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Caroline Schmidt: Scholarship in hand, 'natural storyteller' looks to the future

By April Hunt | April 7, 2016

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Emory College junior Caroline Schmidt, a creative writing major praised as a "natural storyteller," has been named one of 20 winners of the 2016 Beinecke Scholarship. The national award provides funding for graduate school.

Emory College junior Caroline Schmidt has been named one of 20 winners of the 2016 Beinecke Scholarship.

The award means that Schmidt, a creative writing major from Phoenix, will receive $34,000 to help defray the cost of graduate school: $4,000 prior to entering and the rest while attending the graduate school of her choice.

"I'm thrilled I can actually go to grad school now," Schmidt says. "I have always wanted to be a professional writer and I needed grad school for that. This makes it more real."

The Beinecke Scholarship Program was established by the board of directors of The Sperry and Hutchinson Company to honor Edwin, Frederick and Walter Beinecke.

The goal is to provide substantial scholarships for the graduate education of young men and women of "exceptional promise" and for them to be "courageous" in selecting a graduate course of study in the arts, humanities and social sciences. 

Lynna Williams, associate professor of English/creative writing, taught Schmidt in three courses — introduction to fiction, intermediate fiction and non-fiction writing. Her student, she says, epitomizes the academic qualities of a Beinecke Scholar.

Schmidt also fits the description of an emerging talent as an author, given her dedication to critique sessions in Emory's workshop-oriented creative writing program and her willingness, almost eagerness, to revise a work until she finds the perfect words.

 "Caroline is a natural storyteller," Williams says. "You can't do that without rigor and creativity."

"She has an incredibly inquiring mind and a great level of empathy," Williams adds. "Those abilities allow her to visualize and create characters who are nuanced and complicated."

Schmidt focused on her writing while also developing arts-oriented extracurricular programming for students and hosting a weekly radio show, says Megan E. Friddle, director of Emory's National Scholarships and Fellowships Program.

Next year, after two years serving as poetry and fiction editor, Schmidt will take on the role of editor-in-chief for Emory's nationally-renowned literary magazine, The Lullwater Review.

Schmidt received word of the scholarship via email, right before she submitted an application to write a novella for an honor's thesis next year.

She is looking into pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in programs as varied as the prestigious, small  workshop at Brown University and a well-regarded program near her home, at Arizona State University.

She credits working with her peers and professors at Emory — especially Williams on fiction and recently named Guggenheim Fellow Jericho Brown on poetry — for helping her win the Beinecke Scholarship and readying her for  the next level.

"I'm so thankful for the Emory creative writing program," Schmidt says. "Just the time and effort the professors give here, you can tell they genuinely care about the students and their growth and well-being. I feel very well cared for here."