Juliette Givhan, a graduating senior majoring in English, has spent her time at Michigan State University exploring the written word and finding her voice. Now as she graduates, her work is being recognized.
Givhan was awarded the Louis B. Sudler Prize, which honors graduating seniors who demonstrate outstanding achievement in the performing and creative arts and who show promise for future achievement. She also participated in the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF) and received first place in the Humanities and Performing Arts category and tied for first place in the Creative Writing Awards presented by the Department of English.
“A lot of things just started rapidly falling into place for me within the last three weeks. It is really liberating and so, so validating that these things started happening at the end of my time at MSU,” Givhan said. “Getting the Sudler Prize was a recognition that the things I’ve been doing, the hours I’ve spent writing and researching, have really been working. I’ve grown as an artist and I realize that, but sometimes hearing that other people also recognize and appreciate your growth is so life affirming. The award will help me keep my confidence and keep me writing.”
I write to figure out how I feel about certain things, to make sense of them, and to let others know how I’m feeling.JULIETTE GIVHAN
Givhan started at MSU with a Creative Writing concentration, which helped shape her academic career and artistic identity, while the Department of English made her “feel at home” and “confident in her studies.”
“I have gained skills that will help me no matter where I go. I can read and write and think critically. I really came into myself at MSU and it will always have been the place I realized who I was and wasn’t,” Givhan said. “As far as highlights, it was really having an excellent faculty support within the department. Professors who care about you really make all the difference.”
Givhan credits many of her professors, especially Robin Silbergleid, Associate Professor in the Department of English, with helping her succeed.
“In advanced poetry, I started working with my mentor, Robin Silbergleid, who has guided me ever since. She has been letting me know of amazing opportunities (like the Sudler Prize) for as long as I have known her,” Givhan said. “She is really the reason I was able to build my resume, guiding me from one internship to the next, from one project to another. She presented opportunities in a way that didn’t make them seem ominous or overtly time consuming; that really helped me feel like I could handle them. She fostered my growth at MSU along with some other really stellar faculty in lit and writing courses: Tamar Boyadjian, April Baker-Bell, Rae Paris, and Telaina Erickson, to name a few. The mentorship that these women gave me and their personal interest in my life and writing is what helped me get this prize without a doubt.”
The central theme of Givhan’s writing revolves around her experience and personal identity as a Black female “experiencing life in a country that I have never felt comfortable or safe in.” She describes her writing as social commentary: “It’s argumentative and it pokes at topics that a lot of people don’t want to talk about, topics that have always been my entire world.”
Professors who care about you really make all the difference.JULIETTE GIVHAN
“I take inspiration from the rocky political climate, and from history and research I’ve done as a minor in African American and African Studies,” Givhan said. “I write to figure out how I feel about certain things, to make sense of them, and to let others know how I’m feeling.”
“My thesis took this inspiration and theme. I started writing the bulk of the project after returning from a study abroad semester in Rome. Being Black in Europe and being Black in America are two very different experiences, I wanted to speak to that.”
Givhan advises other English and Creative Writing students to “keep writing.”
“If writing is what makes the world an easier place for you to live in, find the people who are going to help you succeed at it and support you. Find or build your community,” she said. “Make this campus a better place to live, one where artists can feel safe and accepted and proud of what/who they are.”
Givhan plans to continue writing at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, where she will pursue an MFA in Creative Writing.