Mae McDermott, senior writing major, is one of the 2021 Dean’s Award winners for the School of Humanities and Sciences, as well as one of the winners of the Sally Parr Memorial Award. This year, the Department has two winners for each of these awards; the other is Lauren Eng.
The Dean’s Award is given to the students with the top records of academic achievement as identified by Dean Melanie Stein. The Sally Parr Memorial Award, given to the writing major(s) with the highest grade point average, honors the memory of longtime faculty member and former chair of the Department of Writing who distinguished herself as both a teacher and an administrator.
Mae said that though it felt strange to win the award, she was flattered to be recognized. “I did put a lot of attention and time into my work,” she said, “and I hope that my professors and peers take that as a sign of my deep, deep appreciation for them and my desire to practice what they taught me. You are so valued.”
Mae added that she is grateful for the Department itself, partially because of the ways it challenges the traditional grading structures she had grown used to. Instead of being focused on accomplishing assignments and requirements off of a checklist, she said, the pressure she felt to do well was intrinsic and based on the urge to write intriguing pieces, make connections, and fully use what she was learning.
Mae also said some specific courses that have stood out to her are Personal Essay, which she took with Megan Graham; Public Essay with Tom Kerr; Intro to the Essay with Nick Kowalczyk; and Image Text and Creative Nonfiction with Katie Marks. Each of these, she said, “helped [her] understand nonfiction as a life source, a part of [herself] that [she] sorely needed.” She added that Poetics and Pedagogy — which she took with Christine Kitano and Jaime Warburton, respectively — have also helped her immensely. She also said that Raul Palma, the faculty adviser of Stillwater Magazine, has been incredibly supportive during her time as the magazine’s co-Editor-in-Chief.
Over the course of her college career, Mae said, she has been inspired by too many peers, faculty, and alumni to mention. She also said that, to her, the Department represents “the terrifying and thrilling knowledge that you might be good at something, the hefty responsibility of being who you would like to be and doing what you would like to do in the very short time you have, and in a way that respects and acknowledges others.” Ultimately, she said, the Department has been indispensable in showing her how she can move forward on her path as a writer.
“I’ve been surrounded by kind, insightful faculty who made me feel seen and were incredibly generous with their time and energy,” Mae said. “It’s hard to articulate my gratitude. I think one of the biggest things I got from all of these warm interactions was hope.”
Congratulations, Mae, for this outstanding academic achievement!