’m also in the Film Production Club, am a member of College Democrats, and I’m hoping to find time to get involved in the Writer’s Club. Last year, I did Freshman Forum, and I found it to be a wonderful way for me to get involved on campus and sink my teeth into some new things that are out of my comfort zone.

What is one way that you have grown during your time at JSU?

I think that since I’ve gotten to JSU, I’ve figured out how to balance my life a whole lot better. I currently work three jobs and I’m taking the maximum amount of credits I can, but I’ve still been able to find time to have fun. Finding the balance was really hard last year, but I think this year I’ve really gotten the hang of it, and this kind of growth is honestly monumental to me.

What is your favorite course that you have taken?

My favorite course I’ve taken here at JSU so far probably has to be Dr. Reed’s LGBTQ+ Literature class. I feel like I’m learning a lot more, not only about queer literature, but about queer history. Discussing Oscar Wilde’s trial in conjunction with doing close-readings on his work has rapidly changed the ways in which I analyze literature– acknowledging and investigating the context of a piece helps you understand it better!

What do you plan to do after you graduate?

After graduation, I plan on going to graduate school and pursuing a Master’s degree in either Museum & Archival studies or Library & Information Sciences. It’s been a dream for a really long time.

What is a fun fact about yourself?

A fun fact about me is that I currently have 325+ hours on Animal Crossing: New Horizons and I am so proud to have a five-star island. Hard work pays off!! I also really love The Muppets and I think that even though I don’t create visual/performance art, Jim Henson will always be one of my biggest inspirations.

What advice do you have for first-year students?

I really want to emphasize that it’s okay to feel a little bit alone when you start college. Even though I had friends that I had met at the start of my first semester, I still felt pretty alone. Moving away from home, and moving away from the friends you may have had for years is really, really difficult. Finding a place to fit in, or finding a place to meet new people becomes so much easier as you go along. Join organizations designed and designated for first-year students and start to plant your roots there. Everyone has a place to fit in, and it’s okay if it takes you a while to find your spot.

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