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My W&L: Annie Persons ’15

“Creativity has many meanings, but for me and with regards to my college experience, it means the opportunity to shape my own identity.”

I can characterize my time at Washington and Lee in one word: creativity. Creativity has many meanings, but for me and with regards to my college experience, it means the opportunity to shape my own identity.

I came to Washington and Lee knowing that I wanted to be an English major and a creative writing minor. I also wanted minor in mass communications — I was an opinions columnist for my high school newspaper. After completing my FDRs the fall and winter of my first year, I picked a class on journalism and Vietnam for the spring term. On the morning of registration, I was shocked to be blocked from the course, not having “instructor consent.” After a few minutes of frantic research, I realized that I had tried to enroll for a class that actually went to Vietnam. Panicked, I registered for Professor Wheeler’s poetry-writing class instead. That split-second decision set in motion the creativity and changes that would mark the rest of my career here.

I had enjoyed writing stories as a child, but I never considered myself a “writer” and certainly not a poet until I took that first creative writing class. But writing my own poetry gave me insight into the logic, concentration and creativity that go into crafting a poem, and I found this process extremely satisfying as well as fun. I fell in love with it. Poetry taught me about literature’s wonderful way of turning you inside out, of fostering introspection and human connection. In my time here, I’ve been in the heads of writers across the centuries — from Shakespeare and Milton to H.D., Langston Hughes, and contemporary geniuses like Claudia Rankine. The more that I’ve read and the more that I’ve written, the more connected I’ve become with myself and with the rest of the world.

This increased consciousness percolates into all areas of my life, from the classroom to my extra-curriculars and my future plans. The ability to make connections between my classes, between departments, and between my education and my daily life is amazing. And that’s what a liberal arts education is supposed to do, right? My education at Washington and Lee has made me think critically about my actions and the people around me; it’s taught me how to forge human connection, whether through conversation or through a poem. Most importantly, I’ve learned that the process of creating and growing won’t stop when I leave here. It’s true that I have already transformed in many ways in my time at Washington and Lee. But I’m still learning. That’s the beauty of creativity and a liberal arts education: nothing is perfect, everything is always changing. In the words of Joyce Carol Oates, “I don’t change, I just become more and more myself.”

Hometown: Atlanta, GA

Major: English

Minor: Creative Writing

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • Head editor of MUSE
  • Volunteer at Earthsong Montessori School
  • Volunteer at Project Horizon
  • Member of the Gender Action Group
  • Writing Center tutor

Off-Campus Experiences:

  • Summer Research Assistant
  • SSIR grant recipient (conducted archival research for my Honors Thesis at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)
  • Study Abroad in England, Spring 2014

Favorite Campus and Lexington Landmarks: Payne Hall. Even the act of squeezing through those tiny doors makes me happier. And Blue Sky bakery–I have worked there part-time on and off for the past few years. They have the kindest management and the best bread.

What professor has inspired you? So many: Professor Wheeler (my advisor), Professor Miranda, Professor Gavaler, Professor Smith, Professor Pickett, Professor Gertz, Professor Mayock…also Janet Boller, and Sandy O’Connell, the administrative assistant in Payne.

Advice for prospective or first-year students? Find things that you love and don’t be afraid to pour yourself into them.